Festung Königstein

Saxon Switzerland

Festung Königstein is the largest intact fortress in Germany, and so imposing and formidable that noone in history has ever even bothered to attack it, let alone conquered it. Begun in the 13th century, it was repeatedly enlarged and is now a veritable textbook of military architecture, with 30 buildings spread across 9.5 hectares.

Inside, the main highlight is the In Lapide Regis, a superb permanent exhibition that tells the dramatic story of the fortress in an engaging and interactive way. Elsewhere within the sprawling fortress complex you can visit the Brunnenhaus, with its seemingly bottomless well, see an array of German weaponry, and enter the Georgenburg, once Saxony’s most feared prison, whose famous inmates included Meissen porcelain inventor Johann Friedrich Böttger.

During WWII, the fortress served as a POW camp and a refuge for priceless art treasures from Dresden. Another draw is the widescreen view deep into the national park and across to the Lilienstein tabletop mountain.

From April to October, the Festungsexpress tourist train makes the steep climb half-hourly from Königstein to the fortress. Alternatively it’s a strenuous 30- to 45-minute climb from the bottom. The nearest car park is off the B172 (exit Festung), from where it's a 10-minute walk to the fortress.

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