Bastei – a spectacle of towering rock pinnacles beautifully hewn by nature in the middle of Germany’s Saxon Switzerland National Park. The jagged rock formations standing high above the Elbe River create a picturesque scenery and the famous “Bastei Bridge” that spans across the rocks makes the landscape dramatic. This bridge connects numerous rock pillars and leads to the ruins of the ancient Neurathen castle that once perched on top of the stone towers.
Where Is BASTEI?
Bastei is one of the highlights of Saxon Switzerland National Park situated in the southeastern side of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony. Its location might be a source of confusion for some people because of its association to another country, Switzerland. However, Bastei is not located in Switzerland. The name “Saxon Switzerland” was given by two Swiss painters from Dresden Art Academy who have seen a great resemblance of the place to their hometown. Saxon Switzerland is bordered with Czech Republic’s National Park called, “Bohemian Switzerland.”
How to get there?
Bastei is easily accessible either from Dresden or Prague.
By car: From Dresden, it would take roughly 1 hour to reach Bastei and a bit longer from Prague which would take around 2 hours. Parking lots are provided near the park that charge fees according to your length of stay. From there, you need to walk for 550 meters to reach the Bastei.
- GPS coordinates: degree of latitude 50.9665139 and degree of longitude 14.0657333
By public transport:
From Dresden: take the train from Dresden Hbf/Dresden Neustadt to Rathen Kurort that operates daily every 30 minutes. Approximately 33 to 42 minutes, you will reach Rathen Kurort Station where you will board a ferry (departs every 30 minutes) to cross the Elbe River. From there, you will start hiking towards the Bastei. Directions are provided in information booths or just follow the signboards.
From Prague: take the train from Prague Main Railway Station to Bad Schandau that runs daily every 2 hours (direct – no change trains). In 1 hour and 44 minutes, you will arrive at Bad Schandau Station where you will find tourist buses going to Bastei that stops at the nearest parking lot of the park. It operates 3-4 times daily from May to October.
By a Tour Operator: For a convenient and smooth journey towards Bastei, you could arrange a trip with a tour operator. For our visit to Bastei, we preferred to book a tour with Northern Hikes from Prague. Northern Hikes offers day trips to both Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland National Park with several itineraries to choose from that includes hotel pick-up and drop-off.
Why Visit Bastei?
I fell in love with Bastei when I first saw it in a photograph and I fell in love even more when I saw it right before my eyes. The photograph has inspired me to get there and when I arrived at the place I was indeed impressed by the scenery. Thousands of tourists visit the place each day not only to catch sight of the rock formations and the famous Bastei Bridge but also to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views from the summit of the rocks. The numerous rock pillars that rise up over the lush green forest draw many rock climbers to Bastei; and the several hiking trails around the area make it a must-go for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Bastei Bridge
The bridge was formerly made of wood which was replaced by the present arched-bridge made of sandstone to accommodate the increasing visitors. It is designed in a medieval style that compliments the giant rock pinnacles. The bridge is accessible for all ages and is free of charge. Several routes, both paved paths and dirt tracks, lead to lookout points where the views are mesmerizing. You could look over the rock pinnacles scattered around the green forest or the Elbe River with the surrounding countryside. The trails are well-maintained with stairs equipped with hand rails, and protective barriers on lookout points, making it entirely safe for everybody. The hike around Bastei is easy and it is not necessary to wear hiking shoes.
The Bastei park is open 24/7 throughout the year. To avoid the crowd, you could come either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
The Neurathen Castle
The remnants of the old Neurathen Castle that once stood at the top of the rock pillars could be reached by crossing the Bastei Bridge. After it was burned in the 15th century, there is not much left on the rock castle. Today, it is an open-air museum displaying ruins of the fortress, a slingshot replica, and excavated materials such as potteries and other artifacts. Gaining access to the ruins of the Neurathen Castle requires paying a small fee (2 Euros) which you will never regret because of the sweeping views you will never forget.
How long would it take to explore Bastei?
Bastei sightseeing would take around 2-3 hours or at most half day depending on your pace and the crowd of tourists at the time of your visit. A trip to Bastei is usually combined with a visit to other nearby attractions such as Konigstein Fortress, or a hike on one of the several trails in either Saxon or Bohemian Switzerland. You could trek towards the famous landmark of Saxon Switzerland, the table of mountain of Lilienstein; or cross the border to Czech’s Bohemian Switzerland National Park and visit the Pravcicka Gate, the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe; or hike along the gorges of Kamenice and experience a dinghy ride on the small river, like what we did.