Capital of the Land (administrative region) of Saxony, Germany, lying in a wide basin in the upper Elbe Valley; population (2003 est) 473,300. An industrial and cultural centre, and a large inland port, Dresden was a district capital within the former state of East Germany, the German Democratic Republic, and became a state capital within the Federal Republic of Germany. Products include precision and optical instruments, computers and office machinery, electrical transformers, radio and electrical equipment, and musical instruments; flowers and shrubs are grown for export, and telecommunications and high-tech industries are also important. Ranked as one of the world's most beautiful cities before World War II, with a rich architectural and cultural heritage, it was devastated by Allied carpet bombing in 1945; much rebuilding has since taken place, and the city has become an important tourist destination.
Dresden was originally a Slavic fishing settlement called Drezdane. From 1485 until 1918 it was the residence of the dukes, then the electors, and later the kings, of Saxony. In the late 17th and 18th centuries the city became an important centre for European policy, culture, and economy. Under the elector Augustus II the Strong (1694–1733), Dresden became a centre of art and culture, and an outstanding showcase of baroque and rococo architecture. The manufacture of Dresden china, started in Dresden in 1709, was transferred to Meissen in 1710. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries it was a leading centre of the Romantic movement, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was a centre of German opera. During the Napoleonic Wars the city was the scene of the Battle of Dresden in 1813. The city was bombed by the Allies on the night 13–14 February 1945 in a massive air raid in which 2,600 tons of explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped, creating one of the worst firestorms of World War II. About 20 sq km/8 sq mi of the city were devastated, and deaths were estimated at 35,000–135,000. Following the reunification of Germany in 1990 Dresden once again became capital of Saxony.
Features Dresden is known for its baroque buildings, some of which are still in the process of restoration. Work has begun on the rebuilding of the once domed 18th-century Frauenkirche, the first large Protestant church in Germany, destroyed in the 1945 bombing; it is to be rebuilt from its own rubble in time for the city's 800th anniversary in 2006. The city's cultural attractions include the restored 19th-century Semper Opera House, the home of the Dresden State Opera, and the Zwinger Palace (1710–32). The city has a University of Technology, two internationally renowned orchestras, the Staatskapelle and the Dresden Philharmonic, as well as numerous theatres, art galleries, museums, and churches.
Festivals A Chamber Music Festival is held in August each year, and a Festival of Contemporary Music is held in October.