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How to Visit Melk Abbey in Austria

Melk Abbey is an imposing, fortress-like baroque complex that stands on the bank of the Danube river in Austria.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site marks the western entrance of the Wachau region, which is a culturally-significant, scenic river valley famous for its castle ruins, terraced vineyards, and riverside villages. 

With its sunflower-yellow facade, twin spires, and dome, Melk Abbey (Stift Melk in German) is impossible to miss. 

We recommend visiting Melk Monastery and the town of Melk when touring the Wachau region. It’s the most well-known attraction in the area and a worthy stop on any Austria travel itinerary. 

Stift Melk traces its history back to 1089, when Leopold II (House of Babenberg), Margrave of Austria, donated the Melk grounds to the Benedictine monks of Lambach abbey. The building you see today is a result of the Baroque reconstruction, which took place between 1702 and 1736. 

Today, Melk continues to be an active monastery, home to nearly two dozen monks, who live according to the monastic rule of Saint Benedict. It also serves as a school and museum. 

It takes 1 hour to visit Melk Abbey, but we recommend allotting at least 2-3 hours, so that you can also explore the park and the town. 

Read our Wachau Valley Travel Guide for tips on what to see and do in Lower Austria’s most beautiful region. 


Visiting Melk Abbey: With, or Without a Guide

Melk Abbey Baroque Complex, Wachau, Austria

Between April and early November (high season), visits are possible with or without a guided tour. 

Between November and March (low season), visits are only possible with a guided tour. 

We visited Melk in July and opted for the 50-minute guided tour in English (3 EUR extra).

Guided tours for individual travelers are conducted in English 2-3 times each day, depending on the season. 

Consult stiftmelk.at for more information. 


Melk Abbey Tickets 

Melk Abbey Balcony, Austria

We purchased our Melk entrance tickets in person at the ticket desk, which is located on the left side of the first courtyard, beyond the Northern Bastion (shop). 

The entrance ticket includes access to the Melk Abbey museum, marble hall, library, church, and park. 

It also includes parking in the Melk Abbey car park (Google Maps). Make sure to validate your parking ticket at the ticket desk. 

Entrance Ticket Prices | stiftmelk.at


The Melk Abbey Tour

The Melk Abbey guided tour offers helpful context. Though the tour was clinical, it did add value to the overall experience. 

Photography isn’t allowed in any of the interior spaces of the Melk complex. The interior photos you see below are sourced from the Stift Melk press portal. 


Melk Abbey Museum 

Melk Abbey Museum, Photo: Brigitte Kobler Pimiskern
Photo by Brigitte Kobler Pimiskern

The tour leads up the imperial staircase and through the former imperial guest rooms, which now house an exhibit recounting Melk’s history.

There are a few notable artifacts in the exhibit, including a reusable coffin, which was introduced by Emperor Joseph II in the 18th century. The sustainable model was created in order to save wood.

Another interesting artifact is a nonflammable chest with 14 locking mechanisms. This treasure chest was used to protect and transport a piece of the true cross, when Melk was threatened by the Turks. 

The true cross fragment is embedded in a gilded cross bejeweled with gemstones. Today, this holy relic is only viewable once a year.

Side note: If you’re interested in the true cross, the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana allegedly harbors the largest preserved piece of the true cross. The monastery is located  in the Cantabrian Mountains near Potes in Northern Spain. 


Marble Hall, Balcony, and Library 

Stift Melk, Melk Abbey Library, Brigitte Kobler Pimiskern
Photo by Brigitte Kobler Pimiskern

The tour continues to the marble hall, panoramic balcony, and grand two-story library. 

The marble hall is a grand room with a colorful fresco bedecked ceiling, marble and gold pillars, and large windows. The space was historically used for dining and entertainment. 

The resident orchestra occupied a semi-clandestine location connected to the marble hall. Guests could open and close the windows to the orchestra, in order to adjust the volume. 

It’s worth noting that the fresco creates the impression that the ceiling is curved, but it’s an optical illusion. 

The tour continues to the crescent-shaped balcony, which overlooks the Abbey Church facade, the Danube river, and the town of Melk. Photography is allowed here. 

The balcony leads to the two-story baroque library, which is an impressive space with floor-to-ceiling timber bookcases, similar in style to that of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. The library contains 100,000 books including 1800 handwritten manuscripts and 750 incunabula (early printed books predating 1500). 

After visiting the library, visitors are instructed to explore the domed abbey church independently. 


Melk Abbey Church

Melk Abbey Church, Photo by Brigitte Kobler Pimiskern
Photo by Brigitte Kobler Pimiskern

The abbey church is the very definition of the high baroque style: opulent, decorative, and dramatic. Elaborate frescoes adorn the interior ceilings, which are supported by marble and stucco pillars. Gold is the aesthetic glue that ties this cavernous space together. 

Before leaving the church, don’t miss the glass sarcophagi containing the mortal remains of unknown saints. 

On the altar table of Saint Michael’s Altar, there is a glass sarcophagus containing the skeleton of a “so-called catacomb saint, who was given to the monastery in 1722 by the Viennese nuncio, Cardinal Crivelli.”

Dressed in fine garb and reclining like a Roman statue, this unknown saint looks like a Día de los Muertos parade participant. Tell me I’m wrong.  

Opposite Saint Michael’s Altar, there’s another glass sarcophagus with the skeleton of yet another unknown catacomb saint, which Maria Theresia gifted the monastery in 1762. 

I find it particularly fascinating and absolutely CRAZY that there are two costumed skeletons on display, despite no one knowing who they are, what they did, and when they lived. It’s nonsensical, but logic doesn’t hold much weight in the church. 


Melk Abbey Park

Baroque Pavillion, Melk Abbey Park, Stift Melk, Austria

Your entrance ticket also grants you access to the Melk park, which is open between April and October between 9 am and 6 pm. 

There are a few entrance points. We accessed the park via the Northern Bastion, which houses a shop. 

From the shop, scan your ticket and take the elevator up to the Panoramic Terrace. From the terrace, descend to the garden and walk to the baroque pavilion

Panoramic Terrace, Melk Abbey, Northern Bastion, Austria

The pink baroque pavilion functions as a self-service café. 

The park has some manicured areas, but overall, it’s more of a wooded park. 


Melk Abbey Restaurant 

Marillenknödel, Melk Abbey Restaurant, Austria

The Abbey Restaurant is located between the stairway that connects the car park to the Melk complex and the Northern Bastion. 

Its central and convenient location is the main selling point. The service is quite swift. The food is okay.

Kati was satisfied with the Marillenknödel. 


Melk Town

Melk Town, Wachau Valley, Austria

A cobbled stairway leads from Melk Abbey down to the Old Town of Melk. Simply follow the signs to “Altstadt.” 

In the heart of the buzzing old town, you’ll find a cluster of cafés, restaurants, and shops. 


Where to Stay near Melk Abbey

It’s possible to visit the Wachau as a day trip, but we recommend staying 1-2 nights so that you can experience the region’s wine culture, cycling routes, and hiking trails.

Check out these hikes: Vogelbergsteig, Dürnstein to Krems, and Seekopf and Hirschwand.


Melk 

Melk Abbey from Melk Town, Austria

Budget | Pension Marillenhof is a clean and charming guesthouse in Melk. Breakfast is available. 

Budget-Midrange | GOLDEN STAR – Premium Apartments offers spotless, air-conditioned apartments with well-equipped kitchens in the heart of Melk’s old town. Free parking is available 5-minutes away from the accommodation. 

Midrange-Luxury | Hotel Restaurant zur Post is a centrally-located hotel and restaurant in Melk with on-site parking. Breakfast is included in the rate. Guests can freely use bicycles during their stay. 

Look for accommodation in Melk.


Weissenkirchen in der Wachau

Weissenkirchen in der Donau, Wachau Valley, Austria

Our favorite village in the Wachau is Weissenkirchen. It’s brimming with wine taverns and it’s a great starting place for vineyard strolls. 

Midrange | Hotel Garni Weinquadrat is a very friendly B&B with 12 rooms set in the heart of Weißenkirchen, close to the Danube. This superb guesthouse offers a rich breakfast buffet featuring local and homemade products. Guests can rent bikes and e-bikes directly at the B&B and select wines from the 24-hour, self-service wine cellar (Kellerstüberl). 

Midrange-Luxury | Hotel-Restaurant Kirchenwirt is a traditional hotel with an on-site restaurant in the center of Weißenkirchen. Widely praised for its comfortable rooms, excellent breakfast buffet, and courteous staff, Kirchenwirt is an ideal base for exploring the Wachau. Guests can also relax in the spa, housed in the nearby 16th century Winzerhaus, at a surcharge.

Look for accommodation in Weißenkirchen in der Wachau.


Dürnstein 

Dürnstein, Wachau Valley, Austria

Dürnstein is the picture-perfect riverside village, set beneath the crumbling Dürnstein castle ruins. The village is located between Weissenkirchen and Krems.

Midrange | Bioweingut Schmidl is a family-run, organic winery with a small guesthouse (3 spacious rooms), located just outside the historic town center of Dürnstein. They offer a bicycle rental service, breakfast (included), and wine tasting (upon request). 

Luxury | Hotel Schloss Dürnstein is housed in a historic castle built in 1630, overlooking the Danube. This classic hotel features grand interiors, an excellent on-site restaurant, and a wellness area (two swimming pools and two saunas). Though this is a fine hotel overall, it does need some updates (e.g. bathrooms, air-conditioning). Breakfast is included. Book a room with a view of the Danube. 

Luxury | Hotel Richard Löwenherz is a charming old-world hotel which commands a romantic view of the Danube. Stay here for the fairy tale setting, garden outdoor pool (not heated), and gourmet restaurant and terrace.

Look for accommodation in Dürnstein.


Krems an der Donau

Krems is the eastern gateway to the Wachau Valley and the largest city in the area.

Budget | Gästehaus auf der Kunstmeile is a guesthouse located on the Kunstmeile (Art Mile) in the old town of Stein, which is part of Krems, though 1.5 km from the city center. Cyclists love staying here. 

Midrange | Hotel Unter Den Linden is a 5 minute-walk to the Steiner Gate and the Krems pedestrian zone. This lovely hotel offers modern and airy rooms with parquet floors and a delicious breakfast buffet.

Midrange-Luxury | ​​Klinglhuber Suites is a top-rated, dog-friendly (12 EUR/day) accommodation in Krems, featuring spacious rooms with air-conditioning, Nespresso machines, mini-bars, and a seating area. Breakfast is included. Guests also have access to an outdoor pool. 

Luxury | Boutique Gästehaus Guestel is a stylish holiday home in Krems with three bedrooms. 

Look for accommodation in Krems an der Donau



Austria Trip Planning Essentials

Use our Austria Travel Guide and Austria blog archive to plan a unique and memorable trip to Austria. 


When to Visit Austria 

Summer and early Fall are our favorite seasons in Austria. 


Getting around Austria

Austria has an excellent public transit system. We’ve used it extensively to travel throughout the country. We highly recommend using transit if you’re visiting cities (Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Graz, etc…), and/or doing hut-to-hut hikes. 

Some areas like Mayrhofen, Schladming and Lech am Arlberg have wonderful seasonal transit systems in place (e.g. summer hiking buses). However, if you’re not visiting during the high season, bus frequencies are significantly reduced and it’s far easier to get around with your own vehicle. 

If you’re planning on visiting multiple destinations across  Austria, we recommend renting a car. 

Use these road trip itineraries for trip planning inspiration:

Car Rental 

We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.

Check car rental rates here

If you’re driving into Austria from a neighboring country, don’t forget to purchase a vignette at/near the border. 


Hiking in Austria

Where to Hike in Austria

Read Austrian Alps Hiking Destinations for an overview of where to hike in Austria, with tips on specific trails and where to stay. Also check out Best Day Hikes in Austria and these region-specific hiking guides:

Hut to Hut Hiking in Austria 

Austria is a premier hut-to-hut and long-distance hiking destination. The quality of the mountain huts are superb. We particularly love the high-alpine trails, which are called Höhenwege in German. We’ve summarized our favorite multi-day hikes in Trekking Austria. If you’re new to hut hiking, read this in-depth guide to Hut to Hut Hiking in Austria.

Hiking Essentials


What to See & Do in Austria


Austrian Hotels

Moon & Honey Travel is an independent blog created by two passionate hikers. We are able to provide free content to you, because of ads and affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy travels and happy trails,

Sabrina & Kati

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