An Emerald Waterways port call is much, much more than a pit stop for a refuel and a chance for everyone to stretch their legs. Our dedicated team carefully plan city visits and experiences to ensure you have the chance to fully immerse yourself into the cultures of the regions you visit during an Emerald Waterways river cruise.
Central to this dedication to providing unforgettable, unique experiences across beautiful riverside cities throughout the world is our EmeraldPLUS programme – offering at least one unique excursion or activity during every cruise.
Here we provide a little background to one of our most popular EmeraldPLUS destinations, Melk Abbey.
Perched above the town of Melk, Austria; the domineering Benedictine abbey is resplendent with its golden façade, red roofing and teal peaks. A welcome site for river cruise visitors down the Danube, the beautiful 18th century abbey emerges from the horizon before the surrounding towns.
Playing a notable part in the history of Austria (the abbey still houses the remains of several members of the House of Babenburg, Austria’s first ruling dynasty), and still a central part of the region’s religious life; Melk Abbey provides regular daily church services.
For the non-religious, Melk Abbey still provides sensational splendour with huge baroque sculptures, gold-plated carvings, marble columns and an extensive library stocked to the rafters with leather-bound volumes. The comprehensive yet well-presented museum in Melk Abbey provides a wonderful timeline of the development of the site, and houses beautiful artworks and artefacts.
The surrounding area of the Wachau Valley is one of Austria’s most picturesque and romantic regions. A historic trade-route, there are few better places for a picnic on the lawns than in the beautiful Wachau Valley – plus it is perhaps the nation’s top wine-producing region, so it would be rude not to sample a drop.
A Brief History
Melk Abbey can trace its history back to 1089, when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria presented one of his many castles to region’s Benedictine Monks. Used as a monastic school and library, the castle was named the Stiftsgymnasium Melk and became a central site for the Melk Reform Movement.
The beautifully ornate Baroque abbey we see today was built in the early 18th century around the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, complete with library and church. Amazingly the abbey survived through a number of revolutions and invasions, including the mass abbey dissolution of Austria under the order of Emperor Joseph II and the threats of the Napoleonic Wars.
The abbey was confiscated by the state when Germany invaded Austria in 1938, but it was returned following World War II and the fall of the Nazi party. The school subsequently returned to Melk Abbey, and continues to cater for 900 pupils every year.
Melk Abbey is amongst the beautiful highlights of a cruise down the Danube, for guests paying a visit or just passing by atop the river. For a comprehensive selection of Danube River cruises complete with great EmeraldPLUS experiences, visit the Emerald Waterways homepage or call our dedicated team on 0808 301 4705.