Melk Abbey & Danube River, Austria

Updated: Mar 21

While in Vienna we planned a side trip to Melk Abbey and of a Danube River boat cruise from Krems to Melk followed by a 24-mile bike ride back to Krems.


Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey located above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river. The site originally served as the castle residence of the Babenbergs, who ruled Austria from 976 to 1101 when the Hapsburgs took over. The castle and surrounding lands were given in 1111 to the huge Benedictine abbey of Melk (founded in 1089), which dominates the city.


Although I rarely use other individual's photographs in blogs, this aerial view of the Abbey was so impressive and shows the entire complex.

By User:MatthiasKabel - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12039388

The entire Abbey exterior is painted in a rich yellow gold color.

Golden painted walls of entrance to Melk Abbey in Austria

The main building at the entrance.

Gold colored main building of Melk Abbey in Austria

The inner courtyard.

Interior courtyard of Melk Abbey in Austria
Gold colored building in Melk Abbey in Austria

The courtyard overlooking the valley below.

Exterior courtyard of Melk Abbey in Austria
Looking over valleys surrounding Melk Abbey in Austria

The Abbey Church is one of the most beautiful church interiors I have ever seen. Taking pictures in the church is prohibited but I found an authorized photo that I've posted to give you can get a glimpse of the magnificent interior.

Attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=128025

The grounds included beautiful gardens.

Beautiful garden on the grounds of Melk Abbey in Austria

Great view of the river valley taken from the gardens.

View of the river valley from the grounds of Melk Abbey in Austria

Our attempt at being artsy?

After the tour and walking around the gardens, we headed into the village and grabbed a coffee and pastry.

Plaza and shops in the Village of Melk in Austria

What great views from the village.

View of Melk Abbey in the hill above the village of Melk Austria
View of Melk Abbey in the hill above the village of Melk Austria

We stayed overnight in a small village by Krems. It was very quaint and had lots of vineyards surrounding the village.


Danube River Cruise from Krems to Melk and then return by bike to Krems

After overnighting in the area, we had a full-day planned that involved a Danube River cruise from Krems to Melk and then a 24-mile bike ride back to Krems.


Part 1: Danube River Cruise

Let's just start off by saying that finding where the ship departed was one challenge and parking the car was another. By the time we found the port there wasn't much time to rent bikes and buy boat tickets. I jumped out to buy the tickets and then ran to the bike rental shop. After a struggle, I was able to get the bikes. Dave showed up a few minutes before we needed to board. It had taken him forever to find a parking spot and then when he did the meters were only in German so he couldn't figure out the instructions. Oh, he forgot to set the parking brake and the car began to roll backwards in the parking lot when he was trying to figure out the parking meter. Luckily he was able to quickly get back in the car and hit the brakes! In the end it all worked out without damage to the car but he did deposit enough money for us to park for a few days. Who cares ... we made the boat.


It was a warm late morning departure from Kremas and a leisurely 3 hour cruise.

Danube River cruise from Krems to Melk in Austria
Village of Krems along the Danube River in Austria

The Wachau Valley is an Austrian region near the Danube River, west of Vienna. It was quickly apparent that the valley is famous for its rolling hills, vineyards, and fortresses.

Cruising the Danube River through the Wachau Valley in Austria

Time to chill with a beer after the stressful start to today!

Enjoying a beer on the Danube River cruise from Krems to Melk

What a great way to see the countryside.

Vineyards of the Wachau Valley along the Danube River in Austria

One of the most impressive stops along the way, the town of Duerstin, came early in the ride. The Durnstein Abbey was established in 1410 and the present complex was built starting in 1710. The monastery with its blue tower is the landmark of the Wachau Valley. After Emperor Joseph II dissolved the monastery in 1788 as part of his religious reforms but later became part of the Augustinian order.

Beautiful blue tower of the Durnstein Abbey established in 1410 along the Danube River in Austria

The castle on the hill was built in the 12th century. The castle became famous as the prison of King Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart). On his return from the Third Crusade, he was captured and imprisoned by Duke Leopold V of Austria of the House of Babenberg. He was held from December 1192 until his extradition to Emperor Henry VI in March 1193.

12th century castle along the Danube River in Austria where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned
By planola, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52687655
Cruising the Danube River through the Wachau Valley in Austria

Iconic views of the villages along the river.

Vineyards in small village located outside of Krems, Austria
Danube River cruise from Krems to Melk in Austria

The Castle of Hinterhaus near Spitz dates back to the 12th century.

The Castle of Hinterhaus near Spitz dates back to the 12th century.  Danube River cruise from Krems to Melk

Schoenbuehel Castle stands 130 feet above the bank of the Danube atop a rock thought once to have supported a Roman fortress.

Schoenbuehel Castle stands 130 feet above the bank of the Danube River. Danube River cruise from Krems to Melk

Dave chowing down the last of the food before the boat docked.

Part 2: Biking Along the Danube

After the relaxing cruise, we began the 25 mile/40 km bike trail back to Krems.

Biking in the Wachau Valley along the Danube River in Austria

Aside from a couple of slightly inland treks, most of the trail was riding along the beautiful Danube shoreline and fruit orchards that lined the river. We stopped across from the Durnstein Abbey, enjoyed a beer, and cooled our feet off at a small beach. What a great day away from the crowds after spending so much time in Vienna.

Biking in the Wachau Valley along the Danube River in Austria

Cycling through some of the local vineyards.

Biking along vineyards and orchards along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley

Quaint villages along the bike trail.

Biking through quaint villages along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria

The four-meter high concrete nose, which officially opens in 2014 and was immediately condemned by local officials as offensive. The huge 'schnozz' is intended to be part of a giant who is sleeping buried beneath the earth in the beautiful Wachau valley region. Of course Dave wanted to stop for a picture.

Giant nose sculpture in village along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria

Aggstein Castle dates located high in the hills above the Danube back to the 12th century although most of what is visible dates to the 1420s when significant renovations were completed.

Aggstein Castle in the hills above the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria
Biking through quaint villages along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria

Time for a beer and cooling off in the Danube.

Beers at a beach along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria
Beers at a beach along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria
Cooling off in the waters of the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria

Approaching Krems and the end of our bike ride.

Biking through quaint villages along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria

Bikes returned so now time to drive back to Vienna.

End of a bike ride along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley of Austria  

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