Saxony is the perfect place for weekend trips from Berlin. With fairytale castles, historic towns and breathtaking landscapes, the only risk is that you might want to stay longer. Few places has so much to offer as Saxony and the state is really one of the best places to visit in Germany. Read on for the 4 of the best places to see in Saxony.
Saxony in the former Eastern Germany has everything for all travellers. A visit to the state should be on the list for most people who plan to visit Germany. The combination of big cities, nature, culture, dramatic history and beautiful landscapes made Saxony one of our favorite German destinations for a weekend getaway from Berlin. Should you have more time on hand then a weekend, you can also fill weeks with activities and sights in Saxony.
With Dresden as the base, this post will show you some of the most beautiful places in Saxony, and how to get there with public transport. Should you not be in Berlin, we will also show you how to get to Dresden and the other places we visit as well.
1.Meissen – a historic town in Germany
The historic town of Meissen (Meißen) is widely famous for its high quality porcelain, the Meissen Porcelain. Many visitors come here for this reason only, to visit the porcelain manufacturing. But there is much more to see in Meissen. Don’t miss it while you are there. Meissen alone can be visited for a weekend, or included in one of your weekend trips from Berlin.
The most interesting part of the town is Meissen Altstadt (Old Town). Start with the most obvious; the majestic castle on the hill.
TIP: Leave the train from Dresden at the station Meißen (and not Meißen Altstadt). Walk towards the Elbe river and you will get rewarded with stunning views to the castle hill. From here it’s only a short walk up to the castle.
Albrechtsburg Castle was constructed in the 15th century, as the first ever German castle built as a royal residence. This Late Gothic and early Renaissance-style castle is different from many other castles we have visited before. Albrechtsburg is old and not as grand as many later built palaces, but yet very impressive. Walking through the room and halls really take you back in time, and the architecture make you feel like being back in medieval age.
TIP: Read our post from Schwerin Castle – one of Germanys most beautiful castles and perfect for weekend trips from Berlin
Next to the castle is the Dom (Catherderal), a high-Gothic masterpiece with a 57m high tower. The beautiful stain-glass windows in the cathederal show scenes from the New and the Old testament. From up here you will also get a great view over the Elbe River and the Elbe Valley.
Before you go:
- Opening hours: daily 10.00-17.00
- Entry is €10/ €13 in combination with the Cathederal
- Photo permit is €2
Budget Tip: If you plan to visit more castles in Saxony you can save big bucks with the schlosserlandCARD (€24 for 10 days/ €48 for a year). The card gives free admissons and discounts.
Meißen Altstadt – the Old Town of Meissen
After a visit to the castle and the cathederal you can visit the cozy old town below the castle hill. The Altstadt is not very large. Still it has lots of charm, and it also offers dramatic views up towards the castle and the cathederal. Walk the streets and narrow lanes, take in the atmosphere and enjoy all the colorful houses.
In the old town there are several restaurants and cafes serving delicious traditional German food. The porcelain manufactur is located in the near of the old town for those who want to pay a visit to see the production of the famous Meißen Porzellan (Meissen porcelain).
TIP: Read our post weekend trip from Berlin to Cottbus for suggestions for other weekend trips from Berlin
2.Moritzburg Castle – Saxony at its best
Be prepared to enter the world of fairytales. This stunningly beautiful castle is well known to many as the castle in the Czech fairytale movie Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Three Wishes for Cinderella/ Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel). For someone who has watched this movie maybe 25-30 times it was like a dream to finally visit the castle. And for those who wonder; both Germany and Norway show the movie on television every year during Christmas time, so both of us have watched this movie several times.
Moritzburg Castle, or Schloss Moritzburg in German, was originally built in 1542-1546. It was the hunting lodge for Duke Moritz of Saxony. The baroque style castle is surrounded by a lake, and the trail around the lake is perfect for a walk to get different views to the castle. The whole area is just magical, and if we also could build a hunting lodge, it would look exactly like this!
TIP: Saxony is full of castles! One could easily spend several weekend trips from Berlin (or other places) just visiting castles. Check Schlösserland Sachsen for more information about castles in Saxony
We highly recommend to do a tour inside the castle. We found the dining room, filled with lots of antlers of stags, most impressive. There is also a huge porcelain exhibition inside, of course with porcelain from nearby Meissen.
The shoe of a future princess
Maybe you also are a fan of the Cinderella movie? Then you should not forget to go have a look at Cinderellas shoe on one of the stairs outside. A metal shoe is placed on the same spot where, in the classic movie scene, Cinderella loses her shoe as she stormes out from the ball. The prince starts the search for his future princess, and will only marry the girl to whom this shoe fits. Who knows? Maybe your foot will fit in and you might end up as a princess…
TIP: Read our post Castle Hotel Germany if you have a dream of sleeping in a real German castle
3.Saxon Switzerland National Park
Saxony Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz), aka Elbsandsteingebirge or Elbe Sandstone Mountains, is a mountain range straddling the border of Saxony (Germany) and North Bohemia (Czech Republic). The Czech’s calls the area on their side of the border Bohemian Switzerland. Confusing, right?
The area has a very uniqe and evocatice landscape with deep valleys, beautiful forests and porous rocks in bizarre columns and forms. It is a great area for rock climbing, biking or just hiking. The main attraction in Saxon national park is the Bastei, a stunning rock formation nearly 200m above the Elbe River and the village of Rathen.
After a short hike uphill from Rathen, you will arrive the Basteibrücke, a sandstone bridge built between the rocks leading to the remnants of a medieval castle. En route to the bridge you will be offered magnificent views to Elbe river and to the Elbe valley. The area is enormously popular and can get very crowded.
TIP: The best way to visit the Bastei is early mornings or late afternoons. Especially on weekends and in the summer it is full of people. We recommend to visit on a weekday if possible.
There are numerous hiking routes to choose from depending on the time you got. You can have a superb hike on a day trip from Dresden, while others prefer to stay overnight to get more time for some longer hikes. We had only planned a day trip, and from the Basteibrücke we did an hour-long hike through the beautiful landscape to the nearby village Stadt Wehlen where we had lunch before catching the local train back to Dresden.
TIP: Should you want to make a weekend trips from Berlin to Saxony Switzerland only, accomodation can be found in several towns and villages in the area, including the two me mentioned here.
4.Dresden – great for weekend trips from Berlin
Dresden is such a beautiful and underrated city located on both sides of the Elbe river. The old town on one side and the new town on the other side. Not only it is a great city to visit. It is also an excellent starting point to explore this part of Saxony. If you don’t have a weekend on hand, you can see the highlights in Dresden on a daytrip from Berlin.
Thanks to the Elector of Saxony, Dresden has a long and rich history. August the Strong and his sons, lead or were involved in the constuction of buildings such as Frauenkirche, Dresden Palace, Zwinger and also Moritzburg Castle. The city got its nick name Florence of the North because of the city’s striking silhouette along the river Elbe.
Dresden was heavily bombed in February 1945, leaving the old town in ruins. Most of its architectural treasures were destroyed. Today most parts have been reconstructed and rebuild, and the old town of Dresden has rised from the ashes like a phoenix back to its former glory.
We always think the best way to explore an new city is on foot, and Dresden is perfect for strolling around. The old town is not too big, and all sights are within short walking distance. Between all the sightseeing, there are also numerous restaurants, cafes and bars serving up local specialities, and in the summer half many of them have outdoor seating as well.
TIP: Read our post about the best things to do in Weimar for another beautiful German city perfect for weekend trips from Berlin
Located in the centre of the old town, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is one of Dresden’s most beloved symbols. The bombings left Frauenkirche in ruins. The ruins served as a war memorial for years. In 1994-2005 Frauenkirche was finally rebuilt, and is again dominating the silhouette of Dresden. From the 67m high viewing platform of the dome you will get the most stunning views over the city.
Before you go:
- Admission is free during Open Church hours (may vary due to events). Donations are welcome
- No photo or filming inside the church
- Entrance to the dome is €8
- The church often hosts different concerts. Check their webpage for more info
The Zwinger is another highlight in Dresden. This baroque style palace was built between 1710-1728 for August the Strong. He wanted to have something like Versaille for himself. The palace was mostly only used for royal parties. Today the palace houses three museums; The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery), Dresdner Porzellansammlung (Dresden Porcelain Collection) and Mathemathisch-Physikalischer Salon (Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments). Our top pic is the Old Masters Picture Gallery, which has lots of European masterpieces from Titan, Dürer, Vermeer and Rembrandt. Don’t miss Raphael’s famous Sistine Madonna when you visit the gallery.
Dresden has more museums and palaces than this, and to see them all you would need many days or several weekend trips from Berlin. But if you can choose only one palace and museum, Dresden Zwinger is our top pick.
Before you go:
- Free entry to the grounds and the courtyard
- Opening hours: 06.00-20.00
- Museums are open 10.00-17.00 (closed Mondays)
- Entrance to the museums is €14
Semperoper – a world class opera house in Saxony
Semperoper is the opera house of the Saxon State Opera. It’s one of the most famous opera houses in Germany. It’s also well-known in Germany as a TV-commercial-spot for Radeberger Pilsner (Radeberger beer). The opera house is beautiful at night time when it is illuminated. Even you are not a fan of opera, the building itself is must-see in Dresden. It is such a stunning building.
The Semperoper shows several high-quality productions throughout the year, and this alone would make Dresden the perfect destination when looking for weekend trips from Berlin.
Before you go:
- The opera house can be visited on guided tours. Book in advance on their webpage
- Tickets to operas and shows can be booked at the ticket webpage (book way in advance)
Neustadt (New Town) is located on the other side of Elbe river. Compared to the old town, Neustadt was less damaged during the bomb rain in 1945. Large parts of Neustadt is therefore older than the mostly reconstructed old town.
We love Dresden Neustadt with its streets full of grafitti and street art. It is much more of an urban and modern flair here than in the old town. Here you’ll find streets filled with shops, hip cafes, restaurants and bars. A highlight in Neustadt is the Kunsthofpassage, a court yard and an art center with paintings, art and istallations on the walls of several buildings.
Visit Neustadt to get some other perspectives of Dresden. A city is not all about the sights and historical monuments. It’s also about the (contemporary) culture, street life and the people who live there. When visiting Dresden on weekend trips from Berlin, a visit to Neustadt is highly recommended.
BUDGET TIP: Restaurants tends to be a bit cheaper in the Neustadt then in the touristy Altstadt. This is also where you find a more modern and international food scene
5.Plan your trip: how to get to Dresden and around
Dresden is located approximately 165 km from Berlin. With a travel time between 2 and 3 hours Dresden and the surroundings is easy to reach for some nice weekend trips from Berlin. There are several larger cities in Saxony with connections to Dresden or orher places we visit in this article, e.g. Görlitz and Chemnitz.
TIP: Read Christine’s post with over 100 things to do in Baden-Würtemberg if you wish to visit the south of Germany
Buses from both Flixbus and RegioJet stops in Dresden. Train is also convinient. Several trains will take you to Dresden from Berlin or other cities in Germany. Check bahn.de for more info. If you are an international traveller who don’t take you weekend trips from Berlin, Dresden also has an airport, and so does nearby Leipzig.
Dresden is a very walkable city, and to most places you can walk within not too long time. However if you prefer to use public transport, Dresden is well connected with trams, buses and local train (S-Bahn) making traveling in the city and in the surroundings easy.
- Meissen is located 25 km from Dresden. Local train S-bahn line S1 leaves every half hour from Dresden.
- Mortitzburg is 16 km north of Dresden, and buses 326 and 657 make regular trips from Dresden Neustadt train station
- You reach Rathen (Saxony Switzerland) with local train (S-Bahn line S1), half hour journey. The trains departs every half hour from Dresden.
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