Famous for being one of the most photographed locations in Austria, the charming town of Hallstatt is definitely a bucket list destination. Yet up until the early 19th century the only way you could even visit there was by boat or through a hiking trail. If you’re searching for a place that feels like you have just wandered into a living fairy-tale, then Hallstatt is one place I’d recommend you consider exploring!
Listed as an UNESCO Heritage site since December 1997, it’s so adored that it even has a replica town in China! That’s right, its beauty is so revered that after seeing the replica town, many Chinese tourists now visit Hallstatt for the authentic experience! No matter what time of year you visit this Austrian jewel, the beauty of the landscape and village is sure to enchant you.
It all started with Instagram…
Like a lot of millennials, I use Instagram as my go to platform for scoping out amazing places to add to my travel wish list. And it was in 2016 on the ‘gram where I first learnt about the Austrian town of Hallstatt. I can’t remember exactly the first picture that inspired me to like, comment & save but I do recall mountains, a small village and swans on a clear blue lake. If you’re anything like me and adore being out in nature, then you will definitely fall in love with the beauty of this rural town.
Austria had been one of my top 2 countries I’d always wanted to visit since I was a child. And last year my dreams came true when I was finally able to see this magnificent country. Although it was amazing to visit Vienna and Salzburg, one of the most memorable experiences for me in Austria was the day trip I took to Hallstatt. Let’s take a look at this gorgeously picturesque part of the world and what I enjoyed during my short stay!
Where exactly is Hallstatt?
Located in between the cities of Graz and Salzburg in the Upper Austria district, Hallstatt is close to the Austrian/German border. It’s in the Austrian Salzkammergut Region (Lake District) and sits between the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstatter See (Lake Hallstatt). This alpine town is tiny with approximately 800 residents and welcomes a lot of tourists all throughout the year, most especially during the Summer season. I visited Hallstatt as a bus day trip when I was staying in Salzburg last year however you can also travel here via train, ferry or car.
A bit of history
Hallstatt is also known as the “Pearl of Austria” and is one the country’s main tourist destinations. The history of Hallstatt dates back to prehistoric times where this town had the world’s first ever salt mine. At one point in time salt was worth more than gold so the region here built up its wealth predominantly through salt mining.
Because of its prime location between the mountains and the highly revered Lake District, this town has picture perfect postcard views for days. I visited Hallstatt in early September and remember being entranced by the crystal-clear water, awe inspiring mountains and pristine natural beauty. If you love hiking, then you will adore Hallstatt as there are plenty of trails for you to experience. There’s also the option to take the ferry across the lake and admire the town from a distance. Taking a day tour from Salzburg by bus offered up the opportunity to view not just Lake Hallstatt, but to also view some of the other lakes and incredible landscape along the way.
The real Swan Lake!
Swan Lake is real and I found it right here in Hallstatt! The beautiful white swans (and ducks) must know they are the stars of the show as there were so many tourists taking photos of them. But with lake views and the mountainous backdrop how could you not?! One a clear day, Hallstatt Lake perfectly mirrors back the mountains and village buildings in its reflection. And even during winter time, the lake rarely freezes over.
Old Town village atmosphere
Take a wander around and admire the picturesque 16th century village and soak up the atmosphere! One of my favourite memories is standing in the middle of the Old Town market square surrounded by the gingerbread styled buildings with pretty window sill flower boxes. A lot of the homes have been converted into cafes, bars & restaurants and there’s an abundance of souvenir shops too.
The town isn’t very big and it probably only takes about 30 mins to walk the entire length. However, because there is so much to see, you can easily spend a whole day here exploring the shops, sitting down for lunch and taking a lot of photos. I hadn’t done a lot of research prior to my Hallstatt visit but I’m so happy I didn’t miss out on seeing the Old town market square.
Visit the local churches
After wandering around the Old Town, it was time to keep exploring and I ended up at the Parish of the Assumption Church located on the hill. The Gothic style Catholic Church and it’s cemetery date back to the 16th century. There is also an Ossuary which you can visit that contains approximately 1200 skulls. From up there, you have views overlooking the entire village – including the Evangelical Church “Evangelischen Pfarrgemeinde” which overlooks the lake.
Evangelical Church address: Oberer Marktplatz 167-4830 Hallstatt, Austria
Parish of the Assumption Church address: Kirchenweg 40-4830 Hallstatt, Austria
What else is there to do & see?
One of the options on my day tour was to go up to the lookout viewing deck known as the “Hallstatt World Heritage View Skywalk”. I decided not to do this because we only had about 3 hours to explore the village and our tour guide mentioned this would take about 2 hours out of our time to visit there and back. Also, maybe my fear of heights had something to do with this as well!
However, when I return to Hallstatt next time then I definitely will be buying myself a ticket to see the views from up on the 360-metre-high viewing deck. There’s also the salt mines and ice caves which are also really popular tourist attractions here as well as a cable car and a prehistoric miner mummified in salt! Tickets for the Skywalk and the Salt mine can be pre-purchased online as well:
Hallstatt Skywalk tickets & website: https://www.salzwelten.at/en/hallstatt/skywalk-world-heritage-view/
Hallstatt Salt Mine tickets & website:https://www.salzwelten.at/en/hallstatt/mine/
When is the best time to visit?
It really depends upon what type of experience you are seeking! Any time of the year however I personally wouldn’t want to visit here during Summer. Not because of the weather but because I’ve read experiences that it is very overcrowded during that time of year. Sort of similar to how Dubrovnik in Croatia is overcrowded in the summer months (which you can read about in my City Guide to Dubrovnik, here).
Sometimes though the only option you have is to take holidays during summer, in which case I’d just plan ahead with activities and try to avoid visiting here just on a day trip. A lot of people, like myself, will explore Hallstatt on a “day trip” basis so most tourists will be visiting between 11am to 4pm. If you’re able to, stay here overnight so you can experience the sunrise and sunset without the daytime crowds, given it’s such a small town. I’d also love to visit there again next time during the winter as I imagine it would feel like a winter wonderland!
After more information?
For more information, here’s some useful websites which offer up a lot of information about beautiful Hallstatt:
Instagram versus reality?!
After finding this idyllic lakeside town via Insta and drooling over all the photos on the gram long before I actually visited, did it live up to my expectations? A thousand times “Yes”! Hallstatt was everything I saw and dreamed it would be plus more. Being able to walk down the main street, watch the swans on the lake, breathe in the crisp mountain air and admire the views was awe inspiring. No matter how many pretty pictures I looked at, none of them compared to actually living the experience for myself.
And only after my visit can I truly understand why this is one of Austria’s most well -loved tourist destinations… I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the perfectly pretty town of Hallstatt! If you’re planning to visit Austria, then check out this article which explores the best cafes in Vienna & Salzburg, here.
I loved my time in Austria so much and Hallstatt is definitely on my must-see list during the snow-time. Have you visited Hallstatt yet and if so, what did you love about it? Let me know in the comments below!