What to visit in Berlin, Leipzig & Dresden

Lucy Fletcher, 19 June, 2024
Our expert gives insights and recommendations for the best places to visit in three fascinating German cities.

History with every step, culture at every corner – you won’t find many other cities more gripped by history than Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden. But what makes exploring this trio of German cities so rewarding are the symbols of rejuvenation that thrive beside their preservation and rebuilding of the past.  

They offer plenty to see and do – and whether you have never been or visit on a regular basis, there’s always a new angle (or courtyard, Bierstube, or Kaffehäuser) to discover.

Inntravel expert, Amber, recently revisited our Beyond the Iron Curtain holiday with a view to making sure your time in Germany is full of highlights. In this 'Innsider' interview, we uncover a few of the cities' hidden gems, including off-the-beaten-path finds and recommendations on what to visit in Berlin, Leipzig, and Dresden.
Let’s start with Berlin…
I spent some time in Berlin as a student and I just remember there being cranes everywhere – it felt very much like a city that was rebuilding after World War II. Now it feels like Berlin has found its identity. It’s still got the history but it’s so diverse and with so many different people.

Outside the Reichstag (seat of the German parliament), there's a really fascinating memorial that's often missed. Look closely and by the waterfront you'll see a tribute to those who tried to escape East Germany by swimming across the river. There is a photo of those who attempted the crossing, and a short description of their story.

Your top tips for Berlin?

Favourite view:
The East Side Gallery both from afar and up close… I could spend hours walking up and down it and still find something new that I hadn’t seen before. Not only that, but it is also an important reminder of what once surrounded part of this everchanging city and the hardship people went through.  

Favourite restaurant/bar/dish: When you think of German food, people often think sausages! And there’s a reason for that, because they're so good, especially Currywurst. This dish is a Berlin institution so I would highly recommend trying it in Berlin, after all it’s where it was invented.  

Amber’s top tip: Take your time. There is so much to admire in this city and there is always something different going on, so I’d recommend extra nights to fully experience the Berliner way of life. 
On to Leipzig…
Leipzig really surprised me. It didn’t feel like East Germany, it felt richer – there’s a nice mix of architecture, with the concert hall and Bach Museum, for example. I really enjoyed it there and it felt like there was a lot to do.

The Monument to the Battle of the Nations (just outside the city). It was recently renovated, and you can go inside.

Your top tips for Leipzig?

Favourite view: Once you enter the monument, take a lift to one of the upper levels where you can take advantage of the 360-degree views of Leipzig and the surrounding area. Although it’s a little snug to walk around, the views make it worth it, and those brave enough can take a flight of steps to reach the very top.  

Favourite restaurant/bar/dish: If you want to experience great German cuisine without the hustle and bustle of a traditional Kellar, I’d recommend Gasthof Barthels Hof. Set in a little courtyard just off the main square, this restaurant gives you the Kellar feel in a more relaxing environment. 
Amber’s top tip: Try the local treats. Leipzig may be renowned for its music and culture, but some of the city’s sweet treats are too good to miss. A personal favourite was Leipziger Quarkkäulchen – a small dessert resembling a pancake made from a dough containing quark cheese, often spiced with cinnamon or dotted with raisins. Its surprisingly light and airy, perfect for after a German-sized meal.
And finally, Dresden…
Dresden was flattened during World War II and has a very sad history. They’re still rebuilding: the Zwinger Palace's courtyard is still under construction and the church was only finished in 2005. Dresden is a tale of two halves: on one side of the river you have all the old history, architecture, and monuments, and on the other there’s the cool district, Dresden’s Neustadt, with lots of artsy stuff.

We went to the Sophienkeller which was very unusual. It even had a carousel you could sit at and dine, but very traditional German food with quirky medieval things around you – great to do something a bit different.

Your top tips for Dresden?

Favourite view: Augustus Bridge not only lends great views over the Elbe, but also shows the contrast of old vs new Dresden. On the one side you have the spectacular architecture of the Zwinger Palace, Semperoper (opera house), and cathedral, and on the other, the modern, cool side to the city.

Favourite restaurant/bar/dish: does wine count? What surprised me was how good the wine was from Dresden Elbland and how many vineyards sit along the banks of the River Elbe. I’d recommend trying a Pinot Gris or Blanc from the area.
Amber’s top tip: If you want to take a break from the city, a boat trip along the River Elbe is ideal. There are plenty of options that offer different experiences whether you want to wine and dine or experience the historic paddle steamers, one of the oldest and largest fleets in the world.
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