Hallstatt is known as Austria’s most photogenic town, and it won’t take long for you to understand why. In fact, the cultural landscape of the entire Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut region is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This tiny lakeside village in the state of Upper Austria has only 800 residents, yet receives a ton of tourists during the day. Visitors fall in love with the incredible natural beauty and serenity of the area, and you undoubtedly will too!
Thinking of visiting Hallstatt, Austria? This travel guide is here to help you out and will tell you everything you need to know about visiting the town. Keep reading to find out the best things to do, places to stay, and foods to eat while in Hallstatt.
This ultimate travel guide to Hallstatt will show you all the most beautiful places in Hallstatt, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Hallstatt and things to do in Hallstatt which will help you in planning a trip to Hallstatt.
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How to get to Hallstatt
The closest airport to Hallstatt is over 70 kilometres away, so planning your public transport journey is essential to make it from Salzburg to Hallstatt. It’s easy to get to Hallstatt from Salzburg by train and a very popular trip to make.
One changeover is required between Salzburg Hauptbahnhof and Hallstatt Bahnhof, typically at either Attnang-Puchheim or Bad Ischl. It’s easy to book your tickets online (and in English!) at trainline.eu, and you’ll be shown which connections are required. The trip takes anywhere from two to three hours, but the time will pass quickly and pleasantly.
You may instead be wondering how to get to Hallstatt, Austria from Vienna, and the answer is much the same! When coming from Vienna, however, there are a few different stations you may need to switch trains at. Simply take note of the trip information when booking and you won’t have any issues.
What to expect in Hallstatt
The official language in Hallstatt and the rest of Austria is German. The Austro-Bavarian dialect is spoken here, which is the most common throughout the country. Most residents speak English as a second language, so you’ll be able to converse with many of the people in Hallstatt. That being said, it’s a nice courtesy to learn hello, please and thank you in the local language and use when appropriate. This helps you feel more immersed in the culture while also respecting the residents.
Since Austria is a member of the European Union, the euro is used in Hallstatt. Tipping isn’t as common as it is in larger cities like Vienna, though leaving an extra five to 10 per cent of the total bill at restaurants is always accepted and appreciated. You might also like to leave one or two euros for porters who help you with your suitcase, for example.
How to get around Hallstatt
It’s easy to walk around the centre of Hallstatt without needing any additional form of transport. For areas further out, however, buses and taxis are available. Bus 543 can take you up and down the Hallstatt side of the lake, as well as neighbouring Obertraun and Bad Goisern.
For taxis, there are two main companies in the region. You can reach Taxi Godl at +43 664 4433 674 or Taxi Rastl at +43 699 1175 4852 to book a ride to your accommodation or an attraction.
To get across Lake Hallstatt, catch the ferry from Hallstatt Bahnhst, right next to the train station, to the Market Square on the opposite side. You can also rent a boat and become your own captain for the day. With rowing boats, swan pedal boats and electric boats available, you can get around the lake in peacefully and scenically.
The best time to visit Hallstatt
Any time between mid-May to mid-October is ideal to visit Hallstatt. The town is all about the scenery, so you want to visit when the weather allows you to be outside. Most of the activities and tours are available during the summertime. The shoulder months of May and September are the best for lesser crowds and mild temperatures.
A Hallstatt winter is very chilly, and therefore not the best time for tourists unless you absolutely love the cold! Be aware that the salt mines and a lot of shops are closed during this time, and buses may not be running if it’s too snowy.
Things to do in Hallstatt
Hallstatt has many unique and scenic attractions that tourists can’t help but fall in love with. Here are some of the top things to do in Hallstatt during your visit:
Step out onto the Skywalk
Easily one of the top places to visit in Hallstatt is the Hallstatt Skywalk. Walk along the platform built 350 metres above the town for some of the most memorable panoramic views of your life. The Skywalk culminates in a triangular viewing platform over the lake, aka the World Heritage View.
If you’re not finished admiring the views and you don’t want to leave just yet, stop by Restaurant Rudolfsturm to enjoy a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.
Go down the Salt Mine
The Salzwelten Hallstatt, aka the Hallstatt Salt Mine, is a huge attraction that you won’t want to miss seeing. The region is known for its production of salt, also known as white gold, ever since the prehistoric era, and the mine is considered to be the oldest in the world. The underground tunnels are over 65 kilometres across 21 tiers and contain the longest wooden slide in Europe.
Learn about the 7,000 years of history as you tour the mine dressed up in typical miners’ clothing. Hear about ‘the Man in the Salt’, a prehistoric miner whose body was found perfectly preserved in the 1800s, and get a commemorative photo taken of you racing down the slides.
To get to the top of the salt mines and begin your tour, you’ll need to ride the cable car. If your time is limited, you can take the funicular up the hill then hike the way down, which takes anywhere between 40 minutes to one hour. You can head up there as early as nine in the morning, with last rides down depending on the time of year.
Ticket prices depend on age, group, concession, and whether or not you’ll be riding the cable car. For a single adult, a visit to the salt mine and a round-trip on the funicular will cost €34. Once you’re done, stop by the Salt Mine Shop to purchase some unique souvenirs, like natural salt candles or salt mixes with organic herbs and spices.
Get chilly at the Ice Cave
One of the most magnificent places to visit when in Hallstatt is the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave. While only rediscovered in 1910, the underground wonderland was once occupied by tribes during the Ice Age.
Embark on an adventurous cave tour, see fascinating natural ice sculptures and formations, and bravely cross the rope bridge. The light and sound show is complete with recreated cave bears called Ben and Boris. To learn as much as possible, download the audio guide app once inside, which is available in eight different languages.
Get your camera out
As mentioned early, Hallstatt is Austria’s most picturesque and Instagrammable region, so you will want to have your camera ready at all times. Bring any professional equipment if you have it, although today’s smartphones will take some great snaps if that’s all you’ve got with you. Be aware, however, that there are strict drone laws in Austria, meaning you cannot fly your drone near any people or cities. You should probably leave the selfie sticks at home as well and have your group pics taken the old fashioned way – by fellow travellers!
You won’t have to search for the perfect location, as there are so many breathtaking viewpoints to take beautiful photos at. Once you’ve got the shot, remember to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you in the present as well. After all, travel should be about living in the moment!
Visit the cemetery
Sometimes a place is so beautiful that even its cemeteries are must-visits! Hallstatt is definitely one of those places, so be sure to stop by the Beinhaus Hallstatt (aka the Hallstatt Ossuary) on the grounds of the Hallstatt Catholic Church. Above the graves are flower beds and wooden crosses underneath triangular arches, all facing the direction of the lake.
Perhaps the creepiest area of the cemetery is the Hallstatt Charnel House. The small chapel is filled with 1,200 intricately painted skulls from exhumed skeletons that were dug up to make room in the cemetery. The tradition of painting skulls with the individual’s name and both birth and death dates began in 1720. Half of the skulls are adorned with symbols, including roses and laurel wreaths, and most bear a Maltese cross. The skulls are grouped by family and represent entire communities from the Hallstatt area.
Wander at sunset
Staying overnight in Hallstatt provides you with a unique experience. Once all the day trippers head home, it feels like you have the town all to yourself. The evenings are magical and you can wander around the streets and the lake in peace.
What to eat in Hallstatt
Carbs are friends of the Austrians, as the cuisine is dominated by meats, bread and potatoes. With all of these carbs, you’ll never go hungry! Local meals are prepared with rich flavours and are very hearty and comforting. Here are a few of the top dishes to try when in Hallstatt:
- Tafelspitz: One of Austria’s most traditional dinners, consisting of boiled veal, horseradish and minced apples on a plate
- Käsespätzle: Similar to macaroni and cheese, yet made with soft egg noodles and often paired with a glass of wine
- Apfelstrudel: A classic apple strudel pastry, popular throughout Austria and Europe
- Wienerschnitzel: Another of Austria’s national dishes, a breaded and pan-fried veal cutlet served with lemon. Don’t get it confused with the fast-food hot dog of the same name, however!
- Gröstl: A typical Austrian comfort food made with potato, beef or pork, onion, and occasionally topped with a fried egg
- Brettljause: Looking for a snack or wanting to share? Order this platter of cold meats, pickled vegetables, slices of bread, and various spreads
Where to stay in Hallstatt
One of the town’s most luxurious accommodation options is the Hallstatt Hideaway. The historic buildings of the hotel were built in 1740 yet completely renovated in 2014, so you can expect both charming exteriors and contemporary interiors. There are 84 rooms available in total, though the five luxury rooms offer beautiful lake views from the patio and include a fireplace, a library and a kitchenette. Guests also have access to a private garden by the lake and a spa and wellness centre.
A more affordable hotel in the area is Gasthof Simony, which is perfectly located in Hallstatt Old Town. The historic 15th-century building has a restaurant with a lakeside beer garden, offering Austrian cuisine and homemade pastries. The vibrant red, old-style house is complete with rustic, wooden rooms and vintage touches to take you back in time.
Tours to do in Hallstatt
One of the best ways to explore Hallstatt is on foot, so why not organise a walking tour? Unfortunately, since the town is so small, there are limited tours with local guides. The Hallstatt Tourist Office runs a guided city tour every Saturday during the summer for only a few euros. However, you can find resources online for your own self-guided walking tour to go on during any time of the year. Best of all, this option is completely free and you can go at your own pace. Create your own map using the points of interest and attractions mentioned earlier, prioritising what you’d most like to see.
There are also some fun photo shoots you can book in Hallstatt that will take you off the beaten path to some really stunning and unique locations. Choose a romantic couples photo shoot, perfect for honeymooners or those recently engaged, or go with a group of friends. See Hallstatt from a local’s perspective and walk away from the day with some professional photographs to cherish.
Day trips from Hallstatt
You already know that getting between Hallstatt and Salzburg isn’t too complicated, so why not make a day trip back to the city? Book a tour in advance on Viator so you can see all of Salzburg’s best attractions in the most efficient amount of time. Take a two-hour city highlights tour to see the Mirabell Palace, the Mozart Residence, and the Salzburg Cathedral. If you’re a fan of ‘The Sound of Music’, go on a four-hour-long tour instead and visit the incredible filming locations around the city.