Place to VisitOur campsite, Wachau-Camping Rossatz, is the ideal starting
point for a number of different excursions, whether by car, by
foot, by bike or by boat. Discover the beauty of the Wachau,
experience a boat trip on the Danube or plan a walking-tour
with wonderful views of the landscape, unique in its natural
beauty and culture. In the following paragraphs you can find
more detailed descriptions of a few worthwhile excursions.
We opted here in each case for directions by car.
Excursion 1From Rossatz to Melk – The Wachau with its most beautiful views.
Distance: approx. 30km, one way
Possible means of transport: car, bike, boat
The route proposed here can easily be extended into several different excursions. Much of it can be managed by bike, as the Danube Cycle Path runs parallel to the B33. A worthwhile combination is going by bike and boat. Travel by bike to Melk and board one of the liners there to experience the Wachau from the water.
Start your journey in Rossatz and visit the arcaded inner courtyard of the castle, then travel on the B33 through the beautiful vineyard scenery past Rührsdorf and on to Bacharnsdorf (1). Turn right at the entrance to the village. There you will find the remains of a Roman watch tower (Burgus). A few paces further on, directly on the cycle path and Danube riverbank, you have a very nice view of the fortified church of St. Michael on the opposite bank.br>
Back on the B33 the route continues to Melk. After you pass Mitterarnsdorf there appears on the right-hand side a sign for the cable ferry to Spitz. Turn off here and drive up to the cable ferry quay (2). From this point there are wonderful views of Spitz, the castle ruin Hinterhaus and the Tausendeimerberg (Thousand Bucket Hill). If you want to end your excursion here, cross the Danube with the cable ferry and drive via Spitz, Sankt Michael, Weißenkirchen and Dürnstein back to Rossatz.
Otherwise, continue on the B33 in the direction of Aggstein (3). In Aggstein there are signs for Burg Aggstein (Aggstein Castle) (4). You should under no circumstances miss out on this approximately 2km-long detour to the castle via a very steep approach road. The beautifully restored castle complex and the breathtaking views out over the Danube Valley are inspiring. Back on the B33 the journey continues in the direction of Schönbühel.
In the village of Aggsbach (4) a road branches off to the left in the direction of Kartause. Follow this road and after a few hundred metres you will find, on the right-hand side, the Carthusian Monastery of Aggsbach (5). In the direct vicinity of the monastery there is a historical hammer mill, with the old water wheel, which is worth a visit. From the village of Aggsbach the route takes you on towards Melk. After approximately 5km you will reach Schönbühel Monastery (6).
Directly behind it, to the left, you will find a car park. The monastery has treasures in store for visitors that are not familiar to everyone: inside the monastery, for example, one finds original reproductions of the Holy Sites of Palestine such as the Burial Place or the Grotto of the Nativity. Only a few hundred metres away from here, situated on a cliff high above the Danube, reigns the magnificent Schönbühel Castle (7). The best view of the castle can be had, of course, from the river, but from Schönbühel itself you also have wonderful views of the castle and the Danube.
You have now almost reached the end of your journey, though the absolute highlight of it still lies before you: the Benedictine Melk Abbey (8). Follow the signposts to Stift Melk (Melk Abbey). Standing impressively on a 57-metre-high crag, Melk Abbey marks the entrance to the Wachau. This ridge was inhabited as far back as the Stone Age. The Romans constructed the riverside fort “Namare” with its port at the foot of the cliff. In the 11th century Benedictine monks settled here. Around the year 1700 Abbot Dietmayr decided, after several fires, that the monastery complex should be completely rebuilt. He commissioned Jakob Prandtauer and his pupil Josef Munggenast, who designed further buildings in the Wachau, to plan and build the abbey. The result is one of the most amazing works of Baroque architecture in Europe. The west front alone is 320 metres long! Numerous inner courtyards and Baroque gardens, wonderful state rooms, the grand library, the treasury and the unique abbey church make this definitely worth a visit! According to the motto of the Benedictines, “that in all things God may be glorified”, one of the world’s most magnificent monastery complexes has been created.
The beginning of Umberto Eco’s novel “The Name of the Rose” is set here at Melk Abbey.
Another detour which is certainly worth taking is to the town of Melk and to the River Melk, from where one has a very nice view of the mighty monastery complex. Along the whole route you will find many places to stop off at. Alongside the many “Heurigen” (wine taverns) there are also good restaurants which can introduce you, with their local delicacies, to the culinary side of the Wachau.
Excursion 2The Augustinian Monastery Göttweig and Surrounding Area
Distance: approx. 20km, one way
Possible means of transport: car, bike, on foot
The second worthwhile excursion takes you on the B33 about 7km downstream on the Danube to Mautern (1). Mautern is a Roman settlement which bordered the territories of the Germanic tribes. You can still find the remains of the fort from this period there today. The Roman Museum also gives you an insight into the long history of Mautern. Further tourist attractions are the Nikolaihof historic winery with its beautiful gardens and chapel, as well as Mautern Castle and many well preserved bourgeois houses in the town centre.
From Mautern, follow the road signs to Göttweig Abbey.
This magnificent abbey stands majestically, like a castle, on the “Göttweiger”. The Göttweiger Hill has been inhabited since the early Stone Age, as discoveries displayed in the abbey prove. Due to its position on a hill, Göttweig Abbey (2) is also termed the “Austrian Montecassino”. Most of the buildings were erected after the fire of 1718 and, in terms of their layout, take the form of a grid, just like the Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial near Madrid, upon which they were modelled. Particularly worth seeing are the splendid imperial staircase within the abbey, with a ceiling fresco by Paul Troger (1739), and the richly adorned abbey church.
The physical as opposed to spiritual wellbeing of visitors is more than taken care of in the Stiftskeller (Abbey Cellar Restaurant). When the weather is good it is worth sitting out on the wonderful viewing terrace which affords outstanding views of the Danube Valley.
In Paudorf (3), near Göttweig Abbey, you will find the so-called “Göttweig Mammoth Trees”. In 1880 the abbot of the time, Adalbert Dungel, planted a few seeds of the species “Wellingtonia gigantea”, and indeed mammoth trees grew out of them which today form part of an educational forest trail and constitute one of the biggest groups of mammoth trees planted in Central Europe. From the centre of the village you need, dependent on your pace, approx. 30-45 minutes to get to the trees, which already dwarf all native tree species.
If you want another insider tip for walks on the return trip, then head for the look-out Ferdinandswarte (4), perched high up over the Danube on the Roman road. Alongside a certain level of fitness you should make sure you have sturdy shoes, above anything else. First of all, head back on the B33 in the direction of Rossatz. In Hundsheim turn off left to Mauternbach. From there the route continues to Unterbergern. In Unterbergern (5) park your car and set off on foot, bearing right and following the sign to the Ferdinandswarte, into the Dunkelsteiner Forest. Shortly after you have passed the last houses you will see cart tracks on the road which have been imprinted in the stone. You are now on the old Roman road which led in the direction of Melk. The cart tracks are really those of Roman carts which used this as a transport route. After approx. 45 minutes you arrive at the Ferdinandswarte and are rewarded with a unique view of Dürnstein, Loiben and the campsite in Rossatz. For those who have difficulty walking, there is a road for cars which can be used to get you closer to the viewing point. From Unterbergern drive on to Oberbergern (6). There you will find, on the right, a sign to the doctor’s practice (Arzt) and to the Ferdinandswarte. Follow this road, which takes a sharp turn to the right, up past the church and on in the direction of the forest. After about 500m make another right turn. From this point it is a walk of around 5 minutes to reach the look-out.
Excursion 3Stein Und Krems - Not just words to the count of three, but three lovely places to see
Distance: approx. 10km, one way
Possible means of transport: car, bike
From the campsite, drive to Mautern and cross the Danube Bridge there, and you will already be in the municipal area of Stein and Krems.
The old towns of Stein and Krems do indeed lie right next to one another. Between the two, forming a physical link, can be found the Capuchin monastery “Und”. A settlement here can be traced back as far as the Stone Age. The first written record of Krems, however, dates back to the year 995.
In the mid-12th century both towns were important centres for the trade in salt and wine. Beyond that, Stein profited from the bridge over the Danube and the tolls charged here. From the year 1136 Krems even minted its own coins, the so-called Krems Pfennige (Krems Pennies). At this time the town surpassed Vienna in terms of its economic significance and wealth by a long chalk.
Even today the impressive medieval houses, owned by the middle classes of the time, bear witness to the wealth of the two towns.
In Stein one can find nearly all the tourist attractions parallel to the Danube on the Steiner Landstraße (Stein Country Road). Old dwelling and trading houses with wonderful arcades in the inner courtyards are pleasant to stroll around. The two churches are also of interest: the Minoritenkirche (Minorite Church), a late Romanesque basilica dating from the 13th century; and the Gothic Pfarrkirche (Parish Church) from the 15th century. In Stein, one also finds the house where Ludwig Ritter von Köchel was born, the man who created the world-famous Köchel Catalogue, in which all works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are recorded. From above the former church Frauenbergkirche Mariae Himmelfahrt, one has a wonderful view of the town and Göttweig Abbey on the other side of the Danube. A further town landmark is the Steiner Tor (Stein Gate), which was thoroughly restored in 2005. From this point one gains direct access to the Steiner Landstraße, a pedestrianized zone which invites visitors to shop and saunter.
For art enthusiasts Krems became part of an innovative cultural zone: the Kunstmeile Krems (Krems Art Mile), which extends from the old town in Stein to the town centre of Krems. Here first-class art and cultural attractions (e.g. atmospheric concerts in the Minorite Church in Stein, the Karikaturmuseum (Museum of Caricatures) and the Kunsthalle (Art Gallery) in Krems) are brought together with gastronomy (e.g. the gourmet restaurant “Mörwald” in Und Monastery) and shopping (the Vinothek wine store in Und Monastery). Additionally, the shared Art Mile brings to the fore the enduring unity of the two towns. The central location of the old town of Krems is the Pfarrplatz (Parish Square), with its Baroque Stadtpfarrkirche (Town Parish Church). A little north of here towers the Piaristenkirche (Piarist Church), a late Gothic building with ornate windows and interesting carvings. West of the Pfarrplatz stands the former Dominican Monastery, in which the Historisches Museum (Historical Museum) and the Weinbaumuseum (Wine Museum) are now housed.
The oldest part of the town can be found on the Hoher Markt (High Market) in the form of the Gozzoburg, a citadel dating back to the 13th century. Adjoining this is the more than 400-year-old “Großes Sgraffitohaus”. The term “sgraffito” derives from the Italian word meaning “to scratch”. Indeed, it is a kind of plastering technique, being used most on plastered surfaces. With the help of this, scenes from the lives of the inhabitants have been captured on the walls of houses in Krems.
Excursion 4Dürnstein – Weißenkirchen – Spitz – the Wachau Classic
Distance: approx. 30km, one way
Possible means of transport: car, bike, ferry, boat
From the campsite, head first to Mautern and cross the Danube Bridge. From here follow signs to Wachau or Spitz.
In Unterloiben (1) a battle took place in 1805 between Napoleonic troops on the one side and the allied Austrians and Russians on the other. The “Franzosendenkmal” (Frenchman’s Monument), situated in the middle of the vineyards, still serves as a reminder of this.
Probably the best known place in the Wachau is the town of Dürnstein (2), a small, medieval-style town with around 900 inhabitants. Its landmark is the Augustinian monastery with the blue church tower of the monastery church. The colours blue and white are reminiscent of the former rule of the Tegernsee Monastery in Upper Bavaria. The monastery was founded in the 15th century and, between the years 1715 and 1733, the church, tower, cloister and prelate’s courtyard were newly built in Baroque style. Right next to this are remaining sections of the former Klarissinnenkloster (Convent of the Poor Clares), built around 1300.
Dürnstein is overlooked by the remains of the Kuenringerburg, a castle dating back to the 12th century. The castle complex was destroyed by the Swedes in 1645. The castle became famous, however, because of the imprisonment here of Richard the Lionheart in 1193.
During one of the Crusades, Richard the Lionheart became embroiled in a dispute with the Austrian Duke Leopold V and was taken prisoner by him in Erdberg, near Vienna, while on his journey home in 1192, before being taken to Dürnstein. Richard was kept here for three months against his will, before being freed after the payment of a ransom to the tune of 150,000 silver marks.
According to legend his faithful servant Blondel travelled all over Europe, stopping in front of each castle to sing the first verse of a song. When he heard the second verse sung back to him from the tower of the castle in Dürnstein, he knew he had found the king. From the banks of the Danube it is worth taking a walk up through the old, narrow streets to the picturesque old town.
If you want to go to Dürnstein by bike or on foot you can use the cycle ferry directly on the campsite.
Only about 5km further on upstream one comes to Weißenkirchen (3) with its striking fortified church. The church, built in 1258, was not – as was common at that time – constructed using wood, but with light-coloured stone. From the little church square with the Nepomuk Statue a 76-step staircase with shingled roof leads to the entrance, to ensure safe churchgoing even in troubled times. Within the church confines is situated the oldest school in Lower Austria, dating back to 1385. The defensive wall around the church also encloses the Teisenhofer Court, a former winery with impressive arcades and balcony walkways. Today the Wachau Museum is housed there, the thematic focus of which is local landscape painting.
Passing the wine-growing villages of Wösendorf and Joching with their lovely wineries the journey continues to St. Michael (4). There stands one of the oldest fortified churches of the Wachau. To protect the population against the Turks the walls of the church were reinforced and the defensive tower erected. During the Turks’ siege of Vienna cannonballs were cast from the bronze church bells. What is particularly interesting about this church are the roof and the cemetery. On the church roof, figures of hares can be found. According to legend there was once a winter that was so harsh, with so much snow, that the houses of St. Michael completely disappeared under it and hares, starving and in search of food, ran onto and over the church roof. The second unusual feature is an altar adorned with skulls, which can be found in the ossuary of the cemetery.
Spitz (5) und the castle ruin Hinterhaus (km 2019, left bank)
Numerous wineries, the old town hall and the late Gothic parish church with its sumptuous late Gothic sculptures of the apostles, placed in front of the organ loft, make for a picturesque townscape.
No wonder, then, that Spitz has often been used as a film location. “Wenn der Vater mit dem Sohne…” and the film “Mariandl”, made popular by the Paul Hörbiger song, were filmed in front of this wonderful backdrop.
The castle ruin Hinterhaus, a former Kuenringer castle, stands on a hill next to the “Tausendeimerberg” (Thousand Bucket Hill): in good years 1,000 buckets of wine are said to be pressed from here, which corresponds to a yield of 55,000 litres.
Worthy of a visit is the Maritime Museum housed in the Baroque palace, Schloss Erlahof, which gives a good overview of the history of traditional wooden boat navigation and rafting as well as steam boat travel.
Anyone who wants to extend the excursion a little should travel 5km further to Willendorf (6). The village became famous because of the oldest, but certainly not slimmest female inhabitant of the Wachau: the “Venus of Willendorf”. The archeological find of an 11cm-high limestone sculpture, which is approximately 25,000 years old, proves that this region, blessed with its good climate, was inhabited as far back as the Stone Age. At the well signed place of its discovery you can today find a replica and further information on the subject.