Travel Diaries: The Magic Woods of Saxon Switzerland

the ultimate guide to Saxon Switzerland

I love to travel! One of my Pinterest boards is called ‘Travel is Freedom’ and that’s really how I feel when I travel. Free! So, it’s only natural to call my new series ‘Travel Diaries’, starting off with our latest Fall trip to the Magic Woods of Saxon Switzerland.

I boarded a plane for the first time when I was 1 year old and have been traveling to many places all over the world ever since. First with my parents and later alone or with my boyfriends at that time. I literally get sick when I don’t get to travel for longer periods of time.

Since I’m always discovering so many new things when I travel, I want to share my highlights with you as well as tell you where to best sleep, eat, and what to explore. With me being a Virgo (always detail-oriented and ofentimes hard to please) you can be certain to get the best bang for your buck!

Halloween may be over but I still love to enjoy Fall to the fullest and many places get a magical touch when seen in Fall light. Thus, we are starting off with a fall-themed trip to Saxon Switzerland I went on with my boyfriend the week before Halloween.

fall mood in Saxon Switzerland

I’m currently living in Munich but I’m originally from Berlin. My boyfriend grew up in Dresden, just a 1 1/2 hour drive south from Berlin. When he was little, his parents moved outside of the city to a region called Saxon Switzerland. I heard of it before as my mom is also orginally from Saxony but never really been or had any plans to go.

It took a stressful job for me to finally appreciate the nature of Saxon Switzerland

When we started dating, he also introduced me to his parents and we started visiting them at least once a month. The first few times I didn’t really grasp the beauty of this place. I was rather annoyed to be away from a vibrant big city, cut off from internet, healthy food places, and cool boutiques. Being surrounded by only nature kind of bored me.

view on the Elbe river from the Bastei
View on the Elbe river

It wasn’t until I started freelance work for a yoga studio, which turned into a very stressful job, that I finally came to appreciate the beauty and peace of this place. Suddenly, I was craving to be away from the hectic city and just immerse myself in hourlong walks through the woods. On Sunday morning, my boyfriend and I would go on the most beautiful runs over soft fields and through magical woods.

This year, we decided to take a few days off work to have some more time to explore and see all the places that Saxon Switzerland is famous for but that I haven’t had the chance to visit yet. It’s usually very busy during the summer months and on weekends, as this region is very popular among people from other parts of Saxony as well as the Berlin region.

beautiful rocks in Saxon Switzerland
beautiful rock formations in Saxon Switzerland

Thus, we decided to spend Monday through Thursday there.


For Tuesday, we planned a trip to the Bastei – a famous rock formation that kind of reminded me of the Grand Canyon. You can walk over the Bastei bridge to reach one of the many platforms where you have a wonderful panoramic view on the Elbe river, the Lilienstein mountain, and the Koenigstein fortress. The place is truly magical and was also painted by my favourite romantic painter Casper David Friedrich.

view on the Bastei
Casper David Friedrich painting of the Bastei in Saxon Switzerland
Painting by Caspar David Friedrich, Picture:

This year, Fall showed its most beautiful golden face with the sun hitting the rocks just the right way. It seemed like a scene right out of Instagram or Pinterest when you search for #beautifulfallscene. Time seemed to stand still.

view from the Bastein in Saxon Switzerland

We decided to also visit the so called Schwedenlöcher nearby but couldn’t find them, Instead we kept making our way downwards and found the most beautiful and truly magical hiking trail. Something right out of Harry Potter or The Hobbit (I was seriously wondering why this place has never served as a movie background so far). I was expecting a goblin or fairy to peek out behind a rock at anytime.

magical woods in Saxon Switzerland
magical woods in Saxon Switzerland

The little detour turned into a full two hour hike down to the valley and then back to the parking place where we started. My fitbit didn’t charge so I don’t know how many steps we took but it must have been a lot.

magical Harry Potter woods in Saxon Switzerland
magical woods below the Bastein in Saxon Switzerland

Koenigstein Fortress

From there we went to the next stop on our tour – the Koenigstein fortress. Another very famous spot in Saxon Switzerland. Unfortunately, I was quite exhausted by now due to the fact that we didn’t have lunch and that my gut was acting up again (something that always drains my energy like crazy!).

It had gotten late (we only had 2 more hours until closing time). Going up to the fortress you are greeted by a quite scary Medusa’s head above the gateway sticking her tongue out towards you. I tried to figure out why they choose this figure from the Greek mythology. I couldn’t find the answer but aussume that they wanted to scare off undesired guests or intruders.

wall of the Königstein fortress
entrance to the Königstein fortress with Medusa head
The Well House

Our first stop inside was the Well House. The 152.5 deep well is one of the deepest in Saxony and the second deppest in Germany. It was fascinating to see how far down the bucket went to retrieve water.

At first, the water was transported upwards by a horse mill which was then, in the 17th century, replaced by a tradmill with a diameter of seven meters. Four men (usually prisoners) had to take 28,000 steps each day to bring the bucket with water up 36 times (talk about a serious workout). I bet they didn’t need smartwatches back then to track their steps 😀

the well at Königstein fortress is the second deepest in Germany

Nowadays, the water is directed to a nearby market garden to water the plants. The water is very clean and could be used as drinking water but it doesn’t hold the required certificates to legally do so (and I bet it costs the fortress more to get those than what they would earn with selling the water).

Königstein fortress
The Story of the ‘Pagenbett’

Afterwards we made our way around the fortress, bypassing the Old Armoury, Frederick’s castle, George’s castle, the dungeon, and the King’s nose (a rocky outcrop at the utmost Eastern point of the fortress) among other. I was especially amused by the story of Frederick’s castle, a former watch tower that was also used for banquets and lavish parties (they really knew how to have fun back then!). At one of these parties, a general became so drunk that he laid down on a windowsill outside of the castle not noticing the abyss beneath him.

the Frederick's castle at Königstein fortress

His peers secured him there and then awakened him with some loud music. He then realized what kind of sleeping place he picked. This windosill became known from there on as ‘Pagenbett’ (page bed).

Almost at the end of the round tour, you reach George’s castle, which was formerly used as a prison. Inside, they play a scene from a movie that shows how one prisoner is brought to the Koenigstein fortress. You also get so see the cell and the officer’s office above.

Königstein fortress in Saxon Switzerland
Königstein fortress

It had started to get dusky by now so we decided to make our way back. There is still a lot more left to see which I’m looking forward to explore the next time.

view from the Königsten fortress
beautiful sunset in Saxon Switzerland

If you are into hiking, castles, and magical woods, you should definitely check out Saxon Switzerland. It’s not as crowded as other well-known places in Germany but will get you some Pinterest-worthy pictures. The best traveling times are Spring and Fall when it’s already warm enough to be outside but not too hot (and crowded) yet.

Where to sleep

Since we always stay at my boyfriend’s parents house, I’ve never tested these out myself but I heard many good things about them.

Organic & National Park HOtel Helvetia in Schmilka

This is the first all organic hotel in Saxony. I’ve only been there to have dinner and must say it made a very cozy impression on me. I loved the interior design which was modern but also fit the style of the region. The food was delicious and also regional as well as organic. They offer a great mixture of traditional dishes and healthy food. I had, for example, zucchini noodles with dried tomatoes and parmesan.

Park Hotel Helvetia is a great place to stay in Saxon Switzerland

HOtel zur Mühle in Schmilka

This hotel is operated by the same owner as the one above but is my personal favourite. They reconstructed the mill into an entire adventure location. I always beg my future in-laws to take me there for a piece of their heavenly organic cake. Seriously, the best cake ever. I always opt for streusel or bee sting cake (two very traditional German cakes).

They also offer full moon baths in the a big wooden tub outside, morning yoga, and healing hikes. The owners understand very well how to take the best the region has to offer and give it a modern twist.

Hotel zur Mühle is an organic hotel in Saxon Switzerland
Hotel zur Mühle in Saxon Switzerland offers yoga, moon baths, and meditative hikes

Hotel Elbresidenz Bad schandau

This 5-star hotel was flooded and destroyed entirely back in 2013. The rebuilding took 3 years until they were finally able to reopen in 2016. The rooms have an amazing view over the river Elbe. The luxury hotel offers its guest a spa, access to the nearby thermal bath as well as several restaurants and a bar. It is located right in the middle of the health resort Bad Schandau and therefore a great starting point to explore the surrounding landscape.

Hotel Elbresidenz is a 5-star hotel in Bad Schandau Saxon Switzerland

There are also many cute bed and breakfasts in Bad Schandau along the Elbe river in Saxon Switzerland.

Where to dine

I personally find it rather difficult to find a good restaurant in Saxon Switzerland. They mostly offer traditional cuisine which is not really healthy nor nutritious and relies heavily on meat and cream. However, there are a few places that also incorporate more modern dishes into their offering.

Organic Restaurant Strandgut in Schmilka

This restaurant belongs to the organic Hotel Helvetia I already mentioned above. Their cuisine is a mixture of traditional dishes and modern health food. Everything is organic and locally sourced.

Restaurant Strandgut in Schmilka offers organic and locally sourced food

Gasthof zur Mühle

The restaurant also offers traditional dishes with organic and locally sourced ingredients. They brew their own organic beer which is really delicious. Great for grabbing lunch on your hike or for a piece of the infamous cake with a nice cup of organic coffee in the afternoon.

Gasthof zur Mühle has the best organic cake in Saxon Switzerland

Hotel Forsthaus

The first time I tried the restaurant inside the Hotel Forsthaus was with my future in-laws and my parents. I loved the cozy interior and their wide variety of local but also healthy dishes with a small assortment of vegetarian and vegan options. Their menu changes seasonally.

Hotel Forsthaus is a great place to eat in Saxon Switzerland

What to Wear

I don’t like the typical hiking attire. You know the wide pants in earthy colors with a zipper and the fleece sweatshirts? It always has this outdoor touch to it that just isn’t my style.

I usually opt for a cute pair of sport leggings and depending on the weather a sports bra with a top or some kind of longsleeve and a jacket. Everything has to be bright and colorful, though! I just don’t do olive and brown. No thanks! Life is too short for boring clothes.

I used to hike with my Timberland boots but always got blisters so I invested in a pair of trail running shoes. They are lightweight, have a good grip and some of the brands now finally also discovered the wide variety of color out there.

Find my favorites below.

Pin it
Travel Guide Saxon Switzerland in Fall Pinterest

I hoped you liked the little virtual trip to this cozy part of Germany. I’m also excited to hear about your travel experiences. Share all your tips and tricks with me @madeleinestanev

hiking in Saxon Switzerland

One response to “Travel Diaries: The Magic Woods of Saxon Switzerland”

  1. […] The photos were taken on our latest trip to Saxonian Switzerland where Roman’s parents live. One of the highlights I’m always looking forward to is the fresh trout. It’s so delicious and if you want to know more about this beautiful part of Germany, check out my Saxonian Switzerland travel guide. […]


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