Dessau, now Dessau-Roßlau, has a population of approx. 90,000 and is the third largest city in the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany. Dessau is historically the capital of the Principality (later Duchy) of Anhalt. In the 20th century it became famous for the Junkers aircraft factory and the Bauhaus school of architecture and design. Dessau boasts two UNESCO World Heritage listings: the "Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm" consisting of landscape parks and buildings in and around Dessau, built in the second half of the 18th century during the time of enlightenment by prince Franz; and the Bauhaus buildings.
Dessau stands on the river Mulde, which discharges into the Elbe, just north of the city. The meadows of Mulde and Elbe are a protected biosphere reservation.
Nearest Airports are Leipzig (LEJ IATA) and Berlin (TXL IATA,SXF IATA). Allow 90 minutes transfer from LEJ (S-Bahn to Leipzig or Halle main station, and than on to Dessau by regional train), 2,5 to 3 hours from the other airports using public transport.
The easiest way to get to Dessau is by car, using the motorway A9. It has three exits depending on where are you coming from. If you arriving from north use the exit "Dessau Ost" (faster) or "Vockerode" on a more scenic route. From the south the exit is "Dessau Süd".
There is also a possibility to arrive by train. Regional trains connect from/to Wittenberg (30 minutes), Leipzig (60 minutes), Halle (50 minutes), Köthen (20 minutes) and Magdeburg (60 minutes) every hour and from Berlin (100 minutes) at two hourly intervals. Exit at 1 Dessau Hbf (Dessau main station). There are some more suburb stations, which are usually not relevant for visitors.
Most sites in or near the city centre, including Bauhaus building, Master houses, Georgium park, can be reached by foot.
However, if you want to visit some more parks and palaces in the suburbs or vicinity of Dessau, walking is not an option. Flat topography and a dense and reasonably maintained network of bicycle paths make touring by bicycle the recommended way of getting around. You can take bikes on regional trains within Saxony-Anhalt for free, from outside Saxony-Anhalt for a couple of Euro. There is a bicycle rental in front of Dessau main station in the Mobilitätszentrale (mobility centre), prices are 6 to 7 Euro per day.
Getting around by car is generally easy. There is not too much traffic. Finding a parking space is usually no problem, parking fees may apply in the city centre. Some fine landscape in the Mulde or Elbe meadows are not accessible by car though.
There is public transport, too. Two tramway lines start at the main station and connect with the south (Line 1) and the west (Line 3) of the city. Several bus lines serve all parts of the city. However, they have poor frequency esp. at weekends and do not serve places of tourist interest easily. In many cases you will reach your destination by walking even before some bus even came by, by cycling anyway. Tickets for a single journey are 1,50 Euro at the Mobilitätszentrale or vending machines (also in the trams), 2 Euro at the bus driver.
Dessau-Wörlitzer Eisenbahn's (DWE) double-deck railbuses with panorama windows connect Dessau main station with the suburbs of Waldersee and Adria (lido) as well as the nearby towns of Oranienbaum (palace and garden) and Wörlitz ("garden realm"). Trains run at two-hourly intervals daily from late-March to late-October and on certain holidays. A one-way ticket to Oranienbaum or Wörlitz costs €5 (reduced €3.50), a family of two adults and up to three children pays €20 for a whole day. Combined tickets including a guided tour of Oranienbaum or Wörlitz are available for €12 and €15, respectively. Tickets can be bought at the Mobilitätszentrale or from the conductor.
- 1 Bauhaus building, Gropiusallee 38. 10:00-18:00. The "Bauhaus building" (1925–26 by Walter Gropius) is a trendsetting building for modern architecture and thus listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is 5 minutes walk from the main station (use west exit, not the main exit). It houses a postgradual college ("Bauhauskolleg") and exhibition rooms. It is possible to walk about parts of the building freely. There are guided tours (in German) daily at 11:00 and 14:00, additional tours on weekends (€4). Ticket counter is on the first floor. €8.50 for adult.
- 2 Masters' Houses (Meisterhäuser), Ebertallee 1–7 (5 minutes walk from the Bauhaus/10 minutes from the station). Tu-Su 10:00-17:00 (Apr-Oct until 18:00). The Masters' Houses (1925–26 by Walter Gropius), homes for the Bauhaus teachers ("masters"), are an ensemble of originally one single and three double houses. They are named after their first users (Gropius, Moholy-Nagy/Feininger, Muche/Schlemmer, Klee/Kandinsky). The houses Gropius and Moholy-Nagy were distroyed during WWII, the Gropius villa was replaced by a detached house of the 1950s. New Master Houses were added in 2014 by the Berlin architecture firm Bruno Fioretti Marquez. Guided tours (in German) start at the Bauhaus building (tickets on the first floor) Tu-Su 12:30 and 15:30. The price of €9 includes entrance fees. €5.
- 3 Bauhaus Museum Dessau, Mies-van-der-Rohe-Platz 1 (Stadtpark). daily 10AM-5PM. One of the world's largest collections of Bauhaus design and architecture. €8.50, reduced €5.50.
- 4 Siedlung Törten (Dessau-Törten Housing Estate) (4 km south of the city centre, along Franzstraße, Heidestraße, Damaschkestraße). The townhouse complex on Dessau's southern edge was one of the first examples of Bauhaus architecture and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listing. It was built in 1926–1928 to overcome the housing shortage of that period. The living area of each house is quite small (57–75 sq.m), but each had a garden of 350–400 sq.m that were intended for self-supply with vegetables. Only a few houses are conserved completely in the original Bauhaus style (e.g. Doppelreihe 35, Mittelring 38), while most façades have been modified according to their owners' taste. Konsumgebäude, a kind of cooperative supermarket at the centre of the complex, was designed by Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius as well. Nowadays it serves as a museum on the history of the architectural complex (open daily 10–17; guided tours in English, Fridays 15.30).
- 5 Arbeitsamt (Employment Office), August-Bebel-Platz 16. Erstwhile (un)employment office, designed by Walter Gropius and built 1928–1929. Nowadays, it hosts the public order office, driving licence and vehicle registration office of Dessau.
- 6 Georgium, Puschkinallee (5 minutes walk from the Bauhaus, 10 minutes from the station). The Georgium park, part of the world cultural heritage, is a landscape park with baroque and English elements of late 18th century, which stretches almost from the station north up to the Elbe river. There is unlimited access to the park (beware of boars in the nighttime though). Georgium palace houses a painting gallery (Tu-Su 10:00-17:00, €3).
- 7 Mausoleum, Querallee 8 (next to Georgium park). Burial place of the Dukes of Anhalt, built 1894–1898 in a Neoclassical and Renaissance Revival style. The dome is 43 metres high. The park surrounding the mausoleum is used as Dessau's zoo.
- 8 Luisium, Waldersee (3 km northeast of tthe city centre). The Luisium is an English landscape park, which continues into the meadows of Mulde and Elbe. Small palace (rather a villa). Admission to the park is free (beware of boars), to the palace: May to Sept: Tu-Su: 10:00-17:00, admission €4,50; with a guided tour only.
- 9 Technikmuseum "Hugo Junkers" (Hugo Junkers technology museum), Kühnauer Straße 161a (1,5 km west of the city centre). Daily 10:00-17:00. The exhibition allows to discover the amazing engineering work of the aircraft pioneer Hugo Junkers. It is possible to see some real airplanes like a legendary JU52 and get more information on the different working areas of Hugo Junkers. €3.
- 10 Palais Minckwitz, Albrechtsplatz 2. Aristocratic town house from the mid-18th century.
- 11 Marienkirche (St Mary's Church), Schloßstraße 3. The city's main church, built 1506–1523 in a Gothic style. A statue of Prince Leopold I of Anhalt ("the Old Dessauer"; 1676–1747), Generalfeldmarschall (field marshal) of Prussia, stands in front of the church.
- 1 Anhaltisches Theater, Friedensplatz 1A. Given that Anhalt was once a separate state, its capital of course has its own theatre, staging dramas, operas, musicals, concerts of the philharmonic orchestra and puppet theatre. It has one of the largest revolving stages in Germany and accommodates an audience of 1100. The building, completed in 1938, is an impressive example of Nazi-era stripped classicism.
- Cycle. along the Elbe or Mulde rivers and explore hidden beaches. The Elbe was named by the Romans albis fluvius (white river) for its bright sandy beaches.
- Kurt-Weill-Fest, annual culture festival honouring the German-American composer Kurt Weill (1900–1950), a native of Dessau, in late-February to mid-March of each year.
In the city centre there is the standard shopping choice. Two shopping malls in the city centre, Rathaus-Center (between Kavalierstraße and Zerbster Straße) and Dessau-Center on Franzstraße/Askanische Straße offer the same indoor.
Worth having a look at are:
- Bookshop in the Bauhaus, Gropiusallee 38 (at the basement of the Bauhaus building). open daily 10.00-18.00. offer a variety of books on arts and architecture, also in English.
- 1 Galerie Bauart, Gropiusallee 81 (near Bauhaus/Meisterhäuser). open Fri-Sun 12.00-18.00. offer design articles and Bauhaus-style furniture.
There are several restaurants and bars in the city centre and on Zerbster Straße. There is a food court inside the centrally located shopping mall Rathauscenter.
Worth noting for their special flair are:
- 1 Brauhaus zum Alten Dessauer, Lange Gasse 16 (city centre), ☏ . Open daily from 11.00 until midnight. Located in an old brewery building, this restaurant serves traditional local food. They brew their own beer. Main dishes around 10/12 Euro..
- 2 Bauhaus Mensa, Gropiusallee 38 (inside Bauhaus building). M-Sa 08.00-16.00. Breakfast and Lunch. Self service, meals up to 5 Euro
- Bauhaus Klub, Gropiusallee 38 (inside Bauhaus building, in the basement). M-Sa 10.00-24.00, Su 10.00-20.00. Mixed crowd of locals, Bauhaus staff and visitors. They offer snacks and light meals.
- 3 Kornhaus, Kornhausstraße 146 (2 km north of the city centre). Open daily except Thurs 1100-2300. This restaurant, built 1929 by Bauhaus architect Carl Fieger, sits directly on the south bank of the Elbe river. Terrace out to the river, splendid views. Traditional and experimental food using fresh local produce, main dishes around 10 Euro.
There are plenty of hotels and private B&B in and around Dessau. Enquire with Tourist Information.
- 2 Bauhaus, Gropiusallee 38. Ever stayed in a world cultural site? You can at the Bauhaus dormitory. Simple standard, shared bathrooms. Single B&B €40-55, double €60-65.
- 3 Dormero Hotel Dessau-Roßlau, Zerbster Straße 29 (city centre). Simple business hotel, Prices start at 80 Euro single B&B, 100 Euro double B&B. Double €64.
- 12 Schloss Mosigkau, 06847 Dessau-Roßlau, Knobelsdorffallee 3 (8 km southwest of the city centre on the B185 to Köthen). Rococo château, built 1752–1757 for Princess Anna Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Dessau. The complex includes Baroque gardens and an orangery. It hosts a picture gallery and serves as a concert venue.
- 13 Oranienbaum, 06785 Oranienbaum-Wörlitz, Schloßstraße 9A (13 km east of Dessau). Baroque ensemble of palace, park and town. Built for a Dutch princess who married to Dessau, some roots of the Dutch royal family (House of Orange) are here.
- 14 Wörlitz Gardens (15 km east of Dessau). make a tour to the largest english landscaped park on the continent. Created in the 1770s, it shows finest garden architecture, animated by parks in England like Kew, Stourhead, Stowe. Vistas within the park and to surrounding landscape. The access to the park is free, some manually operated passenger ferries which shortcut the ponds cost €0.60 to €1. Wörlitz Palace, Gothic House, Stein (with artificial volcano) have exhibitions, admission €3 to €5. From Dessau to Wörlitz, it is a good hour of cycling along the "Fürst Franz" bike trail, or take the Dessau-Wörlitzer Eisenbahn from Dessau main station (35 minutes; 10 Euro return).
- 15 Ferropolis, 06773 Gräfenhainichen, Ferropolisstraße 1 (20 km southeast of Dessau). "The city of iron". A unique ensemble of five of open cast mining giants placed around an open air arena seating 20,000. Staging festivals, like the annually Melt festival in July, and concerts. Metallica liked the setting, so check out the programme.
- Köthen, once a co-residence of the Principality of Anhalt, domain of Johann Sebastian Bach and Samuel Hahnemann (father of homoeopathy), 25 km southwest (20 min by train)
- Wittenberg, medieval residence and university town, where Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation, 35 km east (30 min by train)
- Halle, city of arts and music, birthplace of George Frideric Handel, old town with medieval churches, castles along the river Saale, 50 km southwest (35 min by train)
- Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt's state capital, with medieval and modern heritage, 60 km northwest (40–60 min by train)
- Leipzig, trading hub and centre of music and arts, with many sights and cultural institutions, 70 km south (40–55 min by train)
- Berlin, Germany's capital and European metropolis, 125 km northeast (1:20 to 1:40 hr by train)