The Danube, or Wachau, valley tour is a wonderful day trip from Vienna. It starts from Melk, with a tour of the famous Melk Abbey, followed by a ferry ride on the river Danube that take you past lovely countryside, stops by Durnstein, the beautiful town famous for its castle now in ruins and for its vineyards, and then takes you to Krems, another little town in Lower Austria. The trip looks daunting but is very easy to manage, all credit to the efficiency of the Austrian transport system.
This post will give you complete information on how to plan out your day, get the tickets and go about with the Danube Valley tour without a hitch!
Which ticket to buy for Danube Valley tour and how to reach Melk Abbey? Start from Wien Hauptbahnhof – the main station in Vienna. Buy a combo ticket (Train + Boat + Melk Abbey entry) all the way to Krems and return. Tickets (Eur 53 / adult), train timings etc. can be obtained from the website (https://kombitickets.railtours.at/wachau-ticket/austria/wachau/wachau-ticket.html) but we did not buy the tickets online as for some vague reason, the final bookings’ page is in German, not English!!! It was frankly, a little confusing. The combined ticket is valid for 4 days. We tookthe recommended 9 am train and reached Melk Hbf around 10 am. One changeover (6 mins) at St. Polten Hbf which was not a problem at all.
The Melk Abbey Tour: The massive ‘Benediktinerstift’ Abbey overlooks the town. You absolutely can’t help being awe struck. Simpy follow the crowd or take any lane going up through charming houses in the beautiful sleepy town and you will reach the Abbey’s gates.
The tour starts with a dose of the Abbey history and the Benedictine monks who have been staying here for over 900 years. A number of the rooms have been converted into a museum that tells the tale of its amazing history. The most interesting part of the tour is its world famous library which has an enviable collection including medieval manuscripts and books. And then, of course, is the grand baroque church with its majestic organ and elaborate frescos in its ceiling. There is a garden adjoining the Abbey. We suggest you go and take a peek, but not spend too much time, since there’s much to do during the day.
We bought an additional a guided tour (recommended) of the Abbey as there is so much to see and know. Photographs are not allowed in the library and part of the tour. The grand courtyard is wonderful, and it makes sense to wait for good sunlight.
Read about the Melk Abbey tour in details by clicking this link — Melk Abbey Tour, Austria
Where to have lunch during the Danube Valley day tour? We suggest you grab an early lunch and walk to the river front, and keep left towards the quay. You can have it at the restaurant of the Melk Abbey, which we did, and was blown off our feet, or you could walk down the steps to Melk town and eat at one of its many restaurants.
Danube River cruise: A short 10-min walk from the Melk Abbey takes you to the banks of the Danube river. The boats have a fixed time of departure, plus expect a reasonably good crowd of tourist. And so, it makes sense to pick up the tickets from the counter there depending on the crowd. We chose Brandner Schiffahrt as the rush was less. The boat leaving around 1:45 pm. The other choice (DDSG Blue Danu) leaves just 5 mins later.
The Danube river cruise was, by far, one of the best part of our trips. We claimed our seats on the open deck, and it, despite being a sunny day, had a lovely time gazing at the countryside, the vineyards and many castles, while sipping beer. Drinks and snacks are available onboard and large groups singing and dancing on the deck is not uncommon.
Durnstein Town Tour: We got down at Durnstein (3rd stop after cruising for one and a half hours) at around 3 pm. From the waters, it looks like straight out of a fairy tale – towers of a church, pretty houses, castle in ruins on the hilltop – it truly is a picture perfect town. But then very very touristy. We trekked up to the castle and were rewarded with some fantastic views of the town, the river and its neighbouring areas.
Krems Town Tour: We caught the 5:30 pm boat from Durnstein and took the short ride to Krems (25 mins). Krems, frankly does not have much to offer. We took a walk in the old town. To our disappointment, everything was shut for some weird reason. So we decided to walk to the train station. It turned out to be a long walk through almost deserted residential areas. There is a road along the beach – pity we did not know about it.
Train from Krems to Vienna: Trains from Krems to Vienna come every hour. It is therefore better to note the timings and take a direct train (6:51 PM). The return trains however go to Wien Franz-Josefs-Bhf, not West Bahnhof. This station might be a little inconvenient so we got off one station before (Wien Spittelau Bahnhof) which has a connectivity to the metro (lines U6 & U4). It’s perfect for a ride back to the city centre.
Tips for the Danube Valley Day Tour:
- Have lunch at the restaurant and then walk to the boat quay on time. Both boats leave around the same time
- You will have to stand in queue for boat tickets, so keep some time in hand
- Don’t miss the 5:30pm boat from Durnstein to Krems else you will have to take a taxi or bus
- Try getting in first in the boat to get the best seats in front. The view, needless to mention, is amazing
- Don’t miss the 6:51 pm boat from Krems to Vienna. The next one is after 1 hr
P.S: For a complete Austria itinerary and tour details, read — A Perfect Summer Holiday in Austria