If visions of storybook castles, misty vineyards and fairytale villages dance in your head, set sail along the Danube River to Austria’s Wachau Valley - and, in particular, Dürnstein. Known as the “Pearl of the Wachau,” Dürnstein has been around since 1192, when Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner in the city’s castle during the Third Crusade. Today, Dürnstein is one of the top destinations on the Danube for history, culture, architecture and wine tasting. Here’s what you should do while you’re there.
Visit the Dürnstein Castle Ruins
Make your way on a guided hike up the hill (about a half-hour walk) to the rocky ridge where once King Richard the Lionheart of England was held captive by Leopold V, Duke of Austria. While the ancient castle fortress itself has not survived the centuries, you’ll feel history come alive around you as you gaze out at the vineyard-studded countryside and the Wachau Valley.
Take a guided hike and tour the ancient castle fortress or enjoy a guided city tour.
Walk the Haupstrasse
The main street through Dürnstein, the Hauptstrasse, makes for an atmospheric stroll, as you wander past exquisitely decorated historic residences, some of which date back to the 1500s. The level of restoration and maintenance is particularly impressive, considering the age of the buildings. While you’re in town, visit the 15th-century Stift Dürnstein (Dürnstein Abbey). Originally an Augustinian monastery, it was reconstructed in Baroque style and today its tower is a striking, blue-and-white landmark above the Danube Valley. Inside, look for altar paintings by Kremser Schmidt, a noted Baroque artist.
Riverside and courtyard views of the Stift Dürnstein (Dürnstein Abbey)
Sip the Wine
Spend an afternoon at Domane Wachau, with hundreds of acres of vineyards as part of a wine-growing cooperative. Notice the old, dry stone walls that reinforce the steep vineyard terraces. The cooperative offers vintages from the most prestigious sites in the region, including Achleiten, Kollmitz, Loibenberg and Tausend-Eimer-Berg. Need a little sustenance with your wine tasting? Dürnstein is also known for its apricot products, so be on the lookout for fantastic jams and other treats. Some of the best traditional restaurants for local cuisine in Dürnstein are the Altes Presshaus and the Dürnsteinherhof.
Skip Over to Krems
Just down the river, Krems is a lovely add-on to your Dürnstein and Wachau Valley wanderings. It’s one of the most scenic towns in the area and can trace its settlement history back to 995 AD. Put aside a couple of hours to visit the medieval gate of Steiner Tor, the only remaining gate from the city walls, walk the main street of Obere Landstrasse to see the traditional burgher houses of Old Town (don’t miss the 13th-century Gozzoburg House) and taste a few of the valley’s incredible wines at one of the many convivial cafes throughout town.
If storybook Europe - particularly the romantic Danube and the Wachau Valley - sounds intriguing, let’s set you up on a luxury river cruise that will place you right in the heart of a fairytale. Whatever your passion or travel style, there’s a river cruise perfect for you. Reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page. I'd love to chat!