Melk (older spelling: Mölk) is a city of Austria, in the federal state of Lower Austria, next to the Wachau valley along the Danube. Melk has a population of 5,222 (as of 2001). The area around Melk was given to Margrave Leopold I in the year 976 to serve as a buffer between the Turks and Huns to east and Bavaria to the west. In 996 mention was first made of an area known as Ostarichi - which is recognized as the origin of the word Oesterreich (German for Austria). The bluff which holds the current monastery held a Babenberger castle until the site was given to Benedictine monks from nearby Lambach by Margrave Leopold II in 1089. Melk received market rights in 1227 and became a municipality in 1898. In a very small area, Melk presents a great deal of architectural variety from many centuries.
The Forsthaus, which accommodates the city archives and the tourist information office, is the starting point of the tour. Beside the Forsthaus the Zaglauergasse meets with the Wiener Straße. The Zaglauergasse is restricted on one side by remnants of the ancient city wall. At this junction one could find the Wiener Tor until 1874. It has been, as well as the Linzer Tor on the other side of the city, one of the two entrances to Melk throughout the centuries.
After several metres, the Wiener Straße opens to the affectionately restored Rathausplatz, which got its name from the 1575 built Rathaus. The facade of the town hall was redesigned 150 years ago and the highly elaborate entrance door, made of wood and copper, is the town hall's most outstanding feature.
To its left is the former Lebzelterhaus, which dates back to 1657 and which nowadays is a pharmacy. To the right is a secular building from the Middle Ages. The Kolomanbrunnen (market fountain), which is a gift from the abbey to the city, is in the centre of the Rathausplatz. On the top of the fountain the statue of St. Koloman can be seen.
The old bread store with its tiny towers is about 400 years old and still covered with the original shingle roof. Behind the old bread store extends the oldest lane in Melk, the Sterngasse, which used to be the main street of the town. The interesting wall paintings on the houses indicate what they used to be. Some other houses contain fascinating courtyards.
The hidden Haus am Stein (house at the rock) is the oldest building of Melk. It was built during the 15th century. Its facade is covered by a protected ancient vine. At the arm of the Danube river, parts of the former city walls and the Round Tower can be recognised. Following the Nibelungenlände and passing the Salzhof, the visitor reaches the Schiffsmeisterhaus with its high water level marks on the facade. The Danube reached 15.8 metres above the usual water level in 1501.
The Haus auf dem Stein (house on the rock) was built less than 50 years after this high water disaster. It was used as an atelier by the well-known Austrian painter Walter Prinzl. The counterpart of the Wiener Tor, the Linzer Tor, was located at the end of the Linzer Straße. Both gates do not exist anymore, but historical illustrations can be found at the city archives. At the corner of the Stadtgraben (moat), there is the defense tower, where parts of it are still in original condition.
The Ancient Post Office is at the end of the moat, which was built in 1792. Its facade is decorated with a beautiful relief created at the end of the baroque period. The Ancient Post Office is now used as an event- and convention centre. The church court is dominated by the Gothic Parish Church. Designed in the late gothic period and embedded in the northern facade, is the Kalvarienberggruppe, a significant sculpture. Before the main road connects to the Rathausplatz, a tablet commemorates the great Austrian composer Anton Bruckner.