Must see attractions in Lower Austria & Burgenland

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Danube Valley

    Stift Melk

    Of the many abbeys in Austria, Stift Melk is the most famous. Possibly Lower Austria's finest, the monastery church dominates the complex with its twin spires and high octagonal dome. The interior is baroque gone barmy, with a riot of chubby cherubs, barley-sugar twirls and polished faux marble. The theatrical high-altar scene, depicting St Peter and St Paul (the church's two patron saints), is by Peter Widerin. Johann Michael Rottmayr created most of the ceiling paintings, including those in the dome. Historically, Melk was of great importance to the Romans and later to the Babenbergs, who built a castle here. In 1089 the Babenberg margrave Leopold II donated the castle to Benedictine monks, who converted it into a fortified abbey. Fire destroyed the original edifice, which was completely baroque-ified between 1702 and 1738 according to plans by Jakob Prandtauer and his disciple, Josef Munggenast. It's claimed nine million bricks were used to create the 500 rooms – don't worry though, you don't have to visit them all! (Most of the complex is taken up by a school, monks' quarters and offices.) Besides the monastery church, highlights include the Bibliothek (library) and the Marmorsaal (Marble Hall); both have amazing trompe-l’œ-painted tiers on the ceiling (by Paul Troger) to give the illusion of greater height, and ceilings are slightly curved to aid the effect. Eleven of the imperial rooms, where dignitaries (including Napoleon) stayed, are now used as a somewhat overcooked concept museum. Before or after a tour of the main complex, take a spin around the Nordbastei (north bastion), where you'll discover some quirky temporary exhibitions, a viewing terrace and the Stift's gift shop. English tours run at 10.55am and 2.55pm as well as 2pm May to September.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Burgenland

    Schloss Esterházy

    Schloss Esterházy, a giant, ochre castle-palace that dominates Esterházyplatz, is by far Eisenstadt’s most compelling attraction. Dating from the 14th century, the Schloss received a baroque makeover and a later one in neoclassical style. Many of the 256 rooms are occupied by the provincial government, but around 25 can be viewed on tours. The regular tour covers about seven rooms, giving you an insight into the history of the palace and the lives of the people who inhabited it. A highlight is the frescoed Haydn Hall, where during Haydn’s employment by the Esterházys from 1761 to 1790, the composer conducted an orchestra on a near-nightly basis. The Haydn Explosive exhibition across the palace courtyard offers an interesting conflux of history and the new: Haydn’s music accompanies you as you walk past exhibitions on the life and work of the great composer, a holograph depicts a string quartet, period furniture is projected onto the ceiling and a minuscule hole in the floor has an odd projection of a bare-breasted woman shouting abuse while burning in hell. To get the most out of the palace and Haydn, do the tour, then the Haydn exhibition.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Krems an der Donau

    Landesgalerie NÖ

    From one side it looks like a squashed cube, from the other as though it's about to topple over – welcome to the latest addition to Krems' Kunstmeile: a bold, 21st-century statement in grey aluminium tiles that looms over the newly created Museumsplatz like an alien spacecraft. It's a more than apt setting for the ever-changing exhibitions of edgy modern art and contemporary installations inside, and gives focus to the 'Art Mile' that had been missing up until it opened in 2019.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Krems an der Donau

    Forum Frohner

    Part of Krems' Kunsthalle network, this contemporary white cube is named after the artist Adolf Frohner and is housed in the former Minorite monastery. It has an impressive calendar of conceptual work, both international and Austrian.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Wienerwald

    Arnulf Rainer Museum

    Located inside the former Frauenbad (Women’s Bathhouse) near the tram terminus, this interesting museum showcases the work of its namesake Arnulf Rainer, who was born in Baden in 1929. A recalcitrant art-school dropout, he began painting in a surrealist style before developing his idiosyncratic multimedia and performance works. This includes the infamous painting with chimpanzees episode where Rainer attempted to mimic the work of a number of painting apes only to be chased by one of his unwilling collaborators. The museum has retained the delightful marble features of the Biedermeier bathhouse from 1815, making it all the more worth a visit. Exhibitions change twice a year.

  • Sights in Krems an der Donau

    Stift Göttweig

    Founded in 1083, the abbey was devastated by fire in the early 18th century and so sports an impressive baroque interior. It's still a working monastery today. Aside from the sublime view back across the Danube Valley from its garden terrace and restaurant, the abbey’s highlights include the Imperial Staircase with a heavenly ceiling fresco painted by Paul Troger in 1739, and the over-the-top baroque interior of the Stiftskirche, which has a Kremser Schmidt work in the crypt. Fully guided tours take in the abbey’s Imperial Wing, church and summer vestry; shorter tours explore either the Imperial Wing or the church and vestry. The best way to reach Göttweig is by train from Krems (10 minutes, hourly), though it’s a steep walk uphill from the village station.

  • Sights in Lower Austria

    Nationalpark Donau-Auen

    Nationalpark Donau-Auen is a thin strip of natural flood plain on either side of the Danube, running from Vienna to the Slovak border. Established as a national park in 1997, it was the culmination of 13 years of protest and environmentalist action against the building of a hydroelectric power station in Hainburg an der Donau. You’ll find plentiful flora and fauna, including 700 species of fern and flowering plants, and a high density of kingfishers (feeding off the 50 species of fish). Guided tours by foot or boat are available. From Vienna, the Nationalpark Donau-Auen is best explored either by bicycle or on one of the Nationalpark-run summer tours. Contact the park office in Vienna for more details.

  • Sights in Burgenland

    Burg Forchtenstein

    Straddling a dolomite spur some 20km southwest of Eisenstadt, Burg Forchtenstein is one of Burgenland’s most imposing castles with a grand view from its ramparts. This stronghold was built in the 14th century and enlarged by the Esterházys, who still own it today, in 1635. The castle’s highlights include a museum dedicated to an impressive collection of armour and weapons, portraits of regal Esterházys in the Ahnengalerie and spoils from the Turkish wars (the castle curators will proudly tell you Forchtenstein was the only castle in the area not to fall to the Turks), along with a grand view from its ramparts. Its Schatzkammer contains a rich collection of jewellery and porcelain.

  • Sights in The Danube Valley

    Domäne Wachau

    If you're intent on tasting the best of what the Wachau has to offer, it's a good idea to do a broad range of vineyards, from the innovative family-run operations to the big boys like Domäne Wachau, one of the region's most well-known producers internationally. A large, modern tasting room is set back from the river and staffed by an army of keen young assistants. It also stocks some nice local food products if wine's not your thing.

  • Sights in The Danube Valley

    Egon Schiele Museum

    The Egon Schiele Museum, housed in a former jail near the Danube, vividly presents the story of the life of the Tulln-born artist. It presents around 100 of his paintings and sketches, and a mock-up of the cell where he was briefly imprisoned, when he fell foul of the law in 1912 and over 100 of his erotic drawings were seized. Schiele-themed temporary exhibitions add more flesh to the bones.

  • Sights in Krems an der Donau

    Piaristenkirche

    Reached by a covered stairway (Piaristenstiege) from Pfarrplatz, Krems' most impressive church has a wonderful webbed Gothic ceiling and huge, austerely plain windows. It's most atmospheric after dark, when you can best imagine the spectacle of the massive baroque altar for the 18th-century parishioners.

  • Sights in Krems an der Donau

    Kunsthalle Krems

    One of the main attractions on Krems' Kunstmeile, the Kunsthalle has a program of changing exhibitions. These might be mid-19th-century landscapes or hard-core conceptual works, but are always well curated.

  • Sights in Lower Austria

    Stift Altenburg

    This Benedictine abbey can trace its foundations back to 1144. The library, which has ceiling frescos by Paul Troger, and the crypt, with frescos by Troger’s pupils, are highlights.

  • Sights in The Danube Valley

    Kuenringerburg

    Kuenringerburg, the castle high on the hill above the town, is where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated from 1192 to 1193. His crime was insulting Leopold V; his misfortune was to be recognised despite his disguise when journeying through Austria on his way home from the Holy Lands. His liberty was granted only upon payment of an enormous ransom of 35,000kg of silver (this sum partly funded the building of Wiener Neustadt). An easy, yellow path starts at the Kremser Gate (marked 'Burgruine'); a more difficult route begins in the Altstadt (old town). It takes about 25 minutes to walk up to the ruins whichever path you follow. The ruins are great for scrambling around and there's an open-air exhibition of sorts providing background on the castle's history and the personalities associated with it.

  • Sights in The Danube Valley

    Schloss Artstetten

    Built from the ruins of a 13th-century medieval castle and tinkered with for 700 years, Artstetten castle gained fame and glory after passing into the hands of the Habsburgs in the early 19th century, winding up in the possession of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Inside is a museum devoted to the luckless heir, displaying photos and stories of his and his Czech wife’s lives at the castle and their fateful trip to Sarajevo where his assassination kicked off WWI. The pair were buried in the family tomb, the Familiengruft, quite a place of pilgrimage for Habsburg fans. The castle stands around 6km east of Maria Taferl and about the same distance away from the Danube.

  • Sights in Lower Austria

    Dom

    This cathedral runs an architectural gamut from the Romanesque (it dates from the late 13th century) to the Gothic and beyond to the baroque. The simplicity of the facade and clear lines are striking from the outside, but inside it will drive those who love the symmetry of the Romanesque style to despair as the nave is noticeably out of kilter with the sanctuary. Fifteenth-century wooden apostles peer down from pillars and there’s a baroque high altar and pulpit. To visit the Turmmuseum, a free-standing tower that provides grand views over the city’s rooftops, you need to ask inside the Stadtmuseum. Someone will take you up there, but only in good weather.

  • Sights in Lower Austria

    Stift Heiligenkreuz

    This medieval monastery is one of the country’s most beautiful and is not only the second-oldest Cistercian monastery in the world but the oldest continuously inhabited and active one. Among many highlights is the vaulted Romanesque nave which was consecrated in 1187, along with the tomb of Leopold V – Richard the Lionheart’s kidnapper. The chapter house is the final resting place of most of the Babenberg dynasty, which ruled Austria until 1246. The abbey museum contains 150 clay models by Giovanni Giuliani (1663–1744), a Venetian sculptor who also created the Trinity column in the courtyard. Note that tours in English are by advance request only.

  • Sights in Wienerwald

    Kurpark

    The Kurpark is a magnificent setting for a stroll or as a place to repose on the benches in front of the bandstand, where free concerts are held from May to September. Attractive flower beds complement monuments to famous artists (Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Grillparzer etc). Near the southern entrance to the park, the Undine-Brunnen (fountain) is a fine amalgam of human and fish images. The tourist office has details about the outdoors summer events along with those held in winter in the Haus der Kunst (prices and exhibitions vary); an operetta festival takes place from June to September.

  • Sights in Lower Austria

    Rathausplatz

    The Rathausplatz is a pretty town square lined with cafes and eye-catching pastel-coloured buildings. It is dominated by the Rathaus (town hall) on its southern side, which has a baroque facade (1727) designed by Joseph Munggenast. On the northern fringe is the Franziskanerkirche, completed in 1770 with a grandiose altar offset by side-altar paintings by Kremser Schmidt. Between the two is the tall Dreifaltigkeitssäule, dating from 1782, a captivating white, oversized swirl of motifs, built partly to mark the passing of the plague.

  • Sights in The Danube Valley

    Schloss Schallaburg

    This palace is famous not only for its stunning architecture but also for the innovative exhibitions it houses, along with its lovely gardens. A wonderful curio are the 400 terracotta sculptures, completed between 1572 and 1573, the largest of which support the upper-storey arches of the palace. The excellently curated yearly shows are thematically conceived, and can cover anything from world handicrafts to the Beatles. Combined tickets with Stift Melk cost €21. To reach Schallaburg, take the shuttle bus (€2.30) that leaves Melk train station at 9.30am, 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.45pm.