Krems marks the beginning (when traveling upstream) of the Wachau section of the Danube. The town is closely tied to Austrian history; here the ruling Babenbergs set up a dukedom in 1120, and the earliest Austrian coin was struck in 1130. In the Middle Ages Krems looked after the iron trade, while neighboring Stein traded in salt and wine. Now, according to Austrian law, any town that houses a jail must receive massive funding for the arts. Thus, charming Krems is fat with culture, starting with its Arts Mile. Besides a number of galleries and eateries, it includes the Karikaturmuseum, the Kunsthalle krems, the Frohner Museum (dedicated to the late Austrian graphic artist and painter), and the Lower Austria literature center.
The area is also at the center of a thriving wine-producing area, but Krems is most famed for the cobbled streets of its Altstadt (Old Town), which is virtually unchanged since the 18th century. The lower Old Town is an attractive pedestrian zone, while up a steep hill (a car can be handy) you'll find the upper Old Town, with its Renaissance Rathaus and a parish church that is one of the oldest in Lower Austria.