What to do on May Day in Berlin?

After 4 years the best answer to this question is: Leave the City and go out for a nice drive in the countryside. On the one side May Day in Berlin is fun. Youve got the MayFest in Kreuzberg with loads of free concerts and awesome food. On the other hand, its overcrowded and you’ve got a loads of idiots and assholes starting trouble with the police. (behold the idiocy that is may day in berlin). So to escape this mess I finally managed to convince the misses to drive out to the Bastei Bridge – something which ive wanted to see for quite some time now.

View of the Bastei Bridge in the Saxon Switzerland National Park

For those who are not familiar with the Bastei Bridge, here’s a quick historical background:

The Bastei, an impressive sandstone formation, is Located in the Saxon Switzerland National Park (The suffix Switzerland appears 62 times in the German Landscape and was coined in the 18th century to describe a particularly beautiful area) circa 40 kilometers south-east of Dresden.

The Bastei has been a popular with tourists for the past 200 years, with a wooden bridge linking the rock formations from 1824 onwards. As tourism increased the need for a sturdier bridge came up. In 1851 a sandstone bridge was constructed to replace the wooden structure.

Another popular tourist destination was (and still is) the Felsenburg Neurathen. First documented in 1289, the Castle (or what remains of it) was the largest rock castle in Saxon Switzerland. Since most of the buildings were made out of wood, the only remains you can see are the spaces which were carved into the rock.

You have to pay 1,50€ to get into the Castle Part – and despite there not being much Castle to see, you do have the best views over the Bastei, the Bastei Bridge and the surrounding areas. Well worth investing the money

Tickets to the Felsenburg Neurathen in Saxon Switzerland
Tickets to the Felsenburg Neurathen

Of course all the tourists had to be fed, so a butcher from the nearby town of Lohmen started serving up food (which even earned him praise from Goethe’s Son August). This became increasingly more popular (and lucrative) so huts were set up to cater to the masses. Over time the huts gave way to an Inn, and in 1979  new building was constructed and is now a (truly ugly) Hotel.

I would strongly advise to bring your own food and drinks. Buying anything to eat or drink from the Hotel is deadly expensive.

There are several ways to get up to the Bastei Bridge, the most tiring one probably being the way up from the Town of Rathen at the foot of the Bastei. A Staircase was built in 1814 with a whopping 487 steps – so unless you are really fit, I wouldn’t recommend this route. Judging from the look on the peoples faces who came up this way, it sure seemed like they regretted it. There is a Bus Service which runs on a regular basis and stops directly (more or less) infront of the Hotel. A Return Ticket costs 1.50€

The Bastei forms the heart of the National Park, which offers wonderful hiking trails and a plethora of oppertunities for rock climbers.

A word to the wise – its worth visiting the Bastei and the Bastei Bridge either early in the morning or late in the afternoon/early evening.  The reason for this being that the masses of tourists havent arrived yet (or have already left) and more importantly the Sun will be low enough to take pictures of the bridge from the Rock Castle Side of the Sandstone formation. The Sun Rises directly over the bridge making it nearly impossible to take a good picture.

One of many rock climbers in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains
A Rock Climber Enjoying the View over the Park
A Rock Climber perched atop a sandstone column
A Rock Climber perched atop a Sandstone Dolumn
Carved Names and Dates in the Bastei Rock
Every Inch of the Rock is Carved with Names and Dates
Full view of the Bastei Bridge in the Saxon Switzerland National Park
Full view of the Bastei Bridge
Entrance to the Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland
Entrance of the Bastei Bridge….Rather Unspectacular
View from the Bastei Bridge over the Wehl- and Amselgrund
View from the Bastei Bridge over the Wehl- and Amselgrund
The Elbe River Below The Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland
The Elbe River Below The Bastei Bridge
End of the Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland
End of the Bastei Bridge…..Slightly Less Unspectacular
The Bastei Staircase Built in 1814
Some of the 487 Steps of the Bastei Staircase
Graffiti from someone named Keitel from 1832
Keitel was here….. in 1832
A mouse hidding out in the cracks of the mountain
A mouse hiding out in the cracks of the mountain
Monument in Honor of Tiedge - Sänger der Urania
Monument in Honor of Tiedge – Singer of the Urania at the Felsenburg Neurathen| Beethoven Based 3 of his pieces on Poems by Tiedge
Inscription at the Memorial of Tiedge at the Rockcastle Neurathen
Zur Erinnerung an Tiedge den Saenger der Urania | In remembrance of Tiedge the Singer of Urania
2 Rock Climbers getting ready at the Felsenburg Neurathen
2 Rock Climbers getting ready …… I look like that as well when I take my shirt off
Couple Picture at the Felsenburg Neurathen
Standing at the Bridge of the former Rock Castle Neurathen
tree growing out of the sandstone mountain
View over the Valley with a lonely Tree growing out of the Sandstone
View of the Mönchstein from the Rock Castle Neurathen
The “Mönch” – The Monk……Is that rock giving us the Finger?

The Bastei and the region around it is classified as  a “Luftkurort” – literally meaning an “Air Spa”. This means that the “climate and air quality is considered beneficial to health and rest, and even recommended by doctors.

Despite this area being an Air Spa, do not make the foolish assumption that this place is a haven of peace and tranquility. Visiting the Bastei is an experience which can be likened to a visit to Schloß Neuschwanstein. Its cramped with tourists (for well over 200 years now) and unless you are one of the rock climbers you’ll be hard pressed to find a picturesque spot to enjoy the scenery without a worried mother shouting at her child not to stray to far off the edge.

All is not lost though, if you come early enough, or wait long enough all of the tourists will leave – aside from the ones which reside in the horrid hotel – letting marvel at the scenery like Caspar David Friedrich once did.

Dont wait too long though as though as the Bus stops running around 6ish on the weekends and you’ll be forced to “enjoy” a 40 minute walk back to the Parking Lot/Main Bus Transfer Station.

The Bastei is easiest reached by Car – as its circa 40 kilometres South East of Dresden.

There are various Train, Bus and Ferry connections to the Bastei which can be found here.


  1. Saxon Switzerland has been the playground of my childhood. There are tons of great hikes, views, climbs (even without rock climbing experience) to enjoy. For us the Bastei was a rather touristy spot, which one would avoid. 😉
    Funnily enough I went there the day after you did. My brother is going to get married at the Bastei in August and we were there for some takling some issues.

    • Even as a Bavarian I must admit that its a beautiful place! definitely going to come back again for some hiking. I was expecting the Bastei to be touristy, but you have to witness the stunning scenery at least once.

      Congratulations to your brothers impending marriage, what a lovely place to get married. My older brother is getting married in august as well – just seems to be the month for it….

  2. I’ve been looking forward to this post since you teased us with some photos on the day. I hadn’t even heard of The Bastei until then. Breathtaking views!

    • its a 3 hour drive (so 6 hours both ways) but totally worth the trip. I saw a photo of the Bastei Bridge a few years back on TV and knew I had to go and visit it. Visiting the Bastei is a trip best combined with a weekend trip to Dresden as youre going to spend a whole day out there.

  3. What a beautiful scenery! def. on my list of places to visit!

  4. Definitely adding this as a to do. The scenery looks spectacular!

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