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Walking past 16th-century buildings in Durnstein
Walking past 16th-century buildings in Durnstein
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Wachau, located between Melk and Krems in the Danube Valley, is one of Austria's wine-growing regions. To get there, we drove west from Vienna along the river associated with Johann Strauss's beautiful waltz.

The fall grape harvest season is the perfect time to view the wine-making region. In the postcard-pretty town of Dürnstein, we roamed Hauptstrasse and other cobblestone streets, passing pastel 16th-century buildings adorned with window boxes overflowing with flowers.

Historic fortress

Dürnstein is crowned by the ruins of a fortress where English King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192 during the Third Crusade. His faithful Blondel discovered where he was kept by playing Richard's favorite songs as he looked for him.

Richard I was released for an enormous ransom. The name of the hotel and restaurant, Gasthof Sanger Blondel, reminds visitors of this local history. Its wrought iron sign depicts the singer.

Sanger Blondel sign and window boxes
Sanger Blondel sign and window boxes
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Antique grape press

Picturesque wrought iron signs also identify restaurants, shops and hotels. Above one building, a carved wooden frieze depicted Bacchus, the god of wine.

On one corner, we discovered the Altes Presshaus, a grape press dating back to 1713. Eager to try the region's wines and foods, we dined at the Hotel Schloss Dürnstein, a Relais & Châteaux hotel and restaurant that overlooks the Danube and its vineyards.

It dates back to 1622. A red-and-white flag with an eagle crest now decorates the entrance to the former Dürnstein Castle.

Tasting grapes in Weissenkirchen
Tasting grapes in Weissenkirchen
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Wine-making village

As we continued our drive to Weissenkirchen, on the left bank of the Danube, we passed vineyard-covered hills and the fortified St. Michael's Church. Strolling through the village, we met a couple dressed in costume for a local festival.

A tractor-pulled wagon arrived with a bin of freshly picked grapes. The vineyard-owners invited us to taste the fruit.

They told us that most popular wines in Wachau are Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. (Although German is Austria's official language, many people also speak English.)

The only problem that we encountered was finding wonderful local wines that are not exported outside Austria. It motivated us to visit the Wachau Valley again.


Austrian National Tourist Office

More things to see & do in Austria:

Vienna Choir Boys MuTh Concerts

Graz Austria Tour

Touring Salzburg, Hellbrunn, Salzkammergut and Hallstatt

Innsbruck, Heiligenblut and Wattens Crystal World Tour

The Largest Ice Cave in the World