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Cities in germany - Dresden

Dresden is the capital city of the German federal state of Saxony, in a valley on the river Elbe. The city’s population reached 478,000 in 2004. (At the same time, the total population in its metropolitan area was about a million). It is known today primarily for the Allied strategic bombings in World War II.


Dresden is slightly less than two hours south of Berlin, and about two hours north of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. About an hour northwest of Dresden is Leipzig, a Saxon city of about the same metropolitan size.

About the City

Unlike other cities such as Leipzig, whose strength is in their clearly defined inner city, Dresden has a number of centres of activity spread throughout the city.

Often seen as a culture capital, Dresden is a primarily residential city and home to many researchers: one of the oldest technical universities in the world is just south of the city. The population is said to frequently discuss topics such as architecture and ćsthetics regularly.

The city’s climate is much more characteristic of southern Germany, being much warmer than most other places in eastern Germany. In 2002 Dresden was elected to be Europe’s greenest (large) city: a third of its area is covered by the forested areas called Dresdner Heide. The Großer Garten (“big garden”) is the largest urban park in the city.

The UNESCO put the Drseden Elbe Valley on its World Cultural Heritage List in 2004.

From the tourist standpoint, an important destination is the bridge nicknamed Blue Wonder. From the restaurant Luisenhof, there is a ‘wonderful’ view over the central city. Other primary attractions include:

  • Semper Opera House
  • Broad River Meadows
  • Brühl’s Terrace—”The Balcony of Europe”
  • Large castles:
    • Fortress Festung Königstein
    • Moritzburg
    • Pillnitz
  • The oldest German Christmas Fair (only around christmas)
    • Dresdner Christstollen
  • Large number of technical and art museums. Many of these hold world records in collection sizes
    • The German military history museum (with exhibits dating back to the Stone Age)

Nearby, at higher elevation, are the villages Bannewitz and Rundteil at the foot of the Bohemian Riesengebirge mountains. In the north is the Bühlau quarter; in the east Kleinzschachwitz. Also nearby is Saxon Switzerland, a prime climbing destination.


Early History

An ancient Slavic settlement on the northern bank of the river was joined in 1206 by a German town on the southern bank, the heart of today’s Altstadt (“old town”). It was the seat from 1270 of the Wettin Landgrafs (Counts) of Meißen. From 1485 it was the seat of the dukes of Saxony, and from 1547 the electors as well. Between 1806 and 1918 it was the capital of the kingdom of Saxony (which was from 1871 a part of the German Empire).

The city’s population quadrupled from 95,000 in 1849 to 396,000 in 1900.

The city has suffered repeated destruction: by fire in 1491, from bombardment by the Prussians in 1760, and during the suppression of a constitutionalist uprising in 1849. The city was largely destroyed by Allied bombing in February 1945.

August the Strong (1694-1733), who planned to make Dresden the most important royal residence, set out to discover the Chinese secret of porcelain (‘white gold’). Under his rule, European porcelain was invented in Dresden and Meißen. He also gathered many of the best architects and painters from all over Europe to Dresden. His reign was the beginning of Dresden’s emergence as a leading European city for technology and art.

World War II

Dresden was not the only German city devastated by World War II bombing, but the bombing of Dresden in 1945 has become one of the most controversial events of that war. Renowned for its beauty worldwide, it was bombed in February 1945, even though the end of World War II was foreseeable. The city was not particularly well defended, because the important war material was on the front near Germany’s east and the few military facilities built there. Some optical industry was destroyed, but mainly the goal of the bomb attacks was to hit the civilian population with a fire storm. Civilian deaths are estimated at 80,000-125,000. At that time, Dresden’s population was 600,000; but more than 600,000 eastern refugees lived in Dresden, seeing it as a sanctuary from the war. The whole inner city (15 square kilometres) burnt down, and other quarters were damaged to some degree. While some think that the bombing of Dresden was a tragic occurrence that Nazi Germany brought upon itself, others point out that the bombing of Dresden was a war crime. Fortunately, much of the city's beauty has been regenerated, thanks to the zeal of the populace in remaking the archtecture of ‘old Dresden. Today Dresden has a strong partnership with the English city Coventry, which was partly destroyed by German attacks. The partnership is deeply supported by the populace in both cities.

The Postwar Period

After the Second World War, Dresden became a major industrial centre of communist East Germany with a great deal of research infrastructure. Many historic buildings were rebuilt. Its location in a valley prevented residents from receiving Western TV or FM Radio broadcasts, but practically all of the Dresdeners had relatives in other regions. On 3 October 1989 (the so-called “battle of Dresden”) when trains with East German people from Prague went through Dresden to West Germany, activists staged demonstrations, demanding the removal of the government.


In 2002, torrential rains caused the Elbe to flood 29 feet past its 1845 record height, damaging many landmarks. The destruction from this “millennium flood” is no longer visible, due to the rapidity of reconstruction. Disaster relief for the millennial flood came from Bavaria, Switzerland and the German staat of Hessen for example.

The city still has many of wounds, and the population is extremely interested in the ongoing reconstruction process. One of the major restorations in progress is that of the Frauenkirche (“Church of Our Lady”), which is being rebuilt from the stones of the original church. Despite the whole inner city’s destruction in World War Two, the inner city has undergone a renaissance, and is again seen as one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. Dresden is called a spirit of its own. Houses of many architecture styles, built by famous king and artists from all over the world, never stand alone: they are built to make a whole unique art work.

In 1990 Dresden--an important industrial centre of East Germany--had to survive the economic collapse of the Soviet Union and the other export markets in eastern Europe. East Germany had been the richest Communist country. With re-integration, a completely new law and currency system was introduced in the wake of Communism’s downfall, and much new infrastructure had to be built with help from western Germany. Once again the city developed faster than other regions, but there are still many problems such as the amount of equity capital in old and new firms. Some industries were already believed to be dead, such as the optical industry, the high quality food industries, and the watch industries (including the Glashuette brand). All these have come back.

Many world and technical items were created and invented (respectively) in Dresden. In 2004, many prestigious research centers in Dresden still have their primary headquarters in the west. The city has become a world leader in many sections of culture, silicon industry (AMD, Motorola, Dupont, Infineon, Dresden Airbus Industries), electronics, and biotechnical processes. Volkswagen is currently building its Phaeton car in Dresden. In July 2004 the UNESCO declared the Dresden valley along the river, 20 kilometers from west to east, to be a "World Heritage".