Castles & fortresses in the Wachau region
Majestic witnesses of the past
Numerous fortresses, castles and buildings of great historical value will await the visitor in the Wachau region. Many castles such as Dürnstein or the Aggstein ruin lie right at the Danube and can also be combined with a ship tour. Look forward to great sightseeing experiences during your explorations of the Wachau!
Dürnstein castle, the main castle of the Kuenrings, once sat enthroned on a rock high above the river Danube. Richard Lionheart’s arrest in the year 1192 and his imprisonment in Dürnstein castle went down in history. Since the 17th century the building has been abandoned to decay and today, Dürnstein ruin is a popular excursion destination and sight in the Wachau.
Dürnstein castle was erectd by Albero III von Kuenring in the middle of the 12th century and was the main seat of the Kuenrings for a long time. It became famous for the imprisonment of the English king Richard Lionheart. He was arrested on his journey back from 3 crusades in Austria and imprisoned in Dürnstein castle (Dec 1192 – March 1193) until he was extradited to the German emperor Heinrich IV.
For almost 500 years, Dürnstein castle lay unimpregnable on a rock above the Danube and defied all attackers. Even the great siege in 1458 by Friedrich III could not touch its inhabitants. But the attack by the Swedes in 1645 could not be defied by Dürnstein castle. In the course of this it was destroyed down to its foundations. Today, Dürnstein ruin is a popular sight in the Wachau.
If you walk up the path to Dürnstein ruin, the view of the Danube valley surrounded by vineyards changes with every step. Lined by massive rock walls and graceful flowers and shrubs, the path leads up to the remains of the historic fortification, which was abandoned to decay as early as 1645.
Also worth seeing: Dürnstein castle, Dürnstein monastery and the romantic old town with the beautiful town gate.
Aggstein castle ruin
On the right shore of the Danube in the Wachau, enthroned on a rock nose, lies the well preserved castle ruin of Aggstein. Explore the picturesque ruin and enjoy a dreamlike view of the Danube from the top.
Aggstein castle was once built by the Kuenrings around 1100 to proctect the merchants who travelled through the Danube valley. Manegold of Aggstein was the namesake for the castle high above the Danube.
In the following 300 years it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. From 1429 to 1436 it was expanded by Jörg Scheck vom Wald. Scheck vom Wald soon fell prey to marauding knighthood and loved to plunder cargo ships traveling down the Danube. Because of his cruelties, he was finally called only "Schreckenwald".
Most of what we can still see of the fortress today dates from this period, e.g. the “little rose garden”. There is a legend about this 4m wide and 10m long rocky outcrop. In the course of his reign of terror, the unscrupulous Scheck von Wald is said to have abandoned his prisoners there and let them starve or jump into the depths.
When the decay of the fortress could not be prevented any longer, stones and beams were used to build the Langegg monastery. Remnants of the three-story women's tower and the palace are still preserved from the former stronghold. But even the remains of the once imposing castle complex with its stone walls rising high into the sky still impress visitors today. The two towers of the castle can be climbed on wooden stairs.
Since the recently completed renovation of Aggstein ruin, visitors can discover several new attractions: Viewing platforms, information and experience stations, a round theme path in the ruin (which allows a comprehensive insight into medieval life and trade), the newly designed entrance area, a knights’ hall as well as better orientation and guidance systems.
About 5 kilometres from Melk you will find Schallaburg castle, one of the most beautiful renaissance castles north of the Alps.
Schallaburg castle was erected by the Sieghardinger family in the second half of the 11th century, named after the stream of the same name. But it was not until the reign of Christoph von Losenstein that the fortress was extensively reconstructed and turned into a castle.
After the sudden death of Christoph von Losenstein in 1558 his son Hans Wilhelm continued his father’s work and completed the building’s transformation into a splendid castle.
Worth seeing are the two-story, terracotta-decorated arcade dating from this period (16th century), the Romanesque residential castle and the Gothic chapel of Schallaburg.
The garden in the castle park of the Schallaburg castle are of Mannerist style. The terracotta mosaic of Schallaburg, composed of 1600 individual pieces, represents a lively scenery of mythical creatures, mythological figures, gods, masks and grimaces.
Of special interest among visitors are the yearly changing cultural-historical and archaeological exhibitions at Schallaburg castle which are open daily from May to November.
The Rosenburg in the Waldviertel, which was erected in the 12th century, belongs to the most beautiful Renaissance castles in Austria.
The Rosenburg was erected in the 12th century at a strategically advantageous position. In the Middle Ages, the Waldviertel was still a part of the large Northern Forest and the Kamp river was important as a tributary to the natural traffic artery Danube.
About 1000 years ago, settlement started in this difficult to access area under the rule of the Babenberg margraves. In 1175, Rosenburg Castle in the Waldviertel was mentioned in a document for the first time. The owner is named as Godezwin de Rosenberc, who also gave his name to the Rosenburg. In the 16th century, the Rosenburg was rebuilt into a magnificent Renaissance castle, and since 1681 it has been owned by the Hoyos family.
Not only from outside, Rosenburg castle is an impressive sight – inside, families get to see valuable furniture, pictures and art objects. A visit of the marble hall, the library and the castle chapel will teach children and their parents something about the former value of the Rosenburg.
A unique experience for children and their parents are also the free flight shows of the falconry which take place every day at 11 am and 3 pm.