For years I’d seen photos of the small village of Hallstatt in Austria gracing the covers of travel brochures and I’d long wanted to visit.
Nestled on the edge of Lake Hallstatt (Hallstattersee) and framed by mountains, Hallstatt’s setting is idyllic and incredibly photogenic.
It was this scenery that first attracted me to the village but when researching the various things to do in Hallstatt, I soon realised that it was more than just a pretty face and a worthy destination for many reasons.
As I approached Hallstatt for the first time, I’ll admit to being a little nervous. Would the town live up to my lofty expectations or had I set the bar too high?
I need not have worried for Hallstatt was everything I hoped it would be – and more!
Listed in 1997 as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Hallstatt is built precariously on the side of the Dachstein Mountains and on the edge of Lake Hallstatt.
Tourism is the main source of income for Hallstatt (and many other towns and villages in the Salzburg Lake region) and most visitors are only in town for the day.
Bus loads of visitors arrive each morning and depart en-masse in the afternoon to enjoy a day trip from Salzburg to Hallstatt.
Luckily for us (and due to my careful planning and choice of cycling tour!), we were spending two nights here, giving us a good day and a half to explore. Best of all, we could wander the streets in the evening when all the day-trippers had departed Hallstatt.
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Things to do in Hallstatt
You’ll definitely want to start your Hallstatt sightseeing by wandering along the lakeside promenade that leads into the heart of the village. There is plenty of opportunity for shopping – if you can prise your eyes away from the lake views – with boutiques and gift shops to tempt you.
The focal point of the town is the church spire, and as you approach it, more narrow streets and alleys appear, just waiting to be explored.
Explore Hallstatt Village
As you walk around town – which is car-free – you can read the history of Hallstatt on signs that have been erected for this purpose. Audio guides and guided tours of the town (like this one here) are also available if you want to really get to know the history of Hallstatt.
Relics found around Hallstatt date back to prehistoric times and it was the salt mines in the area that brought it great wealth around 12,000 years ago!
When the Habsburgs settled in the region in the 16th Century, it resulted in a real boom and it wasn’t long until the mining capacity of Hallstatt became exhausted.
You can learn more about the town’s history in the World Cultural Heritage Museum Hallstatt which is open daily from May until September.
Central to Hallstatt is Market Square (pictured above), surrounded by brightly painted buildings which house shops, restaurants and cafes. It’s a popular meeting place and the venue for concerts and cultural evenings during the summer months.
It’s not just in Market Square that you’ll find somewhere to eat. A number of restaurants and cafes line the lakefront, offering delicious food and breathtaking views.
Of the two churches in Hallstatt, the Evangelical Church (with the aforementioned spire) is probably the most photographed, with its position right on the lake making it a focal point for postcard-worthy shots.
A church was first built on the site in 1785 but the current building dates back to 1863.
Hallstatt’s other church, the 16th Century Pfarrkirche (Catholic Church), sits on the mountain side above the Evangelical Church and is worth the steep climb to reach it.
The church’s stunning views of the lake are not its only features. There are beautiful frescoes over the porch, a late Gothic winged altar and a small, well-tended cemetery which offers a quiet place for contemplation.
Bone House Hallstatt
Next door to the Pfarrkirche, the charnel house is a museum with a difference. Here, around 1200 skulls – many of which are artistically painted – are displayed in a small chapel.
Due to lack of space in the town’s cemetery, the bones of dearly departed locals are periodically removed from their place in the earth and moved to the charnel house to allow the more recently passed to rest in the cemetery.
Row upon row of bones and skulls are arranged, many inscribed with names and dates.
It’s a solemn but eerie place to visit.
Lake Hallstatt cruises
The lake – with its picture postcard views – is, naturally, the main attraction and spending time on the water is one of the best things to do in Hallstatt.
Hour-long lake cruises and 30-minute gondola rides (around €10) are a great way to enjoy views of Hallstatt from the water.
It’s also possible to hire an electric boat (around €20 for one hour) and those feeling more energetic can hire a boat without a motor or swim from one of the number of ‘beaches’ around the lake.
Private Photo Shoot
There’s no doubt that Hallstatt is a photogenic town but instead of being behind the camera all the time, why not book a private photo shoot? For two hours, you and your traveling companions can have your visit to Hallstatt captured by a professional photographer, creating a unique and memorable souvenir just for you. Click here for further details and prices.
Planning on visiting in the cooler months? This guide to visiting Hallstatt in winter will help you plan your visit.
Salt Mine Hallstatt
As I mentioned above, salt played a huge part in Hallstatt’s past and it is still possible to visit the town’s mines which are the oldest working salt mines in the world.
The Hallstatt Salt World (Salzwelten Hallstatt) is one of the most popular Hallstatt attractions. The mine, which is carved inside a mountain, is reached by the Hallstatt Salzberg cable car.
90-minute tours of the salt mine are available and include a walk of about two kilometres through the Christina Tunnel followed by a train ride. You should allow at least three hours to reach the mine and take a tour.
The Salzberg cable car operates from 9am to 6pm (last ascent at 4pm) daily from early June to late September and from 9am to 4.30pm (last ascent at 2pm) from late September to early January.
The Salt Mine is open from 9.30am daily during the above dates.
Close to the entrance of the Salt Mine you’ll find the Hallstatt Skywalk (pictured above), a 12-meter long tapered viewing platform that protrudes from the side of the mountain. It offers wonderful views of Hallstatt and the lake (360 meters below) and the surrounding mountains.
Combination tickets for the Salt Mine tour and the Skywalk Hallstatt are available but you don’t need to tour the mine to enjoy a visit to the Skywalk.
Hallstatt is perfectly situated to visit the famed 5Fingers, another spectacular viewing platform. Spread like the five fingers on a hand, each platform extends from the Krippenstein mountain over a sheer drop.
If you’re brave enough to walk out on any of the five fingers, Hallstatt, the lake and the Salzkammergut region spread out 400 metres below your feet.
Each viewing platform (or finger) is just 4 metres by 1 metre and offers incredible vistas. One finger even has a glass floor – definitely not for the faint-hearted!
5Fingers can be reached by the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car from Obertraun. The cable car operates year-round (except for a short break from early November to mid-December) with services every 15 minutes.
More Hallstatt attractions
If you have more than just one day to spend in the area, there are plenty of natural attractions to see. For visits to the Dachstein and Krippenstein mountains and their numerous hiking trails, ski slopes and Ice Caves, Hallstatt is just a short distance away.
Where is Hallstatt
Hallstatt is located in the Salzkammergut region in the Austrian state of Upper Austria. It is around 75 kilometres from Salzburg, 207 kilometres from Munich, 240 kilometres from Innsbruck and 291 kilometres from Vienna.
Lake Hallstatt is just one of more than fifty lakes in the Salzkammergut region.
How to get to Hallstatt
Hallstatt can be reached by car, train, bus and even by ferry. Below you’ll find the journey times from Salzburg, Innsbruck, Vienna and Munich.
Getting to Hallstatt by car:
With the lake on one side of the village and the mountain on the other, road access into Hallstatt is fairly limited so it’s one way traffic only through the town.
- Salzburg to Hallstatt – 1h:20
- Innsbruck to Hallstatt – 2 3h
- Vienna to Hallstatt – 3h:15
- Munich to Hallstatt – 2h:30
Parking in Hallstatt
Car parking is available for visitors on the edge of town and shuttle buses transfer guests between the car park and hotels.
Getting to Hallstatt by train:
The Hallstatt station (on the Bad Ischl line) is on the opposite side of the lake to the town but ferries run regularly between the station and Hallstatt’s main ferry port (at least one per hour during summer).
- Salzburg to Hallstatt train – 2h:40
- Innsbruck to Hallstatt train – 4h:50
- Vienna to Hallstatt train – 3h:15
- Munich to Hallstatt train – 4h:45
Getting to Hallstatt by bus:
- Salzburg to Hallstatt bus – 2h:40
Arriving on an organised day trip to Hallstatt:
One of the most popular ways to get from Salzburg to Hallstatt is on a guided coach tour and there are both Salzburg and Vienna to Hallstatt tours available. The most popular tours include:
- Half-day Hallstatt tour – click here to check details and prices
- Guided day trips from Salzburg to Hallstatt and Salzkammergut – click here to check details and prices
- Panoramic Austrian Alps Tours – click here to check details and prices
- Vienna to Hallstatt and Austrian Peaks with Skywalk tour – click here to check details and prices
- Full day trip Vienna to Hallstatt and Salzkammergut – click here to check details and prices
There are also a number of Private tours from Salzburg to Hallstatt and from Vienna to Hallstatt – click here for further details and prices.
Where to Stay in Hallstatt
For visitors who would prefer to stay overnight, there is a wide range of accommodation in Hallstatt to choose from. As well as hotels in Hallstatt, guest houses, B&Bs and self-catering apartments are also available.
For a single night stay, a B&B or hotel in Hallstatt is probably your best option. Below you’ll find details on two of the top rated hotels in Hallstatt, Austria.
Located right on the lakeside in the heart of Hallstatt, Seehotel Grüner Baum’s spacious rooms offer panoramic views of the lake. A range of rooms and suites are available and all include free WiFi, private bathrooms, tea/coffee making facilities and in-room safe.
The hotel’s excellent restaurant features a lakeside terrace. Other hotel facilities include a bar and a spa/wellness centre.
Consisting of three separate historic buildings, Hallstatt’s Heritage Hotel features individually furnished rooms and suites, all with free WiFi, tea/coffee making facilities, mini bar and cable TV.
Haus Stocker and Haus Seethaler are a few minutes’ walk from the main building, Haus Kainz, where the reception, restaurant, cafe and bar are located.
A free shuttle bus from Hallstatt’s main car park is available for guests.
I visited Hallstatt for the second time whilst staying in this incredible apartment in St. Wolfgang. If you’d like to stay in an apartment or Airbnb, Hallstatt has plenty of options.
Where to Eat in Hallstatt
We enjoyed a delicious meal at Seehotel Gruner Baum, right on the lakeside. We’d pre-booked an outside table on the deck next to the lake, but with rain imminent, we were moved inside next to the large windows.
The views were still fantastic, the staff excellent and the meal, superb. I opted for Wiener Schnitzel, my husband had fish freshly caught from the lake and we enjoyed apple strudel for dessert. I would definitely eat at Seehotel Gruner Baum again (they also have accommodation available).
It’s no surprise that this is regarded as one of the best restaurants in Hallstatt.
For more casual dining, try Cafe Bachts Polreich which is located on the lakefront, close to the main promenade entrance. The tables on the terrace are highly sought after!
I can highly recommend the apple strudel and the cappuccino is served with whipped cream (a lovely Austrian touch!).
Weather in Hallstatt
Hallstatt enjoys warm weather during the months of June, July and August with average temperatures between 20°C and 25°C. If you’d like to take advantage of longer daylight hours and warm days, this is the best time to visit Hallstatt although it is extremely busy during these months.
Thanks to Hallstatt’s proximity to the mountains, winter temperatures are low. January is the coldest month with average temperatures of 2°C.
After a day and a half exploring Hallstatt, I could rest easy. This much-hyped town which I’d seen so many times in travel brochures did not let me down.
I’m always a sucker for lakes but the uniqueness of Hallstatt’s position, wedged between the side of the mountain and the lake, and the charming chalet-style houses, make it a clear winner in the ‘prettiness’ stakes.
Hallstatt is not just a pretty face, though. There are plenty of interesting things to do in Hallstatt and the nearby mountains that make it a worthwhile destination for a day trip or a longer stay.
I’m not surprised that the Chinese have built an exact replica of the town in their country – I’m just glad I got to visit the real thing!
For more Austria travel inspiration, read our Austria travel guide.
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