Fine Meissen porcelain and Dresden palaces; scenic steam railway rides and river views; ‘Saxon Switzerland’s’ rocky sandstone outcrops; world-class garden realms and Bauhaus buildings – pedal the Elbe River Path north from health resort Bad Schandau to design-giant Dessau and there’s so much more to discover than just the varied valley scenery from clifftop castles to gentle floodplain gardens. Criss-cross the river by bridge or local ferry to take in monasteries and mills or fairytale towns tucked away in the wooded slopes. Get a taste for German history too - from Baroque churches and breweries, to the Saxon Wine Road or life and times of that great religious reformer, Martin Luther. A wonderful tour of contrasts, with something for everyone, on a great cycle path. Why not book an e-bike and come and enjoy the ride all the more?
The Elbe River Cycle Path is a great way to explore the magnificent variety of scenery, towns, villages and attractions which line up along the river between Bad Schandau and Dessau. Highlights include the city of Dresden, the Meissen State Porcelain Workshops, Saxon Switzerland, the Saxon Wine Road and Lutherstadt Wittenberg. In Germany, the path is of a good standard and on this stretch it is generally flat, located on the riverbank or floodplain. We have graded this tour as ‘moderate to challenging’ due to the occasional ascent (usually when the path leaves the river course) and the one longer cycling day to Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
Day One - Arrive & explore
Just inside Germany near the border with the Czech Republic, the health resort of Bad Schandau is on the Elbe in the heart of the area known as ‘Saxon Switzerland’, the national park whose name stems from the Elbe’s unusual sandstone outcrops. With distant castles, stony peaks or needles peeping out from the wooded slopes, it’s a fairytale sort of landscape. Explore Bad Schandau’s streets of colourful and cupola-topped houses or maybe relax on the café terrace over ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ (coffee and cake) or with a glass of Saxony dry white. The town’s botanical gardens full of mountain flora are worth a wander, or if you have arrived with the afternoon ahead of you, why take a trip on the historic rails along the beautiful Kirnitz Valley?
Overnight in Bad Schandau.
Day Two – Through Saxon Switzerland to Dresden
Look forward to encountering some of Saxon Switzerland’s most famous sights today as you saddle up and cycle out along the Elbe path, criss-crossing the great river at times using its many bridges and little ferries. Königstein Castle sits on the sandstone outcrop, before the path swings with the river meanders to Bastei Bridge viewing rock in Rathen. The health resort (Kurort Rathen) has a fine arboretum boasting 28 varieties of rhododendron. Just beyond the castle town of Pirna, it’s time to cross to Pillnitz to view its Baroque palace and ‘vineyard’ church before cycling towards the impressive skyline of Dresden, one of Germany’s most inspiring rebuilt cities which has become a place of contrasts since its disastrous losses in WWII. Today Dresden offers palaces and gardens, museums and galleries as well as superb shopping and great places to eat and enjoy the atmosphere of one of the Elbe’s most vibrant cities. Look out for the hidden gems, like the Schillergarten beer garden by the ‘Blue Wonder’ bridge and don’t miss the iconic domed palace church of Our Lady.
Overnight in Dresden.
Miles: 27 Kms: 45
Day Three – Palaces & porcelain
Pedal along the Elbe’s right bank and get a taste for cycling the Saxon Wine Road. There’ll be plenty of riverside spots to stop and get a taste of the place, but at Radebeul steam-loco lovers will also enjoy sampling Germany’s third-oldest narrow gauge railway (16.5kms) to Moritzburg, home to both a Renaissance and a Rococo Palace and a famous Lutheran church. Meissen’s Schloss Albrechtsburg (castle) soon appears on the horizon, towering high above the Elbe on the left bank. Take the panorama lift (bikes can go too!) to the top to enjoy the views. The world-famous Meissen porcelain factory started out here, but today you’ll find the factory workshops, museum and exhibition halls just a pedal push away from the historic town centre.
Overnight in Meissen.
Miles: 18 Kms: 30
Day Four –– Wine road & riverscapes
Leaving the ‘white gold’ (porcelain) world behind, spend the day discovering the little wine-growing villages along the Elbe. Criss-cross the river if you wish to explore Zehren and Diera-Zehren with their museum and palaces, Hirschstein Castle or Merschwitz’s 16th century Rosenmühle watermill en route to Riesa. Known locally for its impressive sports facilities, the town has some truly historic monasteries and interesting legends. Climb the Riesenhügel (gigantic hill) to sit on the brewery terrace admiring the view a while - and you can spend all afternoon wondering whether the hill was really made when a giant emptied out the stones from his boots! If your accommodation is in Strehla, then you can look forward to the Renaissance castle complex and the market square flanked by the Baroque Town Hall.
Overnight in Riesa/ Strehla.
Miles: 18 / 23 Kms: 28 / 36
Day Five – From Roland legends to Luther’s church
Don’t miss the pink and unusual gabled town hall in Mühlberg this morning, on the square by the Church of Our Lady. At Belgern, the orange and white flourishes of Baroque façade on the town hall is equally as eye-catching but be sure to make the acquaintance of Roland – the 6m tall sandstone statue, carved in 1610 that’s standing by its corner! Find out about his legend and local town rivalries or visit the ‘Rolandpark’ here to encounter copies of nearly all of Germany’s famous Roland statues! Destination for the day is the impressive town of Torgau with its Hartenfels Schloss royal castle complex including a bear pen in its moat, and its church dedicated by Martin Luther and known as the first Protestant church of Germany. The Hausmannturm (tower) is the best place for views of the town and Elbe meadows, but don’t miss the market square’s Renaissance town hall and Germany’s oldest toy shop.
Overnight in Torgau.
Miles: 29 / 24 Kms: 48 /40
Day Six – Palaces & preachers
Time to leave Torgau’s waterside castle behind and pedal across the wide Elbe water-meadows as the Elbe path touches upon little lakes and ‘Alte Elbe’ remains of the river’s old course. Visit the enchanting little Elbschifferskirche or ‘Mariners’ Church’ at Priesitz en route to Pretzsch where St Nicholas’ church has a fine Baroque interior. At Elster, view the Bock windmill, before the final pedal of the day to the impressive town of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. As its name suggests, Wittenberg is synonymous with the church reformer, Martin Luther and much of his personal history can be traced here through its monuments, museums and the famous oak tree said to be planted on the spot where he burned the papal bull, threatening his excommunication in 1520. The town’s marketplace is particularly impressive.
Overnight - in Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
Miles: 42 Kms: 68
Day Seven – World Heritage gardens & Bauhaus buildings
Cycle out of Lutherstadt Wittenberg to take the cable ferry over the Elbe at Coswig, and cross the wide valley flood plain to Wörlitz. Here, garden-lovers will enjoy the Dessau-Wörlitz Gartenreich, a whimsical ‘garden realm’ and land of canals, small islands, gardens and quaint follies like Italianate temples and English-style buildings. It’s one of the first and largest English parks in Germany created in the late 18th century and is now a designated World Heritage Site. Take time to explore with a guided tour or even a gondola ride before pedaling on to cultural city, Dessau where its famous 1925/6 Bauhaus building is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list. If you’re into museums and early 20th century art, music and culture, this is the place for you. Why not follow the Bauhaus trail, the cultural path pavement trail or visit the Kurt Weill centre about the life of the groundbreaking ‘Threepenny Opera’ composer?
Overnight in Dessau.
Miles: 22 Kms: 37
Day Eight – Depart after breakfast
Time for a final look in Dessau’s historic churches or a wander around the castle and its park perhaps before heading homeward or on to the next stage of your European adventure?
Extra nights can be booked in Dessau to allow more time to explore.
Once you have decided on the ideal Cycle Break in England or Europe, please fill out your details on our booking formProceed to Book
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