German travel itineraries

The Germany is Wunderbar guide

German travel itineraries

Leipzig, Dresden and Saxon Switzerland

How long you'll need

Allow 5 days

What you'll see

Two powerhouses of culture – Leipzig a trendy alternative to Berlin, Dresden a piece of living history – matched with a lovely stretch of the Elbe and dramatic limestone scenery.

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This is a journey that combines modernity with history, which links city with mountainous country, and one of its stages is on a proper old paddlesteamer.


Stage One


Leipzig may have a heavily cultural history, with names like Bach and Wagner fundamental to the city heritage, but it has also reinvented itself as a city of trendy artists and designers. At its centre it is a nest of courtyards and cobblestoned lanes (try Barfussgässchen for bistros and bars) threaded by waterways. A great new attraction is the Spinnerei, a former cotton mill that is now a thriving artistic community with galleries and artists’ workshops, and there’s even accommodation here in the Meisterzimmer.


Stage Two


Dresden, which suffered so heavily from Allied bombs during World War II, is a reconstructed jewel of a city, in a lovely setting on the banks of the Elbe, famously painted by the Venetian artist Canaletto. The Frauenkirche (pictured), the Zwinger (with the Green Vault) and the Semper Opera House are exceptionally fine pieces of architecture. There’s elegant riverside terraces, and interesting sidetrips to places like Radebeul, a wine-growing town with a bizarre sideline in cowboys, thanks to the writer Karl May.

The Canaletto view of Dresden with paddlesteamer

Stage Three

Up the Elbe

Take one of the fleet of paddlesteamers upriver from the city centre. Stop off if you can at Pillnitz, the summer residence of the Saxon kings. Then continue on up the snaking river to Bad Schandau, a riverside resort in Saxon Switzerland. The total steamer trip is five hours, but Bad Schandau and Dresden (pictured, with paddlesteamer) are also linked by railway.

Saxon Switzerland

Stage Four

Saxon Switzerland

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains rise up dramatically on either side of the river, and are threaded with walking trails. The Bastei, with its high bridge and fortress, is a popular destination, but visit the National Park Visitor Centre in Bad Schandau for more detailed ideas. A good hotel choice just outside town is the Helvetia, or if you’d prefer something higher and more remote, try the Grosser Winterberg Berghotel

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