Explore Dresden’s most ambitious cultural reconstruction project, the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace; from $13 for combined museum ticket), which received its final restorative touches this year with the 2013 opening of the Riesensaal (Hall of Giants), a 7,500-square-foot hall that holds selections from one of the most important armory collections in the world. Dating back to the fourteenth century, the Royal Palace burned down during the 1945 bombing; following German reunification in the early nineties, the rebuilding efforts went into full swing, and the palace is now home to the leading State Art Collection museums. This includes the Historic Green Vault, which features nearly 3,000 treasures once owned by the rulers of the German state of Saxony, from gem-studded porcelain to the gold drinking cup of Ivan the Terrible. Tickets are timed, so be sure to reserve online when planning your trip.
Look up at the 220-foot-high sandstone dome of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), which is soaring proof of Dresden’s remarkable return to glory. The church lay in ruins for five decades after the war, but with the help of global contributions, it was rebuilt stone by stone using computer imaging, and a few old wedding photographs as a guide to reconstruct the interior. As a symbol of reconciliation, the gold cross crowning the church was made by silversmith Allen Smith, the son of a British pilot who participated in the Allied bombing of the city.
See a more contemporary edge of the city in two new additions to its landscape. Stroll the banks of the Elbe River to see the concrete-and-steel Waldschlösschen Bridge, which opened this past summer and caused a headline-grabbing showdown between the city and UNESCO, which consequently stripped the Dresden Elbe Valley of its World Heritage Status. Across the river lies Daniel Libeskind’s Bundeswehr Military History Museum (from $6.75), which opened in 2011 in a former military arsenal in the northern suburb of Albertstadt. Libeskind’s design is dominated by a five-story glittering wedge of glass and steel, the tip of which offers sweeping views of the city.