3 Best Sights in Melk, Day Trips from Vienna

Stift Melk

Fodor's choice

Part palace, part monastery, part opera set, this masterpiece of Baroque architecture looms high above the Danube thanks to its upward-reaching twin towers, its grand 208-foot-high dome, and, of course, its site high up on a rocky outcrop. The Benedictine abbey has a history that extends back to its establishment in 1089, but the glorious building you see today is architect Jakob Prandtauer's reconstruction, completed in 1736, in which some earlier elements are incorporated.

A tour of the building includes the main public rooms: a magnificent library, with more than 100,000 books, nearly 2,000 manuscripts, and a superb ceiling fresco by the master Paul Troger; the Marmorsaal, whose windows on both sides enhance the ceiling frescoes and give them a curved effect; and the glorious Stiftskirche (abbey church) of Saints Peter and Paul, an exquisite example of the Baroque style. Look out for some quirky features along the way, like a "reusable coffin" that subtly opens at the bottom, and the hidden door in the library. There are guided tours in English every day at 3 pm. Take time to explore the gardens, a lovely mix of manicured lawns and wild woodland with amazing river views.

Brandner Schifffahrt

Leapfrog ahead by train from Vienna and start your cruise in Krems. A short walk takes you to the Schiffstation Krems piers, where river cruises run by Brandner Schifffahrt from April through October depart at 10:05 am for a ride to glorious Melk Abbey, via Dürnstein. It's €33 one way, or €39 return. Other options include special day and evening cruises with oompah band concerts, wine cruises, and the like. There is an occasional "crime cruise" (in German) with a murder mystery to be solved.

DDSG Blue Danube

If you want to start your Danube sightseeing cruise in Vienna, DDSG is the company to go with. Boats depart from the company's piers at Handelskai 265 (by the Reichsbrücke bridge) for a choice of short Danube tours (from €28), as well as thematic and brunch cruises. Wannabe captains can also steer the ship for 15 minutes, while the real captain observes. Want to go further into the Wachau? DDSG also offer trips from Krems to Melk (€33 one way, €39 return).

Recommended Fodor's Video