Here’s a bike tour for those that like to make a day of things, take in views and history, and like the idea of making pit stops for good wine and food along the way.
Difficulty: Due to it being largely downhill, we’d say you can do it even if you’re a pack a day smoker and heavy drinker that hasn’t seen daylight since 2010. Note: If you do this tour in reverse, you’ll be riding mostly uphill.
Duration: 2–3 hours (without wine detours), almost 38km
Directions: follow the line on the map and the words below.
There are options for this route: one could get the train to Krems, jump on a boat to Melk and cycle back from there. Alternatively, one could get the train to Krems and cycle to Melk and return to Vienna by train. You could also get the train to Melk, cycle to Krems, and return to Vienna by train. The choices are endless, but we opted for the latter as it is largely downhill, and as it follows the flow of the river, it felt like we were cycling homewards.
We disembarked at Melk and headed for the mighty abbey on the hill, thinking that this was obviously the most glorious and dramatic place to begin such an adventure. Plus, it starts you off on an easy downhill cruise to begin with, although we would recommend avoiding the cobblestones of the town centre.
While it was hot as hell, once we were onto the path and into the Wald, with the wind rushing through our glorious locks, the heat was largely irrelevant. But while we got carried away with the feeling of freedom, we missed our first turn, which was the one that would take us onto the north bank of the Danube, a side that was recommended to us as being more beautiful.
As we cruised along through the orchards of Schönbühel and the meadows around Aggsbach, it didn’t matter to us which side we were on. From what we could see across the river, it is equally as beautiful either side, and the south bank offered slightly more shade.
On both sides, one encounters small stretches of road, however these minor blips were barely noticed amongst the beauty that surrounded us and the glorious feeling of freedom we felt, as the weight of our day to day city stress vanished with every pedal forward.
This side also offered the advantage of taking in the Aggstein ruins, which our primitive research had thrown up as a point of interest along the way.
Aggstein (the turn to which is marked by the Gasthaus Aggsteinerhof), was described as a bit of a climb, but worth it for the view. A bit of a climb is an understatement – our bikes, being old hipster wrecks, were not capable of the 20% gradient, so we continued on by foot and the half an hour walk was steep.
After catching our breath, we paid the 6,90€ (we felt we should have got in for free for the hike, but it wasn’t to be) entrance and went in. We will let you judge the view (see pic below), but would we do it again? In a car, probably, or on super fancy bikes. Watching a family of four cruise up on slick mountain bikes with fully functioning gears and brakes confirmed that it is possible by bike.
We walked down, pushing our loved, but dilapidated, wheeled steeds. The whole detour had taken about 2 hours, a time that could obviously have been cut down with better preparation and more modern biking equipment. We live and learn… and pedal on.
From Aggstein, you quickly enter the Wachau region and find yourself in Spitz, where a quick ferry ride (3€, including bike) takes you to the northern bank. From here, you are about a third of the way through your journey, but you are well and truly in wine country, and so opportunities for a break are plentiful.
As you speed northwards, you’ll come across the village of Joching, home to many a wine tavern. We got lucky and found Jamek Gasthaus. The Jamek wines have long been a favourite of ours, so it would have been rude of us not to stop.
Sweaty as we were, we may have been somewhat out of place in their gorgeous garden and restaurant area, but that didn’t matter to our hosts as they happily welcomed us and brought us wine, and some much needed water.
It was here we realised that by doing the route this way, you enjoy the final half of the trip with a tipple, or two, and what a glorious setting for a few beverages, indeed!
With such thoughts in mind, we cruised on and reached Durnstein, the castle famous for the incarceration of a certain guy named Lionheart. Although the history buff in us was keen to do the 20 min walk up to the Durnstein ruins, we were also happy to cruise under its majesty.
From Durnstein, it is a gentle ride through vineyards full of vines just beginning to groan under the weight of their produce before you roll onto the cobbles of Krems. A refreshing summer rain had begun to fall – welcome relief from the heat of the day and we lapped it up as it washed off the sweat of the day.
An hour train ride had us back in the heart of Vienna at the train station, Franz Josef Bahnhof (we’d be lying if we said we stayed awake the whole way into town).
Exhausted as we were, there was a delirium that coursed through us. In spite of being out of the house for almost 12 hours, we were already wondering when we would do it again.
Firstly, we had learnt that this biking adventure is a day trip, and one worth taking. We’d suggest even staying overnight in Krems if you’ve got the time.
We also learnt that planning would have made the trip a bit more slick, but wasn’t crucial. Also, the ride was bearable in the summer heat, but it would be a glorious ride on a crisp autumn, or spring day.
But most importantly, we learnt – or were reminded – that no matter how long you’ve lived in Vienna, there is always an adventure waiting on your doorstep.