I'd like to see the abby. Could you comment on whether it's worth staying 1 night in Melk, or if it's better to do this as a day trip from Vienna? We could pass through on the way into Vienna and we have a night to kill. If so, where should one stay? I was almost hoping that the Abby itself offered rooms or something.
Melk. It's a beauty and only 1 hr from Vienna Hbf.
In 1984, we were on a boat ride to Vienna from Salzburg (I think) and stopped at the Abbey. Beautiful Cathedral that I still remember. Not sure if there is lodging at the Abbey but I think it is well worth a side trip.
Is it safe to assume that of the 10 or so hotels in Melk, one should be able to offer me lodging on the fly that evening if we wish to wait to decide on staying there?
I visited Melk on my very first trip to Europe in 1989. I was on a tour, and we stopped there on the drive from Salzburg to Vienna. If I remember, the tour of the abbey was not very long (an hour?), though it might be worth taking some time to explore the town, which we didn't do.
If you're driving, you should probably not stop on your way between other destinations if you're not spending the night, as it's unwise to keep your luggage in the car while parked at tourist destinations. (See this thread.) So either spend the night or visit as a day trip from Vienna.
But definitely visit. As tonfromleiden said, it's beautiful!
Another over-the-top beauty in the same baroque tradition as Melk is the monastery in Sankt Florian (the one near Linz). If you're dependent on public transport: there is an hourly bus from the railway station in Linz, taking some 20 mins.
We stayed one night at Hotel Restaurant zur Post. It was an older hotel, and we enjoyed a nice traditional dinner in their restaurant.
I stayed 2 nights. On the Friday I arrived, I toured the Abbey in the late afternoon and then walked all through the gardens, and the following day I borrowed a bike from the hotel, rode to Krems, and then rode the boat back to Melk. We were back in Melk in the mid-afternoon, but should have spent more time on the bike ride and taken the last boat back - my son was in a hurry. Each evening, one of the restaurants had live music until late that you could hear all through town. We had dinner each night and enjoyed both meals. I would say it's worth spending the night. I really liked the Hotel-Restaurant zur Post (nice room, good breakfast, good restaurant meals, free loaner bikes) and would highly recommend it. I was there in mid-September and nothing was terribly crowded. If you want to do the bike ride, you could still get to Vienna the next day. The only thing I would have changed was that I would pay to rent a better quality bike. Some people even had electric assist, but I got a real workout.
Now there's the ringing endorsement I was hoping for! Or wondering about.
We are intrigued by the bike ride to Krems - and the wine history there. Is there a special bike path or is it with traffic? We're not experienced bicyclists but could do it if it's easy.
We're also interested in the wine of this region - especially the terrific vintners F.X.Pichler. I wonder if any of you have toured their facilities or have other wine tourism suggestions.
I spent two nights in Melk at the Hotel Zur Post and the room,breakfast included and the dinner was great.The owners were very helpful,we took the boat to Krems and train and bus back.The hotel is right off of the square.
As someone who has made multiple trips to the area, I would suggest visiting the Abbey, but staying in another town in the Wachau, such as Spitz or Weissenkirchen. These towns are known for their wine and excellent food. They are super cute too, and easily accessible by boat, bike, bus or car.
The bike route from Melk to Krems is along the Donauradweg, which is mostly off-road and paved. There are a few sections that you join the cars in the streets in little villages, but generally you have your own right of way and the fast and heavy traffic is separate from you. When you are with traffic, drivers are overall very conscious of cyclists. There is one very short but very steep bit to get up onto the big bridge over the Donau just down river from Krems. You might have to step off and push up that part. After that, it's super easy and completely charming. :-)
You might need an appointment to visit FX Pichler. I believe it's more a wine club than a tasting room place now. But there are lots of other good producers. Most of my favorites are in the Kremstal or Kamptal (the Kremstal also has a lovely bikeways but hillier than along the Donau. I like to take the train up and bike down to Krems!). Look out for Brundlmayer, Nigl, and Schloss Gobelsburg. They each have tasting rooms--Gobelsburg's is actually in the castle, Nigl's is right below the castle in Senftenberg.
Just outside Durnstein and on the radweg, Loibnerhof has a great garden where they serve very good food. That is the Knoll family > good winemakers.
Keep an eye out for Roter Veltliner as well (no relation to Gruner). It's an old fashioned varietal that some producers in the Wagram are bringing back in modern (white) wines. Most growers ripped those old vines out when Gruner Veltliner took off, but it can be lovely. There, Leth is the label I know best.
Thanks everyone -- Now that I've done some more research, I think I agree that staying overnight in another town - like Krems or in the Wachau as emily suggested - could be better. We have a very leisurely 24 hrs to do all this and see Stift Melk, so I think we'll have a nice visit.