1. All aboard the world’s oldest paddle steamer fleet in Dresden
A bit of nostalgia and lots of great views: Saxony’s capital city Dresden is often compared to Florence thanks to its enchanting palaces, churches and belltower silhouette. Dresden is home to the oldest and biggest paddle steamer fleet in the world.
“Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt” runs nine historic wheel steamers making their way up and down the river past lovely scenery. Summer (obviously) is best for a nostalgic Elbe river ride.
We have a particularly soft spot for the route to Pillnitz Palace and Park. This former summer residence of the kings of Saxony is delightfully set by the river and features a Baroque park as well as English-style landscaped gardens.
Be prepared for arriving in style as visitors come ashore at a riverside pavilion built for the purpose of impressing river-travelling guests.
2. Explore Saxony Germany for out-of-this world mountain scenery
Speaking of Saxon Switzerland: Elbe River has done its part to create a visually stunning set of mountains. They might not be high but they are certainly very dramatic.
Bizarrely shaped rock fingers which steeply rise up in the sky and table mountains are favourites with free climbers and (ordinary) hikers. Some have compared the region’s look to a wooded version of the Monument Valley.
Whatever your associations might be, we’re pretty confident that you’ll delight in the views of a unique river and mountain landscape.
Be it from the popular Bastei Bridge or other Saxon Switzerland beauty spots.
Tip: Try the Painters’ Way hiking trail and follow in the footstep of Romantic artists such as Caspar David Friedrich who found inspiration for their paintings in the area’s natural beauty.
3. See cool art in a post-industrial setting
If old industrial sites becoming playgrounds for modern art are your thing, you’ll love Spinnerei Leipzig. Once Europe’s largest cotton-spinning mill, the over 750,000 square feet space has, since the country’s reunification in the early 1990s, evolved into a hub for galleries and artist’s studios.
There are all kinds of contemporary art to be explored, including paintings, photography, sculpture and video, from German and international artists.
Tip: Visit Spinnerei for one of their events, such as a gallery tour or open studios weekend. Or stay in one of the four “Meisterzimmer” rental apartments on site with lots of vintage touches and industrial elements!
4. Experience a unique Saxon pub crawl
Let’s stay in Leipzig for a moment and talk about Drallewatsch, a collection of small streets in the city’s centre.
In Saxon dialect, the word "drallewatsching" describes the act of going out and having a good time (loosely translated) and that’s exactly what you’ll have when out and about around on the famous Barfußgässchen alley.
Here over 30 restaurants, bars and pubs between Richard-Wagner-Platz and Burgplatz provide plenty of options to eat, drink and be merry. Particularly in the summer months, when everything happens al fresco, the narrow streets are teeming with life.
The backdrop of historic buildings from the Renaissance, Baroque and turn of the 20th century periods adds to the special atmosphere. Join the locals and enjoy a bit of drallewatsching.
5. Get to know Germany’s easternmost city
Travel to Germany’s very East where a stroll through Görlitz on the Neisse River is like a journey through 500 years of European architectural history.
Germany’s easternmost city features a good 4,000 restored architectural monuments from the late Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Art Nouveau periods. They combine to create the sense of a fabulous open-air stage.
News of this array of immaculate architecture have made it to Hollywood. The Renaissance townhouses with their richly decorated façades and ornate vaults have become the backdrop for international film productions.
In fact, Görlitz, once a rich town on the Via Regia trading route, now carries the title of "European Film Location of the Decade".
The city is actually split in two parts. Its eastern section, Zgorzelec, is just a few steps across a bridge over the Neisse in Poland.
6. Marvel at the world’s largest nutcracker
The world’s largest nutcracker is exactly 10.10 metres tall and comes from the Saxon Ore Mountains. Carving and woodturning have a long tradition here.
When the traditional mining industry in the Ore Mountains declined, many miners turned to the artistic processing of wood. This resulted in typical Ore Mountains folk art figures and objects such as angels, miners, candle arches, smoking men or the nutcracker, which have become popular Christmas decorations.
Ore Mountains towns such as Seiffen are great places to see how the old craft of turning wood into intricate decorative pieces is being kept alive. The world’s largest nutcracker can be found in Europe’s first nutcracker museum in Neuhausen.
7. Delight in one of Europe’s smallest wine-growing regions
It is not widely known but Saxony has an ace little wine-growing region. It's not far from Dresden in the Elbland region and, handily, the very lovely Saxon Wine Route which connects wine villages and vineyards on a good 56 miles.
It leads through the most beautiful part of Saxony’s Elbe river valley, with many opportunities to sample wines, and stop by quaint wine taverns and restaurants.
Tip: Time your trip to coincide with the “open vineries’ weekend” taking place each year in late summer for special vineyard tours, tastings and an all-round party all about wine.
8. Taste aristocratic ice cream
Ever heard of Prince Pückler, or Fürst Pückler in German? He’s the man behind one of continental Europe’s most beautiful English landscape parks.
Muskau Park, a UNESCO World Heritage, is hidden in the small town of Bad Muskau on the Polish border.
Good old Pückler was not just a bit of a bon vivant and travel writer but also a talented landscape architect. Between 1815 and 1845 he created a veritable garden paradise including a lovely castle, all of which captures visitors to this day.
His name has also been immortalised in a special ice cream named after him. Fürst-Pückler-Eis was created by a chef while working for Pückler at Muskau Castle for a couple of years.
It consists of three different ice cream flavours frozen together. Try it in Muskau Park’s on-site café!
9. Discover the sound of music in the Vogtland hills
It’s another very special Saxon secret: The region’s Vogtland area has a unique tradition of musical instrument making.
What’s today called “Musicon Valley” consists of the towns of Markneukirchen, Schöneck, Klingenthal where a wide range of wooden and brass musical instruments have been made for more than 350 years. By hand, of course.
Nowhere in the world are there so many expert musical instrument makers in one place as in this corner of Saxony. This is why the region is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Visitors can visit the workshops, often run by the same family from one generation to the next.
Tip: See the largest playable violin as well as two tiny violins that fit into a matchbox, in Marktneukirchen’s Musical Instrument Museum.
10. Enjoy scenic train rides
We started with a bit of nostalgia and are coming full circle with our travel reason number ten: Saxony is a real treasure chest for all fans of steam trains, with five narrow-gauge railways still being in daily operation today across the region.
The foundation for this huffing and puffing paradise was laid over 130 years ago by the Royal Saxon State Railways. Today, the considerable network of lines stretches from the Elbe region up to the ridge of the Ore Mountains.
Thanks to the daily services, you can travel as you please and without complicated planning.
Choose one of the scenic routes such as the one-hour ride on the Fichtelberg steam train through the romantic scenery of the Ore Mountains up to Oberwiesenthal, Germany’s highest town on 914 metres. This glorious trip will give you yet another perspective of the fascinating region of Saxony.
Click here for more top things to see and do in Saxony.
This article is brought to you in partnership with Visit Saxony.