The commuter trains - there are three lines: S1, S2 and S3 - and the regional trains that connect Dresden with smaller towns in the surrounding region are the backbone of the public transportation in Dresden, most useful for those who want to get to work and back. These trains are also included in the VVO regional transportation network, thus you can use the same ticket that you bought for tram and bus on those trains. Please note that the VVO network is divided into zones, if you want to travel to a destination outside the city borders you have to pay for another zone (or even more).
The S1 trains run on the route Meissen - Bad Schandau (-Schöna) via Radebeul, Dresden, Pirna e.g. They cross Dresden from the northwestern areas via Neustadt and old town/city centre to the southeast and stop many times along the way. The S2 trains run from the airport in the north via Neustadt and old town also to the southeast but end in Pirna. Since both lines have a 30 minutes frequency you have 4 train departures per hour in each direction, but at an odd schedule, not exactly every 15 minutes.
The S3 trains connect Dresden central railway station and Freiberg via Freital and Tharandt. VVO tariff applies to "Klingenberg-Colmnitz", which is two stops beyond Tharandt. This route is much frequented by students (the Tech University has a branch in Tharandt).
Important regional train lines are from Dresden to Leipzig (via Radebeul and Riesa - which is the last stop in the VVO region), from Dresden to Nürnberg (same route as S3, then via Chemnitz, Zwickau, Plauen), from Dresden to Elsterwerda-Biehla where you change for another regional train to Berlin, and finally several routes in eastern direction - Bautzen, Zittau, Görlitz, even to Liberec in the Czech Republic (via Zittau) and Wroclaw/Breslau in Poland (via Bautzen, Görlitz). For all these regional trains VVO tariff applies, too, as far as your destination is still in the VVO region. Please see the map on the "other" link below!
Caution: Unlike in trams and buses, you cannot validate your ticket on the train! The machines for validation are on the platforms of the train stations. You cannot buy your ticket from the conductor on the trains. Purchase them from the ticket machines (there is one in each train station, if not working you *can* purchase from the conductor) or in the service centres at the main/Neustadt railway stations. Stupid Deutsche Bahn rules!! But in most cases you have to somehow get to the train stop anyway, so will have a ticket already (remember, one ticket for tram and bus AND trains!)
Dresden has 12 tram lines running on 204 km of railroads and 29 bus lines on 329 km roads. This makes a sufficient network, covers all of the city grounds even to the rural outskirts. Service is frequent, during the day trams and main buses run every 10 minutes, minor bus routes have a 20 - 30 minutes frequency.
Most trams and buses run also at night, from about midnight to 5 am on slightly different routes and only once every 30 - 60 minutes. Please watch out for a sign that looks like a 3/4 moon with a "H" and "GuteNachtLinie" for the lines that run at night.
The trams and buses are part of the regional public transportation network VVO. The city Dresden is one zone of the VVO network. Single trip tickets are valid for one hour, changes possible. In 2012 a single trip ticket is 2 Euro. Kids 6-14 years pay a discounted fare of 1.40 Euro. If you plan to do several trips with tram or bus (or train) then you might want to buy a 4-trip ticket which sets you back 7.20 Euro (adults) or 4.60 Euro (kids).
However, in most cases a day ticket or family day ticket is the best option for tourists. You only validate it once, can hop on buses or trams as you please the whole day long. A day ticket is 5 Euro for adults, 4 Euro for kids - and seniors 60+! So, as an adult or kid you save money with 3 rides on tram/bus, as senior even 2 trips cost the same as with single tickets. Family day tickets are valid for up to 6 persons, max 2 of them adults, the rest can be kids 6-14 years. Children younger than 6 years always travel free.
You can purchase tickets at the DVB service points (central railway station, Postplatz, Pirnaischer Platz, Albertplatz, Dr.-Külz-Ring), at ticket machines (almost at every stop) and in buses from the drivers, in trams from machines (coins only). Validate the tickets inside trams and buses, tickets purchased from bus drivers are already validated.
A special mode of transportation in Dresden are the ferries. Currently there are four which cross the Elbe river.
Most of them are for people and bicycles etc. only, but there is one in Pillnitz (near the Palace) which is for cars, too. For this one please note the order of boarding: first the cars, then the motorbikes, then bicycles, then pedestrians (see pic 5!)
The ferries operate from morning till evening on demand, roughly from 6 am till 10 pm. The fare is 1 Euro for adults, 0.70 Euro for bicycles, but they are also included in the public transportation network tickets. This means, if you bought and validated a single trip ticket for 2 Euro to get from the old town to Pillnitz Palace and arrive by tram in Kleinzschachwitz you can still take the ferry, given that you didn't spend too much time taking photos since that single trip ticket is valid for one hour.
A ticket for a car is 3 Euro, this includes the driver, not the other passengers.
Cycling becomes more and more popular in Dresden. Currently 18% of all trips within the city are done by bicycle, which is not overly exciting - yet, but a major improvement compared to some years ago.
Major roads have cycling trails on the sides, there are cycling routes signposted that cross the city from east to west, north to south. Especially students who live in the Neustadt district (right bank) are happy about the new cycling trails straight through the old town to the Tech University in the south (left bank). A nuisance are the cobbled streets in the old town and 19th century residential areas, but that won't change.
While most of the city is flat there are some hilly areas in the north/northeast and south where it can be quite strenuous to cycle UPHILL. In those areas you might prefer to hop on a bus and take your bike with you. Same applies to ferries - since there's no bridge in the eastern districts of Dresden you have to use the ferries to cross the river (Kleinzschachwitz - Pillnitz e.g.) The local transportation network VVO charges nothing for bicycles if you have a monthly or annual ticket. Otherwise you must buy a discounted ticket for your bicycle - fare is 1.40 Euro (2012).
I clicked on Dresden as well since you can easily cycle along the Elbe river cycling path to Dresden, coming from downstream (Hamburg) or upstream (Czech Republic). A very pleasant way to travel to the city!
This ride is mostly for children, but also many adults take it to save on walking around Grossner GArden Park which is one mile long, and of course one mile back to where you started. The ride is 4 Euro, and that is pricey. A 2 Euro discount is good with a Schlosserland Saxony card
There are not a lot of available spaces to find parking, and especially ones that are cheap. In the Altmarket, there are garages, but they do cost about 8-12 Euro daily. WE found a surface lot for 6 Euro for the day, or for 3 hours it is the same in Altmarket to the west of it and south of Zwinger two blocks. By our apartment on Bischofsweg there was only parallel street parking and that was the cheapest for 3 Euro a day, which is also the price for 6 hours.
Parking places at Weiner Platz cost 6 Euro for 3 hours, and need to pay at a booth to get ticket to get out. Airport parking is about 5 Euro a day if I recall correctly?
Around the Theatre Platz area are many horse drawn carriages if you would like a ride. They range from elaborate coach type carriages to a horse drawn cart. Prices range from 10-20 Euro, and most rides are 12/ to 3/4 hour. They go slowly by the sites in the Platz and some side streets along the Hofkirche and back streets.
We did not take a cruise due to time constraints, but kind of wish we had been able to do so. A cruise down, or up river would have been nice. They take you to some places only about 5 miles away, while others can a a 4-5 hour cruise to sites about 20 miles away on the river.
Prices range varying on the trip taken. An example is Dresden to Meissen (30 miles away) is 11 Euro, and to Pillnitz (15 miles south) is 9,40 Euro. Local short rides going by closer in sites may be about 10 Euro.
The airport is north of the city main center about 6 miles, by going up Rt 97, or Konigsbrucker Strasse. It is easy to find the airport and parking and rental cars there are pretty simple to get into the garage. Since there are not many flight coming here daily, the ability to get around and through the airport is easy.
There are a lot of these that drive around the city and tourists use them for guided tours, or on/off stops. Some tours also includes taking you out of the city to Meissen, or Pillnitz as examples of places to stop. Prices of the tour range from 20-50 Euro depending on the time of 2-4 hour tours, or where to go on the tour.
Since vehicles are expensive and parking a mess, if not impossible in areas, a lot of people of all ages use the bikes to get around to work, shop, and play, and even site see. There are also some motorbikes but not many small Mopeds or big motorcycles.
A great deal of people use the tram system as it traverses all around the city and outskirts. The system is appearing to be efficient and on time. The only hitch is that is traffic backup, the trams also have to wait a lot because the tracks run right over the streets in the traffic lanes.
The system started in early 19oo's and has had to resort to the narrow streets because buildings were built right up close to them when there was only horse traffic. There are 28 tram routes and 12 bus routes.
There are two train stations; one on the north in Neustadt called the same name, and south in Weiner Platz, just south of old center 3/4 of a mile is called Hauptbahnhof. The Weiner Platz was designed and built in 1892-97 but damaged substantially in WWII. It has 18 tracks, with 11 to take you to destinations. Over 1997 and 2006 there was a major refurbishment due to finding that the structure besides being left to deteriorate and structural faults in the roof supports, and the 2002 floods caused more havoc. NOw it is pristine looking again back to its art deco period.
Dresden prides itself of having the world’s oldest and biggest fleet of paddle wheel steamers. They have nine such historic ships, 80 to 130 years old.
They travel through Dresden’s Elbe Valley which has UNESCO World Heritage status, and get into Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz) and to the border of the Czech Republic. Also 90 min city tours, so called Bridge Tours (Brückentour), are on offer.
The steamers travel between Seußlitz in the north-west to the border town Schmilka in the south-east, and pass at Meißen (wonderful town of the royal porcelain manufactory), Dresden, Schloss Pillnitz, Pirna and Bad Schandau.
The stop in Dresden is called Terrassenufer. That is just at Brühlsche Terrasse, below the castle, between Augustusbrücke (Theaterplatz) and Carolabrücke.
To give you an idea about the price of a trip (as Oct. 2008):
Dresden – Meißen costs 11.40 Euro single/16.80 return
Dresden – Schloss Pillnitz 9.60/14.80
Dresden – Bad Schandau 20.50/20.50 (yes, not more)
If you plan to cruise quite a bit and use land transportation as well you should think about purchasing a so-called Kombiticket for 27 Euro (children 16.50/family 43.00). Those tickets can only be purchased at the shipping company’s counter.
They also offer themed cruises at special rates.
On the VVO website you can also find trips on passenger ships that cruise along the vineyards etc.
This is how we got there. We took the overnight train from Basle to Dresden. This train is opperated by CityNightLine
For timetables check www.bahn.de