Home to a well-known wine area, Dürnstein is celebrated for its vintages, its fairy tale-like setting of picturesque architecture and vistas, incredible historical importance –and even apricots. It is home to the remarkable Stiftskirche church cloister tower, its blue façade a striking Baroque masterpiece right on the banks of the river. It is also here, in the Keunringer Castle in 1192, that Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned and held captive for a year by Leopold V, Duke of Austria. It is this singular event which originally put the city on the map and forever left an impressive imprint.
Sometimes called the ‘Pearl of the Wachau,” Dürnstein was first mentioned in 1192 when Richard the Lionheart (also known as Richard I of England) was kept captive in the city’s castle during the Third Crusade. The castle may now be in ruins, but it was once impressive enough to hold one of Europe’s most renowned rulers. And while Richard was released upon an enormous ransom, there is a legend that tells of a faithful servant Blondel who located him by traveling throughout the land singing a secret song until he heard a prisoner able to sing it back to him.
Of course, for this legend to be real, Blondel would surely have had to climb the hill the castle is perched on. If you choose, walk in the footsteps of history as you follow Blondel’s path up to a hill which rewards with stunning views of the city and valley below.