Hallstatt is a picture-perfect fairytale village that I randomly came across on Instagram one day. I still remember how it took me a while to believe that this tiny village covered in fresh white snow was a real place that was only a few miles away (I was living in London at that time). It’s amusing how one picture on the internet can entirely mess the order of your bucket list and make you spontaneously book a trip to a place that only existed in romantic fiction novels before.
Cuddled up amidst Austrian alps and a beautiful glistering lake, Hallstatt could easily pass as one of Europe’s best kept secret. Recognised by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site, this quaint Austrian village is home to just over 750 residents. As if all of this wasn’t incredible enough, Hallstatt, meaning “place of salt”, is also a home to the world’s first (known) salt mine. Amazing, isn’t it?
As we got closer and closer to Hallstatt, I felt so glad for falling in love with a picture of a place I never even knew existed. I am not even exaggerating a bit when I tell you that I had my face pressed up against the window as we crossed beautiful blue lakes surrounded by snow-covered Mountains and the cutest houses I had seen in a long time. The excitement of seeing the snow fall over an already white washed landscape was real and made me annoyingly wake up my sleepy friend by yelling “this is the best view ever”, over and over again.
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How to reach Hallstatt?
Even though its tucked away between mountains, Hallstatt can be comfortably visited via train, bus or car. I have heard that parking could be a problem in peak season because the town is incredibly small (less than 1km from end to end) so if you drive here, then try to come early.
I took Austria’s national OBB train from Vienna that dropped me at the Attnang-Puchheim station and from there I had to take a direct regional train to Hallstatt station. You can also find your desired route from any departing point on the OBB route finder. But since Hallstatt village is situated across the lake from the station, you will have to take a ferry (it operates according to train timings) that will take you to the port in Hallstatt and back.
I personally loved the ferry option because getting your first glance at Hallstatt from the lake was a feeling like no other. Somewhere in between of taking in the view of Hallstatt with a cold snowy breeze and pinching ourselves because of how unreal it felt, we also spotted some swans casually swimming by. The ferry (aka Stefanie) cost €5 per person, the tickets of which we easily bought at the ferry station right beside the train one.
Since, Salzburg is closer to Hallstatt than Vienna, there are some buses that run frequently from there. Our itinerary was Vienna -> Hallstatt -> Salzburg and we opted for the train option from Hallstatt to Salzburg as well. This train route was exactly the same as the Vienna one but only shorter.
CG’s tip: Make sure you have your camera on you because the ferry ride (both ways) is so picturesque that you wouldn’t want to miss out on taking some beautiful photos.
Best time to visit Hallstatt?
I personally felt that nothing compares to the beauty of seeing Hallstatt covered in a fresh blanket of snow. And while summer may be the popular choice, I enjoyed sharing the town with only a handful of tourists during the end of January.
The best thing about visiting around the end of January was that all the tourists that had come for the Christmas and new year’s break had already gone back. Summer and spring were far out, making it a perfect time to get the actual feel of the place, crowd free.
However, keep in mind that the salt mines and the funicular are actually closed in winter months, so a tour inside there won’t be possible. But, you can still hike to the viewing platform and enjoy the breath-taking views of the Salzkammergut region without a problem.
Day trip or overnight stay?
This is a question that comes to everyone’s mind when planning a trip to Hallstatt. I, for one, always knew that I am going to stay there at least for a night. I wanted to wake up with the sun and explore this Alpine village in twilight. I wanted to wander around the streets and get a feel of the local life before tourists came swamping in. I wanted to do it justice and have my own personal time with it. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to experience a place that is more than 7,000 years old.
And, while some might say that it is possible to see Hallstatt in a few hours, I personally felt that even a night’s stay wasn’t enough. Sure, you could walk the entire town in less than an hour, but there are so many narrow, twisty streets that will shy away from telling you their salty stories in such a short timespan. Many day trippers come around 9am and leave around lunchtime but the magic of exploring this town when it’s no one but you and some swans, is something that I might never have the right adjectives for.
I would have even loved to have another day in Hallstatt to go visit the Dachstein Krippenstein to explore the giant Ice Caves and get a bird’s eye perspective from the Five Fingers viewing platform. But since we were only there for a night and wanted to explore the town fully, I guess I will just have to come back again one day.
Where to stay in Hallstatt?
Being a town of its size, Hallstatt doesn’t have that many hotel options to choose from. And even though a lot of tourists visit only for a day trip, it is becoming increasingly popular with overnight guests as well. This is why I recommend you to book your accommodation well in advance if you are planning to stay here (which you totally should).
The nearby town of Obertaun that is just across the lake from Hallstatt, is also a great option if you are looking to stay in the area.
I personally stayed for a night at the Heritage Hotel Hallstatt which was perfectly located next to Evangelical Parish Church, Hallstätter lake and the ferry dock. The market square and most of the restaurants were just around the corner too. My favourite part of staying at this property was that we could indulge in freshly made breakfast while watching the swans go about their day in the lake surrounded by the Dachstein mountains. In other words, it truly was a breakfast view goals in my opinion.
The other option that I absolutely loved was Seehotel Grüner Baum. It is located right on the historic Marketplatz and the Hallstätter Lake. And, while we didn’t get to stay there, we did enjoy an amazing dinner at one of its restaurants (more on that below).
Where to eat in Hallstatt?
Everywhere I ate in Austria had delicious veggie soups, which turned out to be a complete bliss in the freezing cold weather, might I add. Hallstatt was no different. And even though I was a bit worried about finding decent vegetarian options in such a small town, the restaurant Zum Salzbaron at Seehotel Grüner Baum had great choices.
I remember having a soup that tasted so good that even my seafood loving friend couldn’t resist but order one. And regardless of being known for serving ‘catch of the day’, the veggie pasta options there were quite good too.
Things to know before visiting Hallstatt
- Hallstatt isn’t a mainstream touristy place that has a list of must see places but rather is an experience in itself. The best thing to do there is to get lost exploring the old town. Sooner or later, you will find yourself surrounded by colourful gingerbread houses, swan families posing for a perfect Instagram shot and the iconic viewpoint known as Aussichtspunkt Hallstatt.
- There is also another viewpoint on the south side called Badestrand, which is really beautiful and not as well known.
- If you are a souvenir shopping lover like me, then you may also enjoy buying some locally mined bath salts, traditional soaps and various kind of table salt from there. I am going to run out of my herb mixed salt soon and really wish I got some more.
If you have been following me on Instagram, then you may know how Hallstatt is one of my absolute favourite places ever. I have actually been putting off writing about it because I felt like I could never find the right words to explain what it really was like and why you should visit it. Perhaps, simple words cannot describe the beauty of this gem completely. But, in case you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Hope you like Hallstatt too,
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