The Bastei is one of Germany’s most unique landscapes. Giant pinnacles of sandstone rock tower over the Elbe River and the green countryside. Spanning these pinnacles is a stone bridge, dramatic in its appearance, as it connects these towers of rock and then seems to lead nowhere.
We visited the Bastei on a day trip from Berlin, combining this site with Rakotzbrucke and the cute German town of Gorlitz. You can also visit the Bastei from Dresden or from Prague, combining this visit with other nearby sites in Saxon Switzerland.
What is the Bastei?
The term Bastei refers to the jagged groups of sandstone rocks located in Saxon Switzerland National Park. Hundreds of years ago, the Neurathen Castle stood on these rocks. Now, not much of that castle remains. It’s the bridge, Basteibrucke (Bastion Bridge), that is the main attraction here.
Tourists first started visiting the Bastei over 200 years ago. First, a wooden bridge was built across these sandstone rocks and later, in the mid-1800’s, the wooden bridge was replaced with the medieval looking stone bridge that still stands today.
It’s the view of the bridge and the rocks of the Bastei that attract so many visitors today.
The Bastei is located in an area called Saxon Switzerland, 40 km east of Dresden, Germany.
This area, with its green, rolling hills and hiking trails, draws lots of outdoor enthusiasts. Travel south just a little ways and you will be in Bohemian Switzerland, a picturesque area in the northern Czech Republic.
The name can be a little misleading, as the Bastei is located nowhere near the actual country of Switzerland. So how did this area get the name Switzerland? The Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff gave this area the name Saxon Switzerland because it reminded them of their homeland.
The easiest way to get to the Bastei is by car. From Dresden, it is a 50 km drive that takes about one hour. There is a large parking lot near the entrance to the Bastei. Parking costs 3 to 5.50 €, depending on the length of time of your visit. Just before the trail to the bridge are souvenir shops, toilets, a hotel, and a restaurant.
You can also visit the Bastei from Dresden using public transportation. From Dresden, take the S-bahn to Rathen (Dresden Hbf to Kurort Rathen, 33 – 46 minutes, multiple trains per day). Once in Rathen, take the ferry across the Elbe River (1.80€ round trip, visit the Kurort-Rathen website for more information). From Rathen there are hiking trails that take you up to the Bastei. Expect to have a strenuous hike with lots of steps and climbing. We did not do this, but from what I read, it takes many people about 45 minutes of hiking to get to the top.
Cost and Hours
The park is always open and it is free to visitors.
What to Expect at the Bastei
Short hiking trails link the bridge with several viewpoints. The trails are safe, well maintained, and in the steeper sections, have railings added for safety. Some trails are paved and some are dirt hiking trails. Hiking shoes are not necessary; a pair of sturdy walking shoes is sufficient.
The highlights of a visit here are the viewpoints and walking across the bridge. The views out over the Elbe River and the table mountains are amazing.
The busiest time to visit the Bastei is midday. To avoid the worst of the crowds, visit in the morning or later in the day. Since the park does not close, you can arrive in the late afternoon and then stay for the sunset.
You have the option to visit the Felsenburg Neurathen. This is now an open air museum displaying the remains of the ancient castle that once stood here. There is not much to see as far as ruins, however, the views back to the bridge make it worth it. It costs several euros to visit this section of the Bastei.
Is the Bastei Worth It?
Absolutely. Tim and I really enjoyed our visit here. This bridge is so unlike many other places we have visited and the panoramic views are magnificent.
We were here at the very end of September, when trees were just beginning to change color for autumn.
It only takes an hour or two to visit the Bastei, so we recommend combining a visit here with one or two other nearby destinations. Other places to consider are Dresden, Konigstein Castle (a hilltop fortress 16 km away), or the hiking trails in Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland National Parks.
Or, you could do what we did, and visit the Bastei, Rakotzbrucke, and Gorlitz on a day trip from Berlin.
Read more: Not Your Ordinary Berlin Day Trip
Does this look like a place you would like to visit? Comment below if you have any questions.