Nestled in the celebrated Wachau wine-growing region of Lower Austria, Durnstein features on the itineraries of many a Danube cruise. This picture-perfect village offers a scenic contrast to some of the larger cities you’ll visit on a voyage along this celebrated river and the view of it from the Danube is the perfect snapshot of everything that makes cruising the Rhine such an idyllic experience. The town got its name from the medieval castle which overlooks it and indeed, it is this structure which is its single biggest attraction. None other than Richard the Lionheart was held captive here, making it a natural place of pilgrimage and historical curiosity for many UK river cruisers especially.
Dating back to the late 1100s, the aforementioned Durnstein Castle, also known as Kuenringer Castle, is the main reason you’ll visit the town and indeed, you’ll spot it on its rocky perch overlooking the Danube long before you disembark. Today, it’s little more than a ruin but the structure is still visible and it won’t take too much imagination to cast your mind back to the time when Richard I was held here for a year after returning from one of his Crusades. It was Leopold V Duke of Austria who was responsible; acting on his outrage at the Lionheart’s casting down of his standard at a key battle during the Third Crusade. Though the structure lies in ruins it is truly satisfying to see for yourself a building which played such a key historical role. The view from the castle ruins of the town and river below is pretty special too.
Durnstein’s other most visible attraction is its striking blue and white church, which is one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Austria. The village’s parish church originally started off life as Augustinian monastery and dates back to 1721. Inside, there are some beautiful reliefs and altar pieces to enjoy, courtesy of the celebrated Austrian artist Johann Schmidt.
Aside from its architectural attractions, Durnstein is a great place to simply relax, take a stroll and drink in the ambience and indeed, the wine. The Wachau is well-known for its wine and despite its small size, Durnstein presents plenty of opportunities to sample some of the regional vintages for yourself. There are local stores as well as restaurants and though no assurance is needed, you’ll find plenty of the wine’s authenticity when you gaze up to the surrounding hillsides, which are resplendent in Wachau vines.
Durnstein presents the perfect opportunity to pick up some souvenir wine. The village is small and located close to where your ship docks, so you’ll have plenty of time to shop around for a bargain. The convenience of trying before you buy is a bonus, too.