German Sights

Saxon Wine Route

The Sächsische Weinstrasse ('Saxon Wine Route') offers a unique opportunity to explore centuries-old vineyards, charming villages and architectural and natural landmarks in one of Germany's oldest wine regions.

The Wine Route, designed for those with their own transport, is a 55-kilometre scenic trail through the vineyards along the banks of the River Elbe.

The wine-producing area in Saxony is the furthest east in Germany and also one of the smallest in the country. It can trace its history back to the 12th century and the 800-year winemaking tradition founded by Cistercian monks is still alive and kicking today

The River Elbe viewed from the Bastei rocks
The Elbe River near the Saxon Switzerland National Park

The Saxon Wine Route is packed with opportunities to visit fairytale castles, wander through historic towns and meet winemakers eager to share their craft.

The route is a testament to Germany's lesser-known wine treasures and promises an experience that is as much about the journey as the destination.

History of winemaking in Saxony

Winemaking in Saxony goes back to the 12th century. The first reference to it can be found in 1161 and it once covered an area of ​​5000 hectares.

Monasteries played a crucial role in establishing the vineyards along the Elbe and improving the production techniques in the region.

Winegrowing spread from the monasteries to the more prominent families in the area. They had their own estates and land and, after seeing the success of the efforts by the monasteries, also began to invest in vineyards.

The communist era in East Germany meant that private ownership of vineyards was banned. The subsequent control by the state and the policy of collectivisation meant that the overall quality of Saxon wines fell.

With the fall of communism in 1989, private ownership was reinstated, and the industry has seen a rejuvenation and modernisation of these historic vineyards.

Geography and climate

The vineyards are often found on the slopes and terraces along the Elbe river.

This terrain helps form the distinctive character of the local wines, as the sloping vineyards are exposed to the sun, aiding grape ripening.

The riverbank terraces act as natural amphitheatres for grape cultivation, optimising sunlight and heat distribution while protecting the vines from harsher weather.

The mild climate means that a variety of grapes can be planted in the region (see lower).

The combination of moderate temperatures, ample sunlight, and the protective geography that shelters the vines from bad conditions, are key factors that contribute to the production of fine wines.

Wines of Saxony

Distinctive grape varieties and wine styles are a feature of Germany's smallest wine region.

Grape varieties

The Riesling grape produces wines with exceptional aromatic complexity and a balance of sweetness and acidity.

Traminer, a less common grape, is prized for its spicy and aromatic profile, and produces wines with a distinctive fragrance.

Other white grape varieties include

  • Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), which is known for its rich flavour and full-bodied wines
  • Müller-Thurgau, which produces wines with a light body and a fresh, fruity quality
  • Goldriesling, a regional speciality that yields wines with strikingly vibrant and aromatic notes
  • Kerner, whose wines have a high acidity and a delicate floral bouquet.

The red wine scene is just as interesting. It remains a comparatively small, although growing, factor in the wine region, with varieties such as Dornfelder producing wines with deep hues and robust berry flavours.

Pinot Noir is another internationally recognised variety that produces elegant wines with a velvety texture.

Wine styles

Saxony's whites are typically characterised by their brightness, minerality and crisp finish, while the reds have a more medium-bodied profile with smooth tannins.

Key styles include:

  • Dry and off-dry whites, mainly made from Riesling and Grauburgunder, with zesty acidity and mineral undertones
  • Sweet wines, often made from late-harvest grapes for a rich and luscious palate experience
  • Sparkling wines (Sekt), increasingly popular for their fine bubbles and refreshing taste

Towns along the Saxon Wine Route

One of the attractions of the Saxon Wine Route is the opportunity to explore the sights and landmarks along the way.

Upriver the route takes in the stunning scenery of the Saxon Switzerland National Park while both Dresden and Meissen offer days of potential sightseeing.


Pirna is the furthest upstream of the Saxony Wine Route towns on the Elbe and a good place to start the tour by heading down river.

The town of Pirna on the Elbe river
The town of Pirna on the Elbe river

Pirna is a decent-sized town of around 30,000 inhabitants which calls itself 'the gateway to Saxon Switzerland'.

It has a historic old town and is a good base to explore the area for those who do not fancy staying in the nearby 'big city' of Dresden. It can be reached by the lines regional train lines S1 and S2 from Dresden main railway station.


The city of Dresden is not a big wine-producing area on the Saxon Wine Route, although there are a number of vineyards in the country suburbs and nearby villages like Pillnitz.

The town of Pirna on the Elbe river
Vineyards at Albrechtsberg Castle in Dresden

Dresden is more of a base for people exploring the culture and history of the region, although wine aficionados will also be attracted by the WineDresden vernissage.

This is held in one of the premier hotels in the city and where winemakers, vineyards, and wine cooperatives present their best and newest wine creations and invite visitors for a tasting.

👉 Discover more about the sights of Dresden


Radebeul is a town just downriver of Dresden which is steeped in wine heritage.

The town is home to the state winery ('Sächsisches Staatsweingut') at Schloss Wackerbarth, which plays an important role in promoting and preserving winemaking traditions in Saxony

Schloss Wackerbarth in Radebeul
Schloss Wackerbarth in Radebeul

Radebeul combines its popular wine festival at the end of September with theatrical street performances and usually expects 50,000 visitors during the three days of festivities.

It is home to the historic Karl May Museum dedicated to the creator of German-language novels set in the Wild West.

Although May is best-known for writing his Western and adventure novels, he also explored rural life in his homeland of Saxony in some of his works.


Wine has been an integral part of the town's culture and economy for centuries with its steep, terraced vineyards along the Elbe river.

Several notable wineries are located in and around Meissen and the Winzergenossenschaft Meissen ('Meissen Winegrowers' Co-operative'), which boasts 1500 small independent producers as members.

View through the vineyards to the old town of Meissen</p>
<p>Meissen hosts
View through the vineyards to the old town of Meissen

Meissen hosts the annual Meissen Wine Festival in September, celebrating the town's wine making heritage with tastings, music, and local cuisine.

👉 Explore the sights of Meissen in more depth


The final destination on the Saxon Wine Route, the picturesque village of Diesbar-Seußlitz welcomes visitors with its terraced vineyards clinging to the gentle hillsides.

Gentle terraces of vineyards above Diesbar-Seusslitz
Gentle terraces of vineyards above Diesbar-Seusslitz

Travel on the Saxon Wine Route

The Saxon Wine Route was introduced in the 1990s and was targeted at those with their own transport as a 'holiday route' that could be driven at their own pace.

It is well-signposted and there is plenty of accommodation of all kinds along the way because of the cultural attractions of destinations like Dresden and Meissen and the natural features of the Saxon Switzerland National Park.

(Visitors should book accommodation well in advance for the wine festivals near the end of September, however.)

Those who prefer to make their own way on foot or on a bike can also use alternative trails which pass roughly through the same landscape and locations.

Hikers can take the Saxon Wine Walking Trail, which was introduced in the early 2000s. This 90-kilometre trail covers much the same route as the version for car drivers, but with some detours to smaller villages and sights along the way.

Walking through the Saxon vineyards
Walking through the Saxon vineyards

Cyclists have similar options, as the Elbe Cycle Trail covers the entire Saxon Wine Route on its way through to Hamburg and the North Sea.

Finally, those who want to stay in one location, such as Dresden, and make day trips out to the towns along the Saxon Wine Route can take advantage of the regular ferries which connect the towns along the Elbe river.

There are also special river cruise tickets offered for sections of the Saxon Wine Route.

Alternatively, visitors can stay on land and use the connections of the local public transport authority, the VVO. The regional train S-Bahn services or local buses connect all of the locations along the Saxon Wine Route.

Saxony Wine Links

Saxon Wine Route :
Saxon Wine Walking Trail :
Elbe Cycle Trail :
Elbe River Transport :
Upper Elbe Public Transit :


The Free State of Saxony