The name of Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland nature park may easily deceive you into thinking it’s in Switzerland. In reality, it lies on the border between Germany and Czechia, a short distance from Dresden and Prague. The common feature of this park on both sides of the border are magnificent sandstones on the banks of the Elbe river. These breathtaking rock formations have inspired numerous artists and poets over the centuries, and now they are waiting for you! So how do you get to this park and what do you see there?
Getting to Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland:
From Dresden: S-Bahn line S1 will take you as far as Bad Schandau, stopping at every town on the way. All the sights are on the other side of Elbe, but there are regular ferries (2€ return ticket) across the river close to every train stop. If you’re driving, go in the direction of Pirna and then let your navigator guide you through local roads. Note that not all the sights are easily accessible by car, and it’s forbidden to drive in many of the towns along the river. If you have time, opt for a picturesque ride on a boat from Dresden.
From Prague: The first option you have is international trains in the direction of Dresden that stop at Děčín and Bad Schandau. Bad Schandau is in the middle of the German side of the park, and there are local buses from Děčín to Hřensko, the main tourist hub for the Czech side of the park. You can also reach Děčín by bus or opt for a car. There is a tourist bus line connecting the German and Czech side along the river, it stops in every town.
Imagine a fairy-tale-looking bridge connecting islands of land perched on the top of high cliffs, and you’ll be looking at Bastei bridge. The bridge is on the German side of the park. There’s a parking lot close to the bridge if you’re arriving by car. If you come by train, you can take a ferry from Kurort Rathen train stop to the town of Rathen and then hike up to the bridge. The second way lets you enjoy the valley of Amselsee and the fantastic winding stair between mossy rocks.
You can walk most of the bridge for free, but you have to buy a 2€ ticket if you want to explore the remnants of a castle on the edge of the plateau. The views o the bridge are worth the price! But my personal favorite photo-spots are Pavillionaussicht and Kleine Gans Aussicht. Just wear good shoes and be careful on the rocks!
Rathen is a quiet resort city where car entry is forbidden. Clean air and the view to the river make for a perfect dining spot in one of the restaurants with terraces.
One of the most iconic views of Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland is to be enjoyed from the top of a huge sand rock group called Schrammsteine. Start from Bad Schandau and get up to the top of the sandstone massif by the famous Art Nouveau elevator (one-way ticket 1,80 €). The structure is more than 100 years old, and the view from the top is magnificent.
There are several marked trails on the top, you just need to follow the one heading to Schrammsteine. The most exciting part of the walk is climbing the last 100 meters to the top of the cliffs. You’ll have to brave steep metal stairs leading you safely over the dark ravines in between the stone walls. You don’t need to be an experienced climber to succeed, the trail is very well prepared. However, decent stamina will help. The view from the top will reward all your efforts!
If climbing Schrammsteine alone is not enough excitement for your day, explore the surrounding area! It offers many more well-marked picturesque touristic trails – just pick one and follow it. Note that there are no shops or restaurants on the top of the sandstone massif. So, if you don’t want to get down to Elbe valley for lunch, pack snacks and a lot of water.
Pravčická brána / Prebischtor
German side does not host all of the awesome sights of the park, the Czech part also has something to boast! Pravčická brána is a huge stone ark formed by the biggest natural stone bridge in Europe. What’s even more amazing is that there are a hotel and a restaurant perched right under it, as if hanging for their dear life.
The best way to get there is to take a tourist bus that runs between the villages of Bad Schandau, Hřensko and the stop where the hiking trail to Pravčická brána starts. From there, it’s a half-hour climb up to the entrance and the ticket offices. Up to the middle of the 20th century, it was possible to walk the stone bridge, but fragile sandstone was suffering from million of shuffling feet, so this had to stop. Nevertheless, the views are breathtaking!
If you follow the walking path from the ark to Mezní Louka, you’ll encounter more interesting rock formations and views.