Nestled in the heart of the Salzkammergut Lake Region within Austria, sits the most idyllic and stunning little village of Hallstatt.
Hallstatt is a place I’ve wanted to visit since the moment I laid my eyes on a photo of its beautiful 16th century cabin-like homes and the jaw-dropping beauty of the Alpine scenery. Now, Hallstatt is one of, if not THE most photographed village in all of Austria, mainly thanks to social media, which is good for Hallstatt’s economy, but the 800 locals that call Hallstatt home aren’t really too keen about the throngs of tourists that flood the village each and everyday of the year. Approximately one million visitors a year make their way to Hallstatt every year. Crazy!
Hallstatt is popular for a good reason…it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s surrounded by the clear clean water of the Hallstättersee and the imposing Dachstein mountains, making it one of the most fairy tale looking locations that I’ve ever seen.
From Salzburg, I headed to Hallstatt for a day trip and I do stress that you must get there early because busloads of tourists start to arrive at 9am, so be prepared for more people mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
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Although Hallstatt is quite small (you can walk the length of the village in less than 30 minutes), Hallstatt has a lot of history and beauty to offer its visitors.
I was in Hallstatt for approximately six hours and saw so much of what the village has to offer. In my opinion though, I’d suggest staying one night, so you can wander the village early and late into the evening without the slew of tourists that flood into the village during the day.
If you are thinking about visiting the enchanting village of Hallstatt, I say go for it! You won’t be disappointed by the insane amount of natural beauty surrounding this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here is my list of must see and must do things while exploring Hallstatt – The most beautiful village in Austria.
Getting To Hallstatt
As you know from reading this blog, I am a huge fan of travelling Europe by rail. Hallstatt may seem “hidden” due to the village being surrounding by mountains, but it is possible to arrive by train. From the main train line from Salzburg, you’ll need to make a transfer in order to get to Hallstatt. You’ll need to get off at the station called Attnang-Puchheim to transfer onward to Hallstatt. Take a train from here towards Bad Ischl and Obertraun. The Hallstatt station is on the east bank of the Hallstättersee (Hallstatt Lake) and consists of an unmanned station with a ticket purchase machine and a walkway that will lead you to a ferry dock. You must take the ferry, which meets each arriving train right on schedule, which will then take you across the lake to get to Hallstatt. One of the best views of Hallstatt is from this ferry ride across the lake, especially in the early morning hours when the sun is shining on the town and making the colours of the trees, flowers and houses pop.
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Relax In The Marktplatz
Hallstatt’s Marktplatz is one of the prettiest squares I’ve ever visited within Europe. Located in the heart of the village, this lively square is home to many restaurants, shops, souvenir stands and guesthouses. The colourful buildings look like gingerbread houses all lined up perfectly around the square. This is the perfect place to relax with a beer, or a cappuccino and just watch the people stroll by cheerfully as they enter this beautiful and vibrant area of Hallstatt.
Visit The Beinhaus
Hallstatt’s Beinhouse (Bone House or Charnal House) is unique worldwide. It has existed since the 12th-century and houses approximately 1200 skulls. Those skulls are painted and arranged according to family names and marked with the date of death. Because the graveyard in Hallstatt is so small and isn’t big enough for everyone over the years to be buried there, every 10-20 years the graves were opened and the skull and large bones were removed to create space. The skulls were cleaned and bleached by the sun for weeks until signs of decay vanished and the skull took on an ivory look. As a sign of love, the skulls were painted with flowers and ivy, which was a tradition that dated as far back as 1720. If someone wants their bones to be laid to rest here, a special testament must be made in order to granted permission. These days, the number of people that get cremated and have their final resting places in the ground are growing, some of the ashes are actually taken to Salzburg to be spread. Because of this, there is no need to remove the bones for space unless the special testament was made.
Do The Salt Mine Tour
Hallstatt’s production of salt goes as far back as the 15th century, which makes its salt mine (Salzwelten Hallstatt) the oldest salt mine in the world. The salt mine was used for over 300 years – from 1600 to 1960. There is a story that is quite interesting and dates back to 1734 about a man that was found fully preserved within the Salt Lake inside the mine by the miners at the time. Pretty creepy, but also pretty interesting, no? If you so wish to visit the salt mine, you’ll need to take the funicular to the top and follow the signs leading to the salt mine. The tour also explains the heavy labour that miners had to do back then to get the precious salt, which skyrocketed Hallstatt’s economy.
Take The Funicular Up The Salzburg To Enjoy The Views
If you aren’t keen on visiting the Salt Mines (I wasn’t, although the history behind it is obviously interesting and important), then head up the funicular to the “Top of Hallstatt” for spectacular views overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage region of the Dachstein Mountain Range in the Salzkammergut Region. The views of Hallstatt below make you realize how high you actually are. Jutting out from the side of the mountain, the “World Heritage” Skywalk hangs above Hallstatt at a staggering height of 360 metres. If you’re scared of heights, don’t look down, but looking down is half the fun and you’ll be able to see just how small the village of Hallstatt actually is compared to the size of the lake. You’ll also be able to see the other tiny villages lining the far corners of Hallstättersee. For a cost of €16.00 for a round trip adult priced ticket, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views in the whole Salzkammergut region.
Have A Scenic & Delicious Lunch
After all that sightseeing, you’re more than likely hungry and thirsty. How about eating lunch with the best view in the village? Lunch at the historic Rudolfsturm is the place to get that view and an amazing lunch. The Rudolfsturm was one of the oldest defense towers in the Salzkammergut Region that dates back to medieval 13th-century and is now a restaurant serving traditional and local dishes complete with an outdoor patio to enjoy unprecedented views of the Dachstein Mountain Range and much more. If you go to Hallstatt for one meal, make sure it’s at the Rudolfsturm restaurant. You will not be disappointed.
Wander Around Hallstättersee & The Village Itself
Hallstatt is the perfect place to wander aimlessly around while sipping a coffee and admiring the surrounding scenery, the cute alpine style houses, and the colourful changing leaves draped along side of the walls. The beauty is in all the little details of the village, not just in that “iconic Instagram” shot of Hallstatt, although that shot is quite spectacular, if I do say so myself, so make sure to wander around, look up, down and around to really appreciate the village for everything, not just what you’ve seen online. Also when wandering around Hallstatt, remember that people do live there and there are signs posted to be quiet and responsible travelling is all about respecting the locals wherever you are, so please abide by the signs. 🙂
The Evangelische Pfarrkirche (Evangelical Parish Church) in Hallstatt has been standing tall and proud in the centre of the village since 1785. The new church, which stands today, was completed after five years of construction and was done in 1863. Take a few moments to pop inside this small church and walk around the inside to view some pieces, stories and interesting facts placed along the walls throughout the church about the history of Hallstatt. The church is one of the most famous pieces of architecture within Hallstatt and is the key piece to that quintessential picture perfect Hallstatt postcard photo.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily consider Hallstatt a hidden gem anymore, it was still such a beautiful and peaceful place to visit. Yes, the village gets overrun by tourists, even within the early morning hours, but you can always find a spot to grab a coffee and chill out while overlooking the lake and reflect on the natural beauty that is surrounding you. To me, visiting a place that I’ve fallen in love with even before I had visited, felt somewhat surreal from the moment I first caught a glimpse of the village from across the lake.
Have any of you heard of Hallstatt, or have been there? What’s a place that you’ve always wanted to visit, or have visited after wanting to go for so long? Let me know in the comments below! xo
I travelled to Hallstatt via the Austrian Rail line OBB. For tickets, info and schedules, visit their fully detailed site.