In April 2022 I fell in love with the city of Dresden in Germany. From the sheer beauty and history of the Altstadt to the Baroque charm and quirkiness of the Neustadt, Dresden has all the attributes for a magical city break. For a small city there is so much to do, so in this travel blog, I cover some of the best Dresden excursions and the most enjoyable things to do here on the banks of the River Elbe.
Many of these excursions focus on eco-tourism and the efforts that are ongoing to make the city cleaner and more sustainable.
Dresden Organic Farm Tour
With 12 organic farm shops dotted around the city, the Vorwerk Podemus Organic Farm is a thriving sustainable business that is changing the way the local people of Dresden not only shop but also think about where their food is sourced.
As part of this organic farm tour, I met with Bernhard Probst and his enormous and very soppy 3-year-old guard dog Nessie at the farm located just outside Dresden. Born in Stuttgart and with a passion for nature and birds, Bernhard always had that desire to innovate and challenge the normal.
The farm was started by Bernhard’s great-grandfather over 220 years ago and now covers 340 hectares of the rolling German countryside. There are 17 employees on the farm with over 260 staff working across the entire operation.
Organic Farming Since 1992
On-site, there are cows, sheep, pigs, and crops which together deliver a wide variety of products including milk, meat, fruit, and vegetables. These are then turned into various items for eco-responsible bottling, packaging, and distribution via the onsite farm shop and those 12 retail shops around the city.
Back in 1992, the farm turned to organic farming and since then they have become a pioneer in German farming in the region. The animals are fed on just hay and grass as it is known that the traditional methods of producing grass silage have been identified as a potentially significant cause of biogas production and thus bad for the environment.
The entire farm is run on solar energy and indeed here they had the first barn in Saxony for drying grass solely on solar energy. The farmhouse is also heated by wood of which 15% is sourced from local people and the rest from the forest.
Change For Good
Everything that you see is built on-site. I was taken to an area where a couple of guys were carrying out metalwork repairs whilst others were making insulation and solar panels.
Outside of the main farm, I was taken to orchards where apples and apricot trees were as far as the eye could see. However, there is the innovation here too with Bernard proudly trialling the production of non-hairy kiwi fruits that he believes can thrive in the ideal conditions available here in Saxony.
This Dresden organic farm tour opens your eyes to what is possible if you have that dream to make a change. It shows you the work and efforts that are taking place to make our planet a better, healthier more sustainable place to live.
I can only applaud Berhard and his team here at Vorwerk Podemus and I can only hope that his children and grandchildren continue this legacy for many hundreds of years to come. Bravo!
Eco Bike Tour Of Dresden
Another interesting and educational excursion is this Eco Bike Tour of Dresden which you can take with Zukunfts Gestalten meaning “To Shape a Future”. They are an organisation that seeks to promote and highlight the sustainable changes that are starting to shape the way the city develops.
I picked up my bicycle from the basement of the Steigenberger Hotel De Saxe and cycled out to an area known as Pieschen in the Western suburbs of the city. Here I met with Katya who introduced me to the company and outlined their efforts to showcase the many inspiring projects and solutions that individuals and businesses are developing to promote change.
Over the next 2-3 hours we headed off on our Eco Bike Tour of Dresden while Katya expertly outlined some of these projects.
Book Learning Station
This pilot project in Pieschen is in its 3rd year and is on the edge of a little park that was once scrubland. A local neighbourhood fund has not only cleaned up the park to provide a more inviting and environmentally friendly space but they have also included this cupboard that stores books for anyone to come and borrow. Once read they return or replace with other books.
Similar projects are taking place in the UK with our traditional red phone boxes which I love to see.
The Quaintchen Store
This store is one of a growing number that is simply a place where you can get food as well as household and hygiene items without any plastic or disposable packaging. This helps to protect the environment since waste is avoided.
Whilst I visited, there was a steady stream of people and I was delighted to see, children arriving to purchase items with their packaging – it was so good to witness that it had just become a way of life for them – it just now needs rolling out on an industrial scale.
A very impressive part of the tour was this large communal garden where individuals come to work and develop a sense of purpose. Here they nurture plants and vegetables to sell at greatly reduced prices to the local community.
Other areas provide opportunities for those experienced members of the project to teach vulnerable adults and children the values of nature, food production, and the growing importance of sustainable methods.
As with so many cities in the world today, traffic is a problem. There are simply too many cars and there is a drive by the organisation to reduce the number of cars on the road. One way to increase the popularity of cycling is to make it safer and as such new bike lanes and street signs are being introduced.
Discussions are continuing in the Neustadt area to make this pedestrian only however with many people living here, there are of course other factors to consider not least the logistics.
This cooperative supermarket – the Verbrauchergemeinshaft – works on a subscription basis where members pay a monthly fee and in return, they have access to goods at a reduced price. All the produce here is local and efforts are made to ensure there is as little waste as possible.
I was however surprised to see plastic bags were still available for a small fee given that Germany as a country does understand the need to change our habits. The country has for instance initiated a complete ban on plastic straws in the country.
A great project organised by the local community is these Cargo bikes from Frieda and Friedrich. With so many people needing to move large quantities of goods around why hire a dirty expensive vehicle when you can book online the free use of a cargo bike that comes with a built-in storage area?
One of the best Dresden Excursions and a superb way to experience the city from a different perspective is to get out on the Elbe River. There are a heap of different cruise options available such as a charming paddle steamer or a modern boat.
Each cruise will showcase a selection of some of the best landmarks outside of the main centre such as the Loschwitz Bridge, better known as “Blue Wonder Bridge”, the Pilnitz Castle or the Konigstein Fortress.
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
Using my Dresden City Pass I took an afternoon relaxing on board one of the regularly seen Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours. It is a great way to get your bearings if nothing else. You are provided with headphones and throughout the next couple of hours, you can tour all the key parts of the city both in the Altstadt, the Neustadt and beyond.
I struggled slightly in that once I had hopped off it was not so easy to locate the bus stop to pick the bus up again without the use of Google Maps of course.
There was also the music in between announcements was a little tiring so it was not the most enjoyable experience of my Dresden visit.
Besides, I much prefer walking especially when there is so much to explore.
The best way to explore Dresden is on foot. Now whether that is a self-guided tour or an organised tour – the choice is yours. Whichever you choose you can discover the amazing monuments and architectural wonders of Dresden.
Learn about how the city was painstakingly reconstructed after WWII. Take a walk around the elegant plazas and grand boulevards. Discover the amazing Neustadt and its street art and cool vibe.
In the Altstadt, admire the city’s greatest buildings, treasures and works at the Zwinger Palace, the Frauenkirche, and marvel at the spectacular Procession of Princes mural also known as the Fürstenzug.
Bohemian & Saxon National Parks
Dresden excursions don’t always have to be within the city. How about getting out into the countryside of the beautiful Saxon Switzerland National Park? This is a long 8-hour day trip from Dresden but worth every moment as you discover with a guide, some of the top attractions of the region such as the Bastei Bridge and Pravčická Gate — Europe’s largest natural sandstone gate.
There are plenty of opportunities to marvel at the panoramic views across the Elbe River and learn about the region’s fascinating geology. Then there is also a trip to Kamenice Gorge for a dingy ride through the sandstone canyon and to explore the pretty town of Hrensko.
The region of Saxony is famous for being home to around 50 stunning castles and there is every opportunity to take a range of tours to see these impressive historical masterpieces. Here are just some of the best Dresden castles in and around the region plus a handy map highlighting their location:
The Dresden Zwinger is one of the most famous baroque buildings in Germany. It houses a number of internationally renowned museums.
The Albrechtsburg is a Late Gothic and early Renaissance castle erected between 1471 and 1495 and is the first castle in Germany constructed and used as a palace.
This former summer residence of the Saxon royal court used to be the venue for many weddings and festivities back in Augustus the Strong’s time. The gardens here are magnificent.
This castle is considered by many to be the prettiest moated castle in Saxony and one of the great highlights of any visit to Saxony.
Built-in 1859, this neo-gothic castle is now the Hotel Schloss Eckberg and is perfectly located for a stay on the banks of the River Elbe.
This hilltop fortress is located high above the town of Königstein on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe.
I am told the Christmas markets here in Dresden are spectacular. The main market is held in the Altstadt (5 minutes from the hotel) which used to be called the Striezelmarkt and which was a trading point back in the 15th century. Every year families and tourists flock to the city to enjoy the Ferris wheel and the numerous stalls and Christmas attractions.
In the Neumarkt (opposite the Steigenberger Hotel De Saxe) there is also a Christmas market – smaller but still from what I understand with a family-friendly atmosphere and entertainment galore.
Dresden is certainly a city I would love to experience at Christmas time.
To book some Dresden Excursions or a city break to Dresden contact your local travel agent or tour operator or search online.