Zwinger Dresden: The Palace in the City

Germany is a land filled with historical buildings and German castles and forts are among the most renowned in the world. Each week I publish a post about a German castle or fort and tell you – my readers – about its history, important things to see there and much more.


Located in eastern Germany in the city of Dresden is the famous Zwinger. This castle served as the exhibition gallery, festival arena and orangery of the Court of Dresden under the Electors of Saxony. In modern German, the word Zwinger means kennel. However, the origins of the name of this castle lie in the Middle Ages and, thus, in Old German. A Zwinger was a fort or a defensive building constructed between the inner and outer walls of a city.However, this particular Zwinger was never used for such a purpose.

The Zwinger is a magnificent castle, located in the city of Dresden ,which is the capital of the German state of Saxony. The castle is a prime example of Rococo architecture (Late Baroque) in Germany. It has vast grounds where many a thinker have enjoyed a solitary walk. Construction on this castle started in the 18th century.

A view across the courtyard of the Zwinger.

A view across the courtyard of the Zwinger.

It was initally a U-shaped complex made up of three buildings. In the 19th century, construction was started on a third building which closed off the castle’s courtyard to the nearby Elbe River. The building opened in 1855 and was called the Semper Building, after the architect Gottfried Semper. Mr. Semper took great care to maintain the Rococo style of the previous three buildings to give a sense of harmony.

During the Second World War, the city of Dresden was practically leveled to the ground due to an aerial bombardment campaign by the Allies. As a result, the Zwinger and the Semper building burned down.

The Old Masters' Gallery (Gemäldergalerie).

The Old Masters’ Gallery (Gemäldergalerie).

Thankfully, they were restored in the 1950s and 60s and are quite intact today. The Semper building today houses lots of attractions. The Old Masters’ Gallery contains many paintings from a collection started by the Electors of Saxony in 1560. This collection was looted by the Red Army in 1945 but was subsequently returned to the GDR between 1955 and 1956.

The Math and Physics Exhibit (Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon).

The Math and Physics Exhibit (Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon).

The Math and Physics Exhibit contains many mining, astronomical and maritime navigation instruments from a collection started by Elector August in 1560. It must be noted here that August the Strong laid the foundation of the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments in the Zwinger in 1728.

Some pieces in the Porcelain Collection (Pozellansammlung).

Some pieces in the Porcelain Collection (Pozellansammlung).

The Porcelain Collection dates back to 1733 and contains some 20,000 delicate porcelain pieces from the royal collection.

But the real charm and beauty of the Zwinger does not lie in the exhibits. Instead, it lies in the views of the castle from across the courtyard and of the courtyard from the castle top. The entrance to the site and the castle top are free of charge. The list of fees for different sites can be found here. Because of its location in the heart of the city of Dresden, the Zwinger is easily accessible using the local public transportation. The tram stops Am ZwingerteichTheaterplatz and Postplatz are all near the castle site. For people interested in reaching the castle on foot, it isn’t far from the Dresden Central Station. If you go to visit, I urge you to make a day trip out of it if you live far away and check out the really amazing and historic city of Dresden as well.

The Semper Building from across the courtyard.

The Semper Building from across the courtyard.

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One thought on “Zwinger Dresden: The Palace in the City

  1. Pingback: Zwinger – ruiwenqu

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