The 24-mile stretch of the Danube from Krems to Melk has been designated a World Heritage Site and one of the most relaxing ways to see it is via a leisurely boat cruise.
Large tour boats make the trip a couple times per day in each direction and call at the small towns of Spitz and Durnstein en route. The boats are equipped with a full service restaurant including bar, a snack bar, small gift shop and washrooms. There is indoor and outdoor seating and a commentary that is conducted in various languages.
We boarded the MS Prinz Eugen in the early afternoon so that we had the morning to explore Melk’s pastel colored buildings and magnificent Abbey. From Melk’s Tourist Information office the dock was a 15-minute walk along the river. Tickets are available at the office near the
The boat meandered slowly along the river, past terraced rows of grapes, old
stone churches, castle ruins and tiny villages. We passed by Willendorf where in 1909 a small prehistoric limestone carving of a woman was discovered. Now called the Venus of Willendorf, the statue has been dated to 22,000 BC and is on display at Vienna’s Natural History Museum.
The boat made a brief stop at Spitz where many passengers with bikes got off to start their cycling tour of the Wachau Valley. Spitz is also a well known wine producing town and that was obvious from the miles of vineyards spread along the hillside.
Then it was on to Durnstein with its hill top castle ruins. It was here that Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned and held for ransom on his return from the Crusades. Durnstein is also famous for its river front Baroque church dating from the early 1700s.
Just before docking in Krems, our final stop, we could see another fine example of Baroque architecture, Gottweig, a Benedictine Abbey from the mid 1700s. Our trip ended at Krems where the first Austrian coin was struck in 1130. From the boat dock in Krems we made our way to the train station about 20 minutes away for our trip back to Vienna.
The boat trip took about one hour and forty minutes. The return from Krems to Melk covers the same territory but takes almost twice as long since the boat travels against the current. Cost of the trip is 15.80 euro one way or 20.50 return.