© S. Rose Fotografie

Saxony´s splendid palaces and castles

Saxony’s splendid palaces and castles

With so many palaces and castles to choose from, it is hard to make a selection but Dresden’s Royal Palace close to the Semper Opera, Zwinger and Church of Our Lady is, no doubt, a highlight. The palace is among the city’s oldest buildings and suffered hugely during the bombing of Dresden in 1945. Renovation has been gradual since 1985 and the palace is now back to its former Renaissance and Baroque glory. The magnificent Royal State Apartments of Augustus the Strong, the Small Ballroom and the so-called Long Corridor, an impressive ancestral gallery, are the latest splendid spaces to have reopened in 2019 and 2021 after faithful restoration. Prepare to be wowed!

Augustus the Strong looms large in Saxony. Over time, almost superman-like qualities have been attributed to the Saxon Elector and Polish King and he has been described as father of the state, ingenious builder, patron of the arts, ladykiller, and even a “horseshoe bender“. Not all of these monikers correspond to the truth, but he was definitely an impressive figure and rightly remains the most famous ruler Saxony has ever had.

Albrechtsburg Castle

Another must-see is Albrechtsburg Castle, perched high on a hill above the Elbe river in Meissen. A masterpiece of late Gothic architecture, it is considered to be the first modern castle ever built in Germany. Under great secrecy, Augustus the Strong had the first European porcelain manufactory built behind its walls. Tip: Try the HistoPad device, included in the entry ticket, for an immersive tour of the castle!

Moritzburg Castle

Looking for a proper fairytale setting? Moritzburg Castle is the one. The pretty moated castle near Dresden draws visitors from near and far and makes for great photos. Augustus the Strong had it converted into a hunting lodge and pleasure palace in the 18th century to stage lavish parties there. Moritzburg Castle can like Albrechtsburg Castle Meissen also be explored with the HistoPad which is included in the ticket.

© DDPIX Marcel Quietzsch

Dresden´s Zwinger

Dresden’s Zwinger palace is another stunning structure that has Augustus the Strong’s name attached to it who had it built of sandstone from Saxon Switzerland. The ensemble in Baroque style was intended for representational purposes and for the ruler’s art collections. It is made up of several buildings, pavilions and galleries that merge into one another and frame a beautiful courtyard. The Semper Gallery, which was added later, now houses the Old Masters Picture Gallery, one of the world’s major collections of paintings featuring masterpieces from the 15th to 18th centuries by Rubens, Botticelli, Rembrandt or Cranach – including Raphael's divine “Sistine Madonna”.

Colditz Castle

Going back almost 1,000 years, Colditz Castle is one of Saxony’s oldest and largest castles. Not least because of the black-and-white classic “The Colditz Story”, it is nowadays internationally best known for having been a prisoner-of-war camp for allied officers during World War II. However, the castle on the Mulde river South of Leipzig was already an imperial seat under Emperor Barbarossa and has a colourful history to be explored by curious visitors. Today it also houses a popular youth hostel.

Hartenfels Castle

For an architectural masterpiece of the Renaissance head to Torgau in the north of Saxony: The history of Hartenfels Castle is closely related to the Protestant Reformation and the castle church was inaugurated by Martin Luther himself as the first Protestant new church ever built. Later, Hartenfels became a Napoleonic fortress and then a Prussian barracks. Don’t miss the stunning “Grosser Wendelstein”, a grand, enclosed spiral staircase in the inner courtyard!

Unexpected residents: Hartenfels Castle has a long tradition of keeping bears, going back to the 15th century. In spring 2021, the brown bears' enclosure in the castle moat was redesigned with a bridge made of pine logs, a new hill, a stone cave and a wooden log coated in beechwood tar for the bears to rub their back fur against.

Weesenstein Castle

Weesenstein is an interesting mix of palace and castle, perching high on a rocky outcrop above the valley of the Müglitz river in the Ore Mountains and also close to Saxon Switzerland National Park. The architectural masterpiece with eight storeys grew stone by stone over more than 800 years, which is why stylistic elements from Gothic to Classicism can be found here. As one of only a few buildings of this kind, it has an incredibly well-preserved interior offering great insights into the lives of the noble inhabitants. These include a 300-year-old gold-leather wallpaper adorning the dining room, a handmade Chinese paper wallpaper and the "Amor and Psyche" panorama wallpaper from 1816. Definitely one of a kind! The adjacent park with its nice layout is a wonderful retreat.

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