The spa town of Rathen is the main base for visiting the Bastei; the town can be reached from Dresden by paddle steamer on the river Elbe. The name Bastei (“bastion”) indicates the inclusion of the steep, towering rocks in the old defensive ring around Neurathen Castle (map).
The walk from Rathen is steep, there are about 150 Metres in altitude difference, but well worth it. Paths are signposted and well-maintained and the steeper sections have steps.
Another famous landmark in the local area is the fortress of Königstein (map).
As the region of Saxon Switzerland was explored and developed for tourism, the Bastei rocks became one of its first tourist attractions. Its lookout point was first referred to in travel literature in 1798 in a publication by Christian August Gottlob Eberhard.
One of the first walking guides who took visitors to the Bastei was Carl Heinrich Nicolai, who wrote in 1801: “What depth of feeling it pours into the soul! You can stand here for a long time without being finished with it (…) it is so difficult to tear yourself away from this spot.”