This week, we’re going to take you out of Vienna, into one of Austria’s very loveliest regions, as we explore the Wachau in Lower Austria together, home to marvellous wines, incredibly picturesque landscapes and places overflowing with history. The Wachau is a truly magical region.
For many townies, the Wachau was something of a place of longing around 1900, an area of ruined clifftop castles high above the river, farmers’ gardens strewn with fresh flowers, dreamy womens’ figures out walking... Many artists have been inspired by the environment here, indeed, and created beautiful landscape paintings.
You can enjoy the works of art we’ve just mentioned at Landesgalerie Niederösterreich, the new museum in Krems, where you’ll find treasures of painting, graphics, photography, and installations from various epochs in art, spread out over three storeys. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself miss the wonderful panorama from the terrace on the third floor: the Danube stretching out into the landscape beneath, and in the distance, Göttweig Abbey and the old town of Stein rising up from the ground. The view is like a silent invitation to admire the Wachau from a whole range of different perspectives.
One of the loveliest look-out points – and the best all-round view anywhere in the area – can be found at Göttweig Abbey. Some 1,000 years ago, Benedictine monks founded a spiritual centre here, at an altitude of 422 metres above sea level. Thanks to its incredible mountaintop location, it is also known as the “Austrian Montecassino”, inspired by the mother cloister of the Order in Italy. Take the time to enjoy the panorama. You’ve got the entire Danube Valley at your feet!
On the right-hand bank of the Danube is the small market community of Rossatz, directly opposite the town of Dürnstein, where the symbol of the Wachau, Dürnstein Abbey, is to be found. On autumn days in particular, the Danube radiates the same gentle blue as the tower of the abbey church. Rossatz is not just the home of the famed Wachauer Marille apricot, however, but also the starting-out point for an equally great hike. The World Heritage Climb takes you up to the Seekopf, the 671-metre-high lookout spot, in three hours, after which you can just let your eyes glide across the Danube, the Dunkelsteinerwald woods and beyond.
Now we return to Dürnstein. A theme trail snakes its way through the time-honoured alleyways up to the ruin, so you can bring the saga around Richard the Lionheart to life, step by step. The one-time King of England was captured and held here, before being freed by his faithful servant, the troubadour Blondel.
Another walk takes you up onto the Kellerberg mountain. Young designers from St. Pölten, Lower Austria’s capital, have created a panoramic picnic space here. Take a bottle of fulminant white wine with you, and enjoy this with a view of the old grapes in the vineyards. You can also taste these grapes in the district of Loiben, however, or the neighbouring town of Joching – also home to some of the best restaurants in the Wachau.
Our next stop along the way in the Wachau is a highlight for all wine connoisseurs and wine lovers, home to incomparable Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings. At the very heart of the vineyards, a church dominates the landscape, which dates back to the 13th century. The building would once have offered the locals protection from hostile knights.
#AGGSTEIN CASTLE RUINS
We don’t want to deprive you of another imposing architectural structure: Aggstein Castle is perched like an eagle’s nest atop its rock. Along the World Heritage Climb, Stage 10 leads from Aggsbach Dorf up to the castle ruin, and takes three hours. Once you’re up there, the sight alone is reward enough. So stop off and take a few quiet moments here, look into the distance – and enjoy!
#GRAPE HARVEST AND FESTIVALS
When the leaves exchange their radiant green colours to red and brown, and the days are starting to get shorter, you know it’s time for the grape harvest for another year in Wachau. Celebrations are held across the region; it gets particularly festive in Spitz in October, at the harvest festival. So, get to know regional customs, and admire the traditional Wachau costumes there.
It’s only a few kilometres from Vienna out into the Wachau. Perfect for taking a day trip or weekend trip! Our tip: the whole region is impressive, with its breathtaking nature, and never more so than in spring and autumn. Why not come and see for yourself?