Short-distance side-trip possibilities include the Oriental-themed summer palace, Schloss Pillnitz, 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) east of Dresden via Elbe steamer or riverside roadway. Take a lunch break in the suitably Baroque Schloss Hotel restaurant (tel. +49/351/26 140, fax 2614 400, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Not far away, the Elbe flows through the Sächisches Schweiz National Park and its bizarre sandstone rock formations-accessible from two unspoiled spa towns: Pirna and Bad Schandau. For another dose of Baroque opulence, head 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of the capital to reach Schloss Moritzburg, August the Strong's photogenic hunting lodge (€6 admittance), in pastoral lake country, where artist Käthe Kollwitz's Rüdenhof house is an extra attraction.

A 25-kilometer (15.53-mile) S-Bahn line connects Dresden with Meissen, where a Gothic cathedral and Albrechtsburg Castle tower over the Domplatz. You'll find casual dining here at the Burgkeller restaurant and beer garden (+49/3521/414 00, fax 414 04, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.meissen-hotel.com). But the little city's biggest draw is Talstrasse's Staatliche Porzellan Manufactur, with its demonstration workshops and Schauhalle, displaying some 3,000 Meissen rarities from as long ago as 1710 (€8 combined admittance).