You, weary wanderer, who lives under the spell of enclosed city walls, treading only the city’s dust covered pavement, free yourself for once from the narrow style of living and come rest in our mountains and forests from the labours of your ordinary life. You shall find here an inexhaustible source of pleasures of the best kind to refresh your heart, spirit and body. To all who come to our mountains and forests from other lands I call “Welcome, stranger!”.
Ferdinand Náhlík, adjunct gamekeeper – quote from the oldest printed guidebook about the Elbe Sandstones region – Guide to Bohemian Switzerland, 1864
The beginnings of the exploration of Bohemian Switzerland by tourists date back to the late 1700s. It can be said that this area was first discovered and especially presented by Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, who taught at the Dresden Academy of Art and took trips from Dresden along the Elbe to places situated between Pirna and Hřensko. The appearance of the local landscape reminded them of their homeland, and they called the region “Saxon Switzerland”. The name “Bohemian Switzerland” was derived later.
Tourist interest in the region was significantly influenced by the development of water nad railway transport. In the 1830s, a steamboat started to operate between Děčín and Dresden. In addition to cargo boats, pleasure steamers also started their operation. The railway from Dresden to Podmokly, now a part of Děčín, was completed in 1851. These milestones marked the beginnings of intensive tourist interest in the area, which, only interrupted by WWII, continues to this day.
A major part in making Bohemian Switzerland accessible for tourism, which was to become a significant source of income for the locals, was played by the noble families of Kinský − owners of the Česká Kamenice estate – and Clary-Aldringen − owners of the Děčín estate. Some of the traditional and attractive locations in Bohemian Switzerland still bear the names of the individual members of the families, such as Rudolph's Stone (Rudolfův kámen), Wilhelmina’s Cliff (Vilemínina stěna), Maria’s Rock (Mariina skála), Ferdinand’s Gorge (Ferdinandova soutěska) or Edmund’s Gorge (Edmundova soutěska). The most creditable efforts of the Clary-Aldringens in the area of tourism were opening of the Kamenice River canyon to the public (the ferry boats started to operate in 1890) and making accessible the largest rock arch in Europe – the Pravčice Gate (Pravčická brána, in the 1880s).
The development of tourism is inseparably connected with the establishment of tourist associations in Bohemian Switzerland – specifically, they were the Mountaineering Association for Bohemian Switzerland (Gebirgsverein für die Böhmische Schweiz, established in Děčín in 1878) and the Mountaineering Association for Northernmost Bohemia (Gebirsverein für das nördlichste Böhmen, established in Krásná Lípa). Both associations mainly marked hiking trails, distributed maps and tourist materials, and it was a point of honour for them to build lookout towers, restaurants or at least rest areas and shelters in their vicinity.
The entire Bohemian Switzerland was and remains one of the traditional and most popular tourist destinations in Central Europe. Prepared for all tourists, hikers and all visitors enchanted by this region are a network of marked hiking trails, 45 kilometres of cycling trails and horse rides in selected areas.