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Dresden is Saxony's cultural center. There's always a variety of options for nightlife here, whether you're looking for drama, classical concerts, punk-rock shows, dancing, or just a good place to drink.

The Performing Arts

Between the Elbe River and the Zwinger, on the western side of Theaterplatz, stands the Semperoper (Semper Opera House), one of the most exquisite opera houses in the world, Theaterplatz 2 (tel. 0351/4911705; www.semperoper.de; tram: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, or 17). Both Wagner and Weber conducted here. Gottfried Semper, the same architect who mapped out the famous picture gallery in the Zwinger, designed the building. Restorers have brought the Renaissance-style two-tiered facade and the interior of the building back to life. Careful attention was paid to the replacement of Semper's original paintings and decorations. More important, the fine acoustics for which the opera house was known have been reestablished. Good seats can be had for 20€ to 120€. Note: Seats are extremely difficult to get; purchase your tickets as far in advance as possible. The opera company takes a vacation mid-July to mid-August.

The Dresden Philharmonic appears at the Kulturpalast, in the Altmarkt (tel. 0351/4866306; www.kulturpalast-dresden.de; tram: 3 or 5). Tickets cost 14€ to 50€. Concerts, sometimes with accompaniment by ballet recitals, are also performed during June and August in the courtyards of the Zwinger.

For musical theater, come to the Staats Operette, Pirnaer Landstrasse 131, about 5km (3 miles) southeast of the city center (tel. 0351/2079929; www.staatsoperette-dresden.de; tram: 4), which mainly performs works from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The box office is open Sunday 1 hour before the show, Monday 11am to 4pm, Tuesday to Friday 11am to 7pm, and Saturday 4 to 7pm. Tickets cost 7€ to 25€.

The classical stage for drama in the city is Schauspielhaus, Postplatz (tel. 0351/4913555; www.staatsschauspiel-dresden.de; tram: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, or 14), where dramas by Goethe, Schiller, and Shakespeare (in German) are performed. Performances usually start at 7:30pm. The box office is open Monday to Friday 10am to 6:30pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 2pm. Tickets cost 10€ to 28€. The Schauspielhaus box office also handles tickets and inquiries for the Residenztheater im Schloss, Theaterplatz (tel. 0351/491350; tram: 4 or 8), a small theater focusing on modern drama and small-ensemble pieces. The cost is 10€ to 72€. Both theaters are closed from July to mid-August.

For a family theater experience, check out Theater Junge Generation, Meissner Landstrasse 4 (tel. 0351/429120; www.tjg-dresden.de; tram: 1; bus: 94), which interprets Shakespeare and fairy tales in a way that both kids and parents can enjoy. The box office is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 6pm, and 1 hour before performances. Ticket prices are 5€ to 12€. In summer, some members of the troupe bring their acts outdoors, usually to the courtyard in front of the Staffhof, an imposing building originally intended as a stable.

Bars

At Las Tapas, Münzgasse 4 (tel. 0351/4960108; www.las-tapas.de; tram: 1, 2, 4, or 14), within a stone-floored room modeled after an Iberian tasca (wine tavern), you'll find small tables and a stand-up bar area, where up to 40 kinds of Spanish-style marinated mushrooms, sausages, Serrano hams, salted almonds, baked artichokes, and prawns in bacon are displayed behind glass. Priced at 3€ to 8€, they go well with beer or the Spanish wines sold here. More substantial platters, priced at 12€ to 20€, include lamb tenderloins with eggplant and spits of marinated pork tenderloin served with sherry sauce. It's open daily 11am to between 1 and 2am, depending on business.

A once run-down but now gentrified nightlife destination that assembles about 20 different bars, art galleries, and restaurants into one historic site is Kunsthof, Alaunstrasse 70 (tel. 0351/8106617; www.kunsthof-dresden.de; tram no. 6, 7, or 13), where a series of hip cafes, art galleries, and affordable restaurants line the edges of an interior courtyard. A particularly appealing bar, tapas bar, and restaurant within the complex is the Spain-inspired El Perro (tel. 0351/8036723; www.elperro.de).

Clubs

Dance clubs that are known to virtually every 20-something resident of Dresden include DownTown (tel. 0351/8115592; www.downtown-dresden.de) and Groove Station (tel. 0351/8029594; www.groovestation.de), set immediately adjacent to one another at Katharinenstrasse 11 and 13 (tram: 7 or 8). Clients can move freely from one to the other of this pair of cramped, sometimes convivial bars, where music rocks and rolls at high volumes and suds flow freely. Both are at their peak capacity on Friday and Saturday nights. Monday is gay and lesbian night, and on Sunday there's dinner and dancing. Both of them are open daily from 9pm "until everybody leaves." A single cover charge, ranging from 9€ to 15€, depending on the night of the week, applies to both clubs.

Projekttheater Dresden, Louisenstrasse 47 (tel. 0351/8107600; www.projekttheater.de; tram: 7 or 8), a publicly funded organization, usually, but not always, gives live jazz performances Tuesday to Sunday at 9pm and also maintains separate areas for the presentation of avant-garde films, lectures, and art exhibitions. Don't expect a nightclub-style cabaret, as no drinks are served. Tickets, available 1 hour before showtime, cost 11€ each. Call to see if a performance is scheduled.

For an insight into Germany's newest crop of political satirists, head for the irreverent premises of Herkules Keule, Sternplatz 1 (tel. 0351/4925555; www.herkuleskeule.de; tram: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, or 11). Although it was well known during the heyday of the former GDR, its sometimes scathing pronouncements have reached their sharpest and shrillest since reunification. Come here if your knowledge of German is extremely good and if you're prepared for caustic humor that touches on everything from politics to sex. Shows are presented Monday to Friday at 7:30pm and Saturday at 6 and 9pm. Admission is 10€ to 19€, depending on the night of the week.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.