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Vienna to Wachau Valley Day Trip Itinerary: Wachau Austria

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The Wachau Valley is a charming destination in Austria that will leave you spellbound with its natural beauty and rich culture. Nestled along the banks of the majestic Danube River, this enchanting valley is a treasure trove of scenic wonders and cultural treasures waiting to be discovered. In this post, we will explore the highlights of the Vienna to Wachau Valley day trip itinerary.  

The Wachau Valley is very European– in the sense that the countryside reminds you of historic times with rivers, castles, and churches that spring now and then as you drive along the 25-mile road stretch. 

Vienna to Wachau Valley Day Trip Itinerary: Wachau Austria

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Where is the Wachau Valley located?

The Wachau Valley is located in Austria. It is about an hour away from the capital city of Vienna. This makes Wachau, Austria, a perfect place for a day trip or a weekend getaway from Vienna

Looking for day trips from Vienna? Come, visit the picturesque Wachau Valley. This valley is formed by the Danube river in Austria. This is perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway in the midst of nature and culture #wachauvalley #vienna # austria
Visit Wachau Valley

The valley is between Krems and Melk in Austria, and the beautiful landscape is formed by the river Danube. 

The entire valley was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. That gives you another reason to visit this gorgeous valley. The towns and landscapes of the Wachau Valley have survived the test of changing times while keeping the natural evolution intact. 

Looking for day trips from Vienna? Come, visit the picturesque Wachau Valley. This valley is formed by the Danube river in Austria. This is perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway in the midst of nature and culture #wachauvalley #vienna # austria
At the Melk Abbey

How do you get to Wachau Valley from Vienna?

The nearest international airport to Wachau Valley is Vienna International Airport.

The road distance between Vienna and the Wachau Valley is about one hour. There are many ways to get to the Wachau Valley.

Wachau Valley by car – The easiest way is to arrive in Vienna (or Vienna International Airport if flying overseas, like the United States, Canada, or New Zealand). Once in Vienna, you can rent a car and drive to Wachau (about 1 hour).

Durnstein Town in the Wachau Valley with Blue and White Tower of the Abbey Church and River Danube from Above
Durnstein Town in the Wachau Valley with the Blue and White Tower of the Abbey Church and River Danube

Vienna to Wachau Valley train – You can also take a train from Vienna to the beautiful town of Melk, which serves as the gateway to Wachau Valley.  

Morning trains are available from Vienna to Wachau, which cost about 15 Euros. Westbanhof is a train station that connects Vienna to the countryside. This station has city trains as well as ‘rural’ trains, which are called OBB trains.

Wachau Valley by public transit – Traveling to Wachau is also possible by local transit. It takes 2.50 hours, and the journey combines transit trains and buses.

Read: Austria itinerary 7 days

Options for Vienna Wachau Valley Tour

Without using public transportation or driving there yourself, you can book a small guided tour, or hire a private guide with transfers from Vienna

We booked a semi private/small group tour, and it included round trip transportation, and a guide – no lunch. We drove to the Wachau Valley from Vienna with a local guide. 

The drive was scenic, and we got down at the Abbey. We had pit spots along the way, covering a few churches, vineyards, and riverbanks. We also had free time to have lunch at the centre, stroll and shop for souvenirs, etc. 

Here are some of the top tour picks, as available on GetYourGuide (our favorite tour provider),

Full-day tour from Vienna to Wachau Valley: 

As part of the full-day tour, you will be taken by a bus from Vienna to the Wachau Valley. The benefit of this tour is that it includes round transportation and a boat tour. The Wachau Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts visitors for its history and winery!  

The guide also shares stories and history of the valley, including the Benedictine Abbey of Melk. While cruising on the Danube River, you get to experience the quaint Austrian countryside, with picturesque villages and vineyards. 

The Wachau Vienna tour also included the following – Danube River Cruise, vineyards, entry to Dürnstein Castle, and a Benedictine Abbey of Melk guided tour. 

Book Here for a full-day tour from Vienna to Wachau Valley

Tour add-ons:

If you wish to travel on your own, you can explore the valley on a bike, via cruise, or by driving along.  Also, once you have arrived in Wachau, you can take one of the tours listed below to enrich your experience.

Here are great tours for you to consider

Wachau AustriaBook Tours
Wachau & Salzburg 1 Day TourClick here for prices
Vienna to Wachau Day TourClick here for prices
Full Day Sightseeing & Wine TourClick here for prices
Bike & Sightseeing TourClick here for prices
Half Day Tour to WachauClick here for prices

Things to do in Wachau Valley Day Trip Itinerary

We stayed in Vienna for a few days and decided to visit the nearby Wachau Valley. 

We say nearby because – a 1-hour drive is not a LONG drive for us. We hopped on private transportation from our Viena hotel and arrived in Melk. 

The weather was overcast and was slightly rainy that day. This made the valley even more beautiful and serene. We visited the Wachau Valley in March, and the tourist season had yet to pick up. This allowed us to take many pictures in Melk Abbey and spend ample time there.

We recommend the Melk Abbey as your first stop on the day trip itinerary, followed by the gardens and Old Town exploration. After lunch, opt for a river cruise (with or without wine tasting) and visit the castle (1 or 2) before planning your return to Vienna. 

Looking for day trips from Vienna? Come, visit the picturesque Wachau Valley. This valley is formed by the Danube river in Austria. This is perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway in the midst of nature and culture #wachauvalley #vienna # austria

We have provided a few hotel recommendations should you decide to stay in Wachau overnight. 

1. Drive Along The Valley

The Wachau Valley is beautiful because it’s lined with greenery on all sides of the road, with hills and castles in the distance and the river flowing alongside your road. Isn’t that romantic already? Consider pit stops to take pictures or walk by some water banks or mini-ports to soak in the beautiful nature.

2. A visit to the Vineyards

The Wachau Valley produces one of the most popular white wines in the region. 

Sunny day in Wachau Valley. Landscape of vineyards and Danube River at Weissenkirchen, Austria.

The Danube has an extremely diverse geological terrain, and its waterway through terraces makes the cultivation of vines on these inclines unique and picturesque simultaneously. 

Many of the region’s wineries date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The Wachau Valley region has about 124 vineyards and 650 growers cultivating on 3300+ acres of land.

3. Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey is one of the biggest baroque abbeys in Europe. It is a Benedictine abbey located in Melk adjoining the Wachau valley. 

Looking for day trips from Vienna? Come, visit the picturesque Wachau Valley. This valley is formed by the Danube river in Austria. This is perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway in the midst of nature and culture #wachauvalley #vienna # austria
Melk Abbey

The abbey is striking, with its bright yellow color painted all over. It is a living monastery and is inhabited by monks. This abbey was originally built to serve as a royal palace. 

There are remnants of the Austrian ruling dynasties and their rulers housed inside the abbey. It is believed that Maria Theresa received 40 kg of gold, which is preserved in the abbey. 

The abbey’s entrance is decorated with golden leaves and white marble statues. A visit to the monastery includes the Imperial Staircase, the Imperial Corridor, the abbey museum, the Marble Hall, the balcony, the library, the abbey church, and the abbey park with its Baroque pavilion. 

Melk Abbey entrance
Things to do in Wachau Valley: Melk Abbey

You can capture amazing shots from the panoramic terrace and visit special exhibitions in the abbey. Walking through the lobby, you will enter the Stiftskirche, the church dedicated to St John the Baptist. 

The ceilings are decorated with beautiful frescoes. Built in the early 1700s as a royal palace, Melk Abbey was eventually gifted to Benedictine monks who turned the estate into a fortified abbey. 

The Abbey won the “Best Historic Destination of the World” award in 2008. The entrance to the abbey costs 13 Euros. You can access the abbey with a guided tour from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm local time. Check out their current fees here

4. Melk Abbey Gardens

If you have additional time on your hands, take a stroll at the Melk Abbey Gardens. These gardens are nicely maintained with flower beds and are wooded with many trees over 400 years old. 

The gardens end on a hilltop; from here, you can soak in and capture amazing views of the Abbey and the valley. 

Read: Vienna itinerary 4 days

5. Old Town Melk 

The old town of Melk is a must-visit after exploring the Abbey. You can hang out here, grab a drink, or shop for souvenirs. There are tons of shops and restaurants to choose from. 

Main square of town Melk in Lower Austria.
Main square of town Melk in Lower Austria.

The village center is downhill from the Abbey and only takes a few minutes to reach. Although small, the old town center of Melk has hotels, cafes, a church, and a City Hall in the vicinity. 

What is most mesmerizing is that the center is nestled inside the village’s old architecture, and from here, you can capture the pretty buildings and greenery of the village and enjoy its quaint ambiance. After exploring Melk Abbey, it is a good time for lunch before heading to Krems.

6. Melk to Krems: River Cruise Options

There are many ways to reach Krems from Melk. It is about a half an hour drive from Melk. If you are using the train, you will reach Krems in 1 hour. 

Visit the picturesque Wachau Valley of Austria - day trip from Vienna. Explore the Melk and the Krems, sail on the Danube River, bike through the valley, take a wine tasting tour, visit the beautiful castles and Benedictine abbey. Wachau Austria makes for an ideal romantic getaway destination, away from the hustle bustle of the city in to a quaint small town setting, enjoying everything in medieval European style!
Melk to Krems Boat Tour

There are also boat tours from Melk to Krems and back, a great opportunity to enjoy the river Danube. Book your boat tour from Melk to Krems. 

If you drive to the Wachau Valley, explore Melk first and then take a boat tour to Krems and back to enjoy the scenic Danube River ride. 

7. Schloss Schönbühel

Schloss Schönbühel is a medieval castle that you will most likely see by the Danube river banks on your boat tour. This castle was built in the 12th century in the town of Schönbühel-Aggstein.  

Visit the picturesque Wachau Valley of Austria - day trip from Vienna. Explore the Melk and the Krems, sail on the Danube River, bike through the valley, take a wine tasting tour, visit the beautiful castles and Benedictine abbey. Wachau Austria makes for an ideal romantic getaway destination, away from the hustle bustle of the city in to a quaint small town setting, enjoying everything in medieval European style!

The castle is situated on a rock (40 metres above sea level), just like the Aggstein fortress (which is in ruins). The castle was built as a defensive fortress in the 12th century. Its owner and builder were Marchwardus de Schoenbuchele. 

After him, the castle had passed through the hands of many owners. It stayed with the Starhemberg family for over 400 years and was later sold to Count Oswald von Seilern und Aspang.

8. Aggstein Fortress Ruins

The Aggstein fortress was built in the early 12th century. It was built to monitor the traffic coming and going from the Danube River.

The fortress was built on a narrow ridge 480 metres above sea level. It has hidden stairways, courtyards, and towers, including a dungeon and a chapel, making this place a great spot to explore the historical remnants of the valley.

The Aggstein castle is in ruins now, but it offers breathtaking views of the entire Wachau Valley. 

Read: Most beautiful places in Austria

9. Dürnstein

Durnstein is one of the stunning towns in Krems, in the lower Danube River. This small town is very picturesque with its blue baroque cathedral tower, medieval castles, and the river valley itself.

10. Dürnstein Castle

There are quite a few things that you can explore here. One of them is Dürnstein Castle. Dürnstein Castle is a medieval ruined castle at 315 metres above sea level. 

Village, church and Castle of Durnstein in Wachau on Danube, an Unesco World Heritage SIte of Austria
Village of Durnstein

The castle that you see in the background is the Durnstein Castle. The rock castle was built in the 12th century but was destroyed in the 17th century. This castle is known for the imprisonment of King Richard I of England, who was kept captive here. 

Although an abandoned castle, the Dürnstein castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the Wachau Valley.

11. Blue Monastery Church and Abbey (Stilt Dürnstein)

The beautiful blue colored cathedral tower will definitely catch your attention in Dürnstein. The Blue Monastery Church was built in the 1700s and is one of the finest baroque towers in the whole of Austria. Guided tours are available at the abbey.

Durnstein - Vienna to Wachau Valley day trip Itinerary

There are beautiful paintings and sculptures inside the church. The church is open for prayers.

12. Winery and Vineyards in Durnstein

Domane Wachau is a popular winery in the area. A small group wine tour in the Wachau Valley costs about 145 USD. Find out more about wine tours here

Visit the picturesque Wachau Valley of Austria - day trip from Vienna. Explore the Melk and the Krems, sail on the Danube River, bike through the valley, take a wine tasting tour, visit the beautiful castles and Benedictine abbey. Wachau Austria makes for an ideal romantic getaway destination, away from the hustle bustle of the city in to a quaint small town setting, enjoying everything in medieval European style!

13. Enjoy the evening stroll and the small-town beauty!

Dürnstein and the Wachau Valley, in general, are not touristic. It is not crowded like Vienna or Prague. But we assure you it is beautiful, natural, and packed with history and typical medieval European vibes. 

Enjoy a romantic evening stroll or bike around the small towns and absorb all the serenity.

Wachau Valley Hotels

You can book your accommodation here in the valley for an overnight stay or longer. Hotel rooms range from USD 150 to $300 USD+ depending on the luxury level and the amenities it offers. 

Some of the hotel options are

Luxury Hotels in Wachau, Austria

  • Hotel Garni Weinquadrat – Central location close to the cruise port. They have a good restaurant and modern rooms. Check hotel prices here
  • Hotel Schloss Durnstein – This beautiful and vintage-looking hotel castle is located in Durnstein in the Krems-Land district, and this one has great reviews. Live your medieval dream here! Check hotel prices here

Good Value Hotels in Wachau, Austria

  • Gasthof zum grünen Baum – Good value hotel, located close to the Furth-Palt train station and easily accessible to explore the Benedictine abbey.  Check hotel prices here
  • Gästehaus Denk Rudolf – Good value and great access to most of the sightseeing spots in the Danube Valley – Melk and Krems. Check hotel prices here

Need more hotel options in Wachau, Austria? Search here

Other planning tips for the Wachau Valley

When is the best time to visit Wachau, Austria

Early summer or autumn is the best time to explore the Wachau Valley and experience the beautiful greenery. We visited during early spring in March; depending on the forecast, some days could be gloomy and rainy!

Packing tips for Wachau Valley

Make sure to pack comfortable and sturdy shoes, as Wachau Valley is best explored on foot. Also, perfect if you plan on hiking or join a cycling tour. Don’t forget to bring layers of clothing as the weather can be unpredictable, and you may need a light jacket during the evenings. 

Waterproof gear for spring and fall is a must

We were grateful to have packed our waterproof jacket and scarf, especially when we were on the boat ride and exploring the vineyards – it rained and was also slightly windy. 

And don’t forget your camera to capture all the beautiful sights!

Should you carry cash for sightseeing in Wachau Valley?

While most places in Wachau Valley accept credit cards, it is always a good idea to carry some cash with you. This is especially true if you plan on visiting smaller towns or local markets where cash may be the only accepted form of payment. 

It is also recommended to exchange your currency for Euros before arriving in Austria, or use something such a WISE debit card.

Is the Wachau Valley and the Melk Abbey worth a visit?

Absolutely YES! The Wachau Valley deserves a visit to explore and admire what the Austrian countryside offers. If you visit Vienna, you will appreciate the different landscapes and vibe of the Wachau Valley. 

From wine tasting to river cruises, there is something for everybody here. You can either take it slow, visit a vineyard, Melk Abbey, have lunch, enjoy a river cruise, or take in the views of the valley and the castle ruins.  

Or you can have a jam-packed day or a weekend where you explore all of the UNESCO Heritage sites (castles, Abbey, fortress ruins) and learn about their history, visit a few vineyards (via wine tasting tours), go on a biking tour through the valley (or wander around) and also enjoy a boat trip. 

There are many day trips that you can take from Vienna (like Salzburg, Bratislava, Vienna Woods), but with the sheer amount of beauty that the Wachau Valley has, it deserves a visit. 

In conclusion, if you are staying in Vienna for 3 days or more, consider traveling to the Wachau Valley for a day and experiencing the beautiful Austrian countryside; you won’t want to leave.

Additional Reading for your trip to Austria

Pin – Vienna to Wachau Valley Tour Itinerary: Wachau Valley Austria

Visit the picturesque Wachau Valley of Austria - day trip from Vienna. Explore the Melk and the Krems, sail on the Danube River, bike through the valley, take a wine tasting tour, visit the beautiful castles and Benedictine abbey. Wachau Austria makes for an ideal romantic getaway destination, away from the hustle bustle of the city in to a quaint small town setting, enjoying everything in medieval European style! #traveltips #smalltowns #europe #abandonedcastles #boattour
Day trip to Wachau Valley: Tour Vienna

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33 Comments

  1. I need to go here! Austria is my favourite European country. I didnt make it here though. Just Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna – a trip back is needed!

  2. I need to go here! Austria is my favourite European country. I havent made it here but have seen Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna. Now i need to go back!

  3. Your pictures are stunning! I’d love to visit Wachau Valley by doing a roadtrip through and visiting the vineyards! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. You have no idea how much I love the Wachau Valley. I have cruised the Upper Rhine Valley and I think the Wachau Valley, which is less known, is way more spectacular. We spent a day there (from Vienna) but would like to visit back and stay on the area several nights.

  5. Oh, it’s such a shame I didn’t find this post before going to Vienna! Wachau Valley looks so sweet. I love the architectural style. And it’s definitely not far from the capital!

  6. OOh Wachau is one of the few places in Austria I have not been! The Melk Abbey and the vineyards look lovely. I would love to go back to Austria one day and I will have to squeeze a visit to the Wachau Valley on now.

  7. What an absolutely stunning place! I have never heard of Wachau Valley but s going on my list when I’m in Vienna. Love that the entire valley is UNESCO heritage listed. The abbey looks incredible and I’m a wine lover so I’d definitely be interested in a wine tour. Gorgeous pictures.

  8. Woooow! I LOVE seeing castles, and these Austrian medieval castles look fantastic! The view from Schloss Schönbühel from the river is particularly gorgeous!

    I love the idea of combining a holiday full of history, castles AND wineries! 😉

  9. I fell like everyone thinks of Vienna and the Alps when they think of Austria, but there’s so much to see in between! There are some stunning locations in this post, especially Aggstein Fortress. Would love to get back to Austria some day.

  10. I’d never heard of the Wachau Valley before, but *wow* are those pictures gorgeous! Yet another beautiful place to add to the ever-growing list 🙂 Thanks for the guide!

  11. Hi Mayuri

    Good thing that we saw this blog before going to Austria. We are now planning to go to Wachau Valley, appreciate if you can let us know the exact place to take the overlooking picture above with vines (tagged as “Wachau Valley” above). Thanks

    1. Thanks so much Ken! You can capture amazing shots of the Wachau valley from Durnstein ruins. Hope you have a wonderful trip to Austria!
      Take care

  12. I’m going to Vienna in early December, do you think it would still make an enjoyable day trip that time of year?

    1. Hi Emma,
      Wachau in December is beautiful in its own unique way. Winters in Wachau are not SUPER cold (like Canada or some cities in the states). However you won’t be able to take boat or river tours for the most part of December (and winter). Instead what you can do is enjoy the white wintry landscape of Wachau (especially Durnstein) – views vineyards from a hotel’s hot whirlpool or enjoy some wine.
      Melk Abbey is only accessible through guided tours in winters (from Nov to March), so if you wish to visit book a tour in advance. You can visit the Aggstein ruins for some Christmas shopping/markets in December.

      Make sure you pack well for winters! Happy Travels!

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