The small town of Hallstatt in the Salzkammergut is – without denying it – one of the most beautiful places in Austria. Surrounded by the Dachstein massif and Lake Hallstatt, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hallstatt attracts one million visitors every year – and that with less than 800 residents. Overtourism has become a real problem in Hallstatt, but there are ways to visit it away from the crowds and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. In this blog post I’ll tell you my personal insider tips for a trip to Hallstatt and the surrounding area – and I’ll share with you what the Chinese Hallstatt is all about.
I have been living in Upper Austria for four years now and one of my first excursions led me to Hallstatt. It was sometime in winter when I went on a day trip from Linz. I still remember the train ride and how excited I was to finally travel to Hallstatt. My expectations were high up in the clouds and reality hit me pretty hard. The market place was a big construction site, the ossuary was closed and otherwise, the day was pretty dull. It was a nice day trip, but I could not understand the fascination of Hallstatt. Until a few years later my dear friend Anne from Berlin visited me and we went on a road trip through the Salzkammergut. We both fell madly in love with Hallstatt, thanks to the weather and our good preparation.
Two years ago, we spent a few days in the Inner Salzkammergut again and made some excursions in Gosau. With absolute certainty, I can say that I have discovered the most beautiful place in Austria for me: Gosau lakes! And because I love it there so much, we picked a few nice places to visit in Austria for the post-lockdown period – and Gosau was one of them. After my husband had been in Hallstatt too many years ago, we decided to go there now and explore without crowds.
I have now collected these experiences and insider tips for you and put them together, so your trip to Hallstatt – whether it’s a day trip or a whole weekend – will be simply amazing!
Insider Tips for your Trip to Hallstatt
Everyone can experience Hallstatt without crowds. It is only a question of time. I give this insider tip for Hallstatt to all my friends and those who ask me for recommendations. No matter what the time of year, even during the peak tourist season you can stroll through the picturesque town almost alone – as long as you do it before 9 am. Getting up early is definitely worth it and if you arrive by car, you will be happy about parking directly in Hallstatt and not having to use the overflow parking places.
How to get to Hallstatt
Insider tip Hallstatt – Arriving by train: Although a car is clearly an advantage in the Salzkammergut, I would advise you to travel to Hallstatt by train. Not only is the journey beautiful, but you also save yourself the trouble of looking for a parking space and the parking fee. What I like so much about the railway route is that it runs along Lake Hallstatt – on the opposite side of Hallstatt. The view of Hallstatt from the other side of the lake is really fantastic. From the train station take the water taxi (Hallstätter Seeschifffahrt), which regularly brings train passengers to Hallstatt and back in 15 minutes. The short trip costs 3€ and tickets can be bought right on the ship.
Arriving by car: The traffic to and in Hallstatt can quickly come to a standstill, as the roads are narrow. In Hallstatt itself, there are two parking places and two more on the outside. Parking is scarce and if you come by car, plan your journey so that you arrive in Hallstatt by 08:30 to escape the traffic jam and find a parking space. Parking is also priced accordingly – 4 hours of parking costs 9 €.
Insider Tips Hallstatt: Top sights in Hallstatt
Hallstatt is relatively small and compact. Nevertheless, you should not underestimate the charm of this tiny place. Many people make the mistake of planning only 1-2 hours to visit. However, there is a lot to discover in Hallstatt and you can easily spend several days in and around Hallstatt. My insider tips for Hallstatt reveal the most beautiful places and viewing platforms:
Hallstatt Viewing Platform
Admittedly, the viewing platform in Hallstatt is no longer an insider tip or secret. Nevertheless, I always head to the end of Hallstatt, where the viewing platform is located in front of the Zian house (Gosaumühlstraße 68). This view of Hallstatt is like something out of a fairy tale book. And no matter how often I come to Hallstatt, this panorama always fascinates me anew.
Cemetery and Charnel House Hallstatt
Another beautiful viewpoint can be found from the cemetery of the high built catholic parish church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The cemetery surrounding the church is particularly worth seeing. The graves are decorated with flowers and beautifully decorated crosses commemorate the dead.
Another insider tip for Hallstatt: In the summer months you can also visit the impressive and a bit creepy charnel house in St. Michael’s Chapel. The charnel house has existed since the 12th century. The small room is filled with skulls and hollow bones. What makes the Hallstatt charnel house so special are the painted skulls, of which there are 610 here. The reason for the charnel house is the lack of space at the cemetery. Therefore, after 10-15 years the graves are opened again, the bones are cleaned, partly decorated and placed in the charnel house. This makes the charnel house in Hallstatt unique worldwide. The newest skull, by the way, dates from 1995 and is located to the right of the cross. If you want to become a part of the charnel house yourself, you must state this in your will.
Town Square and the Centre of Hallstatt
The steps at the back of the cemetery lead down to the centre of Hallstatt. Every single building in Hallstatt seems to have been taken from a film set. The town square with the impressive Trinity Column is also very charming.
By the way, the church that we know from the typical pictures of Hallstatt is located in the centre. The protestant parish church is even simpler than the catholic one. If you have time, take a look inside.
Boat trip on the Lake Hallstatt
For those who did not arrive by train and therefore have not yet crossed the Lake Hallstatt, I recommend taking a boat trip. The small tour to Hallstatt Lahn and Obertraun takes about 50 minutes and costs 12 €. It is really worthwhile to see Hallstatt from a different perspective from the water.
Hallstatt Skywalk: World Heritage View
High above the small-town centre of Hallstatt, there is another viewpoint you shouldn’t miss. The Hallstatt Skywalk with World Heritage View is an impressive viewing platform built 360 metres above Hallstatt. From up here, you can enjoy a phenomenal view over Hallstatt, the Lake Hallstatt and up into the Dachstein massif.
There are two ways to get to the skywalk – each starting at the Salzwelten Hallstatt bottom station:
- On foot: A zigzag path through the forest leads you up to the viewing platform. The path is 2 kilometres long, 325 metres in altitude have to be overcome and the walking time is 45-60 minutes.
- By funicular: The Salzberg cable car takes you comfortably and quickly up to the Hallstatt Skywalk. The ascent and descent costs 18 €.
Salt Worlds Hallstatt
Those who want to make the most of their day in Hallstatt should not miss the Salt Worlds (Salzwelten). This show mine in Salzkammergut is the oldest salt mine in the world. Even today salt is still being mined here. The Salzwelten are on the same mountain, the Salzberg, where the Skywalk is located.
What makes the Salzwelten in Hallstatt so special is the 7000-year relationship with salt, which once helped the region to become wealthy and gave the Salzkammergut its name. Anyone who now thinks that this might sound boring is mistaken. A visit to the show mine in Hallstatt is worth every second. Guided tours take you into the mountain to explore the oldest salt mine in the world. The guides manage to make the tours entertaining. The wooden slides that connect the individual floors were my favourite part of the tour.
The guided tours take place every half hour between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and cost 34€ including the ascent and descent with the funicular. Those who prefer to walk save 10€. Tickets can be booked in advance both on-site and online.
Sights and attractions around Hallstatt
Those who have more time and want to get to know a larger part of the Inner Salzkammergut should definitely add the following excursion destinations to their itinerary.
Gosau and both Gosau Lakes
If someone asks me for the most beautiful place in all of Austria, I don’t have to think long. For me, the Gosau and the two Gosau lakes are by far the most beautiful idyll in the republic. The whole landscape looks like a kitschy landscape watercolour – only no artist has made up this scenery. Don’t miss the hike to both Gosau lakes (Vorderer and Hinterer Gosausee).
Dachstein Krippenstein and the Giant Ice Cave
The giant ice cave in the Dachstein massif has been on my Austria Bucket List for the longest time. After the last visit to an ice cave in Slovakia was quite a flop, since there is hardly any ice in the cave in summer, I was extremely careful. The Dachstein Giant Ice Cave is, in fact, an ice cave all year round.
You should take a whole day to visit the Krippenstein and the various sights on the mountain. We took the cable car to the halfway station first. From there, we visited the Mammoth Cave, which has nothing to do with mammoths, except for the size. If you have to decide on just one cave, you should choose the giant ice cave. From the halfway station, trails lead you to the caves in approximately 15 minutes.
If you are hungry, there is a restaurant in the halfway station. Both the Kaspressknödelsuppe (cheese bread dumplings soup) and the Kaiserschmarrn were really excellent there! These Austrian delicacies simply taste better on the mountain!
Afterwards, the second cable car takes you up to the Krippenstein. From there, there are three places of interest. Note that they are not directly next to the station:
- Five Fingers viewing platform: Another spectacular view over the Alps can be found on the Five Fingers viewing platform. This is located about 15-20 minutes on foot from the top station (section II). From here, if the weather is good, you can enjoy a view all the way down into the valley to Lake Hallstatt. However, when stepping onto the platform, you should be somewhat free from vertigo, as you can see the rocks below through the ground.
- World Heritage Spiral: At the top of the Krippenstein is the World Heritage Spiral at 2100 metres. From here you also have a great view with 360° panoramic views over a large part of the Salzkammergut and the Dachstein. We discovered a flock of sheep right there, which were very curious and probably thought we would feed them.
- Dachstein Shark: As an enthusiastic scuba diver I definitely wanted to see the Dachstein Shark. Unfortunately, the weather interfered with our visit. We had thought that the shark is located right at the top station and not 30 minutes walk away.
The reason for the Dachstein shark is that millions of years ago this area was below sea level. At that time the prehistoric shark was already alive – also known as the ice shark!
A particularly quiet place is Koppenwinkel Lake. A leisurely walk around the small lake is definitely worthwhile. The small round trip takes less than an hour and is even barrier-free – you find the trail data here.
Trip to the Styrian Salzkammergut: Bad Aussee and Altaussee
The Styrian part of the Salzkammergut includes Bad Aussee and Altaussee. Both these places can be perfectly combined with a weekend in Hallstatt. The drive over the Koppenpass and Pötschenpass are really nice, too.
Bad Aussee is a small, compact town. What makes it interesting is that it is the geographical centre of Austria. A sculpture in the Kurgarten marks the spot. There is another interesting construction only a few steps away: the Mercedes bridge. It marks the junction of the rivers Grundlseertraun and Altausseertraun. It is one of the biggest Mercedes stars worldwide. Good coffee and even better desserts can be found in Café Anna Plochl.
In Altaussee you should either take a boat trip or walk around the lake. By the way, the Jagdhaus Seewiese was used as a backdrop for the James Bond movie Spectre and houses a small museum about the visit from Hollywood.
Insider Tips Hallstatt: Where to stay
Spending several days in the Inner Salzkammergut is really worth it. There is much more to discover than I could cover in this article. Check out these places where to stay in and around Hallstatt:
- Hotel Sommerhof: Perfect for families, or for couples during low season. Comfortable and newly renovated rooms, pool, whirlpool, sauna area and multiple course dinner menus make the Sommerhof in Gosau a suitable starting point for activities in the region.
- Seehotel Grüner Baum: THE hotel in Hallstatt is located directly on the historic town square and was first mentioned in documents in 1700. Even Empress Sissi stayed here on her many Salzkammergut trips.
- Fenix Hall: This boutique hotel is only a few minutes walk from the centre. Perfect for relaxing after exploring the surroundings.
- Couldn’t find the right one? Here you can find more hotels in Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut!
(Not) an Insider Tip: Chinese Hallstatt
It is really no secret that Chinese are world champions in counterfeiting and copying. But the fact that they are now also copying entire cities is new. As early as 2009, it became known that Chinese architects have been coming to Hallstatt on a regular basis to map the town in detail. Even Lake Hallstatt was part of the plagiarism project.
The Chinese Hallstatt was finally built in the Guangdong province in the city of Luoyangzhen, which lies less than 90 km north of Hong Kong. But why? It is a huge investment project because huge housing estates have been built around Hallstatt 五矿-哈施塔特 Rich Chinese prefer to live in European houses to showcase their status. Crazy, right?
What are your very personal insider tips for Hallstatt? I look forward to your comments!
Have you read my other blog posts about Austria?
Austria Bucket List
Road Trip Salzkammergut
Fun Facts about Salzburg
How to spend a perfect day in Linz
Road Trip through the South of Styria
Paddle along the Drava
Scuba Diving in Carinthia
Scuba Diving with Eals
Ice Diving at Lake Weißensee
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