Reaching a height of 305 metres above sea level, the jagged rocks of the Bastei (map) were formed by water erosion over one million years ago.
They are situated near Rathen (map), not far from Pirna (map) southeast of the city of Dresden, and are the major landmark of the *Saxon Switzerland National Park. They are also part of a climbing and hiking area that extends over the borders into the Bohemian Switzerland (Czech Republic).
The Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824, a wooden bridge was constructed to link several rocks for the visitors. This bridge was replaced in 1851 by the present Bastei Bridge made of sandstone.
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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.”