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A collaboration between the architect Matthäus Pöppelmann and the sculptor Balthasar Permoser, the Zwinger was built between 1710 and 1728 on the orders of Augustus the Strong, who, having returned from seeing Louis XIV's palace at Versailles, wanted something similar for himself. Primarily a party palace for royals, the Zwinger has ornate portals that lead into the vast fountain-studded courtyard, which is framed by buildings lavishly adorned with evocative sculpture. Today it houses three superb museums within its baroque walls.
Atop the western pavilion stands a tense-looking Atlas. Opposite him is a cutesy carillon of 40 Meissen porcelain bells, which emit a tinkle every 15 minutes. Entry to the magnificent courtyard is free, but all three museums are ticketed. The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Gallery) and Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection) are unmissable, while the historic scientific instruments (globes, clocks, telescopes etc) at the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon are perhaps more for the scientifically minded.