When it comes to festive city breaks in Europe, there are a few cities that seem to hog the spotlight. But if you really want to experience the Christmas magic, Dresden and the region of Saxony is the perfect sized present you might now know you need.
Boasting eleven Christmas markets in Dresden alone, alongside a whole host of other traditions that complete Christmas, my week-long festive filming session in Saxony transported me to a true winter wonderland.
There was in fact so much festive cheer to see and do, I’ve split this article into two parts. While here I’ll focus more on the city-break side of exploring around Dresden, my second post on Christmas in Seiffen and the Ore Mountains will take you to total Christmas overload.
But first, before taking you through how to make the most of your Christmas trip to Saxony, take a little tour of what is on offer in this short video.
One of the best testaments as to why Christmas is at the heart of Saxony is the year-round production that occurs here: from festive stars to the delicious Dresdner Stollen.
The region of Upper Lusatia which is easy to reach from Dresden is home to many of these traditions, and so I’ve combined them in with this Christmas in Dresden guide. While public transport will take you to most of these places, I highly recommend a car to explore, just remember to park it for the night before sinking too many mulled wines!
Christmas Garden Dresden
The winter wonderland magic started just a 30-minute drive from Dresden against the stunning background of The Pillnitz Palace. There are castles in abundance in Saxony, and in this grand park, where the castle combines traditional and Asian influences, you can walk through advent calendars, glittering lights, and marvel at festive projections which dance across the facades of the palace buildings.
Baking Dresdner Christstollen at Wipplers
Just next door to the Pillnitz Palace you’ll find the bakers at Wipplers hard at work baking the Dresdner Christstollen, especially at this time of year!
This world-famous festive treat is part of the regions culinary heritage, and for centuries a select group of pastry chefs and bakers have produced this raisin, butter and almond treat.
Only around 120 bakers are officially allowed to produce the traditional Dresdner Stollen, and here, with a museum and the chance of a tour if booked in advance, is your chance to witness the production first hand. The Wippler bakers have been hard at work for generations, and Andrew who leads the team here alongside his father took me behind the scenes into this perfectly organised operation.
It was incredible to see how fast hands moved here, and producing the levels they do at such high quality is no easy task. A single batch of Stollen has around 180-kilos, and the process takes a few days. From preparing the dough, weighing it out, baking it, buttering it, resting and then the final sprinkle of sugar, in the peak season leading up to Christmas over 1000 Stollen are produced in this small bakery per day.
The best part of course? Sampling the freshest Stollen right from the heart of its home.
Gingerbread in Pulsnitz
Along the drive back to Dresden, a visit to Pulsnitz in the Upper Lusatia part of Saxony will take you to the Gingerbread Capital of the country.
For generations, since 1558, the ginger-infused treat has been baked here, so much, so a museum dedicated to the production of gingerbread has sprung up in the town. Here I saw the traditional methods and recipes, as well as learning the long history behind how the produce was first made, up until more modern methods came in. If you catch the team on a baking day, expect to have some light gingerbread handed to you straight from the oven.
Just moments away I also popped into the tiny store of Löschner, a gingerbread specialist that had a queue of customers lining up outside to get their Christmas treats.
Popping upstairs to visit the equally small production area, I was impressed by the small team working to original recipes in such a small space to create such a legendary brand of sweet slices. While it wouldn’t be possible for visitors to see the production usually, be sure to pick up a bag or two of treats, or the adorable hearts and shoes made of gingerbread, that this specialist is particularly famed for.
Meissen and its Markets
The town of Meissen was an unscheduled stop, but it was one of my favourite places to visit in the whole of Saxony.
Famed for its porcelain production, the first thing that will strike you when driving towards the town is the impressive and unmissable 15th-century Albrechtsburg. This castle-come-church has an enviable position perched on a hill overlooking the town and is well worth visiting. A walk up to the castle will provide you with a dreamy view across the rooftops of the town. Be sure to keep an eye out for the artwork painted onto the sides of some of the buildings.