Germany's most scenic region by steam
Boasting winding valleys and rugged mountain ranges, Saxony is among Germany's most scenic regions. We discover its prettiest towns and most beautiful scenery on excursions by historic narrow-gauge railway.
We travel by Eurostar to Brussels from our dedicated St Pancras Departure Office. Here, we join the high-speed service via Frankfurt, to Nuremberg where we stay overnight.
Today, we enjoy a guided tour of Nuremberg before boarding the rail service to Dresden. Nuremberg has always been an important city in Bavaria and indeed, in the whole of Germany, mostly thanks to its key position on a variety of trade routes. Much of the wealth that came with traders went into the city itself, and as a consequence, Nuremberg's streets are filled with impressive townhouses, grand castles and reverent religious buildings.
The indisputable highlight of this city is the imperious Nuremberg Castle which sits high over the city. What impresses about this fortress is its sheer scale and impregnability. It is considered by many to be one of Europe's most indomitable fortresses and with its enormous tower, and immense fortifications, this comes as no surprise. Having been originally built by the Holy Roman Emperors and improved by consequent rulers, today's castle is a true delight for those with a keen interest in history.
Today we embark on a guided tour of Dresden, visiting its many famous sights before an afternoon at leisure to explore at your own pace. Characterised by stunning cityscapes, Dresden is a beautiful homage to German civilisation. The city is formed by predominantly Baroque architectural styles, though not exclusively. Mansions, town houses, palaces and churches built with impeccable taste and sophisticated touches each offer something different, but it is the sheer grandeur of these royal and imperial streets which make wondering the streets an experience awash with elegance and luxury.
The Royal Buildings are always highly regarded by visitors. Submerged in Baroque charm, the Zwinger Palace is a wonderful edifice with gracefully manicured gardens and babbling fountains acting as the introduction to a marvellous royal building of arches, windows and balconies.
Dresden has been painstakingly rebuilt after it was almost completely destroyed by allied bombing raids towards the end of the Second World War. Dresden was an important military asset for the Nazi war machine, with many workshops, factories and barracks maintained here. This made the city a target for both the British and American air force, and sadly, along with the tragic deaths of many civilians, much of the beautiful old buildings which lent Dresden its glittering charm were destroyed by incendiary bombs.
This morning, we travel to Freital, where we board the scenic Weisseritz Valley Railway and climb up into the mountains, travelling 16 miles through the wild Rabenauer Grund Valley to the town of Kipsdorf. The scenery here is impressive, and as you snake through the deep greens of the forest and alongside the meandering river, it is not hard to imagine how this landscape inspired the Brothers Grimm and their tome of dark fairytales and nursery rhymes. The colours here are simply fantastic, with the bright sun just about penetrating the forest, lighting up the trees with a golden glow. Thought to be the oldest narrow gauge railway in Germany still in public use, the Weisseritz Valley Railway is fantastic for experiencing the romantic charm of this part of Germany. We cross 34 bridges and pass the valley of the River Weisseritz on this historic line, which first opened in 1882.
We take a historic paddle steamer along the Elbe today. This is an exceptional way to experience both the river and the small towns which sit on the riverbanks. Sit back and enjoy the tranquillity of a river cruise, accompanied by the gentle thump of a genuine paddle steamer's wheels. These are real paddle steamers, and this provides a truly fascinating way to experience the gentle Elbe and the people who call this place home. The boat passes Dresden, and continues into the picturesque Elbe Valley. A former UNESCO World Heritage site, the Elbe Valley is a pretty and serene part of Germany, with surrounding flat meadows contrasting with forested foothills. The fields are often prone to flooding here and this makes the Elbe Valley a haven for all manner of wildlife including white storks and even the enormous, majestic sea eagle can be found in these parts. We travel past treelined hilltops on our way to Meissen.
Notably famous for its own ceramic styles, Meissen is a fairytale city, capped and crowned by the superb Albrechtsburg Castle. Built in the late-Gothic style in charming orange and white stone, this castle was constructed back in 1471 and was, and still is, intended as a residence rather than a military fortification. During our excursion, we visit the famous Porcelain Manufacturer for a guided tour, with time to explore the idyllic Old Town at Meissen's heart.
Our next visit is the infamous ex-POW camp of Colditz. Perched on a rocky outcrop above the Mulde River, the Renaissance castle of Colditz was built to defend the town from invaders. Its defensive position was one of the maine reasons the Nazis chose it to be a high-security prison. Then, with the outbreak of World War II, it became Oflag IV-C, a maximum-security prison for Allied prisoners of war (POWs). Each POW held there had attempted escape from at least 1 other prison. With so many people determined to escape, many ideas were pooled and then put into practice. Hundreds were foiled almost instantly, and in the end, just 31 Allied POWs made it out before Colditz was liberated in April 1945. Of the British escapees, Peter Allen, Patrick Reid and Airey Neave are perhaps the most famous. Enjoy Day 6 at leisure.
Leaving Dresden by rail on Day 7, we head to Cologne via Frankfurt for an overnight stay. On Day 8 we take the train from Cologne to Brussels. Here we join the Eurostar service to St Pancras International.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
NEW FOR 2020: Inclusive Luggage Transfer
Please note: This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 10 verified reviews
A wonderful holiday in great company. The overnight hotels in both Nuremburg and Cologne were acceptable as overnight stays. The main hotel in Dresden was excellent, lovely rooms, fabulous food. Well organised by Great Rail. Excursions were all excellent. We felt the Tour Manager treated us all rather like schoolkids but it didn't spoil the holiday. Would certainly recommend.
Everything was perfect except I found the first day journey all the way to Nuremburg extremely taxing. I think it was too far St Pancras to Nuremburg in one hit. Also such a short time in Nuremburg seemed little reward for the time taken to get there. I did find manipulating my luggage on escalators on stations wearing. (I knew loading onto European trains would be challenging).
Very enjoyable holiday. We did not get off to the best start on Eurostar as we assumed that we would be served breakfast on the train as we have always had on previous holidays. However we discovered that we should have upgraded for this and it was stated in the brochure. We checked this on our return and it was there proving we should not take things for granted even with Great Rail. This was our eighth holiday with you. I used the swimming pool at the Hotel in Dresden and at checkout at the end of the holiday I was asked to pay a charge for that. I was not impressed with this along with the other members of our group who had used the pool. It was an expensive hotel and one assumed that such facilities should have been included for guests. Furthermore we had to ask for coffee at the end of dinner as we were not offered this. Many of our group had the same sentiment. However, the holiday was good and there were many positives.
Great holiday, lovely area of Germany and very good tour manager
it was a well organised holiday. I have no specific points to make either for or against the holiday.
A thoroughly enjoyable holiday in a fascinating area of Europe - centred on Dresden, a remarkable city
Good tour manager, great places to visit and see, enjoyable rail journeys, good hotels, excellent river cruise, but not enough time to see Dresden
The hotel GRJ booked us into in London was quite a distance from St Pancras Station, which forced us to take a taxi and did not provide us with any form of breakfast. (Incidentally our information named the hotel Holiday Inn whereas in fact it was The Crown Plaza - confusing!) The first two days of the holiday involved several fairly rushed train changes, dragging our cases with us, and many hours travel. By the time we got to Dresden we were quite tired. We didn't arrive until about 10.30pm although that was due to train delays rather than bad planning. However, once the holiday proper commenced we felt it was well organised and nicely balanced between trips and free time. All hotels were excellent and we ahd a wonderful time
Everything about the holiday was good - made even more excellent by our Tour Manager (John Levick)
Nothing is perfect. The hotel was good but charged outrageous prices for drinks and for the use of the pool. The tour of Dresden should have been scheduled for when the museums were open.
Germany's most scenic region by steam