Where Richard the Lion-Hearted Was Held Prisoner
The ruins of a castle fortress, 159 meters above the town, are inextricably linked to the Crusades. Here Leopold V, the Babenberg duke ruling the country at that time, held Richard the Lion-Hearted of England prisoner in 1193. It seems that Richard had insulted the powerful Austrian duke in Palestine during the Crusades to capture the Holy Land. The story is that when Richard was attempting to get back home, his boat foundered on the rocks of the Adriatic and he tried to sneak through Austria disguised as a peasant. Somebody probably turned stool pigeon, and the English monarch was arrested and imprisoned by Leopold.
For quite some time, nobody knew exactly where in Austria Richard was incarcerated, but his loyal minstrel companion, Blondel, had a clever idea. He went from castle to castle, playing his lute and singing Richard's favorite songs. The tactic paid off, the legend says, for at Dürnstein Richard heard Blondel's singing and sang the lyrics in reply. The discovery forced Leopold to transfer Richard to a castle in the Rhineland Palatinate, but by then everybody knew where he was. So Leopold set a high ransom on the king's head, which was eventually met, and Richard was set free.
The castle was virtually demolished by the Swedes in 1645, but you can visit the ruins if you don't mind a vigorous climb (allow an hour). The castle isn't much, but the view of Durnstein and the Wachau is more than worth the effort.
Back in the town, many old residences dating from the 1500s and well maintained through the centuries are a great attraction. In summer, the balconies are beautifully covered with flowers.
Durnstein Parish Church
The fifteenth century Pfarrkirche also merits a visit. The edifice was initially an Augustinian monastery and was reconstructed when the baroque style come to Austria. The tower of this church is one of the best baroque examples in the entire country and a notable landmark in the Danube Valley. There is also a splendid church portal. Kremser Schmidt, the noted baroque painter, did some of the altar paintings.
Also you may want to visit the Durnstein Tourist Information and Durnstein Transportation.