Wachau is a well-known region between Melk and Krems in Austria, along the Danube. It is famous for its stunning natural scenery, picturesque vineyards, charming villages and historical attractions. The valley has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000 and is a popular tourist destination.
The territory is famous for producing high-quality white wines, especially Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. It is home to medieval castles, monasteries and the magnificent Melk Abbey. And if you get tired of the cultural sights, head to the banks of the Danube, where you can go boating, cycling or see the charming towns and steep terraced vineyards.
Map - Where is Wachau located?
The region is located in the northeastern part of Austria in the province of Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), between the eastern peaks of the Alps. It follows the narrow and winding section of the Danube between the cities of Melk and Krems. The distance between the two cities is 60 km, which is approx. a 45-minute drive. It is bordered by the forested Dunkelsteinerwald mountain range to the north and the Göttweig mountain range to the south.
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- Distance from Vienna: 110 km / 1.5 hours
- Distance from St Pölten: 30 km / 0.5 hours
- Melk: known for its Baroque-style Melk Abbey overlooking the Danube. Melk is a picturesque town that serves as the gateway to the region. The abbey is a huge Benedictine monastery that is one of the most iconic landmarks in the area. Its impressive architecture and extensive library make it a popular tourist attraction.
- Krems an der Donau: at the eastern entrance to the valley is the historic city of Krems with its well-preserved old town. It awaits you with medieval architecture, cobbled streets and cosy restaurants. You can see notable sights like the Steiner Tor, a preserved medieval city gate, and the Göglhaus, a Renaissance building.
- Dürnstein: A picturesque town famous for its blue-towered church and the ruins of Dürnstein Castle. It is known for its connection to the legend of Richard the Lionheart.
- Spitz: Located on the banks of the river, Spitz is a charming village with a beautiful waterfront promenade. It has stunning views of the vineyards and is a great place for wine lovers.
- Weißenkirchen in der Wachau: the town is characterized by its medieval architecture and vineyards. It is known for its wine production and hosts the annual Wachau Wine Festival.
- Emmersdorf an der Donau: Opposite to Melk, Emmersdorf is a small town overlooking the abbey.
- Aggsbach Dorf: a village is known for its hiking trails, nestled among vineyards and forests.
- Stein an der Donau: the small town is on the north bank. It is known for its traditional wine cells and cosy houses.
- Mautern: Located near Krems, Mautern is a historic town with a rich Roman past. It has ancient ruins, including the Roman tower and the Romanesque St. Stephen's Church.
- Schönbühel-Aggsbach: the village on the south bank is the privately owned Schönbühel Castle, a medieval fortress overlooking the river. Unfortunately, the castle cannot be visited.
- Willendorf in der Wachau: the village is known for the prehistoric figure, the Venus of Willendorf, which was found here.
- Maria Taferl: known for the Maria Taferl Basilica, located on the top of the hill. It's a popular destination for pilgrims.
Hiking and walking
The "Wachauer Weinweg" is the most famous wine route in the area. The designated walking path winds through vineyards for 180 kilometres. Of course, most people only walk one or two sections of the long hiking trail.
There are informative signs along the trail that provide information about the vineyards, the grape varieties and the winemaking techniques typical of the region. There are also designated rest areas and viewpoints to relax and admire the region's beauty. Contrary to its theme, let's bravely embark on the discovery with children, as they will also like the area's beauty.
One of the region's most beautiful and popular programs is the boat trips on the Danube. There are various types of boat trips available in Wachau. You can also find cruises or one-way tours. Some cruises also offer dining options, allowing you to sample the local wines.
- Duration: The boat tours can vary, but a typical sightseeing tour lasts 1-2 hours.
- Itineraries: trips usually run between the towns of Melk and Krems, covering the scenic stretch of the Danube through the valley. The route introduces the terraced vineyards, charming towns, historic castles and natural beauties of the region. There are programs with audio commentary accompanying your journey, but you can also get an audio guide or a brochure.
- Prices and times: boats depart every day during the season, and you can usually choose from several departures per day. A tour approx. costs 40 euros per adult, while children are given a discount.
- Seasonality: the season is usually from spring to autumn when the weather is favourable, and the region is bustling with tourists. The peak tourist season is usually in the summer, so buying your tickets in advance is advisable because they sell out quickly.
The steeply terraced vineyards, often overlooking the Danube, are characteristic of the countryside. The region's unique microclimate and soil mineral content contribute to the wines' high quality and distinctive character. You can explore vineyards and visit wineries for tastings and cellar tours to get to know the region's rich wine culture. The area is especially famous for its white wines; Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the region's flagship wines.
- Steinfeder: Steinfeder is the lightest and most delicious wine in the area. It is named after a type of grass that grows in vineyards and marks the beginning of spring.
- Federspiel: Federspiel wines represent the middle category regarding maturity and alcohol content. They typically show a more pronounced fruit flavour, minerality and complexity.
- Smaragd: Smaragd is the highest category and represents the region's most ripe and full-bodied wines.
Wine festivals and events are also held throughout the year, allowing you to taste a wide range of wines and learn about the vibrant local wine scene.
Programs, events and festivals
- Wachauer Weinfrühling: The Wine Festival, held annually in April or May, marks the beginning of the wine season in the region. The event in Weißenkirchen includes wine tastings, cellar tours, vineyard tours and culinary experiences.
- Wachauer Genießerfest: The Gourmet Festival presents the culinary delights of the region combined with its wines. It is usually held in May or June in Dürnstein. It features gourmet food stalls, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and live music.
- Wachau Marillenkirtag: The Apricot Festival celebrates this delicious fruit. Held at the end of July or the beginning of August, the festival takes place in Krems. You are greeted by a bustling market offering various peach-based products – jams, liqueurs, pastries and fresh apricots.
- Wachauer Weinwandertage: In the autumn season, usually organized in September, you can take part in tours organized among the vineyards during the Vineyard Tour Days. The event lasts for several days, and participants can follow designated hiking trails through the vineyards, stopping at wine stations to taste wines and local specialities.
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