Driving to Rathen is IMHO the least attractive option to get there. Not only is it an ecologic problem. The part of town where the tourist sights are - Niederrathen on the right bank of the Elbe river - is sort of car-free. Only locals, delivery cars and guests who stay overnight are allowed to drive into Niederrathen and park their car there (pic 5).
You can park the car either on that side of the river but about 2 km outside Rathen - if you find a parking - on the road from Waltersdorf (pics 3+4), or - and this is what most drivers do - you park your car at the huge parking lot in Oberrathen (fee, pics 1+2) but have to take the ferry to Niederrathen. The problem is that the road to Oberrathen is narrow and windy and passes through small villages (Weissig e.g.), and even the drive on the major road B 172 from Dresden via Pirna to Bad Schandau, from which you turn on that minor road, is slow (going through the centres of the towns Heidenau and Pirna) with frequent traffic jams, especially on weekends and holidays.
So, my recommendation is NOT to drive to Rathen.
- Road Trip
Grab your bicycle or rent one and cycle to Rathen! The place is down by the river so it's no sweat to get there by bicycle. The Elbe cycling path runs to both sides of the river between Rathen and Dresden (and beyond), it's your choice which you chose - I personally prefer the left bank, the view of the sandstone formations is more impressive from there.
The cycling path must be shared with walkers/hikers, though, which is a result of the narrow Elbe river valley, where the trains also claim their ground. Especially when passing villages and small towns you have to be very careful and slow down. In Rathen itself it is almost impossible to ride the bike, better get down and push it.
In case you're tired you can still put your bike on the train (small extra fee) or on a paddle steamer (free if enough room).
- Budget Travel
The fastest, inexpensive and convenient way to get to Rathen is the commuter train S1 Meißen - Bad Schandau (-Schöna). From Dresden main station it takes about a half hour to get to Dresden. Trains run from almost 24/7 - with the exception of a few hours after midnight. Trains are new, clean and comfortable. Bicycle transport allowed (extra ticket), special bike departments in each railcar.
The train station is in Oberrathen on the left bank of the river. To get to the main tourist sights (Bastei e.g.) you must cross the river - see Transportation tip on the ferry.
For tickets and schedules see website below. Day tickets and Family day tickets are often the better deal than single trip tickets.
- Budget Travel
Most hotels/restaurants, hiking trails, Bastei etc. are on the right bank in Niederrathen - which is car-free - but the parking lot and train station are on the left bank in Oberrathen. So you *have* to cross the river and that's only possible by ferry.
The ferry is owned and operated by the Rathen administration, tickets of the VVO public transportation network are NOT valid. For fares for the ferry (in 2011) see picture 5. The ferry runs from very early morning till after midnight, so you'll even get home to Rathen after attending an opera or concert in Dresden.
Caution: Calculate time for ferry crossing carefully if you plan to catch a certain train. Especially on very busy days there can be long lines and you might have to wait for the next ferry (about 10-15 minutes). It also happens that the ferry must wait until a paddle steamer or other boat has passed.
- Budget Travel
The most stylish and relaxing way to get to Rathen is a ride on one of the historic paddle steamers of the Sächsische Dampfschifffahrt company. I have done that numerous times. Be prepared these steamers are very popular, thus crowded on sunny weekends, bank holidays and school holidays. Service in winter is *very* limited, but in summer they run several times a day.
You can start your trip in Dresden or Pirna if you want to go upstream - which takes more time - or in Bad Schandau, from where it is a quick ride downstream.
The steamers have three decks, the uppermost is highly recommended. Restaurant service at quite average prices, but no obligation to order something. Avoid the coffee, it's awful. I suggest local wine :-)
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
I think the best way to get there is by ferry. A line operate between Dresden and Rathen.
Another way is by bike. You can cycle along the Elbe River.
A third way is by car. From Dresden take federal road 172 to Pirna. There, cross the Elbe and follow the signs to "Dorf Wehlen". From there the direction is marked by brown signs indicating "Bastei".
- Road Trip