© Frank Exss


Romanticist artists once discovered the Elbe Sandstone Mountains for their purposes and made them famous. First the painters came, followed soon by Avantgarde artists from all over Europe. The Elbe Sandstone Mountains thus found their place in countless works of the epoch.

A landscape develops into a site of pilgrimage and an object of studies

In fact, artistic discovery of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains’ started as early as in the first half of the 18th century. At that time already, Johann Alexander Thiele contributed with his landscape paintings to make the picturesque ragged scenery better known. So did Bernardo Bellotto, known as “Canaletto”, who like Thiele was the Saxon Prince Elector’s court painter. But it was only in the late 18th century that the area really got into fashion as an object of study.

The first to come were the painters of the Dresden Art Academy, among them Swiss-born Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, and they are probably responsible for the name “Saxon Switzerland” given to the German part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. The landscape simply provided the aesthetic ideal of that period: According to then current aesthetic theories – the “sublime” and the “beautiful” – virtually merge perfectly here into the “picturesque”.

The region was developing into a mecca for artists and a cross-genre object of studies. Caspar David Friedrich, Johann Christian Clausen Dahl, Carl Gustav Carus, Ludwig Richter, Carl-Maria von Weber, Richard Wagner, Mary Shelley, William Turner, Hans Christian Andersen and many more: The list of prominent visitors of the region reads like a Who’s Who of European Romanticism.

A trail emerged, fell into oblivion and was rediscovered

Soon, certain favourite paths gradually took shape. They merged to form an ideal route through the area, but they sank into oblivion after the railway was built in the 19th century. 100 years later, a first attempt was made to revive the historic route. It was named the Painters Road, later “Historic Painters trail”.

The tourist association linked into it, optimized the routing and extended it with a section on the left side of the Elbe River. Finally, in 2006, a 112 km long staged hiking trail was opened, and enchants present-day visitors with its manifold moving landscape impressions in the same way as the romantic artists at their time: The Malerweg trail in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.

It starts in Pirna-Liebethal, runs through Saxon Switzerland National Park on the right bank of the River Elbe up to the Czech border and returns on the other side of the river over six table mountains back to the town of Pirna.

This probably most traditional hiking trail of all Germany is nowadays completely marked. Signposts labeled “Malerweg” or with just a curved letter M indicate the directions. A red dot added to the M letter indicates that you are hiking on the historic route.

Originally, 112 km was indicated as the total distance of the Malerweg Trail. Today we talk about 116 kilometers. The reason for this deviation is due to different analogue and digital measuring techniques and their error sources. In the end, the distances are only given as a guide. More helpful are the average walk time references indicated on signposts.

It appears that you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer as your web browser to access our site.

For practical and security reasons, we recommend that you use a current web browser such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, or Edge. Internet Explorer does not always display the complete content of our website and does not offer all the necessary functions.