Enjoy Dresden in its Christmas livery
Compare the city as depicted by Bellotto with today’s remarkable recreations
Discover the insatiable patronage of the art-mad Electors of Saxony
See some amazing pictures & the world’s finest collection of Meissen porcelain
Festive programme of opera, ballet & concerts
Gentle pace with time to explore independently
We stay in a fine hotel & eat well
Christmas is celebrated in style in Dresden, the wonderful architecture of Saxony’s capital the perfect backdrop to a traditional German Christmas. Jolly street markets, festive decorations, culture and music in abundance await us, plus a light dusting of snow as the perfect festive complement?
The Dresden we see today is a remarkable sight, little changed from when captured by one of Europe’s greatest view painters, Bernardo Bellotto, who accepted an invitation from a genuine ‘connoisseur’ ruler, the Elector of Saxony, to come to his capital. When Bellotto arrived he found Saxony ruled in a most unusual way. The ruler was a Catholic, yet the ruler's ancestors had been the firmest supporters of the Reformation, indeed they had given Martin Luther aid and comfort.
The Saxon lands were ruled at the turn of the seventeenth century by a charismatic leader, Frederick Augustus I, ‘Augustus the Strong’. He was both hereditary Elector of Saxony and the elected King of Poland. To gain this second role, the Lutheran Elector converted to Catholicism, an astonishing decision given his nation’s history, not appreciated by his Saxon subjects.
The Elector-King’s fame lay is his role as a great patron of the arts. He founded the famous porcelain works at Meissen and began the transformation of his capital at Dresden. He and his successors built some remarkable palaces and collected magnificent works of art - all aspects of their activities which we shall see in the city’s museums and treasuries, including the celebrated Green Vault.
Augustus’s son, Frederick Augustus II (also King of Poland as Augustus III) continued his father’s lavish patronage of the arts, inviting Bellotto to Dresden. The artist memorably captured the city's evolution in a series of limpid paintings and these mostly remain in the city’s Gemäldegalerie, which we shall visit several times.
In recent times Dresden has taken on an added layer of significance due to its destruction during World War II and its rise, phoenix-like, bears remarkable testament to the triumph of human forbearance over adversity. This too, will add a poignant descant to our main theme as we celebrate this city of architecture, art and music.
Indeed, music will be an important part of our visit. For Christmas 2023 the Semper Opera will stage Puccini’s wonderful La Bohème; Humperdinck’s fairy-tale opera Hansel and Gretel; and Johan Strauss’s delightful Die Fledermaus. For the operas, subject to availability tickets can be pre-booked via our office. The Frauenkirche and other churches will present choral services and recitals over our stay, though details have yet to be confirmed.
We shall stay at the 5* Gewandhaus Hotel, close to all the major sites and a short walk to the Opera House.
Day by day
- Day 1: Saturday 23 December
- We fly from Heathrow to Prague and on arrival transfer by coach to Dresden and check into our hotel, the 5*Gewandhaus. Later that evening there will be a group dinner in a local restaurant. Wine, water and coffee are included with all group meals.
- Day 2: Sunday 24 December
- The centre of Dresden offers a remarkable overview of the city’s history. It is full of fine historic buildings, many destroyed during World War II and left derelict for much of the communist period. These have now almost all been fully restored and offer us once again a city which its creators, Augustus the Strong and his son, Frederick-Augustus II, would recognise. We spend the morning exploring this Altstadt (wonderfully decorated for Christmas) on foot, to include the Altmakt and several important churches such as the famed Hofkirche and Frauenkirche. You will also have free time to enjoy the famous Christmas Market. Lunch is not included today and we shall have our Christmas Eve Dinner in our hotel.
- Day 3: Monday 25 December
- This morning will be free for independent explorations, and some may wish to attend one of the Christmas Services? We meet at midday and visit the Zwinger Palace complex, designed by Matthaeus Daniel Pöppelmann and built for festivals and tournaments and one of the great architectural jewels of the city. The early afternoon will be devoted to a first visit to the city’s most important gallery, the Gemäldegalerie. This has one of Europe’s greatest collections of paintings, including Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, two paintings by Vermeer, not to mention a truly stunning group of view paintings of Dresden by Bellotto. We continue for our Christmas Day lunch, followed by some free time. There will be an evening performance at the Semper Opera of Puccini’s wonderful La Bohème. Tickets can be booked for £107, please contact the office.
- Day 4: Tuesday 26 December
- The Residenzschloss or Royal Palace is a modern recreation of the mostly Renaissance building lived in by the Wettin Electors and Kings of Saxony over many centuries. The quality of the restoration is amazing. Our visit will be broken by a group lunch in a local restaurant after which we return to the Palace to visit the justly famed historic Green Vault where we shall find displayed some truly astonishing items from the Wettin family’s Treasury. The evening will be free and dinner is not included tonight. There will be an evening performance at the Semper Opera of Humperdinck’s fairy-tale opera Hansel and Gretel. Tickets can be booked for £115, please contact the office.
- Day 5: Wednesday 27 December
- This morning we return to the Zwinger Palace to see the fabulous Collection of Meissen and Oriental Porcelain. The factory was the brainchild of Augustus the Strong and the display reflects not only the history of the factory, but also the remarkable manner in which it was originally displayed. We break for an early group lunch after which we have our second visit to the Gemäldegalerie. The evening will be free and dinner is not included tonight. There will be an evening performance at the Semper Opera of Johann Strauss’s lyric comedy Die Fledermaus. Tickets can be booked for £115, please contact the office.
- Day 6: Thursday 28 December
- This morning we drive to Meissen, a delightful place round which we shall be guided. The Medieval centre is well preserved, and we also visit the famous Meissen Porcelain Museum and Factory after which we have our final group lunch. We continue to Berlin for the return flight to Heathrow.
Opera & Music in Dresden
The programme for the Semper Opera is as detailed above for Days 3, 4 & 5. Subject to availability, tickets in the Stalls (£107, £115 & £115 accordingly) can be booked via our office. Details of concerts to be offered in the city’s churches and other venues will not be known until later this summer.
- Price: £3,150 per person
- Price without flights: £2,920
- Deposit: £435
- Single Supplement: £325 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: Stephen Brook
5 nights with breakfast at the 5* Gewandhaus Hotel.
Couples/two sharing in Superior Rooms, Single travellers in Standard Rooms
Outward: BA852 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1025, arrive Prague 1330
Return: BA987 Depart Berlin Brandenbrg 1940 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 2035
2 dinners & 4 lunches with water, wine & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, all local transfers, services of Tom Duncan, our local guide Susanne Reichelt and Stephen Brook as Tour Manager
Travel to/ from Heathrow, 3 dinners & 1 lunch, Opera, Ballet & Concert tickets
Weather Conditions for Dresden in December are:
Average Temperature between: -1oC - 3oC / 30oF - 37oF
Rainfall: 43mm / 1.6 inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.