Together with my parents, I escaped the busy and bustling city of Vienna and hopped on the train to Austria’s UNESCO-listed Wachau Valley along the Danube River. On this daytrip, we traveled through steep vineyards, charming villages, medieval castles, impressive monasteries and romantic sceneries. A 1.5-hour boat ride brought us from Melk, famous for its Benedictine abbey, to Dürnstein, where we hiked to castle ruins on a nearby hill. Doesn’t that sound appealing? This article will prepare you to explore Danube’s Wachau Valley independently by easy to follow steps.
1. Take the train from Vienna to Melk
The train from Vienna to Melk takes about one hour, leaving at Wien Westbahnhof with one change in St. Pölten Hbf. Timetables and prices can be found here.
2. Explore Melk
When I prepared our day trip from Vienna to Danube’s Wachau Valley, I noticed several people describing the town of Melk as sleepy. However, this was definitely not the case when we were in Melk as a wedding party brought a lively atmosphere into the narrow and charming streets. The fanfare, which played cheerful music, and the adorable bridesmaids ensured that we will not forget our visit to Melk so quickly.
Melk Abbey is one of the biggest and most beautiful European Baroque ensembles and part of UNESCO’s world cultural heritage. You can easily stay 2-3h at the abbey as the visit includes the abbey museum, the Imperial Staircase and Corridor, the library, the balcony, the abbey church and the abbey park. Tickets cost €11/€13 without/with guide.
If you have plenty of time or spend the night in Melk, you can also walk in 3 hours from Melk to Emmersdorf along green hills with beautiful views on the Melk Abbey. At the tourist office at Babenbergerstrasse 1 in the center of town, one block east of the Rathausplatz, you can get a free map. They can also confirm the time schedule for the cruise and the bus from Dürnstein to Krem.
3. Cruise the Danube’s Wachau Valley
The downstream Melk to Dürnstein cruise takes about 1.5h and is much faster than the upstream route between the same towns (2.5h). The boat tours are available from the 15th of April to the 29th of October by the companies DDSG and Brandner. Both charge the same price, i.e. €25 or €29.50 for a one way or roundtrip, respectively. The weather was perfect, so we chose DDSG as we had the impression that their boats have more seats outside. Boats leave Melk at 11h, 13h50 and 16h25. Make sure you camera is charged as the scenery is breathtaking.
4. Visit Dürnstein
In Dürnstein, you should definitely hike to the castle ruins, where King Richard Lionheart was held captive, for a magnificent view of the surrounding area. You can make another stop at Dürnstein Abbey with its striking blue tower.
Afterwards, stroll around the small colorful streets and try one of the apricot products. You can get apricot liqueurs, jams, candies, dumplings as well as scented oils, lotions and soaps.
5. Return to Vienna via Krem
From Dürnstein you can take bus WL1 to the station in Krem (about 15 min), where you can catch the train back to Vienna. A bus ticket costs €2.20. Ask the tourist office in Krem for the timetables of the buses in advance. We discovered only last minute that the buses drive only once per hour, at least on Sunday afternoons.
Have you already cruised in Wachau Valley along the Danube River? Which stops did you made along the route?
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