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Introducing Klosterneuburg

Realistically, much of Lower Austria can be visited as a day trip from Vienna. Klosterneu­burg, a small town only 12km north of the Innere Stadt, is an easy half-day trip.

Without doubt the biggest attraction is Kloster­neuburg’s Stift Klosterneuburg (02243-411 212; www.stift-klosterneuburg.at; Stiftplatz 1, Kloster­neuberg; tours adult/student/child/family €7/6/5/4/14; tours 10am-5pm hourly). Founded in 1114, the abbey’s baroque facelift didn’t begin until 1730, and wasn’t completed until 1842. The plans actually called for something much more grand, but fortunately these were not realised, leaving large sections intact in their original medieval style. The abbey’s museum (9am-6pm Tue-Sun May–mid-Nov) contains an eclectic mix of religious art from the Middle Ages to the present. It closes in winter to individual visitors, but tours of are conducted almost hourly all year (tours in English require advanced notice). The highlight of the ‘Der Sacrale Weg’ tour is the Verdun Altar in St Leopold’s Chapel, an annexe of the church. Made in 1181 by Nicholas of Verdun, it is an unsurpassed example of medieval enamel work and is gloriously adorned with 51 enamelled panels showing biblical scenes.

Not far from the abbey, but light years away in its displays, is Sammlung Essl (02243-370 50; www.sammlung-essl.at; Kunst Der Gegenwart, An der Donau-Au 1, Klosterneuburg; adult/student & child €7/5/3.50, free Wed 7-9pm; 10am-6pm Tue-Sun, 10am-9pm Wed). This gallery houses the extensive contemporary art collection of the Essl family, and includes the likes of Gerhard Richter, Hermann Nitsch, Georg Baselitz and Elke Krystufek.