Saxon Switzerland (German: Sächsische Schweiz) is an area in Saxony, Germany, so named after its picturesque upland scenery.
About 30 km (18 mi) upward the Elbe River from Dresden this is a mountain area made of sandstone. Bizarre stone formations and spectacular views are only a few characteristics of this region that is ideal for hiking, but also for a relaxed day out. For those who like nature, it is surely the most beautiful landscape in Saxony. It can get crowded along the river at summer weekends, if you don't like this, try the colder days. In late autumn or even winter you will nearly be alone outside the villages. There are also many rock castles and caves within the region, most worth a visit. Further up stream along the Elbe/Labe one enters the Czech Republic. However, the rock formations and the natural splendor continue and this region is known historically as the Bohemian Switzerland or "Böhmische Schweiz" in German.
- Pirna - a bigger historically industrial town, called the gate to Saxon Switzerland
- Bad Gottleuba-Berggießhübel a well known cure spa close to Saxon Switzerland
- Bad Schandau - on the river within Saxon Switzerland
- Heidenau - former chemical industrial town between Dresden and Pirna
- Rathen - Bastei rock formation and Open-air-arena Felsenbühne
- Sebnitz - bigger Saxon province town in Saxon Switzerland
The mountain range was created after the sea retreated and left (Cretaceous era, roughly contemporary with T-Rex) sandstone as the remains. It was once a wild area, known for robbers and hard to conquer strongholds. Many of those still remain and can be visited. The most impressive is certainly the fortress of Königstein that was used for centuries as jail for high-ranking prisoners.
Like in most other parts of Germany, English is generally well understood by people, in this area especially by people under 50, French often only by people under 20, mainly girls who choose it as second foreign language, young men choose to learn only English. Some know Russian and some, since more recently, also Czech. As this region is close to the border some signs will be in Czech and/or Polish.
The Saxony Switzerland is best accessible from Dresden by suburban train (S-Bahn).
Good and comfortable. Even faster than car due to a direct line along the river Elbe. Look for train line S1, direction "Bad Schandau". The closest station is located in the town of Rathen, it is then a ferry ride across the Elbe River to start of the walking track up to the main lookout location.
It may be a little tricky to find the roads out of the city Dresden if you're not used to it. Follow the signs to Czech Republic (Dečin) or Bad Schandau. Be aware of traffic jams at hot summer weekends. A good bench mark is the Elbe River. Simply follow it to the east (i.e. upstream).
If you have some time, try this. Old beautiful steam ships (there are modern diesel too, so take care when you buy tickets) bring you up the river through the beautiful Elbtal. Relaxing trip. You will have a good look to the engines! Before 1990 they where fired with coal, now oil is used, but it's still steam engine.
There is a good bicycle way along the Elbe River, take the right river (northern) side if you go up.
Best option is a car, although there is public transport (question is not if you get there, but when).
To get a good overview over all destinations, visit the site of the regional management (available in German, English and Czech).
- Enjoy the beauty of nature
- Watch a performance at the Felsenbühne Rathen. Open-air arena for nearly 2,000 spectators. Classical concerts, musicals, theater amidst the scenery of sandstone rocks piling up 100 meters above your heads.
There are a number of inns along the hiking trails and small restaurants in every town.
It is a very safe region and there should not be any problems (you still have to lock your car). If you've read in a newspaper about the election results of extreme right wing parties in this area, yes, they are true, but in touristic areas they won't do anything to you. If you are visibly or audibly "foreign", it might be wise to exercise caution at night or when alone as violent incidents with Neo-Nazis are rare but do happen and have happened here as well.
- As this region is right next to the Czech-German border, Bohemian Switzerland is a natural next step