The area from Pirna, 18km east of Dresden, to the Czech border is commonly known as Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz), but that was always a conceit of the Romantics. This is classic Middle Europe – 275 square kilometres of rolling fields through which the Elbe River carves a broad steep valley, much of it protected as a national park (nationalpark-saechsische-schweiz.de). What comes closer to the nub of some of the most distinctive scenery in Germany is the area’s second title, Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains): table-topped outcrops rise suddenly above the fields like miniature mesas, their summits sculpted over the aeons into fantastical pinnacles.

With a maze of gorges to explore and iron ladders that ascend sheer faces, this is superb hiking country, notably on the long-distance Malerweg (Painters’ Way) track if you have a week to spare. Indeed, the story goes that the area’s name stuck after eighteenth-century Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff wrote postcards home from a walking holiday saying, “Greetings from Saxon Switzerland”. Later hikers included Caspar David Friedrich, who added the picture to the postcard with works such as Rambler Above a Sea of Fog. Rock climbing is also excellent. At a push you could tick off the main sights on a long, rushed day-trip from Dresden – the Bastei area, then a brisk walk that skirts around the Lilienstein outcrop to Königstein, for example. However, these are landscapes to savour and which are at their best away from the premier sights; set aside a couple of days at least.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Germany features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

There's been a lot of hype about Leipzig lately, with many dubbing Saxony's capital "the new Berlin". But can little Leipzig honestly compete with Germany's la…

11 Jul 2018 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig, more markedly than most cities in eastern Germany, has experienced an upswing in recent years. It's now a dynamic university city with a colourful, wel…

05 Jul 2018 • Stuart Forster local_activity Special feature
The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

European beach holidays haven’t always been just about the Mediterranean. A century ago, the resorts along the Baltic Sea were just as likely to attract the E…

16 Mar 2018 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs