Boat Ride in Hallstatt, Austria. Photo by Hieu Pham, Unsplash

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It’s been declared the most beautiful village in the world; it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and it is said to have inspired the setting for Disney’s blockbuster Frozen. Welcome to Hallstatt, Austria.

Hallstatt is beautiful thanks to its lakeside setting, alpine mountains, and colorful houses, but it’s also fascinating in terms of history and interesting stories (which I can’t wait to tell you).

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The Austrian village is located on the shores of Lake Hallstatt (Hallstatter See) in the Salzkammergut region of Upper Austria, which borders Germany and the Czech Republic.

Hallstatt is one of the most photographed locations in Austria, but it’s not the only Austrian destination to gather acclaim. Vienna, Austria’s capital, has often been declared the best city to live in, not just in Europe but in the entire world.

If you’re interested in a visit to Hallstatt, here’s a travel guide to help you plan your trip to Hallstatt.

But first, there is something important to keep in mind.

Can you believe this Austrian village covers only 60 square kilometers and has a population of around 850 people? Sometimes, travelers to Hallstatt forget that locals live their real lives here.

In recent summers, this small village of just over 700 inhabitants has had up to 10,000 visitors a day during high season. As you can imagine, this is challenging for Hallstatt.

Our advice is to visit Hallstatt in the spring, winter, or fall. It’s beautiful no matter when you visit.

How to Get to Hallstatt from Salzburg?

Hallstatt, Austria. Photo by Dmitry Rukhlenko, Canva
Hallstatt, Austria. Photo by Dmitry Rukhlenko, Canva

I won’t tell you to skip Vienna, Salzburg, or Innsbruck, since they are well worth a visit, but if you can, add a day trip to places like Hallstatt, one of Austria’s most beautiful places.

The best option if you’re coming from Salzburg is to drive; it will take approximately one hour.

If you don’t have a car and rentals aren’t an option, take the train. First from Salzburg to Attnang-Puchheim, and then to Hallstatt.

So, grab some snacks and coffee and enjoy the views from the window. The trip of about two hours from Salzburg’s train station will fly by in the blink of an eye.

Old Town: Wander Through Charm

Hallstatt Streets, Austria. Photo by sorincolac, Canva
Hallstatt Streets, Austria. Photo by sorincolac, Canva

Charm, charm, and more charm—that’s how we can sum up Hallstatt. Full of sweet details, Hallstatt reminds me of villages in Switzerland.

During your wander, have a look at the Mühlbach waterfall, sample some local liqueurs, visit the Holy Trinity fountain, and take a photo on Marktplatz. Marktzplatz is the heart of this beautiful town and the former market square, which was destroyed by a massive fire in 1750.

The colorful houses, wooden balconies with lush flowers, and narrow streets will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. But literally.

Namely, there are rumors that the kingdom of Arendelle in Disney’s hit Frozen was inspired by Hallstatt. I can see it, can you?

Salzwelten Mines: Hallstatt Salt Mines

Imagine this: for over 7,000 years, people here have extracted salt from the mountains here. That kind of long timeline is hard to imagine, but to get the full story, visit the Hallstatt salt mine.

You will travel back millions of years to the disintegration of the protocontinent Pangea. The evaporation of the shallow seas left massive amounts of salt on the ground, which were eventually covered by the earth and deposited in the mountains as tectonic plates shifted and mountains rose.

Of course, the tours in German and English will tell it in a much better way. You will enter the attraction wearing special clothes (white coats and pants like miners), and you will enjoy a wooden train ride, a sound and light show, and actual mining slides.

Long story short, one of the oldest salt mines in the world provided Hallstatt Village with real wealth.

You can get to the salt mine on foot (hiking up about an hour) or by funicular (3 minutes), which will require another 15 minutes of walking uphill. Just keep in mind that you’ll be in mine for 90 minutes at eight degrees, so dress warmly. And if you are claustrophobic, feel free to skip this activity.

At the end of the tour, you will be given a sample of mine salt, and if you need a souvenir, visit the mine’s gift shop.

Visit the Charnel House

Hallstatt, Austria. Photo by Sheng L, Unsplash
Hallstatt, Austria. Photo by Sheng L, Unsplash

Normally, I am not someone who would recommend visiting a cemetery or bone house, but this story might pique your interest.

Because of the size of this small town, Hallstatt’s residents have historically lacked adequate burial sites. To solve this problem, they built an ossuary (Charnel House) in St. Michael’s Chapel. This bone house now houses over 1,200 painted skulls, making it one of today’s largest “collections.”

Cremation eventually eliminated the issue of a lack of burial sites, but Hallstatt residents can still choose whether or not to have their remains stored in a bone house. The last new skull was added in 1995, and it can be identified by its golden tooth.

However, it is not easy to “earn” a burial site in Hallstatt; there must be proof that the deceased’s family has lived in this Austrian village for the past 600 years. In this case, the deceased will receive a burial site for 10 years. After that, their remains will be transferred to the Charnel House.

Take a Lake Hallstatt Boat Ride

Skywalk Viewpoint, Hallstatt, Austria. Photo by LiptonCNX, Canva
Skywalk Viewpoint, Hallstatt, Austria. Photo by LiptonCNX, Canva

If walking becomes too tiring, I recommend taking a boat tour of the lake. That way, you can take in one of the most beautiful views in Hallstatt and learn interesting facts from the stories the captain tells in both German and English.

Although there are numerous boat rental options, I recommend spending an hour on an electric boat tour with a cup of coffee, just admiring the beautiful scenery, houses, and swans while someone else handles the navigation.

Schloss Grub: Hallstatt’s Castle of the Turbulent Past

While boating along the Hallstatter See, Schloss Grub (16th century) appears beautiful, but it is far more interesting if you know a few stories about it. According to legend, the castle’s haunting was caused by two young men arguing over a girl on a frozen lake. When the ice broke, they drowned, and the castle became haunted.

Another interesting story about Schloss Grub involves one of its owners, Christoph Eyssl, who gave the castle to the Church, but not without strange compensation. He requested that after his death, his corpse and coffin be transported through Hallstatt and across the lake every 50 years. So, if you were hoping to visit Hallstatt during this unusual ceremony, I’m sorry to disappoint you; this tradition was discontinued around World War II.

Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip

Visit the Ice Cave in Hallstatt

Have you ever been in an ice cave? If you haven’t already, take advantage of your visit to the salt mine to discover the nearby Dachstein Giant Ice Cave.

Lighting effects, ice structures, music, and sounds will round out your visit to one of the world’s largest and most beautiful ice caves.

However, if you visit Hallstatt in the winter, you can skip this because this ice cave is closed in the winter (specifically, from late October to May).

Skywalk and Other Viewpoints

Five Fingers Viewpoint. Photo by Aundrey Khrobostov, Canva
Five Fingers Viewpoint. Photo by Aundrey Khrobostov, Canva

Are you brave enough to walk through the sky 300 meters above sea level? If this made your heart race positively, go to the Hallstatt Skywalk, the most popular viewpoint.

If you think that’s not high enough, go to the nearby Five Fingers Viewpoint. It was named after its metal structure, which resembles five fingers of a hand, and the “fingers” will support you at a height of 500 meters while providing a panoramic view of the Salzkammergut region.

If that’s not enough, the level-pro option is to take the cable car to Dachstein Krippenstein, 2100 meters above sea level. From there, you can enjoy stunning views of the Austrian Alps, Lake Hallstatt, and the Salzkammergut.

Sacher Cake and Much More: What to Eat?

Sacher Cake. Photo by kavcicm, Canva
Sacher Cake. Photo by kavcicm, Canva

Did you know that Hallstatt Lake trout are so good they’re shipped all over Austria? If you like fish, it would be a mistake not to try Forelle Müllerin (grilled trout).

If you don’t like trout, there are plenty of other dishes to try, including Wiener Schnitzel (veal schnitzel served with potato salad), Schweinebraten (pork roast with garlic), Kasnudeln (pasta stuffed with plums or cheese), Tiroler Gröstl (potatoes with fried ham), and more.

Of course, treat yourself to some dessert too. Did you know that the famous Sacher cake (chocolate and apricot jam cake) originated in Austria? And if you’re not a chocolate fan, try Apfelstrudel (apple pie) or Vanillekipferl (hazelnut and vanilla rolls).

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Visit Hallstatt’s Festivals

If you visit Hallstatt during the winter, make sure to check out the Krampus Run and the famous Christmas Market. Christmas markets in Austria are magical, and a wonderful time to visit.

Hallstatt: Is it in Austria or China?

You may be confused by this question, but believe it or not, you can find a Hallstatt replica in China. When this Austrian village was named the most beautiful village in the world, some people decided to build an entire replica of this Austrian fairytale town in China.

They copied Hallstatt’s houses, square, and lake, spending £700 million. Although they probably expected the citizens of Hallstatt to be flattered, their enthusiasm was largely absent because they copied Hallstatt in complete secrecy.

If You Go to Hallstatt

Once you’ve seen this beautiful Austrian village, it’s easy to see why Hallstatt impresses anyone who visits.

To help plan your journey, head to Austria Tourism or the Hallstatt Tourist Office. Their site has suggestions for hotels in Hallstatt.

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Katarina Marjanović

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