Ever since we moved to the Oberpfalz in northern Bavaria we’d been hearing about and seeing stunning pictures of, Bastei Bridge in the region known as Sächsischen Schweiz (or Saxon Switzerland) in former East Germany. The bridge is located in a national park that is both enchanting and awe-inspiring, in eastern Germany on the Czech border.
Saxon Switzerland National Park is known for its natural beauty attributed to the deep gorge carved out from the Elbe river which has left pinnacles of sandstone that are reminiscent of the gigantic pinnacles of Meteora, Greece and the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, Turkey. This is a surreal landscape that makes you want to take photo after photo after photo. On a whim, we decided to jump in the car one Saturday afternoon and take the three hour drive from Weiden with the hopes of catching the sunset while we did one of the shorter hikes.
A Day Trip to Bastei Bridge (Basteibrücke)
Visiting Saxon Switzerland, and in particular the Basteibrücke, means that you’re going to get out of the concrete jungle to see the scenery. Not many people know how beautiful Germany is, but if you go here you will set them straight. That’s for sure. Hiking is the main activity, and there are a lot of options. We took one of the shorter walks, because I was there to photograph the sunset and we were set on finding a good viewpoint. Make sure to check the trail maps as you enter the park and carefully plan your route.
Our favorite part of the walk was going to the ruins of the old fortifications (which are not visible anymore) where you could look out across the valley and see pillars beyond pillars climbing through and above the dark green pine trees and a panorama view of the bridge that is absolutely breathtaking. It is probably the best place to get a full view of Bastei. The old fortress was built during the early nineteen-hundreds in order to help Germany protect its border to the east, but the area soon became a tourist attraction due to the natural beauty of the region. The bridge was built later and it too became a popular site around the turn of the 20th century.
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Power Tip: All of the walking trails are pretty steep, and they all have a number of stairs to negotiate. It is doable for most, but if you have trouble walking or climbing don’t take the longer six kilometer trail. It doesn’t sound that bad until you realize that it probably also has about 600 steps to climb as you go down to the valley floor and then climb back up again.
When To Go to Bastei and the Saxon Switzerland National Park
This is one of the wonderful things about heading to the national park, it’s open all year long and each season brings a completely different experience. It is, of course, extremely popular with German and Czech tourists so traveling there on weekends, you can expect it to be pretty busy. We went in late August and in the afternoon it was a bit crowded, but we wanted to stay for sunset and by that time many of the people had left. So stay late. The park is open 24 hours per day.
The bridge is a perfect place to spend the afternoon shooting photography. Late afternoon light is golden, and there are fewer people on the bridge. However, no matter what, since the valley is so deep, the sun cannot reach into all the different corners so there will be lots of shadows. Using a tripod will help take great photos. The bridge is a wonderful backdrop for portraits as well.
Other Sights And Activities In The Area
Take a boat down the Elbe River, starting from a number of ports including Dresden and Pirna. We stopped in the town of Pirna for lunch. It is a great place to walk around, with a beautiful church, medieval houses, and a central fountain. There was even a plaque that boasted Napoleon had been there in 1813.
How to get to Bastei Bridge from Dresden
Dresden is the closest large city, and it’s only an hour drive on the A17 if you have a car. You can also get there using public transportation, and it’s only a little over an hour to do that. You need to take the S1 from the Dresden Central Station towards Bad Schandau getting off at Kurort Rathen. Then walk down to the ferry to cross the river, and it’s a 20 minute walk to Bastei.
Bastei Bridge Parking
There are a couple of parking areas, but we recommend following the signs to the Berghotel Bastei and driving until you can’t drive anymore. There, just before the hotel, you’ll find a parking lot which cost about 3-5 Euros depending on the length of your stay. Cost is 3 Euros per hour up to 5.50 Euros for the day.
There is no cost for entering entering the park. The park is not stroller-friendly; however, you may take dogs in.
From the parking lot you walk through a small gauntlet of businesses which include a snack bar, a restaurant, the Berghotel Bastei, and a few souvenir shops.
Have you been to the Bastei Bridge or the Saxon Switzerland National Park? Any tips?
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