Melk might not be as well known as many of the other stops on a Danube river cruise, after all, it hasn’t got the cultural heritage of Vienna or Bratislava, and it’s certainly far smaller than either of those bustling capital cities. But don’t let that fool you, because from the intricate architecture of the Old Town to the astonishing natural beauty of the Wachau Valley, there’s a lot to see here. |
Read on for some of our favourite spots in Melk.
The Old Town
As with many European cities, Melk is home to a picturesque and historic Old Town. Although a lot of the architecture is medieval, and indeed the town itself dates back to the tenth century, many of the most notable sites here were built a few hundred years later, from the eighteenth-century tavern to the seventeenth-century ‘House for Itinerants’.
If you’re interested in local history, meanwhile, it’s well worth popping into the excellent museum, which is located inside an old post office built in 1792.
Continuing on our history tour, we come to the reason the town exists as it is today. Developed from an old Roman fort, this towering castle became a home for Benedictine monks in 1113. What you’ll see today isn’t quite that old, though. The original site was damaged by fire, and replaced by the huge baroque palace you see today in the eighteenth century.
There’s a museum and a library inside, but the best reason to come here is really just to enjoy the atmosphere. The gardens are calming and relaxing, while the imposing structure and its intricate interiors make for some great photo opportunities.
Also known as Artstetten Schloss, this palace stands out at first glance for its beautiful white facades and Russian-style architecture – think tower tops that look like onions and you’re on the right track!
More significant, though, is who it once belonged to: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne, who was killed along with his wife in 1914 in an assassination that triggered the First World War.
While many stops on a Danube river cruise bear the scars of Europe’s two devastating wars, few are as closely tied to the start of the chaos as Melk, and you absolutely shouldn’t miss out on the chance to learn more with a guided tour of the site.
The Wachau Valley
We’ll end our list of the best things to see and do on a lighter note, with a look at the beautiful scenery that surrounds the town.
One of the best parts of a Danube river cruise is getting to follow the waterway as it carves its way through the landscape, and Melk is situated at one of the best points for this. Between the city and its neighbouring town of Krems, 30km away, the river has carved a rocky valley, dotted with ancient castles, ruins and tiny towns.
To top it off it also has some of the most beautiful scenery you’re ever likely to see. It’s truly breathtaking and an unmissable sight for your European holiday.
Get Ready to Go
The best way to get the most out of a Danube river cruise is to book with a specialist company offering tours around your stop-off cities to ensure you don’t miss anything. If this article has whet your appetite for some of the lesser-known destinations along the Danube, it’s only the beginning...
Author Plate Perry Mahoney is the Director of GN Holidays, a holiday company specialising in adult weekend breaks, cruises and other excursions for the over 40s. If you're looking to enjoy a Danube river cruise, a getaway with non-stop 60s and 70s sounds or just an opportunity to bond with some like-minded travellers, GN Holidays will be sure to provide you with an unforgettable experience.
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