Take in all of Germany’s Elbe River Cycle Path best bits on this short and gentle river-hugging ride through some spectacular Saxony scenery. Starting just inside the Czech Republic in Děčin, you’ll soon see why Romantic composer, Chopin, found the area quite an inspiration as you pedal northwards out along the Elbe into Germany, flanked by the sandstone outcrops of ‘Saxon Switzerland’. With almost every river meander, the clifftop castles keep appearing all the way to pretty Pirna, then come the vineyard terraces on the approach to the city of Dresden. Visit its Royal Palace and delightful Zwinger Gardens before cycling on to Meissen’s more rugged Albrechtsburg Castle, the original home of the city’s world-famous porcelain factory. A visit to both is a must – the lofty castle has awesome views (and a panoramic lift to reach it!) and the State Porcelain Workshops give a superb insight into the history of the town’s ‘white gold’.
The Elbe River Cycle Path is a brilliant way to explore Saxon Switzerland en route to the famous historic German cities of Dresden and Meissen. Bridges and local ferries can be used to criss-cross the river to visit attractions and make the most of vantage points. The path here is mainly flat, riverside cycling and although the pathway is often less developed in the Czech Republic than in Germany, it is of a very good standard throughout.
Day One - Arrive & explore
Just inside the Czech Republic near the border with German, the city of Děčin is often dubbed the ‘Gateway to Saxon Switzerland’, the national park which gets its name from the mighty sandstone outcrops lining the River Elbe. Here though, the river’s known as the ‘Labe’ and the best place to admire the view has to be at the rear of Zamek Děčin - the Baroque castle. Gaze across the wooded landscape. Wander by the Baroque rose garden which lies along the castle’s north wall. Or pop inside for ‘káva a koláč’ (coffee and cake) in its hotel or an insight into the area in its District Museum.
Overnight in Děčin.
Day Two – Over the border into a fairytale
Set off on two wheels along the Elbe (Labe) river path today and it’s easy to see how a Romantic composer like the Polish pianist Frédéric Chopin found it all so inspiring. Beyond the German border at Schmilka just a few miles downriver, rock formations line both sides of the valley and the landscape is almost fairytale-like with distant castles, stony peaks or needles peeping out from the wooded slopes. Hugging the river, the path takes a broad sweep towards Bad Schandau, home to colourful houses with cupolas, botanical gardens and an historic tramway which leads along the Kirnitz Valley. Königstein Castle has to be one of the high points of the day, before the route does a tight Elbe meander or two, taking in the Bastei Bridge viewing rock near Felsenburg / Rathen, where garden-lovers won’t be able to resist the arboretum which boasts 28 varieties of rhododendron. Along the route, there’s a chance to use local ferry services to criss-cross to destinations and enjoy the views from both sides of the river. Final stop for the day is the castle town of Pirna with its historic centre full of restaurants and shops. You simply can’t miss town church, St Mary’s, with its 60m tower, but be sure to track down the Canelettohaus (Canaletto House) to view its impressive portal and ceiling frescos.
Overnight in Pirna.
Miles: 28 Kms: 44
Day Three – Down the river to Dresden
Prepare yourself for a day along the Saxon Wine Road that’s piled high with palaces and delightful discoveries as you pedal the short way from Pirna into the city of Dresden. First stop though has to be Pillnitz, home to a magnificent Baroque palace and ‘vineyard’ church, then it’s into the Dresden suburbs – via the Schillergarten beer garden by the ‘Blue Wonder’ bridge perhaps? – for a feast of gardens, museums and galleries amidst the architecture of post-war East Germany. Don’t miss the Zwinger Gardens with their Baroque ‘Nympenbad’ fountains and the Royal Palace. Dresden Zoo is a popular favourite too, or just go for a wander, sit and enjoy a glass of something from the local vineyard terraces and admire the contrasts and restoration of one of Germany’s most inspiring cities.
Overnight in Dresden.
Miles: 13 Kms: 22
Day Four –– Castles & Ceramics
Another day where you can choose which bank to pedal along and criss-cross the day away with bridges and local ferryboats. The right bank has to be the choice for cycling the Saxon Wine Road and at Radebeul steam-loco lovers will enjoy sampling Germany’s third-oldest narrow gauge railway (16.5kms) to Moritzburg with its Renaissance palace, Rococo Palace and famous Lutheran church. Whichever side of the Elbe you choose though, there’s plenty to explore from palaces to villas and village churches. But soon you can’t fail to spot Albrechtsburg Castle on the river horizon as it towers high above the Elbe on the left bank. Since 2011, there’s been a most welcome panorama lift which takes bikes and the strain out of reaching the top – a must-do for the views alone! The castle is where the world-renowned Meissen porcelain factory started out, but today factory, museum and exhibition halls are just a few streets’ ride from the ‘Altstadt’.
Overnight in Meissen.
Miles: 18 Kms: 30
Day Five – Depart after breakfast
Did you manage to see the treasures in the Meissener Dom (cathedral)? The State Porcelain Workshops at the Meissen factory or the Torhaus, home to contemporary porcelain art? Time for one last look – or maybe plan to stay just a little longer?
Extra nights can be booked in Meissen 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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