Wachau Cultural Landscape
Wachau Cultural Landscape comprises the Danube valley between Melk and Krems which has seen a long historical evolution.
There has been human occupation in the Wachau from Palaeolithic times. It is well-known for its cultivation of apricots and grapes, which are used to produce specialty liquors and wines. It also has picturesque historic towns dating back to the Middle Ages and impressive buildings, such as the fine Baroque abbeys of Melk, Dürnstein and Göttweig.
Community Perspective: the area is best discovered by boat or by bike. Recommended are the Melk Abbey Church with its painted spiral staircases, the Gottweig Benedictine Abbey and villages and little towns such as Duernstein or Spitz.
Map of Wachau Cultural LandscapeLoad map
I visited the wachau region on wednesday the 8th of nov. as well as on thurday the 9th of that month. I arrived quite late around 21.00 in Melk on november the 8th.After my check-in at the hotel "weisses lamm" I strolled through the city of Melk for around 3 hours,taking some pictures of the huge monastery during night time both from the river side as well as from the city centre side.I also enjoyed a good schnitsel and some local beers.
I had pre-booked a guided tour(15,50€) through the benedictine monastery of melk the following day at 11.00. I was up very early and had another stroll through the pleasant town of Melk.I also had a quick look at every accessible area of the monastery before the official tour began.I also visited the northern bastion with the Wachau lab and a panoramic terrace.Without intention I entered the bastion through the shop exit and visited the panoramic terrace for free. When I left I noticed that you have to pay a quite hefty entrance fee for that building and its changing special exhibitions(I didnt spent more than 2 minutes in the exhibition area as I am not a fan of totally bizarre contempary art) .Sorrrowly, the baroque garden pavillon as well as the garden were closed to the public in winter time. The tour itself was interesting and informative but overpriced IMO.A guided tour of the monastery includes the imperial staircase, the imperial corridor, the abbey museum, the marble Hall, the balcony, the library, and the abbey church. Both the llibrary and the abbey church are truly impressive.
Luck was on my side: it was a beautiful sunny day with cool temperatures. The day before it had been a nasty day with constant rain and an unpleasant strong wind.
I had planned to take a bus and visit Krems and a town between Melk and Krems,but I changed my mind when I saw a bike stand with 6 bikes from the company Next Bike in the old town of Melk.I quickly downloaded next bike's app. The registration was quick and simple. I also learnt through the app that I could leave my bike at almost every town between Melk and Krems(literally from the beginning to the end of the Wachau region along the river donau). 5 Minutes later I was on my way to Krems.First I crossed the nearby donau bridge and had a short stop in emmersdorf(quite disappointing). Emmersdorf is the gate to the wachau region and no indicator of the wonders a visitor will see when riding a bike along the official donau bike path route.I enjoyed riding a bike along the wonderful nature but didnt know that the truly great pearls and pleasures were almost all north of aggbach. Anyway! I enjoyed my ride till aggbach where I discoved a small and modern austrian restaurant next to the river. I had a beer and a very tasty pumpkin soup there. I took my seat on the outside terrace as the sunny weather was just splendid and soul-warming despite the quite cool temperature. I stayed there more than 45 minutes and later really regretted my long stay there as the true beauty of the Wachau region only became apparent after Aggsbach. From Aggsbach to Krems the route was paved with small monasteries, beautiful churches, robber baron castles, wineyards, wine bars, sales points of wine cooperatives, small Austrian restaurants, manor houses, picturesque villages like Schwallenbach, Woesendorf or Weissenkirchen (very beautiful). The small towns of Spitz and Duernstein contributed to the beauty of the world heritage site; personally, I liked Duernstein much better than Spitz.I was in a race against time as darkness was approaching with big steps in the afternoon. It was getting dark very quickly but I decided to ride till Krems where I arrived around 18.00. I left my bicycle at a bike stand next to the comtempory art musem of Krems.Luck was again on my side as the bus stop for the bus to Melk was just around the corner. Even better next to the bus stop there is a kind a meat and sausage supermarket( a mix of butcher shop and cheap discount store where you could also eat warm sausage specialties) which was perfect timing as I was hungry and my bus was due to leave in about 25 minutes.I then took the bus(nr701,hourly bus till around 19.00) back to Melk for which I had to pay the outrageous sum of 11€.Two days later I flew from Vienna,austria's capital,to Treviso in Italy for roughly the same amount of money.
I was very positively suprised by the astonishing beauty of that austrian whs which has it all: breathtaking views,a mighty river,castles,monasteries,vineyards,pictoresque villas,amazing towns,excellent wine( gruener veltiner),wonderful austrian wine bars and restaurants.
I am quite sure that one day I will come back to that amazing region: I ve truly fallen in love with that breathtaking whs.
A bit of advice: Melk or Krems are a wonderful base from which to go on excursions through the Wachau. I would strongly recommend any visitor to use the very convenient bike rental system of "Next Bike" .
Since you can leave your bike at a Next Bike stand in almost every village along the river donau you can leave your bike wherever you want to and take the bus 701(the bus covers the route from Krems to Melk and stops at almost every village along the river) from there back to Melk or Krems. In addition, the bikes were very well maintained and of good quality. The official cycle path from Melk to Krems is not particularly strenuous or hilly.
I would strongly advise against renting a car as you will miss most of what makes this whs so special. The street which connects Melk with Krems goes along the river always next to the river with quite limited views whereas the officiall bike path route goes along the river above that main road through vineyards and directly through all villages. The views are much better,the bike lane is first-class,you can truly experience the wachau region like a natural part of it. Seldom do you have to share the path with a car or tractor.Hiking is also possible but far too tiresome and difficult when short of time.
October 2021 - I had been several times to Vienna and also got to know the Donau between Vienna and Bratislava, but never managed to visit the Wachau. This time we came by camper and were here right during grape-harvest. So perfect time to have some „Sturms“. In the morning hours we entered Krems and walked around this rather calm, unexciting little town. Across the river in Mautern we visited remains of the Danube Limes but decided to continue on the north bank of the Donau again. Although crowded with tourists we parked in the vineyards of Dürnstein, had some wine and Vesper at a local Heuriger, before we walked through the charming little Austrian village. The cars are directed underneath the town, thus the view at the Donau is wonderful at this place. After tasting some obligatory specialities, we drove further so Spitz in search for vinyards offering authentic austrian food. This part was rather disappointing though, I guess you have to drive inlands which we did not do. Consequently we ended up in Melk that night, where we had at least big Schnitzels and stayed overnight at the feed of the famous Abbey. At the end we only spent a day in the Wachau, but the Journey through Czechia was worth it.
Wachau belongs to my favorite WHSs in Austria, and I visited already several times. My last visit was in Summer 2013, when I joint a cycling trip of my friends despite the fact: I hate cycling(!) so, I had to manage traveling by other ways. We traveled from Czechia by car through Waldviertel, which is a forested highland. The contrast of the typical Central-European landscape and the Mediterranean-like Danube valley is really impressive and somewhat surprising. Danube is fairly clean in Wachau and we enjoyed swimming, watching birds and even crayfish in clean waters. Even though there is quite busy traffic of both cars and bicycles along the river, it is always possible to escape to river beaches or to surrounding hills with picturesque views.
Well, Wachau is enjoyable even for persons suffering from an allergy to vineyard WHSs, because its OUV is not based solely on the vineyards. Besides the natural beauty of Danube river, I enjoyed villages and little towns such as Duernstein or Spitz (PHOTO-bottom: view from the castle ruin above Spitz). To say something negative about Wachau, I was a bit disappointed by Melk monastery. Due to the relatively wide valley around Melk, the monastery appearance from the river was not such monumental as I expected. Further, the Melk monastery is overcrowded by tourists and I had a feeling of tourist trap. In contrast to Melk, I enjoyed my visits to Krems (PHOTO-top) and Stein with their streets, old townhouses and 13th Century churches much more + reconstructed Gozzoburg in Krems as icing on the cake!
The Wachau is a riverine landscape in Northeast Austria. Here the Danube flows for 36km through a fertile valley, that has been used since the Middle Ages for growing apricots and grapes - yes, this is another viticulture WHS. Fortunately, they have thrown in a number of palaces, castles and picturesque historic town centres to enhance the visitor experience. A wealth of individual monuments and places has been highlighted in the nomination file.
I visited on a Sunday and thought it would be a nice idea to start the day with a hike enjoying the river views. I parked my rental car in Schönbühel, a small town east of Melk. An oversized palace dominates its town center. It provided a tantalizing start, though you cannot get in because it's in private use.
Just as in Neusiedl, which I visited the day before, cycling is very popular here: one can traverse the entire Danube valley on a smooth bike path. Unfortunately, there is no separate trail for hikers, and there’s a lot of noise from car traffic on the parallel road. Hiking by far turned out less pleasant than I had imagined. When I also could not find the follow-up signs for my planned 2-hour ‘Steinwandweg’ walk, I decided just to push straight on for 5 km to the city of Melk. I had planned to visit it later in the day, but now I arrived already at 10.
Melk is a major crossroads in the Wachau: it holds one of the few bridges across the Danube in this area, and also is connected via an intricate road network to the highway to Vienna. Its historic center does have a few notable buildings, but the overall atmosphere was a bit too old-fashioned for me. Only the murals on the exterior of the 16th-century former clergy house could hold my attention for a while.
Melk is famous for its great Abbey. Each year, it is visited by more than half a million tourists. On this early Sunday morning, the courtyard was already filled with groups of visitors. The Americans and Asians evidently know how to find it on their beaten path through Europe. I joined a German-language tour through the Abbey for 12 EUR (you can also visit on your own, then it costs 2 EUR less). The Abbey is still used by Benedictine monks and has an active high school with 900 pupils. It is a huge complex, and the wealth from the past is visible all around. The interior is not as interesting as the exterior would suggest, with the sole exception of an ingenious spiral staircase.
After a filling & cheap lunch at a Mexican/Greek/Italian restaurant, I was ready for the walk back to Schönbühel. There's a 2-hour route signposted from the Abbey, so I tried that one. I can be brief about the outcome: this alternative route was even more boring than the one in the morning. The outskirts of this town really aren't pretty.
There’s much more to see in this region than can be covered in one day. I was intrigued by the Gozzoburg in Krems for example, which can only be visited once a day during the summer months. I believe that you’d need to find a quiet time in the year to really enjoy Wachau – although due to its proximity to Vienna, I am afraid the tourism business here seldom is slow.
With this trip, I have for now ‘completed’ Austria (a total of 9 WHS). Looking back at these visits, the common factor among them is that I found all Austrian WHS over-touristy. Tourism has a long history in this country and its main sites are very accessible. WHS hunting here rarely leads you to undiscovered destinations or surprising discoveries.
Read more from Els Slots here.
I visited this WHS in August 2015. I spent 2 days in the Wachau valley. Unlike many tourists, I decided not to visit this great Austrian WHS as a day trip (train-abbey-cruise-train) from Vienna but to base myself in the quaint village of Melk. It turned out to be a wise option as early morning and late afternoon were quieter and cooler to visit too in the Summer. During the first day I visited the massive Melk abbey. While driving to Melk, the abbey is almost hidden in the Wachau valley but once I approached the corn fields just a few kilometers away, I could admire the sheer size of this recently restored abbey. The best light for photography of the Melk Abbey Church is sunset although the morning light is perfect to take pictures from the abbey terrace or inside the abbey courtyards. The highlight of my visit was definitely the spiral painted staircases. Most tourists stop to take pictures of the first staircase they descend to reach the church, however I recommend heading directly opposite this staircase towards the exit as there is an identical one that leads to the library (closed to the public) which is perfect to take pictures of without having to "photo-chop" a couple of curious tourist heads. The library is worth viewing too although it doesn't compare to the one in St. Gallen or others I visited. Another abbey worth visiting is the Gottweig Benedictine Abbey, which is part of the Austrian Route to Santiago de Compostela. The best views of the Wachau valley are to be had from the ring road or from one of the castle ruins that dot the surrounding hills above the vineyards. On the second day I took a Danube cruise (24 euros) from Melk to Krems (downstream) and I stopped in Krems and in Durnstein. The bus ride back to Melk (7 euros) is very expensive and is only available once every hour. All in all the Wachau valley is an interesting WHS even though very touristy and definitely one of Austria's best WHS.
I took Klaus' advice and took a cruise along the Danube between Melk and Krems. The majestic architecture of Melk Abbey and Durnstein were awe insiring. But the relaxed atmosphere of watching the Wachau landscape drift past was special. It was one village after another, interspersed with castles and vinyards.
To avoid the exorbitant hotel prices in Vienna I stayed at a delightful gasthof in the village beneath Melk Abbey.
A trip to the Wachau valley really is an impressive day trip from Vienna.
I started off my trip with a guided tour of the abbey at Melk. It really was striking, sitting on a bluff looming over the small town below. In winter the only way to see the interior of the abbey is to go on a guided tour. I normally dread these in such grand places; however this one was pretty inspiring. We were shown around by a resident nun how did a great job of contextualising everything we saw. I was happy that the museum was laid out to show the evolution of the abbey and the art with in it, rather than just highlighting some dusty ornate furnishings.
The highlight is undoubtedly the magnificent baroque library. Another site well worth seeing is the chapel which is an over-the-top baroque masterpiece. You can visit the chapel without going on the tour, but you are restricted to a small side section, however you can see the whole interior from there.
After a quick coffee I headed off on a small post-bus that drove me the whole length of the valley to Krems. This gave me good view of many of the major sites of the valley, without having to brave the freezing conditions.
In Krems I had a lovely walk through the cobbled streets hunting out some of the wine that is produced on the river banks that I had just driven through. After a meal and a further stroll I was back on the train to Vienna having enjoyed a wonderful afternoon trip.
The valley is easily visitable as a day trip from the capital; however in warmer months it is the sort of place that would reward a longer more genteel meander.
[Site 6: Experience 5]
On a day trip from Vienna I went to both Krems, Weißenkirchen and Dürnstein. Both proved to be quite a pleasant surprise.
Krems is the central town of the Wachau and has a nice historic town with a monastery to be visited. Some modern museums are nearby, notably a very good caricature museum. From Krems you can take the Wachau Train which goes along the left Danube bank through the Wachau villages. Weißenkirchen is the first stop. It is the village displaying the oldest architecture. It is very picturesque with its enormous medieval fortified church in the middle of the village. Dürnstein (the next stop of the train) is probably the prettiest of the three and is overloaded with tourists on weekends. It is beautifully located along one of the Danube's curves, amongst vineyards and near the ruins of Dürnstein Castle. Its most spectacular views are from the local Jesuit monastery that can and should be visited exactly for this reason.
The Wachau is very compact and easily accessibly with public transport from Vienna. Note that there are no bridges so if you want to visit famous Stift Melk you have to take a different train from Vienna or go all the way to Sankt Pölkten. Famous local products are wines and apricot jam.
The Wachau Valley is really a magical place. It has almost mediterranean character somehow unexpected in the middle of a bit boring fields and forests typical for central Europe. Valley itself decorated with such monumental buildings like Melk monastery is incredible. However, I enjoyed very much antient parts of Krems and Stein, especially several churches and palaces dated back to 13th century.
The Wachau Valley is incredible. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple days in Waldkirchen on a VBT Bicycling vacation this past June.
We stayed in the Raffelsberger Hof bed and breakfast, feasting on Marillen preserves, and spent three days pedaling up and down the Danube. Highlights included the Benedictine Abbey in Melk, hiking up to Dürnstein for a sunset picnic and biking through the farmer's market in Ottensheim, only to find Raku pottery, a wealth of recycled jewelry and incredible woolens from around the valley. VBT treated us to a fine sampling of Grüner Veltliners and Reisling wines in a refinished wine cellar in Waldkirchen, and after a long day of riding, that sweet, aromatic white wine simply hit the spot.
If you are interested in exploring the Wachau Valley, I encourage you to take a bike tour. Free from a tour bus, I was able to explore the countryside at my own pace, inhale the sweet aroma of apricots along the flood plains of the Danube, and enjoy white wine sabayon and Marillenkuchen (apricot cake) at the end of the day, without feeling guilty.
In the Wachau valley we have been only at the Göttweig abbey, founded in 1074 by the Augustinians on a hill on the right Danube bank. Across the entrance portal, near which is an the Porter's Lodge, remain of an ancient medieval castle, you pass to the main court, where is the Baroque church, with two towers and a porch projected by C. Biasino and J. L. von Hildebrandt. Inside is the Baroque nave and the Gothic apse, with chapels, tombs, an organ, a pulpit by H. Schmidt, altars, stuccos, a treasury paintings by Kremser Schmidt and A. Wolf and a Gothic crypt. In the abbey palace there is the imperial staircase, with frescos on the ceiling by Paul Troger, and many buildings and rooms: the imperial apartments, the Hall of St. Cecilia, the "Grand Hotel", the library, the choirboys' seminary, the gatehouse and the Chapel of St. Erentrudis.
I liked very much this abbey because of the quality of its architecture. It's worth to be visited if you are in the Low Austria and I think that Wachau justifies the inscription, even if I have seen only this abbey.
Photo: Göttweig - Abbey church
The Wachau Valley stretches for over 30 km along the Danube River between the towns of Melk and Krems in Lower Austria, west of Vienna. It is certainly one of the nicest areas in Austria, and if you´re lucky enough and the weather is fair, it makes for an unforgettable trip - preferably by boat, although there are nice bike trails as well. The valley´s steep banks are covered by vineyards, and there are many small villages with churches and castles. The abbey of Göttweig, the ruins of the castle at Dürnstein, where Richard the Lion-Hearted was held captive and Blondel came to his rescue, and above all the fantastic Benedictine abbey of Melk, featured in The Name of the Rose, are also in this WHS. It is probably one of the best daytrips you can make from Vienna (but not in winter): go by train to Melk, see the abbey, go by ship to Krems, go to a wine restaurant (a Heuriger) there, and then go back to Vienna.
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