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. The valley is located between the towns of Krem and Melk in Austria and the beautiful landscape is formed by the river Danube. In this post, we will explore the highlights of Vienna to Wachau Valley day trip itinerary.
The Wachau Valley is very European– in the sense, the countryside reminds you of historic times with rivers, castles, and churches that spring every now and then as you drive along the 25-mile road stretch.
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, whilst keeping the natural evolution intact.
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Vienna to Wachau Valley Day Trip Itinerary: Wachau Austria
How to get to Wachau Valley from Vienna?
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 from overseas like United States, Canada, or New Zealand). Once in Vienna, you can rent a car and drive to Wachau (about 1 hour).
- Vienna to Wachau Valley train – There are morning trains available from Vienna to Wachau and it costs 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.
- Traveling to Wachau is possible by local transit as well. It does take 2.50 hours and the journey is a combination of transit trains and buses.
Options for Vienna Wachau Valley Tour
You can book for a full-day tour from Vienna to Wachau Valley which includes sightseeing as well. Book Here for a full-day tour from Vienna to Wachau Valley
Full day tour highlights: 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 as well as a boat tour. The Wachau Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it attracts visitors for history and winery!
The guide also shares stories and history of the valley, including the Benedictine Abbey of Melk. You get to experience the quaint Austrian countryside, with picturesque villages and vineyards, while cruising on the Danube River. Book Here for a full-day tour from Vienna to Wachau Valley
Prime Attractions: Danube River Cruise, vineyards, Dürnstein Castle, Benedictine Abbey of Melk tour
We drove to the Wachau Valley from Vienna with a local guide (tour bus). The drive was scenic and we got down at the Abbey and had pit-spots along the way, covering a few churches, vineyards, and river-banks along the way.
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.
- A cruise lasts about 3 hours+ (return trip) and you can explore both Krem and the Melk towns. There is an amazing combo ticket which includes the transport fare from Vienna, cruise, and entrance to the Dürnstein Castle.
- You can also explore the valley on bikes and cover the beautiful riverside and the Abbey. Check out bike tours in Wachau Valley
Here are great tours for you to consider
|Wachau Austria Tours|
|Wachau & Salzburg 1 day tour (upto 3 people)|
|Vienna to Wachau Day Tour|
|Full day Sightseeing & Wine tour|
|Bike & Sightseeing Tour|
|Half day tour to Wachau|
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 and depending on the forecast, some days could be gloomy and rainy!
Wachau Valley Hotels
For an overnight stay or longer, you can book your accommodation here in the valley. Hotel rooms range from $150 USD 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. Good restaurant and modern rooms. Check hotel prices here
- Hotel Schloss Durnstein – Beautiful and vintage-looking hotel-castle located in Durnstein in 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 options for hotels in Wachau Austria? Search here
Things to do in Wachau Valley Day Trip
We were staying in Vienna for a few days and we decided to visit the nearby Wachau Valley. We say, nearby because – 1-hour drive is not a LONG drive for us. The weather was overcast and was slightly raining that day. This made the valley even more beautiful and serene.
We visited the Wachau Valley in the month of March and the tourist season had not picked up yet. This allowed us to take tons of pictures in Melk Abbey and spend ample time there.
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 far distance and the river flowing alongside your road. Isn’t that romantic already? Definitely consider pit-stops to take pictures or walk by some of the water banks or mini-ports to soak in the beautiful nature.
A visit to the Vineyards
The Wachau Valley produces one of the most popular white wines in the region. The Danube has an extremely diverse geological terrain and along with its waterway through terraces makes the cultivation of vines on these inclines very unique and picturesque at the same time.
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.
Melk Abbey is one of the biggest baroque abbeys in Europe. It is a Benedictine abbey located in the town of Melk adjoining the Wachau valley. The abbey is striking with its bright yellow color painted all over.
The abbey 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 Austria ruling dynasties and their rulers that are housed inside the abbey. It is believed that Maria Theresa received 40 kg of gold and it is preserved in the abbey.
The entrance of the abbey is decorated with golden leaves and white marble statues. A visit of the monastery includes the Imperial Staircase, the Imperial Corridor, the abbey museum, the Marble Hall, the balcony, the library, and the abbey church as well as the abbey park with its Baroque pavilion.
You can capture amazing shots from the panoramic terrace and also visit special exhibitions held in the abbey. By walking through the lobby you will enter the Stiftskirche which was 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 was the winner of the award for “Best Historic Destination of the World” in 2008. The entrance to the abbey costs 11 Euros. You can access the abbey with a guided tour that runs from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm local time. Check out their fees here
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 wooded with many trees that are over 400 years old. The gardens end on a hilltop, and from here you can soak in and capture amazing views of the Abbey, and the valley.
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.
The village center is located downhill from the Abbey and only takes a few minutes to reach. Although small, the old town center of Melk has hotels, cafes, church, and their 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 pretty buildings and greenery of the village, and enjoy its quaint ambiance.
After exploring Melk Abbey, it is a good time for some lunch, before heading to Krems.
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. There are also boat tours from Melk to Krems and back, and this is a great opportunity to enjoy the river Danube. Book your boat tour from Melk to Krems.
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. 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 later sold to Count Oswald von Seilern und Aspang.
Aggstein Fortress Ruins
The Aggstein fortress was built in the early 12th century. It was built with the intention to monitor the traffic coming and going from the Danube river. The fortress was built on the top of a narrow ridge, 480 metres above sea level.
The castle is in ruins now, but it offers breathtaking views of the entire Wachau Valley. The fortress has hidden stairways, courtyards, and towers including a dungeon and a chapel which makes this place a great spot to explore the historical remnants of the valley.
Durnstein is one of the stunning towns located in Krems, in the lower Danube river. This small town is very picturesque with its blue baroque cathedral tower, medieval castles, and of course the river valley itself.
There are quite a few things that you can explore here. One of them is Dürnstein Castle. Dürnstein Castle is a medieval ruined castle, situated at 315 metres above sea level. 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.
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. There are beautiful paintings and sculptures inside the church. The church is open for prayers.
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 $145USD. Find out more about wine tours here
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 very beautiful, natural and is packed with history and typical medieval European vibes. Enjoy a romantic evening stroll or bike around the small towns and absorb all the serenity.
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 has to offer. If you are visiting Vienna, you will appreciate the different landscapes and vibe that the Wachau Valley offers.
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 and 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 experience the beautiful Austrian countryside, you won’t want to leave.
Additional Reading for your trip to Austria
- Salzburg: Explore in 2 days
- Vienna in March: Visit Austrian city in spring
- Central Europe: Visit Munich, Salzburg, Prague, Vienna in 2 weeks
- Europe 101 – Our introductory guide to planning a trip to Europe.
- European Bucket list – Epic 101 Europe travel bucket list ideas
- Europe Itinerary Samples – 27 itinerary samples to plan your sightseeing in one or multiple destinations in Europe.
- Visiting Europe in winter – Here are some of the best traveler picks.
- Warm places in Europe? – Here are the warmest places to visit in Europe from December through March.
- Europe Packing Guide – This is the only packing guide to Europe you will ever need.