Cruising the Danube River gives you a unique perspective of Europe! It also allows you to visit multiple cities in the comfort of your stateroom and (depending on your itinerary) you might visit multiple countries. While larger towns are usually more popular destinations, the smaller, quaint villages along the Danube are amazing stops where you can enjoy a unique taste of local culture.
Lets talk about Austria! After spending a full day in Vienna, this itinerary continued along the Danube to stop in the small, quaint village of Durnstein. Located in the Wachau Valley, a well-known wine growing region, this village is surrounded by vineyards. There are several tours offered to guide you through the town and give you some history of the area. The focus today is on the active tour which includes a hike to the Durnstein Castle and then free time to explore the town.
After meeting up with the guide along the banks of the Danube, the tour headed through town and hit the trail to the Durnstein Castle! Translated from German as ‘dry stone’, the town is named after the medieval stone castle on the hilltop.
This castle, built in the early 12th century, is known for being one of the places where King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned as he was returning from the 3rd crusade. In 1645 it was demolished by a blast carried out by the Swedes under General Torstenson and has been uninhabited since.
The main hiking trail is fairly wide, with a variety of steps and sloped gravel trails. There are a variety of historical markers with information about the history of the castle, the town and events. You can even read about the legend of Robin Hood! The trail is steep and the closer you get to the castle, the more rustic the ‘steps’ become. Good sturdy shoes are recommended. You will arrive at the lower grounds with an amazing view spanning 180 degrees and dotted with interesting stacks of rocks. It is not clear what they symbolize, but they do add mystery to the landscape.
To visit the main castle grounds, continue your trek, taking care on the narrow passages and crumbling steps.
Once you reach the very top, enjoy 360 degree stunning views. You will find the best views of the Danube, the town of Durnstein and river boats sailing along the river.
There is a second trail, known as the donkey trail, which will offer you different views as you return to the village. This narrow trail was used by pack mules to transport items up to the castle.
It will lead you right into town where you can relax and enjoy a slower pace as you walk along the cobblestone streets. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy. If you are interested in more history, visit the Durnstein Abbey.
Dürnstein Abbey began as a chapel in 1372 and the complex was slowly built over many years. The Abbey was rebuilt in a Baroque style in 1710. The abbey tower was constructed in 1733 with it’s iconic blue and white colors. The tall blue and white tower was believed to better allow prayers to reach heaven. The Courtyard is open for visitors to enjoy. If you would like to tour the inside of the Abbey and any exhibits, tickets are available.
As you return to the ship, find an alleyway to the river’s edge and enjoy a scenic stroll along river bank. Once your ship leaves Durnstein, you will get the perfect view of the tower of Durnstein Abbey and the hilltop Castle keeping watch over the city. As the town fades from view, you can see more beautiful vineyards covering the mountainside. Enjoy other small villages dotting the landscape as you continue your cruise to another European destination.