• Germany edition
 
SPONSORED ARTICLE
Saxony with InterRail: a gateway to central Europe

Saxony with InterRail: a gateway to central Europe

Published: 22 May 2012 19:51 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 May 2012 19:51 GMT+02:00

Its two main tourist draws are the stunning cities of Leipzig and Dresden. Along with impressive architecture, vibrant cultural scenes and picturesque backdrops, they are also the perfect bases to explore further into central Europe by train.

Leipzig

The second city of Saxony will greet you with a big bang on arrival. The central station is the largest in Europe by floor area with its 24 platforms housed in six train sheds. Leipzig has long been known as an important trade city since 900 AD, thanks to its location at the intersection between two important trade routes. The city’s famous trade fair continues that tradition today.

But business mixes with musical pleasure. Leipzig became a centre for classical excellence in the 17th and 18th century as the place where two of Germany’s most famous composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn, lived and worked. Bach was choirmaster at the Lutheran St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche) where he was laid to rest. Regular concerts of his cantata’s and services featuring the famous boy’s choir Thomaschor remain popular. Organists can even visit and play the very instrument where the maestro himself composed.

A statue of Felix Mendelssohn was erected outside the church in 2008, after the Nazis destroyed the original in 1936. Mendelssohn founded the Leipzig Conservatoire (now the University of Music and Theatre) in 1843 – the oldest university school of music in Germany.

The city's oldest church St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche) was built in 1165 and, with its striking Gothic style, is also popular among visitors. The building is most famous as the scene of the Monday demonstrations in 1989, the start of a peaceful revolt against communist rule. For an intriguing insight into the past, visit Museum in der Runden Ecke (Museum in the Round Corner) – the original city headquarters of the Stasi has been kept exactly how it was found in the late 80s. Through documents and surveillance equipment it present a fascinating look into the inner workings of the secret police.

For a unique view of the city, climb the 500 steps to the viewing platform of the Battle of the Nations monument. Built in 1913 to commemorate Napoleon’s defeat in Leipzig a century before, it is the largest war memorial in Europe and stands 91 metres tall, allegedly on the spot where Napoleon ordering his troops to retreat.

In between sightseeing, stop off for a respite at Mädlerpassage, a quaint shopping arcade filled with an array of boutiques. Ensure to pay a visit to Auerbachs Keller – a restaurant that can cite Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as one of its former local patrons. He was a regular during his student days in the city and marked it with a mention in a scene from Faust I.

The biggest family attraction is Leipzig Zoo, with its sprawling grounds and botanical gardens close to the city centre. A modern take on the traditional zoo, it concentrates on conservation and animal protection. There are 850 species of animals from around the world and a newly-opened tropical rainforest the size of two football pitches to explore.

Why not combine your stay in Leipzig with a day trip to the German capital? Berlin is just 200 kilometres away and only 75 minutes on the express ICE train.

Alternatively, take a longer scenic route into Bavaria and a three-hour journey that allows you to enjoy the spectacular views along the River Saale towards Nuremberg – unspoilt nature and serene valleys lined with fairytale castles come guaranteed.

Dresden

The capital of Saxony is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, a waterway lined with meadows that snakes its way 23 kilometres through Dresden. The contrasting architectural styles in the heart of the old town are a throwback to realities of World War II and the controversial aerial attack in 1945. Previously, the city was referred to as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo buildings and many were rebuilt including the Semper Opera. Elaborate and ornate in Renaissance style, it houses a packed programme of opera, ballet and jazz performances as well as being open for guided tours.

Local residents began a campaign and raised private funds to complete the restoration of the famous Frauenkirche (The Church of Our Lady) cathedral in 2005, a year before the city celebrated its 800th anniversary. Since the re-opening, it has been one of the cities biggest tourist attractions with over seven million visitors in the first three years alone.

The Zwinger Palace hosts galleries and gardens in a museum complex comprising the Old Masters Picture Gallery with works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Raphael. For a glimpse of sheer opulence, visit the two Green Vaults in Dresden’s former Royal Palace. Founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723 there are over 1,000 artefacts and treasures from around the world including gold, amber, ivory and the Dresden Green Diamond, the only large naturally green diamond ever to be found.

Take time to soak in the natural surroundings on offer – Dresden is one of the greenest cities in Europe with over 60 percent of the city covered by forest and green space. Protected gardens and parks are scattered around the city along with four nature reserves in close proximity. An hour’s bike ride from the city centre along the Elbe Cycle Path takes in vineyards, riverside palaces, beer gardens and former villages by the river bank.

For the alternative side of Dresden, step into the Neustadt neighbourhood. Home to the city’s student population it comes complete with a pulsing nightlife and vibrant cultural scene. Admittedly, it may not have the sights of the historical inner city, but with its narrow streets, funky shops and bohemian feel, this is where the fun is to be had for younger visitors.

Make the most of your stay by conveniently taking in another country and another capital by train. Close to the Czech border, a day trip to Prague is just 150 kilometres and two hours and 20 minutes away.

On leaving the city, follow the Dresden skyline reflected in the River Elbe while the beauty of the Elbe Valley awaits. Further on, the colossal rocky cliffs of the Sächsische Schweiz National Park tower above a number of pretty, colourful villages. Once across the border, the train follows the Vitava River at Mělník, providing more waterside views before arriving in the popular Czech capital of Prague.

Article sponsored by Eurail Group.

For information on the InterRail Pass range and where to buy click here.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

05:16 May 23, 2012 by LiterallySimon
Dresden Germany's fourth largest city? Tenth would be closer to the truth.
19:14 May 24, 2012 by maras777
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
Today's headlines
Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats
Photo: DPA

Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats

A man from Munich was arrested on Monday for posting videos on Facebook in which he posed with a gun and threatened to kill foreigners. READ  

View from Germany
'Only losers in economic war with Russia'
Volkswagen is the German company with the biggest turnover Russia. Photo: DPA

'Only losers in economic war with Russia'

German businesses are lobbying hard against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, warning further sanctions would hurt the country's exports and threaten German jobs. READ  

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy
The Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

UPDATE: A man set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Monday night. Police said it was too soon to say whether it was part of a political protest. READ  

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway
Photo: NRW-aktuell.tv/YouTube screenshot

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway

Thousands of litres of beer were spilled on a motorway near Duisburg in western Germany on Monday night, when a truck carrying several hundred crates of Bitburger toppled over, shutting the Autobahn. READ  

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis
Photo: DPA

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis

Seriously ill patients will be allowed to grow their own cannabis at home for medicinal purposes, a German court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Seven German family members killed in Gaza
An Israeli strike on Gaza City on Monday. Photo: DPA

Seven German family members killed in Gaza

UPDATE: Seven members of a German family living in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday evening. READ  

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum
Photo: DPA

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum

Workers in Germany are paying a record amount of tax into government coffers, according to figures published on Monday. Those on an average wage of €40,000 pay almost twice as much tax in Germany as they would in the United States or Australia. READ  

Netflix to launch in Germany in September
Laverne Cox, star of Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Photo: EPA/PETER FOLEY

Netflix to launch in Germany in September

Netflix revealed plans on Monday to launch in Germany in September this year, bringing the popular movie and TV streaming service to one of the world’s biggest markets. READ  

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia
An armed separatist walks past the bodybags of victims of the MH17 crash. Photo: EPA/IGOR KOVALENKO

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia

Germany's foreign minister said Monday the EU will "raise the pressure" on Russia over the Ukraine crisis following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 with a suspected missile. READ  

No foreigner road toll for German borders?
Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (l) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer are fighting over the "foreigner toll". Photo: DPA

No foreigner road toll for German borders?

Bavaria’s interior minister has called for German border regions to be exempt from a controversial project to charge foreigners to use the country’s roads, sparking a row within his own party. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,227
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd