Sommerfrische by the Danube in Wachau.

Wachau is in a league of its own. The best wines, the most beautiful beaches along the Danube, and the area’s most thrilling stories await you. It’s no wonder that the whole region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wachau is a true paradise – it is always stunning. No wonder that countless myths and legends, stories and films are set here. Even less surprising is the fact that the whole region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both the landscape and the cuisine are perfect for Sommerfrische. Reedy marshes wind along the Danube, and one natural bathing beach is followed by another. It is time to immerse yourself in another era.

Sommerfrische on the left bank of the Danube.

The stories, castles/palaces and picturesque villages along the Danube are old. The Wachau Sommerfrische is relatively new. Nevertheless, they go together well – very much so, in fact. Where else can you immerse yourself in culture and unwind on a refreshing boat trip? Krems an der Donau is made for both. See the town and its surroundings on a Barge cruise. For art and culture, stroll down the Krems Art Mile and call in at the State Gallery of Lower Austria. The imposing building of the renowned architect's office of Bernhard and Stefan Marte is an unmistakable artistic landmark, and looks more like a sculpture than a house. Inside, 3,000 m2 of exhibition space with wide, light-flooded arches, take you on a journey through another world. These words are emblazoned on the building, in large letters: “Wenn ich Kunst sage, dann meine ich das Ganze” (“If I say that something is art, I mean the whole thing”). That is exactly what has been instilled here. A completely different, but just as artistic, view of the town of Krems can be seen from the Donauwarte Krems-Egelsee lookout post. It only looks more spectacular when seen from a hot air balloon. This excursion to lofty heights would have delighted fine society in as early as 1900. Visitors who would prefer a view from the Danube can take a themed boat ride. Cruises are offered for example by BRANDNER, on the MS Mariandl or the DDSG Blue Danube. Speaking of Mariandl... You may recognise this name from the title of two ‘Heimatfilms’ (literally ‘homeland films’) which were, naturally, shot in the romantic Wachau. Times have changed. But the beauty of Wachau’s unique backdrop remains as impressive as ever. You can also explore the waterway on a bike or hiking tour. Numerous ferry and shipping companies offer their services. On dry land, you should go at least once to the Sandgrube 13 Wine Experience in Krems. There, you will be able to feel and taste the summer freshness of Wachau.

Enchanting Danube towns and river romanticism.

Dürnstein with its old town, which is characterised by Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, would have been a favourite of summer visitors of yore. It is so romantic, and so often painted. Dürnstein even has its own “painter's corner”, where landscape artists used to set up their easels. After all, there was – and still is – plenty to capture on canvas. The short hike to the ruins of Dürnstein castle is equally magical. Incidentally, Dürnstein is also the birthplace of the legendary Wachauer Laberl bread roll, which is now known far beyond Austria’s borders. It is still baked to the original recipe in Bäckerei Schmidl and is the perfect snack to munch on as you enjoy feeling the wind in your hair on a scenic boat ride. The Wachau Danube Taxi is a particularly elegant way to travel from town to town, from Dürnstein. But you can also stay in the picturesque town with its landmark, the blue monastery tower and cool off in the wonderful Kuenringerbad swimming pool in pools covering a surface area of 900 m2. The water is not chemically treated.

The next point of interest awaits in Weissenkirchen – the Wehrkirche (fortified church). Take a quiet moment to admire the four evangelists carved into the pulpit, before treating yourself to an ice cream on the sandy beach in Weissenkirchen. The replica of the Venus of Willendorf is also worth seeing. The statue of a small, curvaceous woman was carved in 27,500 BC, and is one of the reasons why the Wachau region is one of the oldest cultural landscapes in Austria. On the way to Willendorf, you will also see the Red Gate of Spitz. The last of the seven fortification gates is just a 20 minute walk from the town centre. Further upstream, you will come to Emmersdorf and the area’s longest natural sand beach. When the power station was constructed, the so-called Danube Lake (Donausee), which invites you to swim and exercise in the leisure area, was also created. Incidentally, you can wonderfully combine this swimming excursion with an overnight stay at Luberegg Castle, where you can enjoy a mild summer night between cool, old walls.

Culture on the right bank of the Danube.

The starting point is marked by the breathtaking Melk Abbey, a Baroque jewel, which was built by Jakob Prandtauer in the first half of the 18th century. It is both a symbol of Wachau and a World Heritage Site. The beauty of the many paintings and frescoes inside the monastery is almost unreal – just like the marble hall, the library or the extensive monastery garden. Another cultural asset also towers over the Danube Valley: The ruins of Aggstein Castle enchant, and a great programme is on offer. Enter the dungeon and go back to times of yore. Just around the corner, in Dunkelsteinerwald, the Ferdinand-Warte observation deck offers an incomparable view of Rossatz, Dürnstein, Loiben, Stein and Krems (including Göttweig Abbey). If you want to go further, follow the Rossatz Panoramic Trail and hike to the apricot-growing area. In the heart of Rossatz, you can feel refreshed on the Rossatz-Arnsdorf Danube Beach, which boasts an enchanting view of the idyllic Dürnstein.

Out and about in the Danube region.

Refreshing moments and excursions await you not only in the heart of Wachau, but also around it. For example, the beautiful Artstetten Castle honours the memory of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg, who both fell victim to an assassination attempt in Sarajevo in 1914, and were laid to rest here. A little further on, the pilgrimage site of Maria Taferl impresses not only with its basilica and moving stories, but also with the view. It is worthy of a postcard! In the parish church of Our Lady of Sorrows you will see several thanksgiving notes and requests, which were written in the hope of miraculous healing. These old tales are followed by fresh delights – in Hotel Schachner, to be exact. This is the first and oldest house in town, and offers a picturesque view from the terrace. Or you could head to the "Zum Goldenen Löwen" guest house, and enjoy the pleasant, cosy atmosphere there.

At the other end of Wachau, not far from Krems, you can admire breathtaking Baroque splendour in the museum in the imperial wing of the Göttweig Benedictine Abbey. You will be amazed, for example, by the monumental imperial stairway with the ceiling fresco by Paul Troger from 1739, or by the princely and imperial rooms, in which the art collections of the monastery are shown in annual special exhibitions. From the outside, you can see the monastery from afar, thanks to its magnificent mountain location. It is hardly surprising, then, that it was named as a UNSECO World Heritage Site in the year 2000.

Indulgence in the vineyards and orchards.

Art and culture, scenery, refreshment, and... indulgence. That is exactly what a 21st century Sommerfrische has to offer. And if indulgence is what draws you to a region, then Wachau – the home of wine and apricots – is the place to be. What is the perfect starter for this culinary adventure? A Winemaker-led vineyard tours. The hiking and pleasure tours start in Weissenkirchen, and invite you to talk shop and taste new delicacies. Incidentally, you can also do that in the comfort of one of the legendary inns or wineries. For example, in the Weingut Höllmüller in Joching, or the Weingut Urbanushof in Oberloiben. Everything tastes especially good in the shade of the fruit trees at Weingut Polz in Rührsdorf, and multi award-winning wines are served at the Leo Alzinger winery in Unterloiben. Enjoy the region against a truly summery setting in the Gutshofrestaurant Prandtauerhof – Weingut Holzapfel, in the secluded arcade courtyard, where you can also stay overnight in style. If you would like to visit several wineries in one day, we recommend the Wachau Wine Taxi, which transports you from winery to winery.

Haute cuisine fit for a king is served up in the well-known Landhaus Bacher in Mautern, or in the Hofmeisterei Hirtzberger in Wösendorf. If you would like to eat more like a member of the bourgeoisie, head to the Gasthaus Jell in Krems, the Landgasthaus Essl in Rührsdorf or the Gasthof Prankl in Spitz. And because you won't want to go home after visiting a wine tavern or a local restaurant (after all, who wouldn’t want to stay longer in Wachau?), we indeed also have a few tips on where to stay. The “Das WeinSpitz” boutique hotel and Donabaum winery for example. Or the ad vineas Gästehaus Nikolaihof guest house, which, as well as excellent wines, offers its own successful range of natural cosmetics.