Last updated 29 May 2021
Like many places, the Wachau Valley is best explored slowly, staying at one or more of the charming Austrian villages. However, if you’re short on time or based in Vienna like we were, a day trip is a wonderful way to get a taste of this beautiful area.
The Wachau Valley is situated along the banks of the Danube River and is Austria’s most famous wine region. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s a wonderful place to explore, with a huge amount a history and culture. As well as tasting the wine, visit some of the remarkable towns and villages in the area, as well as the beautiful, old castles dotted through the region.
The Wachau Valley is just an hour away from Vienna. If you enjoy wine, you probably don’t want to drive, so consider doing the next best thing – catching the train to Krems and cycling through the valley from there. You can hire a bike independently or join one of the many tours that meander through the valley, stopping at wineries along the way.
Otherwise, there are regular train connections from Vienna to both Krems and Melk, and buses run between the two, stopping at some of the smaller towns along the way. For maximum flexibility, hiring a car is definitely the way to go. Another popular option is cruising down the Danube and seeing the beautiful scenery from the river. There are also ferries along the river, if you want to travel that way for a part of your trip.
Cycling is a great way to explore the many wineries in the Wachau Valley. This region is most famous for its dry whites, generally made from Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes. The vineyards tend to be stony and are often terraced, offering wonderful views of the river and surrounding countryside.
While there are over 650 wine grower in the region, there's just over 3,000 acres of wineries. This means that visitors have many small, artisanal vineyards to choose from. Navigating the region by bike allows to you stop at wineries along your route to sample local blends, while admiring the valley's stunning scenery.
Discover century-old terraced vineyards and visit family-run wineries to taste local Austrian wine and regional specialties. Some favourite wineries are listed below:
Situated above Dürnstein, Kellerberg has wonderful views across the valley and the wines are suitably delicious. Fresh, with a slight herbal flavour, both the Riesling and the Grüner are delicious. There are also beautiful, flowering plants around the vineyard, making it a lovely place to visit.
In the centre of the Wachau Valley, by the village of Weißenkirchen, the famous Achleiten winery spreads from the river, up the hills to the forest line. It's a wonderful example of a terraced vineyard, the outlook is gorgeous and the wines are suitable for cellaring for decades. Wines have been made at Achleiten for over 650 years.
Another remarkable site, Singerriedel is situated above the village of Spitz. Cultivated since the 15th Century, the vineyard has had a lot of attention in the last 30 years, and the wines are light and fruity. It also boasts lovely views over terraced vineyards, the pretty, medieval town and, of course, the Danube.
The Wachau Valley is home to a number of beautiful, medieval towns and villages, many with fascinating histories and nearby castles. If you're driving or cycling, pick somewhere pretty for lunch or an afternoon visit to see more of the local attractions.
If you're travelling by bus or aren't sure where to start, here are some of the most popular towns to visit:
Visit the picture-perfect town of Dürnstein, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a distinctive, blue clocktower. The medieval town is a joy to explore with colourful buildings, Baroque architecure and cobblestoned streets. The castle above the town is well worth a visit - it was the former prison of King Richard the Lionheart and has remarkable views over the srea.
Take advantage of your time in the region to visit the medieval castles dotted around the area. Here are some of our favourites: