This is a contentious one. 🙂
Austria has absolutely no shortage of absolutely stunning natural sights so you’re bound to find somewhere else say their valley is more beautiful but when you beauty is so renowned that it’s been award UNESCO World Heritage status, you kinda know you got that title in the bag!
Despite its UNESCO World Heritage status, the valley of Wachau (with the Danube River running right through it) is not a place I’d really heard about before visiting Vienna.
Wachau is only about 1 hour away from Vienna (perhaps 1.5 hours if you stop for snacks and photos), so deciding to visit was pretty much a no-brainer.
Carrying on in our theme of wine and food, our very first stop was Weingut Holzapfel-Prandtauerhof – a restaurant, vineyard and indeed a hotel in Weißenkirchen, a small village in Wachau.
We would actually be staying at the hotel here (hence why this was our first stop) and as the restaurant was quite famous, we would also be having lunch here – along with a bit of wine tasting.
Weingut Holzapfel-Prandtauerhof is a fascinating property. Although I didn’t know it prior to arriving, it’s a place that was built by the monks who built the amazing Melk Abbey (you’ll see exactly what I mean in the next post – I’d love to have included it in this one but you’d spend hours waiting for this post to load with all the photos).
The rooms and design are very colourful and appear to be characteristic of the general area so don’t go expecting glass and steel towers with minimalist designs here – you’re in the countryside now and it’s time to take a step back and truly embrace that countryside décor and appeal.
Anyway, enough about the hotel – by the time we’d settled in, I was starving and so we hopped downstairs to the courtyard for lunch.
We started off with what I thought was a light starter but turned out to be a platter of Austrian deliciousness, almost akin to having Afternoon tea in London.
Cured meats, dips, breads and wine straight from the Weingut Holzapfel vineyards!
Apricots are a big deal here too so it’s recommended to have some of it though it does arrive quite thick and you might need to dilute it with some sparkling water (this is apparently how most of the locals have it).
After the starter, we had yet another starter. I’d like to call it a ‘palate cleanser’ 😀 but it’s far too big and far too delicious to be considered one.
For mains, we went with the pork (again with delicious crackling – this time Lloyd had his own and could stop pinching mine) – served with delicious potato dumplings (best dumplings I’d had in Austria so far).
By the time dessert came around, my gluttony had been pushed to the limit but on hearing that it was a local dessert (made from apricots), I just knew I had to give this a try too. (It was absolutely delicious).
About an hour after lunch, we stumbled through the streets of Weißenkirchen and eventually into the vineyard for a bit of wine tasting (okay fine – this was more for me as Lloyd was on driving duty)…
…before deciding to head out to explore more of Wachau!
There was one place, in particular, I was intrigued about as we’d driven past it on our way to our hotel. That place was Dürnstein.
Dürnstein is a beautiful town in the Wachau and its castle, which stands ominously in the hills overlooking the town is where King Richard The First of England (rather aptly referred to as Richard the Lionheart due to his bravery and military prowess) was imprisoned.
Walking through its quaint streets, you very quickly start to see find even more reasons to fall in love with Wachau.
The view of the valleys as the sun is setting is a huge reason to visit in the evening (pre-sunset), though as the sun sets later in summer, you might find the shops are closed and the streets are devoid of fellow travellers but that’s not a bad thing – the restaurants and bars are open till late! 🙂
We meandered through the town, stopping off at the church (which was closed for visitors)…
…then making our way down to the Danube river and appreciating the sunset in a whole new light from there.
Eventually, we hopped into the car and made our way over Heuriger Höllmüller for dinner in typical Austria style.
Restaurants like Heuriger Höllmüller are only open for several months in the year and historically were places for the locals to come drink the wines and get a bite to eat and were less regulated by the government than typical restaurants as they didn’t need to serve hot foods.
It’s a famous Austrian past time that’s worth indulging in (Wachau is known for its wine after all), before heading back to your hotel for the night and ready to explore even more of the Wachau the next day!