If you’re spending some time in Austria and you’d like to explore a bit further afield than Vienna, Melk is well worth visiting. Located on the banks of the River Danube, Melk is a picturesque city with a rich history in lower Austria’s Wachau valley. Read on to discover the top things to do while you’re here.
The Abbey at sunset | | © Austrian Tourist Board
This magnificent Baroque structure is the focal point of the town, standing proudly on top of a rocky hill. Named as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site, it has a rich history dating back to 1089, when it was founded by Leopold II, who gifted it to the Benedictine monks. The building as you see it today was constructed between 1702 and 1736 and contains some incredible architectural gems both inside and out, such as the elaborate frescoes and the marble hall. Guided tours are available.
Jauerling Wachau Nature Park
Wachau Valley | | © Austrian Tourist Board
Drive just 20 minutes outside Melk and you’ll find yourself in the heart of rural Austria. This nature reserve, close by beautiful Wachau, is a charming place for a walk in spring, summer, or autumn – densely packed with shady forests, vineyards, glittering brooks, and all framed by a backdrop of jagged mountains. There are plenty of hiking routes, clearly marked by yellow signs and all of various degrees of difficulty. You can discover more about the routes here.
Schallaburg Castle Christmas market
The cosy and quaint Christmas market in Melk | | © Austrian Tourist Board
When the temperature plummets and snow starts to fall, Melk looks extremely pretty. The Romanesque architecture of this castle is a unique setting for a Christmas market – full of cheer and charm. Running all the way up to Christmas Eve, it is a must-see if visiting during the winter period. Held in the Italian-style courtyard, there are stalls selling traditional food and gifts and warming mugs of glühwein (mulled wine) and there are also musical performances and many family-friendly activities to keep the little ones occupied.
Another historical gem of the area, this striking château was owned by Emperor Francis I of Austria in 1823, and was primarily used as a summer palace by members of the Habsburg monarchy. Although it is now owned by the Hohenberg family, parts of the castle are open to members of the public and have been turned into an extensive museum.
The restaurant from the outside | | © Stiftrestaurant Melk
Established in 1750, this historic restaurant draws thousands of visitors through its doors each year. Located inside the abbey, the building was originally an orangery housing ornamental plants and, although many renovations have taken place, some features are original. Serving both Austrian and international dishes, it is the perfect place to enjoy an evening after a day of sightseeing. There’s a large outdoor area that’s ideal for the summer months.