Hallstatt | november 2017
Hallstatt is a little lake village in Austria's Salzkammergut region, in the center of the country. This breathtaking town is tucked into the western shore of Lake Hallstatt. Traveling here is quite the journey, as the town is fairly remote. You can travel here from Vienna, however in my experience, I would recommend trekking out to this unique, UNESCO World Heritage site from Salzburg.
Visiting Hallstatt has always been a wish of ours, the dreamy town seems to pop up everywhere in the travel community. It is on the cover of Rick Steves’ book for Austria, many photographers have taken the iconic postcard photo and you cannot help but want to be a part of it too. While Hallstatt’s popularity has grown and the town is starting to become overrun by tourists during the high season, Hallstatt's allure is that it still maintains its unique historic charm.
There are only a few things to do in Hallstatt, but countless things to see. We did a full day, arriving from Salzburg and left town on the last departing ferry and train. You can easily extend your visit into two days if you spend the night and see the neighboring towns of Bad Goisern and Obertraun. Plan ahead though, there are very few hotels in the this region and rooms go fast!
You can travel to Hallstatt by car, bus, or the train. Traveling by car is the fastest option, about a 90 minute drive from Salzburg, while the bus or the train will take about 2 - 2.5 hours. When in Europe, we get around primarily by public transportation (9 countries and we have yet to rent a car!) and decided to take the train. Note that if you take the train, the Hallstatt train station is across the lake and you will need to take the ferry across to the town. Thankfully, the train arrival and boat departures are synced up and the ferry is only six euros for a round trip ticket. Whichever way you get to Hallstatt, try to arrive before 9:00 a.m. You'll be able to catch the lake slowly wake up as the fog rises and hopefully get the streets to yourself for a while.
A SWAN LAKE
From the moment you arrive, Lake Hallstatt shows her beauty. The waters are deep blue and the morning fog floats above the surface, feeling as if you have come across a sleeping lake. As the lake begins to warm up, so does its occupants, white swans swim towards the shore and float at a safe distance.
Walk along the shore and say hello to the swans, this is a great spot for photographs! Throughout the year you can take the Discovery Cruise, which follows along the coast between Obertraun and Hallstatt. In warmer months, you can enjoy more of Lake Hallstatt than just its beauty. On the lake, in Bad Goisern, is a sport shop that offers kayaking, canoeing, swimming and diving.
After you're done catching up with the swans and watching the water, the village is where you should turn your attention to next! If not for anything else, walking around this lake village is all you need to enjoy Hallstatt. Hallstatt has tight streets (with rarely any cars), the houses are stacked and layered into the hillside and colorful rooftops and house fronts will fill you with joy. Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been called "the loveliest lake village in the world." Hallstatt is believed to be home to Europe’s earliest inhabitants, adding to its wonder and charm. This history and small village will take you less than one hour to walk from end to end, it will just depend on how slow you like to wander.
As you wander around town be sure to check out the Market Square, the Hallstatt museum and the iconic church. Or, set your sights high and head up to Salzwelten and tour the Salt Mine!
The Salzbergbahn is Hallstatt’s salt mountain railway. This round-trip funicular can take you up over Hallstatt to Salzwelten’s Salt Mine Tour and the "World Heritage View" Skywalk. The salt mine tour has great reviews and most travelers recommend you budget two hours for the excursion. If you are not interested in the tour, there is a ticket available for just the panoramic funicular, which grants you access to the Skywalk and the Hallstatt high valley.
In the event you need this place to be more of dream, check out Rudolfsturm at the top of the funicular. Once a defense tower (Rudolf’s Tower), this now restaurant offers incredible views and hot food for your mid-day pick-me-up! Eat inside and explore the renovated tower, or ask to sit out on the patio and take in the phenomenal views!
HALLSTATT SKYWALK - WELTERBEBLICK
A sight that must be seen and an experience that cannot be missed is the Hallstatt Skywalk. Here you can walk 40 feet out on to a suspended platform, over 1000 feet above Hallstatt, and take in the world famous view. The viewing platform comes to point, so you can take a moment to enjoy the view (and edge!) solo. Definitely take your time to make it to this (literal) point, Hallstatt describes this view as somewhere “between heaven and earth” and, as you stand, floating, in this Austrian fjord-like valley, it’s hard to convince yourself what you are seeing is real.
Depending on which season you visit, there is plenty of hiking to be done from Hallstatt. For a quick and close hike, take the panoramic trail, Hallstatt's High Trail. Or, if you are looking for something a bit longer, try the historical Brine Trail. This hike is nearly a marathon long and will take you (downhill) through the mountains and villages that run along the historic pipeline.
If you have taken the Salzbergbahn up the mountain, take the time to walk around the High Valley. Salzwelten offers a theme path, the "Path through Time," which includes an informational audio guide.
To find this picture-perfect viewpoint, you’ll need to head to the north side of town. If you search for “Hallstatt Postcard Angle” on Google Maps, a pin will drop for you. This spot will likely be particularly crowded, especially for photographers at sunrise and sunset, but it is worth squeezing your way in to position! Crowds aside, this viewpoint is easily accessible, it is simply a street view. I’m standing on the side of the road, leaning against a railing to take the picture below.
This is such a perfect way to end your day.
Stand here, at this gorgeous vantage point, take in the view of this charming lake village,
and try to decide if you are in heaven, or still on Earth.