Königstein Fortress

Vantage Point

  • 30 Sep - 06 Oct, 2017
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Panorama

Perched on a rocky tabletop hill near Dresden, the Königstein Fortress (or the Saxon Bastille) in Saxon Switzerland, Germany, overlooks the River Elbe. One of the largest fortresses in Europe, it entails four centuries of history built up over 50 buildings, including Germany's oldest preserved barracks, displaying many types of architecture including the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. Along with the sandstone walls up to 137 feet tall and a rampart of nearly 6,000 feet, the Saxon Basille also has a 500-feet well in the centre.

The fortress that was for most part a prison, is now very well preserved and represents Saxony’s foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year. The wall surrounding the fortress is 1.6 km long and 42 m high and was reinforced with palisades and watch towers. The enclosed area covers about 24 acres of wide green spaces, exhibitions and buildings. The walk around the 2.2 km fortress wall offers breathtaking panoramic views of a large part of Saxon Switzerland.

Never suffered a military invasion, the fortifications from different centuries show quite impressively how military requirements changed over the years. Exhibitions tell the history of the fortress that, in the course of its history, was time and again the safe harbour for Saxon rulers and their treasures.

The original access to Königstein was through a 16th century hoist, or via a very steep path on the western side of the mountain. The path still exists today, but the hoist was replaced with a modern panorama elevator. There is no parking around the fortress. The only motorised vehicles allowed are the tourist trains and the double-decker buses that run from the train station to just below the fortress entrance.

Thanks to its central location, Königstein is also an ideal starting point for the most wide-ranging day trips into the local surroundings. A walk through the wildly romantic valleys close to the town or to the table mountains represents the best opportunity of discovering the delights of the untouched nature. The Lilienstein, the Königstein, the Pfaffenstein and the Barbarine rocks all protrude out of the landscape like eternal natural wonders, while the jagged rocks of the Nikolsdorfer Wände excite climbers.