Melk, a small town of just 5,000 people, is one of the most visited villages in northern Austria thanks to its famous Benedictine abbey. It is especially scenic to arrive at the quaint town by boat — passengers on river cruises sailing along the Danube can see the imposing abbey from miles away.
What We Love
The Cruise In: The sail through the Wachau Valley is some of the most scenic cruising you’ll experience on the Danube. The river cuts a rocky valley in the 24-mile stretch between Krems and Melk. Vineyards, small towns, and castle ruins dot the landscape. Our advice: Make sure you grab a spot on your ship’s top deck to take it all in.
Best Known For
Melk Abbey: The massive abbey sits prominently on a stone outcrop high above the Danube. Originally built in the 11th century, the abbey was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the current 18th-century Baroque style. If you’re lucky enough to be there in the early evening, don’t miss the sunset from the balcony outside of the library over the valley below. The pièce de résistance is the abbey’s impressive marble and gold-leaf adorned church and its grand pipe organ. However, our favorite part is the library, which holds approximately 100,000 volumes. Fun fact: Scholars can still use the library for research.
Old Town: Don't just tour the abbey and get back on the ship. Instead, opt out of the return bus and stroll back through Melk's sleepy streets. Aside from wine, the Wachau Valley is also known for apricot orchards; sample apricot liquor, candies, schnapps, and jam at the shops and pick up some to bring home.
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Who It's Best For
Museum Lovers: The land where Melk Abbey currently sits was once the site of a castle for the Babenbergs, Austria’s first ruling dynasty. The imperial rooms are now home to a modern museum showcasing the abbey’s past.
Religious Pilgrims: Melk Abbey also holds the relics of St. Coloman, one of the country's patron saints, and is a popular stop for Catholic pilgrims.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It’s Small: Most ships stop in Melk for just a bit more than half a day, which is all you really need as it’s a pretty tiny village.
No Pictures, Please: Shutterbugs will be disappointed to learn that you can no longer take snaps inside the abbey. Photography was recently banned after too many visitors didn’t abide by the no-flash rule.
Kristen Boatright is the New York City-based senior video editor of ShermansCruise.com.