Altstadt and Neustadt, Dresden
Concierge.com's insider take:
To get a quick visual history of the city, start at the 19th-century Hauptbanhnof (central train station), restored under the eye of architect Sir Norman Foster and given a Teflon-coated fiberglass canopy (49-351-46-10; www.bahnhof.de, website in German). Walk up Prager Strasse into the inner precincts of the Altstadt and you're soon surrounded by a gorgeous rococo world of buildings resurrected from WWII ruins (you can tell by the checkerboard mix of scorched stone and new blocks). Altstadt highlights include the Zwinger palace and the gothic Residenz royal palace, once the residence of Saxony's monarch Augustus the Strong (2 Taschenberg; 49-351-49-192285; www.skd-dresden.de); the Hofkirche, a Catholic cathedral worth the climb to its steeple for the grand view (1 Schlossplatz; 49-351-49-192100); the Brühl Terrace, built in the 18th century as a see-and-be-seen elevated walkway for the aristocracy; and the Albertinum complex of art schools and museums (now closed until 2008). At the end of the terrace and down a flight of steps is the New Synagogue, a windowless, textured cube that replaces the synagogue burned down by the Nazis in 1938.
Across the river is the Neustadt, with its long, gradually inclined banks leading up to grand old buildings. Starting at the Hofkirche, cross the river via the Augustusbrucke Bridge and head up the Haupstrasse, a bizarre hodgepodge of prewar architecture and postwar Soviet-style facades. To the left is the medieval maze of the Inner Neustadt's pristine streets, with galleries and shops packed in the courtyards around Königstrasse, and Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace (1 Palaisplatz; 49-351-49192100) and the riverside gardens beyond. Or keep walking to Albertplatz and around to Alaunstrasse, the high street of Dresden's counterculture. Cut through the Kunsthof Passage (70 Alaunstrasse; www.kunsthof-dresden.de), an avant-garde cul-de-sac of brightly colored apartments, and head south down Rothenburger Strasse, another grungy thoroughfare.