An Abbey, a Ruin, and the Beautiful Wachau Valley

Wachau Valley drive

1.5 hours drive from Vienna, Krems is a nice town to visit and a great base for sightseeing in the Wachau Valley.

Top Experiences

  • Melk Abbey (Stift Melk) – it’s Big, it’s beautiful, it’s unforgettable
  • Driving up one side of the Danube from Krems to Melk and back the other
  • Climbing up the Dürnstein Ruins

Austria, Czech Republic, and Germany Map

Krems an der Donau – UNESCO World Heritage List


Entry to Krems – Steiner Tor

Hotel Unter den Linden, 2 nights in a charming comfort double room, breakfast included

Our visit to Krems started in the afternoon with a map from the hotel and a stroll up the pedestrian-only main street of the pretty town. It didn’t take long to see some highlights pointed out on the map, up a hill on the long stairway to the Piarist Church, back down to the Parish Church, and up and down the lively main street.

Leaving the town we walked down to Stein and then the walking/biking promenade along the Danube to make a long circular walk back to Krems. After that long walk, we were now in search of a place for dinner and lucky for us, the courtyard restaurant in the Gasthof Alte Post (Hotel Alte Post) was open, serving some delicious traditional Austrian food with a whole lot of ambiance.

Tip: Bikes, bikes, bikes! Lots of biking on the promenade, if you’re in the area long than we were, renting a bike for a day or a few hours is the way to go.

Driving tour up to Melk Abbey and back to Krems

The Wachau Valley between Melk and Krems is a UNESCO World Heritage landscape, and a great way to see it is driving up one side of the Danube and down the other. We started out early (for us!), crossed the Danube to route 33 to go to the Melk Abbey for the 10:55 English tour.

Wachau Valley

Views across the Danube from route 33

Beautiful views up, down, and across the Danube of towns and ruins and vineyards spilling down the hills. But not too much stopping! We needed plenty of time for the famous Melk Abbey.

Melk Abbey courtyard

Melk Abbey courtyard

Melk Abbey

Stift Melk (Melk Abbey) is big, beautiful and unforgettable. The first stop is the ticket office to get on an English language tour. You can visit without a guide, but we always get a lot more out of a visit when we’re with someone who can point out the highlights and tell us about the history. The tour meets at the ticket office, starts in the huge courtyard, goes through the museum, the ballroom, and into the historic library. At the end you are on your own to head downstairs to the immense and jaw dropping baroque church.

Melk Abbey church interior

Melk Abbey church interior

When we finally left the church I said “That’s it, no need to go to another Abbey – nothing can top this!”

Tip: If you take the 10:55 am guided tour, stay in the church for the 12:00 service. It’s all in German but it’s only 15 minutes long and you can follow along (or join in the singing!) with the program handout that is on each pew. A great end to an unforgettable Abbey.

Tip: Don’t be tempted to go over to the Abbey before the tour, instead, head to the grounds to walk around. Speedy people will need about 45 minutes to do a circuit around and get back in time for the 10:55 tour.


We left the Melk Abbey and crossed the Danube over to Route 3 to get to Dürnstein. After driving through the tunnel under the town, we backtracked to the first parking lot which was small but the most convenient. From here it’s a short walk along the Danube and up a stairway tunneled through the rock to get to the main street in pretty and tiny Dürnstein.

View from Durnstein ruins

View from Durnstein ruins

Burgruine Dürnstein (Dürnstein Ruins)

The ruins perched above the town are famous – Richard the Lionheart (Richard I of England) was imprisoned here. We hoofed it up the first path we came across that pointed to the ruins, a steep and rocky trail to the top. The views of the Wachau Valley from the ruin are worth the climb. Tip: If you see clouds don’t forget to bring your umbrella!

Story stops along the easy trail to Durnstein ruins

Story stops along the easy trail to Durnstein ruins

We took the easy route on the way back, stopping at every one of the picture board history stops that tell the story of the characters in this true life drama starring Richard the Lionheart.


The easy path is the route you should take up, leading you gently from the main street it builds up the story along the way. So we got it backwards, but in our case it worked out better that we zipped up the rough trail, we were at the top of the ruin no more than 10 minutes admiring the view when it started raining.

Leaving Krems

Krems was one of our few 2 night stops on this trip, and like usual just 2 nights left us wanting more.

Travel: Sightseeing drive through the Kamp Valley from Krems to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic, stopping along the way at Schloss Rosenburg and Schloss Greillenstein.

Tip: The corner of the Czech Republic that we were driving in did not have a toll sticker requirement. If you’re venturing farther, check the Czech Republic toll roads to see if you need to buy one.

Wachau Valley Handy Resource List

Austria, Czech Republic, and Germany Map

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