This is a nice day trip from Vienna and if you have even a remote interest in late baroque and rococo architecture it is a must, as it is so commonly included in books on art and architecture. The tour (given in various languages) not only includes the magnificent library and dining hall but also a museum of ecclesiastical objects which are spectacular in and of themselves. You are then free to wander around the splendid chapel on your own, along with the garden area.
This is one of the most important sites in architectural history so please consider it seriously if you are at all in the area. The splendor of the site also will make it appealing to children as well.
En route from Salzburg to Cesky Krumlov, we made our first top in Melk to see the abbey there. To be honest, I do remember a fair amount about this place, but it just didn't blow me away. The whole experience was definitely the epitome of touristy, and the prices were pretty steep for a tour under an hour, with adult prices hovering around $15, students around $10.
The abbey is quite beautiful, with the ornate, impressive cathedral being the conclusion of the tour. Although it kind of feels like they are forcing you to view the rest of the abbey in order to view the cathedral it is famous for, the tour includes a history of the abbey and the cultural climate of the time. I remember an expansive library among the highlights. The tours were audio when we went, and featured lots of available languages.
If you want, you can also purchase wine made by the monks at Melk Abbey. Obviously, the culture of a highly religious environment is very palpable here, so it is definitely more for some than for others. This wasn't the most unique, nor memorable stop on our trip, but it did make a nice break on our journey.
Another stop on our Danube River cruise. So stift translates as abbey, and this is one cool Benadictine Abbey. There are about 12 rooms to visit, as well as the terrace, library (approximately 100,000 volumes in total), church and courtyards. The lighting in the rooms, and the way the rooms are laid out, create a very emotional experience in this museum. I kept trying to imagine what it must have been like to visit the abbey when the museum area was actually the guest rooms.
The Abbey's website has a very concise overview of the museum (stiftmelk.at/englisch/in…). The page is in English and has many of the same pictures I took, except their photographer was allowed to use a flash and tripod, so the pictures are great. In fact I took several of the same pictures, but the website's are obviously much better. Two of the more unique items were the "reusable coffin" (room 7) and the "lock box" (room 10, part 2). Though not described on the website, the coffin had a bottom that could be released from above. So once the body and coffin were lowered ceremoniously, a rope could be pulled allowing the body to fall and thus the coffin could be reused... Very frugal. The lock box really needs to be seen in action. Requiring several keys, the intricacy of the locking mechanism was amazing.
The church, in all its baroque glory is mind boggling. I'm always amazed at this level of opulence, especially when the leitmotif "ABSIT GLORIARI NISI INCRUCE" (Glory is found only in the cross) is found in the inscription over the Benedict Hall. I guess it's how you interpret the word "cross", as this is one beautiful church. The splendor the glory of the cross is quite clear.
While I could see how large crowd could damper this experience, I would still recommend visiting the abbey, hopefully at a time when a riverboat full of tourists is not also there.
One thing I did not see mentioned on the website is apricots. We were told that the abbey has apricot orchards, and this is evidenced by the number of apricot products for sale in the gift shop: Apricot jam, apricot nectar, and my favorite, apricot brandy. But the gift shop has much more than apricot products. It also had a very good selections of postcards, pictures and books, as well as the other trinkets a tourist expects (bottle openers, fridge magnets, etc.).
Our only regret, and not a fault of the Abbey, is that we did not have more time to explore and enjoy Melk. It looked great from the Abbey's terrace overlook. So if you are heading this way, leave some extra time in your schedule.
PS. Hours vary by season. The hours listed above (9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.) are for May to September with the last admission at 5:00 p.m.
April and October the hours are: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (last admission at 4:00 p.m.)
November to March visits are possible only with a guided tour (See website for details).
If you are interested in a guided tour during regular hours (from April to October), daily guided tours in English are at 10:55 a.m. and 2:55 p.m. Tours are also available in German (I guess that's kinda obvious).
Cool place to visit.
I did a day trip out from Vienna. I started in Melk, checked out this gorgeous abbey, then rented a bike and biked 35 km to Krems. Melk was a great starting point. Cute town and when you get there early you don't have to deal with quite so many off-the-boat tourists.
I decided to skip the guided tour. Instead I paid 9 euros to walk around and check out the areas open for viewing. There were a ton of guide groups in front of me and people who gave me eat shit looks when I was shooting. Oh well. The price seemed a bit steep for a self guided tour, especially when there weren't many english translated signs, but I'm in a country that doesn't speak English as a first language so I guess I should have expected that. Honestly the thing that pushed up to 4 stars was the views from the balcony. Such wonderful views of the Austrian countryside. From what you get to see of the inside it's cool, but only the library and church really "did it" for me.
Since there is a 5 star and a 3 star review already, let me add a 4 star in english. Woopee. No seriously, I'm a 'yay' about Melk too, of course.
Unesco World Heritage site, no joke.
Beautiful beautiful building, nice grounds also. Fantastic library, and of course a beautiful church inside the abbey itself.
A nice day trip from Vienna. I didn't know about the wine or the apricots which the other reviewers mentioned, maybe there'll be a next time....
Dating back over a thousand years, but mostly from the C18th, Melk Abbey (Stift Melk) is an expansive, breath-takingly beautiful Benendictine Abbey at the top end of the Wachau Valley - the most scenic part of the Danube running from Melk to Krems.
Like many historic buildings in Austria, much can be seen without paying an entrance fee (including the church and the gardens), but certain parts are for paying guests only.
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