The Czech Republic and Germany brotherly share one of the most exciting regions in Europe, Bohemian Switzerland and the Saxon Switzerland National Parks. The diverse region is famous for its special rock formations. Hiding among lush pine forests, the hilly countryside is a real bucket list place for everyone. Its beauty and exoticness can attract many tourists from countries all over the world.
The countryside enchants everyone (if you have been there, or even if you have not), so we made this helpful article to make planning the trip easier. The sights of the two parks are easy to mix up, some misinformation can confuse people easily. So let’s consider what is worth knowing about the area.
Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland
What is the difference? Where are the parks?
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Given that the area lies on the border of two countries, we are talking about two separate parks with two names. Although the nature reserves are interconnected, we are not talking about one national park with two different names, but really about two separate territorial units.
The Czech side of the area also has several names. In addition to the Czech Switzerland National Park, the land is called Bohemian Switzerland.
|Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland||Bohemian Switzerland||Saxon Switzerland|
|Local name||Národní park České Švýcarsko||Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz|
|Area||79 km2||93.5 km²|
|Date of foundation||2000||1990|
|Best city to stay||Hrensko, Mezni Louka||Dresden|
|Tourist centre||Hřensko 71, 407 17 Hřensko, Czechia (9:00-16:00)|
|Some major sights||Pravcicka brana rock gate, Kamenice gorge||Bastei Bridge, Castle of Konigstein, Schrammsteine, Schwedenlöcher|
The parks are located almost on the Czech-German-Polish triple border. You will find it just from the west of Dresden. The most important river in the region is the Elbe, located in its valley. In the park, you will find the Elbsandsteingebirge, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Bohemian Switzerland National Park attractions
The most spectacular national park in the Czech Republic has many attractions that we can warmly recommend even if you are travelling with children. Most of the sights are, of course, around the astonishingly shaped rock towers. You will find many cliffs, deep valleys, high observation points, and natural rock bridges here.
Two attractions, among others, draw most of the visitors there. These two main attractions are worth a day trip.
- Pravcicka Brana Gate
- Kamenice Gorge and Edmund Gorge
Parking - Where to start?
You can stop at 2 places in the park. You can also find parking spaces at Hrensko (3 places) and Mezni Louka (1 place). Which direction you start the trip from is really up to you; however, be aware that parking is strictly prohibited elsewhere in the park! ⚠
- Hrensko, Klepac restaurant: paid parking (120 spaces)
- Hrensko, Waterfalls: paid parking (50 spaces)
- Hrensko, Gas station: free parking
- Hotel Mezni Louka: paid parking (150 spaces)
Parking costs around € 1 per hour or € 4-5 for a full-day ticket. The largest car park has 150 spaces, and the smallest at the waterfall has 50.
Tip: if you want to see more things in the area, I suggest you to walk, because once you get out of your car during the day, it can be difficult to find a parking space again. (Although you will see how full the parking lots are.)
Where to stay? - Hrensko
The attractions of the park are presented below. Wherever possible, we provide a map for you to see the distances. We chose the town of Hrensko as a starting point.
If you book early, you should choose accommodation here, as the mouth of the Kamenice stream and the Elbe can be found here, as well as the largest rock formation in the park.
#1 Pravcicka brana Gate
With a length of 26 meters and a height of 16 meters, the huge rock gate is the largest rock bridge in Central Europe, the most visited landmark in the park, and also a symbol of the national park. Next to Pravcicka Brana is a small castle with the national parks museum and its restaurant.
Mezni Louka is a "mandatory" hiking trail connecting Pravcicka Brana and the Kamenice gorge. The route connecting the two most visited sights of the park is the most popular hiking trail, so you can easily find information booklets at the information point.
- April - October: every day from 10:00 to 18:00
- November - March: Saturday, Sunday 10:00 - 16:00
- December 16 - January 1: every day, 10:00 to 16:00
- Adult ticket: 95 CZK / 4 euros
- Children's ticket (6-14 years old): 30 CZK / 1.5 euros
- Student and pensioner: 30 CZK / 1.5 euros
- Address: Hrensko 82, 407 17 Hrensko, Czechia
- Walking distance to Hrensko: 1 hour / 4.2 km
#2 Kamenice Gorge and Edmund Gorge
Soutesky Kamenice, Soutesky Edmundova
The Kamenice and the Edmund Gorge are unmissable experiences. Looking at the wildly romantic world, everyone can imagine themselves in their favourite adventure movie (for us, it is The Lord of the Rings) and forget about the outside world.
A part of the gorge formed by the river Kamenice was first crossed in 1877 by a young man, Prince Edmund (Prince Edmund Clary-Aldringen). The narrowest section of the gorge was named after him. The conquest of the Kamenice Gorge followed it, but only later in 1898.
As your journey progresses, it becomes narrower and narrower in the gorge, and soon you reach a point where you can no longer walk on foot because of the river. This is the Edmund Gorge.
Sailing in the Edmund Gorge
Edmund Gorge is about 1 km long, which distance you have to do by boat. During your trip, you will pass between cliffs with an average height of 100 meters. At the end of the cruise, you will be walking again. You can also admire a waterfall in the gorge.
Do not be scared; you do not have to paddle the boat; you just enjoy it, although you will not be able to relax anyway because you will be constantly amazed and be busy taking pictures.
The opening hours of the gorge vary from year to year and are adjusted to the current calendar. On the website, you should check how long the gorge is open. The gorges are closed in winter!
- April - October: Every day from 09:00 to 17:00 / 18:00
- November - March: Closed
- Address: Soutesky Kamenice, 405 02 Hrensko, Czechia
- Walking distance from Hrensko: 30 minutes / 2.2 km
#3 Saunstejn rock castle (ruins)
The most famous lookout point in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park is the former castle of Saunstejn. The road leads up by ladders to the top of the large boulder. You will be rewarded with a nonsuch 360-degree panorama when you get up.
The castle was built in the 14th century by the Berka z Dube family. The castle changed roles and ownership a few times and was eventually destroyed in the 15th century. Today, only minimal ruins are visible.
Opening hours and admission
There is no entrance fee to the lookout, it can be viewed free. It is open 0-24 hours. If you want to watch the sunset from here, bring a headlamp.
- Admission: free
- Opening hours: 0-24, every day
- Address: 405 02 Jetrichovice, Czechia
- Distance from Hrensko: 2 - 3 hours on foot / 9 km
The ruins of the old castle are located approx. 1 hour from the town of Mezni Louka and 2 hours from Hrensko.
#4 Rudolf Lookout and Mary's Rock
Rudolfuv kamen, Mariina vyhlidka
The special Rudolf Lookout and Mary’s Cliff are also must-see attractions in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park. It is worth a good hike between the two lookout points to keep your feet warm before climbing the stairs. You will have to move forward through ladders and stone steps between the vertical sandstone towers.
At both lookout points, you will find a tiny wooden house. If you have to choose due to lack of time, you may want to look at Mary’s Rock, perhaps the more famous and beautiful one- though that is subjective.
Opening hours and prices
Both lookouts are free and open to the public, so there is no entrance fee. Although both attractions are available from 0-24 hours, we recommend that you get back off the cliff before dark to avoid accidents.
- Admission: free
- Opening hours: 0-24, every day
- Distance between the two lookouts by car: 25 minutes / 12 km
- Distance between the two lookouts on foot: 1 hour / 3.7 km
Saxon Switzerland National Park
Sachsische Schweiz ??
Although the national park on the German side itself is only 93.5 km², it is the centre of a natural area of about 710 km². It is no coincidence that we have previously highlighted the lush forests, with almost 40% of the park being forest. The countryside did not gain popularity through its forests but for its special sandstone towers and rocky gorges - just like Bohemian Switzerland.
Saxon Switzerland also has no gigantic mountains waiting to be conquered. Its highest point is only 556 meters. But this should not hold you back from going to the German side, there will be plenty of sights here and there as well.
#5 Bastion Bridge (Bastei Bridge)
The 305-meter-high road between rock towers is the number one attraction in Saxon Switzerland. The breathtaking panorama attracts a lot of tourists. The 76 m long Bastei was mentioned as early as the 16th century, making it the oldest attraction in the region. You can enjoy amazing views of the Elbe and the surrounding Mardeltelle Valley.
One of the most spectacular trails in the Saxon Switzerland National Park is the Basteiweg, which takes you up to the Bastion Bridge. The trip takes approx. 45 - 60 minutes.
The bridge is open from 0-24 hours every day. You can only pay for the entrance to the bridge in cash in euros.
- Address: Basteiweg, 01824 Lohmen, Germany
- Distance from Hrensko: 45 minutes / 21 km
#6 Rathen Open-Air Stage
Vorverkauf für die Felsenbuhne Rathen
If you are lucky enough to watch a performance on the Rathen Open-Air Stage while walking in the area, do not miss it by any means, as the play will be (hopefully) fun while the sight of the background is captivating.
You will find the stage under the Bastei Bridge, in the Wehlgrund valley between Kleine Gans and Grosser Wehrturm. The auditorium seats 2,000 people. For the current program, prices, and opening hours, visit the website of the stage.
- Address: Meissner Str. 152, 01445 Rathen, Germany
- Distance from Hrensko: 1 - 1.5 hours / 80 km
#7 Lichtenhain Falls
Several of the many hiking trails will take you to Lichtenhain Falls. The spectacular - but smaller - waterfall is located along the famous Kirnitzschtal line (train).
- Address: Kirnitzschtalstrasse 11, 01855 Sebnitz, Germany
- Distance from Hrensko: 30 minutes / 18 km
#8 Koenigstein Fortress
One of the tallest castles in Europe is the Konigstein Fortress, which is special as an enemy never occupied it. The huge building in the Elbe Valley dates back to the 13th century.
Opening hours and prices
The fortress is opened every day and awaits visitors. The fortress's website can find out about the current tickets and exhibitions. Admission to the castle costs € 12, while a 60- to 90-minute ride costs € 4 for adults and free for children under 16.
- Admission: 12 euros
- Fortress tour: 4 euros
- Opening hours: every day from 9:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in summer)
- Address: 01824 Konigstein, Germany
- Distance from Hrensko: 30 minutes / 19 km
#9 Schrammstein mountain, Schrammsteintor
Many consider the Schrammstein area to be the most beautiful part of the whole park. The beauty of the mountain speaks for itself, while the road leading through the special rock formations is guaranteed to guide you to another world.
The mushroom-shaped rocks remind me of the Czech Paradise. The deep-winding sandy path (Schrammsteintor) is the gateway to the Schrammsteinen.
- Address: 01814 Bad Schandau, Germany
- Distance from Hrensko: 30 minutes / 15 km
When should you visit?
Although the park is open in winter, several attractions are closed, or you can only see them on weekends due to the limited opening hours.
The most popular attractions in the parks are the Kamenice gorge (and Edmund gorge), the Pravcicka Brana rock bridge, and the Basteiweg. On summer weekends, due to the crowds, these places can become almost unenjoyable for those who do not like crowded spaces.
Tip: If you can, go in the second half of September, when the crowd is less due to the start of the school year, but most attractions are open every day. The weather is pleasant, the accommodation is cheaper, and the changing landscape is eye-catching.
The best period for hiking and trekking in the parks is between April and October. There are many stone stairs and iron railings in the park, so the roads can become slippery due to the spring and autumn rains, while in winter, it is more difficult to head on the snow-covered roads.
You can expect a pleasant temperature in the park in the summer, around 20 degrees, so if you go between June and August, you do not have to be afraid of heat. The rainiest month is May, so expect a lot of thunderstorms.
What is Czech Paradise?
Hruba Skala ??
The two parks are mixed by many, as their names are very similar, but you should know that you will not find the Czech Paradise (Hruba Skala) in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park! The two parks are separated by about 1.5 - 2 hours by car and 100 km. Like the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, the park is famous for its special rock forms and labyrinths.
Many combine exploring the two areas on a weekend. So if you have time, you can go for a day longer and explore the Hruba Skala region. You can find our summary of the Hruba Scale here.
The Slovak Paradise is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and romantic gorges in Europe and even one of the most popular among European tourists. It is Slovakia's number one hiking destination. An unforgettable experience, a real adventure awaits you that you will not easily forget.
We hope you have learned more about parks and attractions. Have a nice trip! ❤️