The Dürnstein Castle Ruins
Today’s Dürnstein ruins sit upon a steep rock high over the Danube valley. In the past, the castle of the Kuenringers ruled over the surrounding land it looked down upon.
This is where Richard I of England spend some months of his imprisonment. Since being stormed by the Swedes in the 17th century, time has brought this once proud fortress to ruins. Today, the Dürnstein Castle Ruins are a popular excursion destination and one of the Wachau’s most famous sights.
A stone witness to a great history
The oldest parts of the castle originated in the early second half of the 12th century. The builders are assumed to be Albero III and/or Hadmar II of Kuenring. Today, the Dürnstein is still known as the temporary prison of Richard I of England. The English king was imprisioned by his rival, Leopold V, Duke of Austria, on his return and was brought to Dürnstein at the beginning of the year 1193 before they handed him over to the German emperor. The biggest chunk of the ransom for this noble prisoner was split between Leopold V and the German emperor Henry IV but a little piece went to the Kuenringers. They invested this money into the expansion of the castle and the city of Dürnstein.
The castle experienced a chequered history in the following century but was never conqured in nearly 500 years. Even the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III couldn’t conquer it in the siege of 1458. At last in 1645, only three years before the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the medieval castle could no longer stand up to the guns of the invading Swedes and was largely destroyed...
A romantic excursion destination in the Wachau
You can walk up to the Dürnstein Ruins on a footpath. Between the blooming flowers and bushes, you will find new and breakthtaking views into the Danube valley with its shimmering river and gently sloping vineyards.
A real treat is combining an excursion to the Dürnstein Castle Ruins with a cruise on the Danube. A highlight of this trip is the navigation lock at the Altenwörth power plant where the ship is lowered by 10 metres.
Also worth seeing are the Dürnstein Palace, the Dürnstein Abbey and the romantic old town with its beautiful city gate.