Walking the Malerweg

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Hike on the Malerweg

Eager to walk?

  Distance of this hike 110 km (75 miles)
  What kind of hike is this? Hiking with backpack
  Where does the walk start? Pirna
  What is the rating of this walk? Rating: 85/100
  View a map of this walkView a map of this walk
  Download the GPS-trackDownload the GPS-track of this walk

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The Malerweg is chosen by hikers to be the most beautiful hiking trail in Germany. Indeed, the 110-kilometer walk in the Saxon Switzerland is enchanting. You climb through a landscape of bizarre rock formations and grand mesas. The River Elbe accompanies you throughout the walk.

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Heavy walking tour

It is not a trip for the faint hearted. I had a bit misjudged it, because you walk around Ardennes height. But the journey is heavier than you think because of all the climbing and descending.

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Hiking the Malerweg
Castle Königstein Schrammsteine & Prebischtor

The Malerweg leads in eight stages through the most beautiful areas of the Saxon Switzerland. You're come across “tourist magnets” such as Castle Königstein and the curious rock formations of Schrammsteine and Prebischtor. Those places are crowded. But you will also walk along many quiet paths, where you spend hours just with the birds and the squirrels. And never far away flows the beautiful, wide river Elbe.

Starting in Pirna

The route runs from starting place Pirna, a lovely old town, north of the river. The last three stages take you back to Pirna along the southern side of the Elbe. It’s a circular walk.

Stairs and ladders

The hike is definitely more exhaustive than you might think. It’s because of the many stairs and ladders up and down. Heavy work outs for your poor muscles.

Tourist highlights

The exuberant beauty and fame as most popular hiking trail in Germany attract a lot of people. Of course a lot of hikers. Add to that the large number of tourists attracted by the highlights (for instance Castle Königstein) and you can imagine that you’re not alone... Despite this: highly recommended this hike.

Caspar David Friedrich

The Malerweg is also a hiking trail with history. In the footsteps of the first hiking adventurers, famous painters of German Romanticism followed. Such as Caspar David Friedrich, Carl Gustav Carus and Ludwig Richter. They all walked the same route, which later became famous under the name “Malerweg”.

The walker above the mists

All along the route you will see signs of this history. For example, at hotel Wolfsberg, near Reinhardtsdorf you see a billboard about Caspar David Friedrich. It’s at the exact spot where he painted his famous "The walker above the mists" two centuries ago in 1818.

The Elbe

Your hiking companion on the Malerweg is the river Elbe. Whenever you climb a mountain you see the river shine somewhere. The river looks sweet, but he often flooded with devastating force. The inhabitants of the villages and towns along the Elbe saw how their homes, businesses and hotels were flooded, even in recent years.

Villages and towns

At least every 10 kilometers you'll pass through a small village with shops, hotels, restaurants. Not all villages are equally beautiful, but there are some gems along the way.

Stadt Wehlen: inviting village

One of them is Stadt Wehlen. As you enter the village, you feel welcome immediately. The large square with the beautiful houses around it looks very inviting. Go for a lunch or dinner at the Beach Hotel (in German: Strand Hotel): from the spacious dining room you have a awesome view over the Elbe.

Beautifully Pirna

Pirna, the starting point of the route is also a real beauty. Plenty of entertainment, great hotels (book something when you arrive on the weekend, or read my tips below), a charming church, pleasant streets and even a little hip cultural scene. Schmilka is also nice, with a restaurant with biological products.

Tips for accommodation

  • Pirna is a busy city and I found it difficult to get a hotel room. Tip: You can find a fine and cheap room across the bridge in the Copitzer Elbecafé. That is close to the P7 Parking where you can park your car for a week. In fifteen minutes you can walk to the center of Pirna.
  • Stadt Wehlen: Hotel Richter is a cheap and good little hotel.
  • Schmilka: Pension Sonnenheim I found enjoyable. Friendly hosts, pleasant rooms, cheap.
  • Neumannmühle: a former mill is now used as a shelter for hikers. You can get a room or sleep in a dormitory. The rooms are very basic, but the food is above average, the price below average and the staff nice and helpful.

Signposts & Maps

The route is fairly signposted, labeled with “Malerweg” or an “M”. Sometimes a sign is gone. Then good maps may come in handy. Like the beautiful guidebook “Hikeline: Fernwanderweg Malerweg”. Excellent descriptions and adequate maps, plus all sorts of great information, tips, accommodation addresses etc.

Public transport

Public transport in this area is way above average. You can very easily go from one place to another by bus, train and even by steamboat!

  • Tip 1: In Pirna get an OV overview booklet at the bus station, which will certainly come in handy later.
  • Tip 2: Take the steamboat for the last part of the route from Stadt Wehlen. Not only you’ll save 10 boring kilometers, but it is also a nice trip by boat.

Visit to Dresden

A visit to Dresden is certainly recommended. A city with a rich history. Dresden was a famous baroque city that was known for its unique historic downtown. But the city was, against all expectations, bombed by the British during World War II. Dresden was completely rebuilt after the war. The city certainly has allure, with beautiful squares and wide boulevards, chic shops and lots of museums and other cultural activities. I was there half a day, which is much too short.

Tags: backpacking, Germany, Saxon Switzerland, long distance walking