The river Elbe gave the Elbe Sandstone Mountains their shape; carved the rocky landscape, deep valleys, and gorges millions of years ago.
Located in Saxon Switzerland National Park are the famous Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Here you visit breathtaking sights like the Bastei Bridge, hike stunning trails and even climb gorgeous rock formations. The region got already developed for tourism at the end of the 18th century. Many visitors come here simply to visit the main attraction the Bastei Bridge, and the remained ruins of the Neurathen Castle. We spent more than a week here, because there is so much more to explore.
We wrote this guide for everyone: Sightseeing only visitors, as well as hikers and climbers. We even provide the best accommodation tips as well as personal tips for cruise tours from Dresden. Read our complete guide below, including weather details and tips for the Bastei Bridge or jump directly to 9 Must-Do Sights and Hikes in Saxon Switzerland National Park with many insider tips!
Avoiding the Crowds in Saxon Switzerland
It is the most popular place in Saxon Switzerland, with around 1.5 million visitors each year. To enjoy this beautiful place; the Bastei without crowds, you should visit this fascinating sight in spring, autumn or winter either very early in the morning or late evening. We visited this magic sandstone bridge several times in May. We enjoyed most our visit at 6.30 on a Sunday morning. We shared this incredible impressive Bastei Bridge and the surroundings with very few people. Avoid midday when the bridge and the castle ruin are overrun.
Opening Hours Bastei and Fortress Königstein
- The reproduction of the Neurathen Castle is accessible 24/7. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. the entrance fee of 2 € has to be paid at a cash desk and afterwards, you are asked to put the payment into a metal box. This is a fabulous opportunity to enjoy this magical place at sunrise or sunset with a few people and photographers only. If you like to watch the sunset or sunrise in the summertime, it is best to stay next to the Bastei in the Berghotel Bastei.
- The Fortress Königstein is utterly overrun nearly the entire day because of the many tour buses. The crowds start to thin out after 3 pm and the last hour is the quietest of the day. Open from 9 am – closes at 6 pm from April to October and 5 pm from November to March. Last admission one hour before closure. The Historical Christmas Market, every weekend in the Advent, is a highlight not to be missed in December. These weekends are pretty popular. Book your hotel in advance.
Tips for Photographers
To get the perfect shot of the Bastei Bridge come here early morning. To experience the sunrise at the Bastei is a must but pretty early during summer. We had chosen the Berghotel Bastei next to the bridge and enjoyed our breakfast afterwards.
Weather and Hiking Conditions
Usually, best-hiking conditions for Saxon Switzerland and the Bohemian Swiss are from April to October. Trails are slippery when wet, especially the iron stairs and stone steps. Leave the mountains during thunderstorms, don't walk on the iron stairs. Winter is awesome as well when the hills are covered in snow, but the weather is more unpredictable. During summer it's pleasant warm around 20°C at daytime, but it can get hot while hiking without any shadow in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Expect minus degrees at day and night on top of the mountains during winter. It is several degrees warmer at the foot of the mountains. Rain (snow in winter) occurs throughout the year, occasionally heavy thunderstorms during summer. We experienced a thunderstorm and hail at the end of May.
Best Accommodations Nearby
- The Berghotel Bastei in the heart of the National Park and next to the famous Bastei Bridge is the best choice if you are limited in time. You couldn't wish for a better location. The balconies have spectacular views. The breakfast buffet offers a huge variety, and the panorama restaurant is perfect for bringing the day to a close with an excellent dinner. Lots of hikes can be done from here as well.
- Bad Schandau (Hotel List) A small town ideally located in the middle of the National Park close to all attractions and hiking trails the Saxonian Switzerland has to offer. Bookmark the link, check out the many hotels and get the best prices for Bad Schandau.
- We like the little village Schmilka with an exceptional organic bakery the "Schmicksche Mühle" and the organic boutique brewery most. They also offer delicious food which you can enjoy in the beer garden of the old school "Zur alten Schule". Moreover belongs the Hotel Zur Mühle Boutique & Spa to the bakery and brewery.
Directly behind the hotel starts the "Painters Way" a gorgeous hike up to the most famous rocks. The bus for hikers departs 200 meters away. Schmilka is located next to the German-Czech border and one of our favourite hikes to the "Prebischtor". More about the different hiking trails in the description.
Getting to the Bastei from Dresden (Tips & Tours)
For those who are limited in time, you can either take a train from Dresden to Rathen or book a guided tour. The train (S-Bahn) from Dresden Central Station to Rathen operates at least twice each hour. From here you can take a ferry boat to cross the river Elbe. You can't miss the ferry; signs are leading to the jetty. After the short ferry ride, it’s a steep trail up along many steps through the forest to the Bastei Bridge. However, consider that there is much more to explore than this picturesque and famous bridge. To discover this excellent hiking region, you can book a guided trip from Dresden to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains as well: From Dresden: Hike Through Saxon Switzerland incl. Transfers. This is a wonderful hiking tour with extremely friendly and very knowledgeable guides.