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Saxon Switzerland

Saxon Switzerland© Romy Friebel / Travanto

Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz)

The name Saxon Switzerland refers to the Saxon part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. This vacation area was first opened to tourists in 1766 and has since captivated many artists, including the Romantic era painters, Ludwig Richter or Caspar David Friedrich. The Sächsische Schweiz National Park is today one of the most popular tourist destinations in Saxony. Saxon Switzerland can be explored in many different ways. Hiking and boat excursions are possibilities, just as are climbing trips. The tourism center of the region is Bad Schandau. This spa town on the shores of the Elbe River profits from its mineral springs, rich in iron. Especially idyllically located are the town quarters of Postelwitz and Ostrau, which can be reached by elevator.

Saxon Switzerland has an impressive natural landscape. Not far from the Rathen spa there is the rocky ridge of the Bastei. This labyrinth of gorges offers magnificent vistas. A variety of performances are offered on the Rathen Open Air Stage. This largest natural stage in Saxony is embedded in the Wehlgrund and provides the coulisse of the annual Karl May Festival. High above the Elbe valley the Königstein Fortress arises, the largest landmark of Saxon Switzerland. The imposing layout was designed in about 1200 as a Bohemian Königsburg and was never conquered. The fortress disposes of several museums focusing on the military history of Saxony. An interesting experience is also a trip with the nostalgic Kirnitzschtal Tramway, which carries visitors to the artificially created Lichtenhain Waterfall.

Sights of Saxon Switzerland

Bastei
The most-visited sight in Saxon Switzerland is the Bastei between Rathen and Wehlen. This craggy rock formation with a viewing platform has an elevation of about 305 meters and offers a breath-taking view of the Elbe Valley and across the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. The Bastei was already mentioned in the 16th century and was thereby among the first tourist destinations in Saxon Switzerland. At the Bastei Bridge one finds on the Jahrhundertturm brass plates featuring several travel reports of the first visitors to the Bastei.

Kuhstall
On the Neue Wildenstein in the far end of Saxon Switzerland, vacationers find the second-largest natural arch in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Since the 19th century the 11-meter high and 17-meter wide natural arch has been regarded as one of the chief attractions of Saxon Switzerland. The 24-meter deep rock formation owes its current name to its former use as a cattle stall. Above the Kuhstall vacationers can visit the remains of a former castle complex, accessible through the Himmelsleiter (Jacob’s Ladder), a staircase in a narrow rock tunnel.

Lilienstein
As one of the most distinctive mountains in Saxony, the Lilienstein is a symbol of the Sächsische Schweiz National Park. It is hereby the only flat-topped mountain on the right bank of the Elbe. The 415-meter high mountain is 15 kilometers east of Pirna. Across from the Lilienstein, on the other side of the Elbe stands the well-known Königstein fortress. Two paths lead to the summit of the Lilienstein. From April to October an inn offers refreshments to famished hikers.

Königstein Fortress
Above the Elbe Valley towers one of the greatest mountain fortresses of Europe with a height of 360 meters. The well-known fortress on the eponymous Tafelberg was already mentioned in the early 13th century. In its long, changing history the fortress was never conquered. On the ca. 23.5 acre grounds vacationers can view buildings that are in part over 400 years old. The Königstein Fortress is open to visitors year round and offers besides magnificent vistas, historical buildings and informative museums, regular entertainment events.

Rathen Open Air Stage
Located below the Bastei is the Rathen open air stage, which from May to September presents exciting and compelling plays. In all, 1,800 spectators can be seated before the open air stage. Since 1936 entertaining theater pieces have been performed there. Originally residents of the town of Rathen were employed both on and behind the stage. Today a professional ensemble entertains the public with plays, ballet and concerts.

Großsedlitz Baroque Garden
An outstanding example of baroque horticulture is found in the Großsedlitz Baroque Garden southeast of Dresden. At the behest of Count of the Empire von Wackerbarth, the garden was created from 1719 to 1723 in the town of Heidenau, following a French model. Characteristic for the 44.5 acre grounds are the terracing, the flights of steps, and visual axes which offer charming landscape vistas. The Großsedlitz Baroque Garden includes on its grounds many buildings in the baroque style, such as the small Friedrich Palace. In addition, puttos and sandstone sculptures decorate the gardens.

Kirnitzschtal Tramway
One can enjoy the beauty of Saxon Switzerland on a pleasant ride on the Kirnitzschtal Tramway. The interurban tramway crosses the eponymous valley from Bad Schandau to the Lichtenhain Waterfall. Each intermediate stop offers links to magnificent hiking paths that lead to popular observation points like the Schrammstein or the Kuhstall. The tramway, with its characteristic yellow cars, has been transporting passengers to Sächsische Schweiz National Park since 1898.