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Durnstein Abbey and Burgruine Castle ruin, Austria

Durnstein Abbey and Burgruine Castle ruin

Dürnstein is a small town of less than 1,000 people.  It's located in the scenic Wachau Valley of the Danube River between Krems and Melk.  The castle above the town (Burgruine Durnstein) is now in ruin.  In the 1100s the castle was used by Leopold V, Duke of Austria to hold King Richard I of England for ransom on his return from the Crusades.  Legend says that King Richard, also known as Richard the Lionhearted, wandered freely about the small town while he waited for his ransom to be paid.  The castle was destroyed in the 1600s by the Swedes.  Dürnstein is a traditional wine growing area.  Tourism has had a major impact on summer revenues, because the river cruise industry has made it one of their regular stops on the Danube.

Weather:

Durnstein's climate is similar to Vienna's.  It is influenced by the rolling hills north of the Alps and by the secluded vegetation of the Danube along the Wachau Valley.  June - August has average highs of 75 F (24 C) and lows of 60 F (15C).  Precipitation is light and spread evenly throughout the year.  Snow falls from November to March and average lows are a few degrees below freezing during the winter.

Transportation:

The Austrian Rail System (OBB) offers many ticket options for rail transport to Dürnstein.  In addition to participating in Eurail passes, Austria also has an Einfach-Raus ticket that offers single day rates for small groups, similar to the Bayern Ticket in Germany.  Vienna is about two hours away from Dürnstein by train.  A vehicle rented from the Vienna International Airport provides another option to access the area.  The highway and the train both run through separate tunnels underneath the town.  Dürnstein is a standard stop on Danube River cruises and is in the middle section of the Wachau Valley.  The DDSG Danube Blue and Brandner cruise the Wachau on a daily basis to Dürnstein from either Krems or Melk. 

Durnstein, Austria

Durnstein and the Wachau Valley of the Danube

Attractions in Dürnstein:

Things to see and do:

  • Visit the Durnstein Abbey (Stift Dürnstein) and listen to an organ concert.  The Abbey was established in 1400s and rebuilt in the 1700s.

  • Take a short stroll down the main pedestrian-only shopping lane.  It only takes a few minutes to walk the entire length of the town.

  • Climb up to the Burgruine Durnstein.  This castle ruin is said to be the location where Richard the Lionhearted was held for ransom.  The trail up is clearly marked.

  • Take a cruise from Dürnstein through the UNESCO Wachau Cultural Landscape and visit Melk Abbey.  It's easy to combine a visit to Melk and Dürnstein on the same day.  The DDSG Danube Blue and Brandner both cruise the Wachau on a daily basis.  Take the riverboat one direction and the train the other.

  • Travel by car downstream on the Danube to the first bridge.  Then cross and travel about 10 minutes uphill to Gottweig Abbey (Stift Gottweig), overlooking Krems and the valley.  This Benedictine Monastery and World Heritage site may be a better option than the Melk Abbey.  It is a comparable experience but with fewer tourists, since it is not accessible to the daily hordes of river cruise passengers.  It includes a museum, a restaurant and lovely views of the Wachau Valley.

Weissenkirchen, Wachau Valley, Austria

Weissenkirchen, Wachau Valley

Day Trip to the Wachau Valley from Vienna:

Hotels in the Wachau Valley:


View the Wachau Valley map


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