Wachau & Lower Austria Sightseeing Guide

Dürnstein in the Wachau River Valley: Typical for the Wachau, but not for Lower Austria in General

General Division of Lower Austria: Waldviertel - Weinviertel - Mostviertel - Industrieviertel

The Wachau follows the Danube for 33 kilometres from Melk to Krems and reaches into the side-valleys of the Wachauer Gräben. The region is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, stuffed with stunning baroque architecture, atmospheric towns, vineyards and orchards. Austria′s second-oldest piece of art (of course, a naked woman) originates from the Wachau: the "Venus of Willendorf" was found here near Spitz an der Donau at the tender age of 26,000 years. To see the chubby Stone Age lady, you will have to go to the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, where it is on display.

The Heidentor (Roman Gate) in CarnuntumIn the Wachau, immerse yourself in such gems as the town Dürnstein: this is the place where Richard the Lionhart, King of England was kept prisoner for years after a crusade. Do you remember that Robin Hood was waiting for the just King′s return? Yup, the Austrians again.

Richard had gone into a struggle with the Babenberg count of Austria about rape-and-plunder privileges in the Holy Land, and showed his disgust for the Austrians by throwing their flag into manure. Stroll through this beautiful town to find out what he paid for this: The ransom money went to Dürnstein and the foundation of Wiener Neustadt. Today, Dürnstein is also famous for its baroque monastery, sitting on forested granite cliffs.

Top-10: Best Attractions of Lower Austria

1.) Stift Melk Abbey, Melk, in the Wachau Danube Valley
2.) Krems, Wachau vineyards & villages along the Danube
3.) Carnuntum Roman town, NP Donauauen & Marchfeld Area
4.) Wienerwald (Vienna Woods): Mödling, Baden, Heiligenkreuz
5.) Semmering Railway, Mount Schneeberg & Rax
6.) Baroque Abbeys: Altenburg, Göttweig, Herzogenburg
7.) National Park Thayatal, Retz & wine towns of the North
8.) Klosterneuburg: Abbey, Essl Art Museum, vineyards
9.) Waidhofen an der Ybbs & surroundings
10.) Pöchlarn & Schallaburg Castle

Wachau: Baroque World Cultural Heritage

Another baroque thing in the area that will take your breath away for even longer is Melk Abbey. This Benedictine masterpiece and the surrounding town of Melk was the centre of intellectual life in Austria during the middle ages. Their collection of Medieval manuscripts is famous among scholars worldwide. Did you read Umberto Eco′s "The name of the rose"? If I remember correctly, the young monk travelling with William of Baskerville was a novice in Melk.

The town of Weissenkirchen is a popular stop-over for the many cycling tourists who come to the Wachau to follow the Danube. And the ruined castle Burg Aggstein is among the most photo-graphed sites in the country.

A bit of tourism propaganda of the nicer kind: It gives a short introduction to the visual delights that you can expect in the Wachau area.

More Things to See in Lower Austria

The city of Krems is a historical market town of the nice kind. Here you will find more vineyards and the Karikaturmusem (Museum of Caricature) which will entertain Austrians more than tourists, but might appeal to you. Sites nearby the Wachau but not really within the valley are the Schallaburg Castle, Schloss Grafenegg and the ancient town of Pöchlarn as well as the town of Scheibbs.

There are things outside the Wachau that are interesting in Lower Austria. Carnuntum, for example, with extensive Roman excavations and an archaeological park that will keep children happy. Or the pretty town of Tulln, where Egon Schiele was born.

The Venus of Willendorf is 27,000 years old and was found in the Wachau.

Driving through Lower Austria, I am always amazed by the contrast of this province: It is either immensely beautiful or shockingly dull and ugly. I recommend studying the guidebooks before you make decisions. A certainly beautiful area is the Semmering / Rax / Schneeberg area (also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage) and the Wienerwald or Vienna Woods area on the outskirts of the Alps.

This is where Viennna′s nobility and aristocracy found a soothing spot for their summer vacations. Similar things can be said about the spa town of Baden or Bad Vöslau. The young capital of St Pölten is also well worth a visit, as well as the monastery of  the town Klosterneuburg and just north of it the Korneuburg. Today, it is still popular for hiking and the Wienerwald Forest is also called "Vienna′s green lung". Here you should note the Habsburg's holiday home in Laxenburg or the town of Mödling.

Towns & Castles of Lower Austria

The Marchfeld Area and Eastern Danube is known for both scenic landscape shaped by the river and cultural highlights due to the many castles of the region, and sort of includes the area down to Bruck and Rohrau or Gänserndorf. North of the Marchfeld lies a rather uninteresting region, with Mistelbach and Hollabrunn being the only noteworthy settlements. South of it starts the Industrieviertel, known for towns such as Schwechat.

The town centre of Baden in Lower Austria, just south of Vienna.The North of Lower Austria is the least touristy area of the province, if not the country. There are several small towns that are worth being explored in their remoteness: Waidhofen an der Thaya, Zwettl, Retz, Hardegg and Drosendorf, for example, or Weitra. There you find the National Park Thayatal. Nearby you can find the popular Rosenburg Castle. Eggenburg makes a good stop-over destination for those who travel to the Czech Republic. The towns of Horn, Greillenstein and Gars am Kamp are quite nice ones, too.

The town of Gmünd is not to be confused with the town of the same name in Carinthia. In South-West of the province, the town of Waidhofen an der Ybbs guards the access to the picturesque Ybbs-Valley; in this region, note also Lilienfeld with its monastery and the town of Wieselburg and the region around Lunz am See. The biggest city in Eastern Lower Austria is Amstetten - a rather industrial place that does not attract a lot of interest. Similar things can be said about Neunkirchen. For more towns and villages, see my list of communities of Lower Austria. Note also my article on festivals and events in Lower Austria or the advice on "Lower Austria with Children".

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Sightseeing in other Provinces

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Linz & Upper Austria - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Official website of the Local Tourism Council

Official Website of the Austrian Tourism Council

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