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 an UNESCO 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.
How to get to Wachau Valley Austria?
There are many ways to get to the Wachau Valley.
- Easiest way is to arrive in Vienna (or Vienna International Airport, if flying from overseas). Once in Vienna, you can rent a car and drive to Wachau (about 1 hour).
- There are morning trains available from Vienna to Wachau and it costs about 15 Euros. Westbanhof is a train station 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 train and buses.
Options for Wachau Valley Tour
Once you have arrived in Wachau, you can explore the valley on bike, via cruise or by driving along. You can also book for a full day tour from Vienna to Wachau Valley which includes sightseeing as well.
- 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
- We drove to the Wachau Valley with a local guide. 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.
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. 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?
Vienna to Wachau Valley Day Trip: Wachau Austria
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 the Melk Abbey and spend ample time there.
Drive Along The Valley
The Wachau Valley is beautiful because its 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 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 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 century. The Wachau Valley region has about 124 vineyards and 650 growers cultivating on 3300+ acres of land.
The 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 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
After exploring Melk, it is a good time for some lunch, before heading to Krems. There are many ways to reach Krems from Melk. It is about an 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.
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 was 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 an 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.
Durstein 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 the Dürnstein Castle. Dürnstein Castle is a medieval ruined castle, situated at 315 metres above sea level. The castle that you see at the background is the Durstein Castle.
The rock castle was built in the 12th century, but was destroyed in the 17th century. This castle is known for imprisonment of King Richard I of England, who was kept captive here. Although an abandoned castle, the Dürnstein castle is an UNESCO 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 1700’s 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 Durstein
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 is 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.
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 wont want to leave.
Additional Reading for your trip to Austria
- If this is your first trip to Europe, read our Europe Planning guide 101
- Need a visa for Europe, read this useful guide to Schengen Visa
- Need an Itinerary inspiration for Vienna – read our 2 day itinerary
- Visiting Salzburg in Austria as well? Read our 2 day itinerary
Last Update – January 18 2019
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