Dresden Local Customs

  • St. Nick at the Market near the Frauenkirche
    St. Nick at the Market near the...
    by Ekaterinburg
  • Stollen strall at the Hauptstrasse market
    Stollen strall at the Hauptstrasse...
    by Ekaterinburg
  • Stadtfest stage in front of Semperoper.
    Stadtfest stage in front of Semperoper.
    by Kakapo2

Best Rated Local Customs in Dresden

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    Riesa Efau

    by german_eagle Updated Sep 15, 2013

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    The registered association Riesa Efau (Efau is how e.V. is pronounced in German - the abbreviation of "eingetragener Verein" - registered association) is located in the Friedrichstadt district, close to railway station Dresden-Mitte. It is a place where anyone can experience art (attend exhibits, concerts, plays, recitals, see movies), be creative themselves (art and craft workshops, summer academy for fine arts) and volunteer for general activities/services in the town - help elders, handicapped, young and/or poor families.

    They also organise guided tours of the Friedrichstadt district. On weekdays (Mon-Fri) you can have inexpensive lunch at their main facility (yummy!)

    The temporary art exhibits at Motorenhalle, just around the corner, are excellent and feature contemporary artists from Dresden as well as abroad. Highlight is the summer academy every year.

    Address: Adlergasse 14, 01067 Dresden

    Continue your Friedrichstadt walk here.

    Motorenhalle art gallery Riesa Efau, main building
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    Christmas market by the Royal Palace

    by german_eagle Written Nov 3, 2013

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    There is another, small Christmas market by the Royal Palace, on the tiny square off Schlossstraße - just a few steps from Striezelmarkt. It's only 15 stalls or so, but I like this one quite much. First off, it's not crowded - although it is right on the main tourist trail, so to speak. They use to give a quick look and then head to Striezelmarkt.

    There is a very good bakery stall here, by Ottendorfer Mühlenbäcker. They have a pretty good Christstollen and also yummy fruitcake with chocolate icing - the dough is lighter compared to the Stollen. Another stall has tasty cookies, yet another one pretty good punch. A few stalls sell wooden Christmas items of very good quality, also spare parts, so if a piece on your pyramid, candle arch or so is damaged you can look here for a replacement. Prices here are a bit lower than on Striezelmarkt.

    Open Friday before 1st Advent till Christmas Eve, Sun - Thur 11 am - 8 pm, Fri/Sat 11 am - 9 pm.

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    Tal der Ahnungslosen

    by Nemorino Updated Jul 24, 2015

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    The German Democratic Republic or GDR (a.k.a. East Germany) existed for nearly forty-one years, from October 7, 1949 to October 3, 1990.

    During this time, Dresden and vicinity had the dubious honor of being known in the rest of the GDR as the Tal der Ahnungslosen or "Valley of the Clueless." This was because they were so far away from West Germany and from West Berlin that they could not receive western television stations.

    People from other parts of the GDR claimed that for this reason the people of Dresden had an uncritical attitude towards the actions of the East German regime.

    I don't know it this is really true (the ones I knew seemed perfectly normal). Have there been studies done on this point? Perhaps some German VT-members might have information about this.

    Update: Many thanks to VT-member german_eagle (Ingo), who lives in Dresden, for a very thoughtful and informative e-mail on this topic. He says it was true that West German television could not be seen in the Dresden area except under unusual weather conditions. But it was not true that the people in Dresden were uncritical of the GDR-regime. On the contrary, peaceful protests began there as early as February 1982.

    He points out that there has long been a rivalry between Berlin (Prussia) and Dresden (Sachsen) going back as far as the 18th century, so people in Dresden have always been suspicious of anything coming from Berlin. Also Dresden has a strong and self-confident educated bourgeoisie which was always critical of the GDR government and never forgave them for building a "new" socialist city instead of rebuilding the beautiful old city of Dresden which was destroyed during the war.

    Elbe River just above Dresden
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    Christmas in Dresden

    by Ekaterinburg Updated Mar 17, 2008

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    Dresden's Christmas Markets are legendary. The Striezelmarkt on the Altmarkt Square, in existence since c.1500, is one of the oldest and most famous in Germany. We visited on the 30th of November which was the day most of the markets opened for the season. At lunchtime, walking round the Neumarkt we came upon the small but vibrant market at Mungasse Lane and stopped for lunch.

    At the entrance to the market was a large yellow object which looked like something from The Magic Roundabout. This apparently is an Erzgebirge Christmas Pyramid and the one at the Striezelmarkt is the largest in the world. The base of this pyramid is a bar where you can get Gluwein and other drinks. I've seen a lot of Christmas Markets over the last few years but this was the first time I'd seen one of these large colourful pyramids.

    Later in the afternoon I crossed the river and visited the Christmas Market on the Haupstrasse. There was no pyramid here but it was far less crowded and not thronged with tourists. Families were shopping, little children were riding on the carousel and it was unbelievably festive and atmospheric. There was plenty of room to move here and space to admire the merchandise. Great crafts and food as well as bags, scarves and traditional beverages.

    A really lovely feature of Christmas in Dresden is the Paddle Boats on the River Elbe, all decorated with lights and Christmas trees. The Christmas trees around the city were not all up and while visiting the Frauenkirche a truck trundled on to the square with the biggest tree I'd ever seen, tied on the back. Much later in the evening I came back and the tree had been erected. The square and Christmas market stalls were now absolutely buzzing and the crisp, frosty air was laden with delicious smells and sounds.

    There are several Christmas Festivals in Dresden. I have details on the most unusual of these in one of the tips below.

    Erzgebirge Christmas Pyramid at the Xmas Market St. Nick at the Market near the Frauenkirche Christmas Market at the Hauptstrasse Traditional crafts on display
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    Eating at the Markets

    by Ekaterinburg Updated Mar 16, 2008

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    As well as shopping, eating at the Christmas Markets is obviously hugely popular with visitors and locals alike. My photo shows the 'main course ' I had for lunch. The mug came from the bar at the base of the pyramid and was filled with lifesaving hot, spicy gluwein, the food from a stall just nearby. I chose this instead of the succulent sausages spitting on grills all over the place, because I'd never seen it before. It looked like a baked potato but was actually a hot brown bread roll filled with melted cheese. These were baked by the tray load in a huge oven next to the stall, and served by two really friendly guys who went to the trouble of telling me the name of this local delicacy. Unfortunately, I didn't have the usual notebook to hand and the scrap of paper with the information vanished. I can tell you that they were a little on the hard side, but very tasty.

    Lots of the other stalls sold food as well and I wandered down the street in search of something different for desert. This I found on a stall that sold apple slices covered with chocolate, crunchy roast almonds and my eventual choice - a banana covered with chocolate. (See photo no.2). The banana was......... ???? Let's settle for 'different' but the bag of hot roast almonds kept me happily munching and scrunching for quite some time.

    Eating at the Christmas Markets is such a pleasurable experience and one I wish I could indulge in at home. Freezing cold, hot mug of gluwein warming your hands, music playing, people chatting and warming themselves by the ovens and heaters. Bliss!

    A typical Market lunch combo Chocolate coated bananas !!
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    Glühwein

    by richiecdisc Updated Jan 26, 2008

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    I'll never forget my first Christmas market. It was absolutely freezing and I was amazed as the hearty Germans walked around outside shopping, snacking around apparently unfazed by the weather. Well, then I had my first glühwein and I understood why! After many more, I wasn't cold either. This hot spiced wine is the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold winter night. These photos are from my first outing with D's family and friends, having one at Dresden's Christmas market.

    Christmas market fun the family Dittrich parties down
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    Creating of baroque feeling

    by Raimix Written Dec 30, 2012

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    Dresden is not only full of earlier or later baroque architecture pearls, but also of atmosphere, created mostly by tourist attractions – mummers with baroque dresses, actors with white shining and curly periwigs, tourists driven in baroque style carriages through old town of Dresden, classical music of that time.

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    Celebrations on my visit time

    by Raimix Written Dec 30, 2012

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    I visited Dresden in first days of June, I don‘t know it is special days for Dresden, but I loved to see massive celebrations for these two days I visited place. First day, Saturday there was parade of equality with different types of people, not being afraid to show they are atheists, gays, so on. Evening time was filled with different kind of people, in a square near Semper Opera and Cathedral.

    Second day I have found nice celebration in a park near Hygienic museum. My host told me it was something like family day with entertainments for children, also places to drink bear or eat sausages.

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    Dresdner Christstollen - Unique Christmas Cake

    by Ekaterinburg Updated Mar 16, 2008

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    This has to be the food most associated with Dresden at Christmas and there were signs and shops selling it and advertising it everywhere. One of the trams was decorated with stollen images and kept flashing by like an enormous, animated, wiggling cake.

    Like most things in Dresden Augustus the Strong had something to do with this tradition and in 1730 he got the members of the Bakers Guild to make a giant stollen weighing 1.8 tons. This laid the basis for the festival which happens in Dresden each December and over the years a legend has emerged which suggests that the stollen with its white layer of icing sugar is a symbol of the Christ Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Definitely a little far-fetched but as I once considered a bottle of wine wrapped in a white cloth to be like a swaddled new-born, I can't really refute the idea.

    The Stollen Festival is a huge and colourful affair with a procession through the Old Town and the election of a Stollen Maiden. A giant stollen is carried through the streets and the Grand Stollen Knife, which looks big enough to chop off a few heads with.

    It all sounds way over the top but I was not surprised to read about this because every where I looked in Dresden I saw Stollen. Eventually I got to taste some and it was indeed light and delicious. There is a basic recipe but apparently every baker has his own variation usually handed down as a family secret.

    Later in December, seeing stollen for sale in our local Lidl, I was quirte excited. However, it wasn't made in Dresden so I didn't buy it.

    A giant Stollen reproduction in the market The side of the Stollen tram Stollen strall at the Hauptstrasse market
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    Market DAys are Special

    by BruceDunning Written Dec 12, 2011

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    WE got to one of these located at Grossner Garden area, and it was very large. Typical fare for all the entrepreneur tents is cheese, sausages and meats of all kinds; fresh and skinned where needed, vegetables and fruits, clothing of all types for all ages, and a number of eating places with good Deutsch food. It is always a treat to visit these events, and this one is every Friday at the park entrance on Lennerstrasse.
    WE always end up buying some goods, and usually too much to carry back to the apartment, but manage. It gives us some home meals.

    Rows of tents with goods Meat vendor with good pieces Fish vendor adn smoked herring
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    Pyramids - Another Christmas Tradition

    by Kathrin_E Updated Dec 19, 2008

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    The so-called Pyramiden are a tradition form the Erzgebirge / Ore Mountains, where farmers and miners made woodcarvings to earn a little extra money. The pyramid consists of a triangular frame and a mobile interior part that turns round the central axis. The propeller on top moves it because of the hot air that rises from the candles. By turning the wings of the propeller steeper or lower, you can influence the speed.

    My pyramid, which I got at the Striezelmarkt in Dresden in 2004, is a smaller model. It needs special pyramid candles of about 6 cm length. Larger pyramids have 2 or even 3 storeys.
    Mine shows Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus in the crib and a shepherd accompanied by two sheep. The central axis is a carved fir tree. Other traditional themes involve miners' scenes or carol singers round a church, usually the characteristic octogonal church of Seiffen.

    The trick to keep the pyramid moving smoothly is cleaning the glass bearing underneath the metal tip of the axis and inserting a drop of olive oil every year before putting up the pyramid.

    My little pyramid in flashlight... ... and in motion (with a spectator)
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    Christmas Markt at Neumarkt

    by german_eagle Written Nov 3, 2013

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    Right in front of Frauenkirche, at Neumarkt square, is another Christmas market called "Advent auf dem Neumarkt". It is rather small, with about 40 stalls I guess, and it takes you back to the times around the year 1900. A wonderful ambience! Many craftsmen and artisans here, from woodcarvers over papercutter, glassblower, potter to chocolatier and many more. Of course you can get all the typical food, Glühwein etc.

    No recorded music here, there are musicians who walk around and make live music - singing, guitar, brass ... There is a crib depicting the Holy Land, with the figures of the Holy Family and living sheep, great for kids. No glaring light in many colours here, only mild yellow-ish natural light, mostly from Herrnhut stars.

    With the Frauenkirche towering up, the historic facades, the beautifully decorated stalls, the staff in traditional costumes (around 1900) and the atmospheric light, this is my favourite Christmas market in the city centre. I cannot wait for the remaining one side of Neumarkt square to be overbuilt so the whole scene becomes picture-perfect.

    This market is open from Friday before 1st Advent until 22 Dec from 11 am to 10 pm. They must clear the square from the stalls so early because on 23rd Dec at 5 pm the open-air Christvesper takes place there - not to miss either!

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    Christmas market an der Frauenkirche

    by german_eagle Written Nov 3, 2013

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    The short little alley from Neumarkt square (Frauenkirche) leading down to the Elbe river, named Münzgasse, has another (sort of) Christmas market. Münzgasse is pretty touristy in summer, with one restaurant, bar and nightclub next to another, and it's the same or even worse in Advent/Christmas season. They put up some stalls along the sides there where they sell Christmas items and typical food/beverages and call it a Christmas market. Frankly, I'm not fond of that one. The crowds are too much. The stuff is more expensive than elsewhere. It lacks any charm. The only good thing is that it makes for nice photos, either from Brühl's terrace with the Fraunkirche in the background or with that oversized pyramid turned into a Glühwein place (pics 1, 4 and 5).

    Open from Friday before 1st Advent to Holy Eve, Sun - Thur 10 am - 9 pm, Fri/Sat 10 am - 11 pm and on Holy Eve 10 am - 2 pm.

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    Medieval Christmas market in Stallhof

    by german_eagle Written Nov 3, 2013

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    The former stables of the Royal Palace, a Renaissance courtyard with beautiful arcades and sgraffito decorated, are the place where another, themed "medieval", Christmas market is held. In the first years I loved this market for its charm, the romantic setting, for just being different - but lately I got tired of it. In reality this market is more a medieval market and less a Christmas market. The stalls with food/beverages, the craftsmen/artisans, the things on sale - they are available all year through on medieval markets and have very little to do with Christmas. Sure, there's Glühwein. But that's it.

    On weekends they do shows on the little stage, music and theatre plays. It also costs an entrance fee of about 3 Euro or so on those days. So I decided to have a stroll once or twice over that market every year, on weekdays of course, and that's it.

    Open from Wednesday before 1st Advent to Holy Eve, daily 11 am - 9.30 pm.

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    Christmas market Prager Straße

    by german_eagle Written Nov 3, 2013

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    The first Christmas market that the visitor comes across upon arrival at the main railway station is the so called "Dresdner Winterlichter" market along Prager Straße, the pedestrian main shopping street of Dresden. The street was designed in the late 1960s in International style, thus the area lacks the historic, traditional charm. However, the market recently underwent a nice "facelift", and it found its fans - people who feel at home in the modern, cool-ish ambience of lounges and nightclubs and the mainstream pop-culture of our days.

    The stalls are quite traditional, wooden structures, but the "tree" is a modern light installment and there are international brands that advertise all over the place - Coca Cola truck etc. No worries, you also find the traditional food and beverages, Stollen, gingerbread and Glühwein here! Prices are even a bit lower than on Striezelmarkt.

    Stalls I like are the one of Ottendorfer Mühlenbäcker (fruitcake!), one that sells all sorts of fur products (slippers for home!) and several with wooden Christmas items from the Erzgebirge.

    Open Saturday before 1st Advent till 23 Dec, daily 10 am - 9 pm.

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Dresden Local Customs

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