Wachau Valley in Austria: A UNESCO heritage site

Wachau Valley

The beautiful Wachau Valley lies between the oldest cities in Austria, Krems and Melk, 80 kilometers from Vienna, in one of the most beautiful places in Europe. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a cultural monument of wine growing and history, stretching for around 40 kilometers.

The Wachau Valley was dominated by knight-robbers, who lived there until the mid-12th century. Merchant ships sailing the Danube were attacked. After the death of the last of the barons, their castles were destroyed and the valley became a ruin.

Thanks to its mild climate, southern slopes and fertile lands, the valley had gained its popularity with the capital’s inhabitants by the end of the 19th century. To get acquainted with all the sights of the valley, not even a week is not enough.

And yet you can experience the atmosphere of the Middle Ages and the local color, enjoy the creations of nature, taste the local cuisine, wine and jams in one day. We have compiled an overview of the most beautiful places in the Wachau valley for you and wish you a pleasant trip!

Wachau Valley sights

Melk

Melk is a small provincial town on the Danube about an hour’s drive from Vienna. It has Austria’s oldest Catholic school and city library. Melk also has the spring of St. Coloman, the patron saint of travellers, an old bakery and many elaborately decorated little houses, which you can admire on a walk through the winding streets of Melk.

Melk Abbey

The Benedictine Monastery of Melk was founded in 1089 on the rocky shore on the right side of the Danube. To this day it is the first spiritual capital of the country. The buildings of the monastery were destroyed by a fire in 1297, and reconstruction was delayed for almost three centuries until 1566. Under the leadership of Abbot Pentaz, who headed the abbey, all the abbey’s debts were paid and the abbey was reconstructed.

The monastery has a stunning view of the Wachau valley, the Danube, the town of Melk and the surrounding countryside. As you approach the highway, you will immediately notice the solemnity and grandeur of the structure. The walls of the monastery are painted in gold, the roofs are finished in red. The combination of these shades is admired by all lovers of Austrian spiritual culture. The rooms of the monastery are very spacious, the painted walls and the golden inlays add solemnity and artistry.

On the ceiling there are divine images with many angels and archangels. In the marble hall, everything is made of pure gold. Note the images of Athena Pallada and Hercules from ancient Greek mythology.

We want to pay attention to one of the main libraries of Austria, which occupies two floors of the monastery. It contains both rare editions of books and priceless manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries.The pride of the abbey is the church of Peter and Paul, the interior of which delights all visitors. Be sure to walk around the monastery grounds and take a stroll in the park.

How to reach

Along the Wahau Road

  • By car: Stift Melk, Abt-Berthold-Dietmayr-Str. 1, 3390 Melk, Austria. The parking lot right next to the monastery is free.
  • By train without transfers from the Main or West Station to the train station in Melk. Tickets can be purchased at the railway station or on the website of the Austrian Railways ÖBB.
  • By boat from the pier, located in the center of Vienna Schwedenplatz.
  • Opening hours:
    • Park and pavilion : 1.05.2019-31.10.2019 9:00-18:00
    • Abbey : from April to October 09:00-17:30
      • From November 10 and until April 1, admission by advance reservation only
      • Freshly cooked fish can be purchased on departure from Krems

      Gettweig

      We have written a separate article about the Gettweig Monastery and its surroundings, which you can read here.

      Schönbühel Castle

      Not far from Melk Abbey, near the cliff on the cliff is Schönbühel Castle, also called the “Keeper of the Wachau Valley”. This landmark was built more than 10 centuries ago and has been preserved to this day. Shenbuel was first mentioned in historical chronicles in 1135.

      After that, it was repeatedly rebuilt and sold. The site, chosen for the construction, was found on the site of an ancient Roman fortress of the bishop of Passau. The family who owned Schoenbühel castle, passed it from generation to generation for 200 years, until the last man in the family died.

      Ulrich von Schoenpichel passed away at the beginning of the 14th century. After that, the fortress was for a time the estate of another baron, and then it was annexed to the monastery of Melk. The brothers Casper and Gundacker von Stahrenberg took over responsibility for the maintenance of the fortress. They and their descendants successfully managed the restoration and preservation of the fortress for over four hundred years.

      In 1819, Schönbühel was sold to the Counts von Beroldinger family, who rebuilt the castle and created the necessary living conditions. In the 1930s the castle was sold to Count Oswald, but he lost his rights because of the Soviet occupation during World War II. In 1955 the castle was returned to its rightful owner. The Oswald family still owns the castle today.

      Aggstein Fortress

      At the beginning of the 12th century on the top of a cliff, 300 meters above sea level, was built the medieval building – Aggstein Castle. It is one of the brightest and most massive buildings in Central Europe.

      Kühringen family, who at that time lived in the area of the castle, plundered, blocking the Danube and causing a lot of inconvenience to traders who passed through the valley of the river on their ships. Getting close to Aggshain Castle, one of the properties of this dashing family, was simply impossible because of its inaccessible location.

      There was only one way up the cliff, and it safely became a trap for anyone who tried to obstruct the outlaws. The Kühringens ruled until the middle of the fourteenth century. After numerous sales, raids, robberies, and property transfers, the dilapidated castle was acquired by Count Seilerne-Aspag.

      His family still owns the castle to this day. In the early 2000s, under the guidance of UNESCO, the historic value of Austria was reconstructed and repaired. The former ruins have retained some elements, but were brought by professional archaeologists to a decent and accessible form for tourists to visit.

      Near one of the banks of the Danube lies the town of Spitz. In translation, the name of the hill on which it is located, sounds like a “hill of a thousand buckets”. This name was given not by accident. Spitz is the largest center of wine making in Austria. High quality drink has been made here for centuries.

      Pfarkirche Church

      The interesting late Gothic style of the interiors inside the Pfarrkirche church, combined with the amazing handmade grilles on the windows, give a special combination of sophistication and variety. In the galleries are statues of Christ and the 12 apostles. A renowned Austrian master from Krems was invited to paint the altar.

      Dürnstein

      Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in the medieval castle of this small town. The population here does not exceed a thousand people. The most famous attraction of the provincial town-Church of Mary Himmelphalt, the interior of which is made in the Baroque style.

      An interesting fact: the famous world dictator Hitler loved to come here and philosophize. He even wanted to buy the place. Currently, the town of Dürnstein is a mecca for all tourists traveling to the Wachau Valley.

      Located 50 minutes from Vienna, in sunny weather, this atmospheric little town allows you to find yourself in the Middle Ages in an instant. Miniature buildings, shops with handmade products and apricot juice are the characteristic features of this tiny village.

      At the entrance you are greeted by vineyards on the banks of the blue Danube. And from the beginning of December at weekends there are Christmas markets.

      City of Krems

      Krems, 60 kilometers from the Austrian capital at the confluence of the Danube and Krems, was founded in 955 for defensive purposes. The Wachau valley ends precisely in this city. All the architecture in Krems is steeped in the centuries-old history of the art of building masterpieces of stone. It is a very beautiful city whose history goes back several dozen centuries!

      Schallaburg Castle

      This castle is an ancient structure. It was always thought to have been built in the 12th century, but recent archaeological excavations have proven that the castle was founded and built three centuries earlier than indicated.

      The style of Italian palaces of that time inspired architects to build this castle. Knightly tournaments were held in the courtyard, and two-story galleries were located nearby. Until the 1940s the castle remained in private ownership of Austrian families.

      After that, the Soviet liberators took the castle to liberate Europe from Nazi invaders, and then the building passed into state hands. In 1974, a museum was opened there for tourists, on the territory of the castle are constantly held fairs and historical exhibitions.

      Interesting fact: Mount Jauerling in Maria Laach is the highest mountain in the Wachau Valley.

      The Wachau Valley is rich in attractions, and going for just one day you can immerse yourself in an atmosphere of serenity, merging with nature and the architecture of the Middle Ages, and enjoy the local food and wine.

      Lower Austria fascinates with its sights and oldest cultural monuments.

      Wachau Sights

      Wachau Valley Gottweig Monastery Gustav Klimt Route Kuenringer Castle Weissenkirchen village in der Wachau Dürnstein Fortress Marie-Himmelfart Church Spitz commune

      This site compiles the sights of Wachau – photos, descriptions and travel tips. The list is based on popular travel guides and is presented by type, name and rating. Here you’ll find answers to what to see in Wachau, where to go, and where to find popular and interesting places in Wachau.

      Wachau Valley

      Wachau Valley (photo)

      The Wachau Valley is a picturesque and environmentally friendly place in Lower Austria and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

      The Wachau Valley stretches for 30 km along the Danube River between Melk and Krems. The valley is one of the most popular routes among tourists. There is a lot to see here. In Durnstein Castle Duke Leopold V held captive Richard the Lionheart, King of England. The famous abbey is also located here. Passing through the valley, you can see the turrets of castles, small villages, with unhurried inhabitants and, of course, vineyards. The Wachau Valley is the most fertile place, which gave the world the most expensive dry wine of Austria – Rieslings, as well as Gruner Veltliners. It is also home to one of the most famous castles in Austria, Schallaburg.

      Coordinates: 48.33662500,15.47419200

      Gettweig Monastery

      Gottweig Monastery (photo)

      Gottweig Abbey stands on the banks of the Danube in the Wachau Valley, 422 meters above sea level. At 5 km from the monastery is the town of Krems.

      The Gettweig monastery was founded in the 11th century: In 1072 the altar was consecrated and 11 years later the monastery began to function. The first monks belonged to the Augustinian order. However, there were certain problems within the monastic brethren. To improve discipline, Ulrich Passau, bishop of the Abbey of St Blaise in the Black Forest, arrived in Gettweig in 1094. He proposed the adoption of the Benedictine charter, which was done with the permission of Pope Urban II. The monastery began to grow, a library was opened and a monastic seminary was built. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the abbey’s popularity declined due to the spread of Protestantism, which naturally led to its impoverishment. In 1580 a fire broke out within its walls, which managed to stop. In 1718, however, a major fire almost completely destroyed the monastery complex.

      Abbot Johannes Bessel began to restore Gettweig with great zeal. The court architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt played a major role in rebuilding the monastery. The huge, rebuilt building is magnificent and monumental. The magnificent Baroque decoration of the monastery’s interior, the ornate chandeliers, Paul Troyer’s frescoes, and one of the largest and most beautiful Baroque stairways in Europe have all survived and are open to the public.

      Today about 40 monks live in the monastery permanently. Cultural events and exhibitions are held here. Visitors can also taste the monastery’s wine. In 2001, the monastery was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And in 2006 its image was minted on a small series of commemorative Austrian coins.

      Coordinates: 48.36771700,15.61346600

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      Gustav Klimt’s Way

      Gustav Klimt's Way (photo)

      The Gustav Klimt Trail is a very popular itinerary that takes you to the places where the famous modernist painter created his paintings. Along its length installed information boards, which describe the history of the creation of many masterpieces, as well as copies of paintings themselves. The beginning of the route is the stands in the form of columns, which are located on the waterfront of Lake Attersee. There is information about the artist’s life in several languages, as well as historical pictures showing the area during the life of Gustav Klimt.

      You can walk this route with or without a guide. The length of the entire route is 1 kilometer, during the tour you have to climb to a height of 460 meters. The route includes a visit to the villas Paulic and Oleander, as well as the old castle, where the artist often painted his pictures. You can walk in the footsteps of Gustav Klimt from the beginning of May to the end of September, at other times of the year the route is closed.

      Coordinates: 47.95019200,13.58292400

      In photo mode, you can view the sights in Wachau by photo only.

      Kuenringer Castle

      Kuenringer Castle in Wachau (photo)

      The ruins of Kuenringer Castle rise on the cliffs along the Danube. It was once the majestic citadel where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned (1192). The castle was built in the 12th century by Albero Quenring and served his family for 500 years. During that time no one managed to seize it, and even during the Great Siege, led by Frederick III, it held out. But after the Swedish attack in the XVIII century the castle was destroyed almost to the ground.

      These ruins are very popular with tourists, many trails pass through them. During the ascent to the rock where the ruins are located, there is a beautiful view of the Danube and the entire valley. On top you can see the remains of the castle, and from afar you can see part of the defensive wall and fragments of the towers. The central part of the castle, several walls, fireplaces and staircases are also preserved. The trip from the foot of the rock to the ruins takes about 30 minutes. It’s a must-see!

      Coordinates: 48.39769800,15.52186800

      Weissenkirchen village in der Wachau

      The village of Weissenkirchen-in der Wachau (photo)

      Weissenkirchen-in der Wachau is a wine village that is located in one of the most beautiful regions of Austria, Wachau. It is famous for its fine white wine, which is made in the local wineries.

      Only about one and a half thousand people live in the village, but about 20 thousand tourists come here every year. In Weissenkirchen you can visit the Wachau Museum, which contains paintings as well as everyday and holiday clothes of the locals. Another interesting place to visit is the fourteenth-century Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, made in a mixture of Baroque and Gothic styles. If you like long walks you can go upstream of the Danube where you will find the church-fortress of St. Michael, dating back to the IX century.

      The village, whose name literally means “white kitchen” is not a place where you can blend in with the peaceful lifestyle of the locals. It’s popular for beach activities, water paddling, hiking, biking, golf and tennis.

      Coordinates : 48.38333300,15.46666700

      Dürnstein Fortress

      Durnstein castle in Wachau (photo)

      Dürnstein Fortress is located in the heart of the Wachau Valley, on the banks of the Danube. It was built between 1130 and 1140, and at the end of the 12th century the English King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned within its walls.

      Almost two centuries later, in 1330, a church was founded here by the Order of St. Clare. Since that time the village of Dürnstein gradually developed into a city, the monastery of the Order of St. Augustine was built, and the city walls were laid. The building of the Gothic monastery, built in the XV century, in the XVIII century was rebuilt in the Baroque style, designed by architect Joseph Mangenast. In the XVIII century the monastery is dissolved by order of Emperor Joseph II.

      Today Dürnstein is one of the most popular tourist spots. Here the foundations and walls of the very castle in which Richard the Lionheart sat are still preserved. The restored monastery is open for tours. And at the beginning of April the peach trees blossom here, spreading fragrance all around. Dürnstein is also famous for its wine.

      Coordinates: 48.39782400,15.52193100

      Marie Himmelfart Church

      Marie-Himmelfart Church in Wachau (photo)

      In the German town of Dürnstein there is an ensemble of medieval and Baroque buildings.

      Baroque. Looking into the town from the river, against the background of the wooded rocky mountain with the ruins of the castle, a blue-and-white clock tower with rich stucco decorations catches your eye. It is the tower of the parish church of Marie Himmelfart, which has become a symbol of the city. This beautiful Baroque example is the architectural dominant feature of the Augustinian canons’ monastery ensemble. Architects J. Mungenast, J. Prandtauer and M. Steinl took part in its creation.

      The interior decoration of Marie Himmelfart Church is radically different from the white and blue facade. The church is rich not only in decorative architectural elements, but also in the greatest spiritual and cultural-historical heritage. There are unique works of art on religious themes. The church is small in appearance and can hold a sufficient number of parishioners. The walls are painted white inside, which makes it unusually bright, light and heavenly.

      Coordinates: 48.40162800,15.51919200

      Spitz municipality

      Municipality of Spitz (photo)

      The town of Spitz is a fair municipality in Wachau, Lower Austria. Its history goes back to 830, when historians recorded the first mention in the annals. Its area is 23.83 kilometers square and is home to about one and a half thousand local residents. On the territory of the fair is the parish church of St. Mauritius, the hill Tausendeimerberg, the Lower Castle, the ruins of the castle Hinterhaus and much more.

      The parish church has preserved its medieval building to this day. It is located in the eastern part of the municipality and is representative of late Gothic. On the Tausendeimerberg hill one of the largest vineyards is situated, which is why it is named accordingly. The lower castle is a two-storey building, the east front of which is quite curved. In the fairgrounds of the municipality there are many historical sites that every visitor must see, as they are steeped in the history of Spitz.

      Coordinates: 48.36175600,15.41584100

      The most popular attractions in Wachau with descriptions and photos for every taste. Choose the best places to visit famous places of Wachau on our website.

      Wachau vacation.

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