When I decided to spend the first part of my autumn trip to Germany visiting Dresden, I knew that I wanted to see as much of the city as possible, including seeing some different sides of the city. I went on a handful of wonderful Dresden tours (and one seriously bad one), and it helped me to develop a much deeper understanding of the city, which has a complicated history.
Here are my favorite Dresden tours that I would highly recommend, and my experience on one especially terrible tour, including what happened with customer service when the tour was over. Hopefully, this will help you decide which Dresden City tours to sign up for on your own trip to Germany.
Read: What to Pack for Germany
Dresden Walking Tours
I always recommend starting a trip in a new city with a walking tour to help you get a good introduction to the layout, history, and the main sights. One of the nicest things about Dresden is that you can explore the entire Altstadt in a few hours (provided you’re not going into the museums, which will definitely add time). Because the Altstadt (old city) is so compact, it makes it a prime candidate for exploring on foot with a walking tour.
Free Tours Dresden has a walking tour every Saturday afternoon. You can check current times on their Facebook page here. Remember that if you go on a free tour, you need to bring cash to tip the tour guide since that’s how they make their money.
If you’re not able to go on a Saturday and still want to go on a walking tour, there are several companies that offer paid walking tours. DresdenWalks conducts a historical walking tour with options for guides in English, German, and even Russian. Check prices and reviews here.
For those who prefer culinary history to architecture, I’d recommend going on the Taste of Dresden Food Walk instead, which will still cover major sites and history, but with a bent toward food history. You can check prices and reviews here.
Kurt Vonnegut was imprisoned by the Nazis during the Allied bombing of Dresden. Years later, he recorded these experiences in the ground-breaking novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
While in the city, you can go on a tour of the Slaughterhouse and learn about the history right where it happened. This is one of my favorite things that I did while in Dresden. The tour goes over the history of Dresden during the Third Reich, Kurt Vonnegut’s life, and how he ended up writing Slaughterhouse-Five.
Not only was the tour super interesting, but the tour is also conducted by Danillo, a former teacher who conceived the tour and owns the tour company. This is his passion in life, and it extends far beyond just entertaining tourists. He really pushes you to think about the world, the city, and the war differently. At the beginning of the tour, I found his questions frustrating, but by the end of the tour, I found that Danillo is one of the warmest tour guides I’ve ever met. He’s using his tour to do his part to make the world a better place, and it’s truly admirable.
The tour includes a lot of walking, and you’ll explore a lot of the city that isn’t included on most tours. We started at the Theatreplatz in front of the Semper Operhouse and walked down the Elbe river and over to where the Slaughterhouse is.
This is great for Vonnegut fans, but it’s also interesting for those who haven’t read the novel yet because the history is so interesting and important. You can check tour prices and reviews (including mine!) here.
Semperoper Opera House Tour
Because of Dresden’s work rebuilding itself after the bombings destroyed most of the Altstadt, there’s a lot more than meets the eye to the history and architecture of any particular building. Opera and ballet lovers will relish a tour of Semperoper, which has been rebuilt not once, but twice!
Pro tip: I was lucky and accidentally booked the Monday tour, which I was told afterward is the tour least-likely to be fully booked. Visiting Germany in autumn and signing up for the smallest tour resulted in me being one of only three people on the tour!
After you arrive, you’ll need to pay three euros for a photography pass, which I found well worth it since the opera house is so lovely. However, it was the history and the details about which operas held their world premiere’s here that were the biggest highlights for me. You can check tour prices and reviews (including mine!) here.
If you want to book a Semperoper tour and a Dresden Walking Tour, there’s a combined ticket with a discount available. Check prices and reviews here.
Street Art Tour
Dresden is known for its beautiful and creative street art, especially the works located in the Dresden Neustadt neighborhood. I didn’t have time to go on a street art tour in Dresden, but I did go on a street art tour in Berlin which added immensely to my understanding of the artwork. The tour guide for the tour is the same one as the Slaughterhouse-Five tour above, so I can wholeheartedly vouch that he is an excellent tour guide!
If you love street art and you want to know more about the different artists, mediums, and the meanings behind different works, I highly recommend it! Because Dresden is famous for its street art, this is a fantastic city to start digging in deeper. You can check prices and reviews here.
Dresden Neustadt Pub Crawl
The Dresden Neustadt Pub Crawl is the number one tour that I regret not having time to go on because my friends raved about it to me. I also heard amazing things about it from the Indie Travel Podcast. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any free nights on my itinerary in Dresden, but I regretted missing out so much that I booked a similar tour in Berlin (which was awesome). The tour guide for the tour is the same one as the Slaughterhouse-Five tour that I went on, so I can wholeheartedly vouch that he is an excellent tour guide!
Because Dresden Neustadt is such a hip area with so much to see and experience, the tour is designed to introduce you to the neighborhood and the bars while also making sure you have a fun night on the town. You can check prices and reviews here.
Saxon Switzerland with Bastei Bridge Tour
Saxony Switzerland National Park with its Bastei bridge is probably the most famous day trip from Dresden, and it’s so beautiful that it’s easy to see why. I chose to rent a car and go on my own as part of a larger day trip, but if this isn’t possible for you then book a tour so that you don’t miss out!
You have two options for tours. This tour includes transportation from Dresden and a stop at Pillnitz Castle. There’s also the option to take public transportation or rent a car, and then join a group hiking tour once you’re already there.
Boat Tour on the Elbe
Because I went to Dresden in November, I skipped a river cruise. However, I would highly recommend going on an Elbe river cruise if you’re there when the weather is nice! Some of my favorite things to do in Europe is to go on river cruises, and Dresden’s reputation as the “Florence of the North” really makes sense when viewed from the water.
One tip for going on river cruises is to remember that the temperature on the water will be colder than in the city, so bring layers in case you need to get a little warmer! You can check cruise prices and reviews here.
Ugh, I booked the 90 Minute Trabi Safari from Trabi World, but my experiences dealing with the tour guide and company were so terrible that I had to complain directly to GetYourGuide about how bad it was. While the tour company wouldn’t assist at all, GetYourGuide was excellent and refunded my money due to the exigent circumstances. That’s one reason I like booking tours through them instead of directly with the tour operator because it gives you a second point of customer service to deal with.
I’m still too upset about what happened, so I’m just going to copy and paste my exact customer service complaint here. Note that I know my circumstances were incredibly strange, but I still can’t believe how terrible the tour guide treated me. Further, the company refused to be helpful with the situation afterward, so the bad behavior from the company go beyond one guide.
My experience with Trabi World:
The day started out strangely, but the guide didn’t handle the situation well and then became insulting.
I took a taxi from my hotel to the tour location at Trabi World. I asked the front desk at my hotel three times if they would make sure the taxi took credit cards, since my debit card was stolen in Serbia and I wouldn’t have a new one until I get to Berlin on Wednesday night. When I arrived at Trabbi World, the taxi driver said he didn’t take credit cards and threatened to call the police.I was very upset and scared, and asked the tour guide if he could help me with the situation. I asked if I could pay them 10 euros with a credit card and they give the taxi ten euros. I wasn’t trying to cause problems, I was just in a very bad situation through no fault of my own and trying to avoid having the police called during the tour.The tour guide said they didn’t take credit cards. I asked him if I could PayPal him instead. He said that it was my “legal responsibility” to always have cash and there was nothing he could do.I begged him. I said look, I’m a travel writer, I want to review your tour for my readers and recommend it. Is there any way you can help me with this situation so that we can do the tour instead of the taxi driver having me arrested for not having cash. If I had time, I would have called my hotel to ask them for help since they were the reason for the miscommunication, but I didn’t want to miss out on my tour.
I finally said look, I’m not asking you as a business that has to do me this favor. I’m asking as a tourist in a very bad situation that I did not cause if you could please do me a favor so that I don’t get arrested. I will give you the money.He then went and got ten euros and paid the taxi driver. I thanked him profusely and he told me that he’d give him the information to pay him back at the end of the tour.We go over to the Trabi. I take a few pictures of the yard so that I have some for my article. He tells me to get inside and then walks away. When he comes back, he hands me the insurance forms for me to sign. He also started asking me a lot of weird, personal questions about my debit card situation. It seemed like he thought I was trying to scam him. It was making me very uncomfortable. I already felt weird that when I explained what happened with the hotel concierge not ordering me the correct form of taxi, his instinct was to yell at me about my responsibilities instead of at least being nice or trying to deescalate the situation.He then told me how the car worked for about a minute. He went through it so fast and I was already so flustered with the whole situation, that I asked him to show me again. He did. Then he told me to pull the car out and follow him.At this point I was confused, since the description of the tour said there would be technical instruction, and this just seemed like him rattling off four things and then leaving me by myself. The tour description also said that multiple people would switch off driving, and I was clearly going to be alone the whole time.
I go to pull the car out, and I realize that I had the car in 3rd instead of 1st gear. He walks over to me (I mean I hadn’t even pulled the car out) tells me that the tour is cancelled since I can’t drive.Meanwhile, I drive all the time in foreign countries, and I even write guides about how to drive in new places. I think what he wanted to say was that I wasn’t good enough at manual to drive the car, but what he actually said next was that I was the worst driver he’d ever seen. I hadn’t even driven the car anywhere!
Because I was so stressed already and we clearly didn’t get along at all, I felt that it was best if I didn’t drive. The added stress of him being so blunt and rude on top of the scare about being arrested for ten euros was really getting to me. Since the description of the tour indicated multiple drivers, I figured that it was fine if I just didn’t drive. I could just ride in his car.He said no, that wasn’t the deal. I couldn’t ride in the car with him. He didn’t explain why this wasn’t possible. He just said that he didn’t run a driving school and it wasn’t his job to teach me anything (even though the technical instruction was part of the tour). As I was the only person on the tour, there wasn’t anyone else to drive. He wouldn’t let me ride in the car with him. So there wasn’t anything else for me to do.
I didn’t want to cry in front of this man who had said so many harsh things to me already (and kept saying mean things until I left), so I asked him if he could call me a taxi that takes visa and I would leave. I also asked for the information to pay back the taxi fare he had lent me.He calls the taxi, tells me to consider the taxi fare a gift, and then tells me again that I’m the worst driver he’s ever seen. I ask him if he could please stop saying insulting things to me, to which he said he wasn’t saying insulting things. Not only was he cancelling the tour, not refunding my money, and insulting me, he was also gaslighting me!I would like a refund on the tour. I met the required description of having a driver’s license and being a capable driver. The tour description does not say you have to be an accomplished manual driver to go on the tour (it actually doesn’t mention needing to be able to drive manual at all). I can drive manual, but not when a tour guide is yelling at me, insinuating that I’m trying to steal from him, and stressing me out. Please only refund me the amount minus ten euros, so that I pay them back for the cost of the taxi. I don’t want to owe that man a thing.
If you feel like you would still like to book this tour, you can check prices and reviews (including mine!) here. Though you’ve been warned.
5 Things to Pack for the Trip to Dresden
Planning a trip to Dresden? Make sure you don’t forget these!
- The Lonely Planet Germany guidebook for your trip. I’ve been looking for a hard copy here since I don’t like getting stuff delivered to me in Bulgaria, and I can’t find one. Definitely get your guidebook ahead of time.
- Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut wrote this novel about his experiences in Dresden during the war. You can get a paperback, Kindle, or Audible copy. I’ve been listening to it on Audible while I walk around the city.
- Dresden Welcome Card If you’re going to explore the city’s sites for more than a day, this two-day city card will save you money by giving you free admission to many of the city’s major sites and discounts to many others.
- A Camera since Dresden is super photogenic. I used a mix of my Nikon D810 and my Samsung8 smartphone.
- Travel Insurance Policy information, because things happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any hiking or outdoor activities in Germany.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance when participating in outdoor activities. Even in the cities, though, you’ll be happy when you’re able to replace your stuff if it’s lost or stolen.
More Dresden Travel Resources
- 21 Things to Know Before Traveling to Germany: Tips & Advice
- 27 Pictures of Dresden to Inspire Your German Wanderlust
- 13 Quirky & Enchanting Things to Do in Dresden Neustadt
- 17 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Dresden, Germany
- How to Get from Berlin to Dresden on the Cheap & Hassle-Free
- How to Get from Dresden to Berlin
- Dresden Street Art: 15 Famous Pieces and Offbeat Gems
- 10 Reasons to Travel to Germany in Fall
- What to Pack for Germany