One of the many reasons I love to visit Dresden is the city’s proximity to the beautiful region of the Saxon Switzerland. Just about 50 km away from Dresden is one of Germany’s most popular attractions: the Bastei Rocks & Bridge. A day trip to Bastei Rocks will put you right in the middle of the spectacular landscape, with giant pinnacles of sandstone rock towering over the Elbe Rive.
Where is Bastei Rocks Bridge?
Bastei is a very interesting rock formation in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Germany, just 49 km away from Dresden. The rocks are part of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, a 400km² area of stunning landscape. Together with the Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic, the region forms the Sandstone Mountains.
The German word Bastei means “bastion.” And indeed, this gorgeous rock formation truly looks like a bastion. Due to the sandstone formation, this area is a paradise for hikers and rock climbers. However, you don’t need any hiking abilities in order to explore and enjoy this park.
Although very popular with the locals, Bastei National Park is largely unknown to the American traveler, which is a pity. This place is not sufficiently advertised in the US in my opinion.
What to Expect at Bastei
Three of the most visited landmarks in this area are Lillenstein Rock, Bastei Bridge, and Köningstein Fortress. The three objectives are within a few kilometers of each other, but visiting them all on the same trip would be difficult.
You could easily spend an entire day visiting just the Bastei Rocks. The park is packed with shaded trails and gorgeous vista points. We decided to skip the Lillenstein Rock and just do the bridge and the fortress.
Bastei (or the city of stone, as it is also called) sits about 300 meters above the sea level. The area has been a tourist attraction for the past 200 years. The first building in the park offering overnight accommodations was built in 1826.
Later, a wooden bridge was built across these sandstone rocks. It was only in 1851 that the wooden bridge was replaced with the medieval looking stone bridge that still stands today. The bridge soon became the subject for many paintings, poetry, and landscape photography.
Visiting the Bastei Bridge as a Day Trip From Dresden
The scenery is breathtaking, with vertical drops, strange rock formations, trees clinging to cliffs and panoramic views of the Elbe river. Pictures don’t do justice to this magnificent landscape.
There are several short hiking trails that link the Bastei Bridge with beautiful viewpoints. The trails are safe, well maintained. Some of them may seem a little scary, as they go up steep rocks. However, there are tall railings that you can hang on to, so you’ll be in no danger.
Some trails are paved. Others are cut in stone or made of wood. There are also some dirt hiking trails that you can explore. Hiking shoes are not absolutely necessary, unless you plan to venture into the more remote areas of the park. You need however a comfortable pair of good walking shoes for these trails.
Best Time to Visit Bastei Rocks & Bridge
We visited the park in fall, when the tree color was changing. The yellow, orange, and red foliage was beautifully complementing the grayish-brown color of the rocks.
We arrived at the park a little before 8 a.m., about a couple of hours before the crowds started pouring in so were able to enjoy the pristine wilderness at its best.
Later on in the day we had to wait for the proper moment to take photographs and in some narrow passages we had to wait even longer for big groups of people to pass.
Like at every big tourist attraction, is best to arrive early morning, after the park opens. The light is always better in the morning and there are less people around. Bastei Rocks is beautiful year round, so no matter when you visit it you’ll have a blast here.
How to Get to Bastei Bridge From Dresden
There are several ways to get to Bastei Bridge from Dresden. One is to take a romantic boat tour on the Elbe in one of the world’s oldest paddle-steamers.
You can also use public transportation, by taking the S-Bahn train, from Dresden to Rathen. The trip takes about 35 – 45 minutes and there are multiple trains per day. Once in Rathen, you can take the ferry across the Elbe River (about 2€ round trip.)
The easiest and most convenient way is to rent a car and drive here. It will give you a lot of independence and allow you to get an early start in order to beat the crowds. We chose this option and started our trip about an hour before sunrise. The drive is not long, so you have time to stop for breakfast at one of the small country style restaurants along the way.
Practical Information for Visiting the Park
Parking is available on the field of the upper plateau, about 2 km away from the park. From there you can walk or take the shuttle bus to the entrance, or you may continue to drive following the signs for Bastei restaurant.
You can also park at the restaurant next to the park entrance. The costs is 3 € for two hours, but space is very limited and most of spaces are reserved for the restaurant customers.
The walkways and viewing platforms are very safe and well maintained, as are the stairways and metal bridges that grant you access to many of the high peeks and the big rock formations.
Some passages look very scary though because of their height. Not everybody feels secure walking on a narrow bridge with an endless abyss under their feet.
Read next: The Singing Drain Pipes of Kunsthofpassage in Dresden
Given its proximity to the Czech’s capital, Bastei Bridge can also be visited as a day trip from Prague, if you have more than just a few days in the city.
A Final Note
If you are visiting Bastei Bridge as a day trip from Dresden, I would recommend combining it with a visit to the nearby Königstein Fortress (just 10 km away). Bastei won’t take more than 2.5 – 3 hours to see, unless you decide to do some serious hiking here.
Atop the natural stone towers in the park you can still see the ruins of an 11th century fortress. At the base of the rocks there is a natural amphitheater with excellent acoustics, used for music performances in summer. If you are ever in Dresden, don’t miss this amazing trip!
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Could use a careful typo checker. Second to last word, for example. Several others from stem to stern. Good article & interesting photos. Thnx.
southern Oregon, USA
Thanks for pointing those out, Jack. The computer spellchecker is changing the words that it doesn’t recognize. I should be more careful with that.
Dan and I spent three weeks road tripping the Czech Republic, and we enjoyed two of those days in Bohemian Switzerland. Oh. My. Gosh. So glad we used a guide, because we never would have known about the largest natural arch in Europe or seen how absolutely gorgeous this area is. Having grown up in the area, one of the places he took us was to Bastei Rocks. Ah-mazing. It’s a little off the beaten track for most tourists, but SO worth the effort. Love your photos.
This place pops out in my results almost every time I search for places to visit in Switzerland, even though it is not in Switzerland. Looks stunning. Great photos!
Wow, what a fantastic place! I have heard about it and really want to go (and to Dresden too). Agree not a lot of people in the States know about this place. I think a lot of people are more familiar with spots in Western Europe. Places start to become a mystery once you start moving east. Anyway, it would be great to walk around these rocks and it would be better to arrive by boat.
I have not heard of these rocks. They look to be a photographer’s dream. The time you mentioned for visiting is the “golden hour” and would give the best photos.
I have wanted to go here for so long, but we just haven’t made it! I think I’ll plan to visit in the fall! Your tips will come in handy because when I last searched how to get there the info seemed sketchy.
I haven’t heard of Bastei Rocks before either. Those rock formations are amazing. That stone bridge adds another layer to the breathtaking views. I kinda like the idea of getting here by a romantic boat tour. Beautiful photos and captures, as always.
Beautiful! Love your photos, Anda. I haven’t made it to Bastei Rocks yet, hopefully soon, maybe next trip to Europe…
By all means, Emese. You should go to Dresden as well. It’s a beautiful but very underrated city. That may be due to their long years of communism, when nobody wanted to go there.
I have never heard of Bastei Rocks before, but it looks absolutely stunning! And, ironically, the newer bridge does indeed look medieval. Although you say it’s safe, I think I’d be a bit nervous on the bridge or some of the trails.
Thanks for dropping by, Donna. Bastei Rocks are quite famous in Europe, but very little known to the American traveler. You should visit them if you are ever in Dresden.
Looks lovely, your pictures are beautiful! I love that there are several short hikes with nice views. Will have to make a note of this for next time I am in the area.
Wow! And you’re right, as an American I’ve never heard of this. Stunning photos once again, Anda!
Yes, it is. The path is paved and pretty well maintained.
Stunning! I really want to see more of Germany… now I need to add Bastei Rocks to the list!
I’ve heard about the beauty of Saxon Switzerland from a few people, your picture confirm even ,more why this needs to be included on my next trip to Germany.
Not too far away is Poland and Lower Silesia which has the Table Top Mountains which are practically identical, and may even be part of the same mountain chain. If I recall correctly, Hitler sent archaeologists there to potentially discover/recover relics of Aryan significance. Such history.
Interesting, I didn’t know that detail.At any rate, that entire area is very beautiful.
I don’t think they keep it from us, it’s just not sufficiently advertised.
Wow- gorgeous images. Ive never heard of this place, but your images have me intrigued 🙂
Unbelievable photos! They really transport you by the sheer magnitude of their beauty.
Thanks, Sebastian. Baste Rocks is unbelievably beautiful, I think photos don’t do it justice.
Wow! What great scenery. I’ve never heard of this before so thanks for showing me something new. I love Germany, everywhere I’ve been is breathing in beauty and I want to explore more areas. 😉
I’ve never heard of this region before, but it’s beautiful! Thanks for sharing.