Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful places in Austria, is growing in popularity for its fairy tale-like village, dramatic landscapes, and numerous attractions.
The quaint alpine village, situated on Lake Hallstatt’s western shore in the mountainous Salzkammergut region, is home to fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, an ancient salt mine, and unparalleled views of the Austrian Alps.
This small town invites visitors to get lost in its colorful streets, offering seclusion and serenity that you won’t find in overcrowded hotspots in Europe.
Here are 10 reasons to make time for Hallstatt on your next European vacation.
Nestled in the Alps of Upper Austria, Hallstatt makes a great day trip from Salzburg or stop between Salzburg and Vienna.
Getting To Hallstatt From Salzburg
Two buses run from Salzburg to Hallstatt: Bus 150 and Bus 542. Each trip takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Every day, several trains run from the Salzburg train station to Hallstatt, the first departing at 5:12 a.m. The trip takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. If you take the train from Salzburg to Hallstatt station, you will actually be dropped off across the lake in the village of Obertraun and will need to take a short ferry ride to reach Hallstatt’s town center. A one-way trip costs €2 and offers stunning views of the surrounding area. For train times, visit the ÖBB website.
Getting To Hallstatt From Vienna
While a day trip from Vienna to Hallstatt would be difficult to accomplish, the train ride only takes about 4 hours. It does, however, require a transfer at the Attnang-Puchheim Station.
Another option for getting to Hallstatt from Vienna is renting a car. The drive from Vienna to Hallstatt takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes and passes through some stunning parts of Austria.
2. Gorgeous Scenery
Hallstatt is one of the most scenic towns in Austria, and if you research Austria online, you’ll probably stumble across numerous photos of Hallstatt.
Hallstatt is a fairy tale-like town sprinkled with pastel-colored houses and winding cobblestone streets and surrounded by the striking Northern Limestone Alps. The natural beauty and picturesque and enchanting views attract visitors to the tiny town year after year.
3. UNESCO World Heritage Site
The region of Salzkammergut has been around since prehistoric times, and the area’s salt mines were in use as early as the second millennium B.C. The Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
According to UNESCO, the salt mine “formed the basis of the area’s prosperity up to the middle of the 20th century, a prosperity that is reflected in the fine architecture of the town of Hallstatt.”
The dramatic landscapes of Salzkammergut and Hallstatt can’t be missed; even UNESCO says so! Get a bird’s-eye view from the Hallstatt Skywalk. Take the Salzbergbahn cable car to view the mountains, lake, and town from over 1,000 feet in the air — if you dare!
4. Hallstatt Salt Mines
In Hallstatt, you can gaze upon some of the oldest salt mines in the world. Hallstatt’s salt mines date back more than 7,000 years, and today visitors to the area can learn all about Bronze Age mining.
Hallstatt’s salt mines are also home to the oldest staircase in Europe. Discovered in 2002, the staircase has been the subject of scientific research for many years.
Adventure seekers can book an extended expedition of the salt mines, venturing to areas that others don’t normally get to see.
Pro Tip: There’s also a Giant Ice Cave nearby, but you have to take the bus to Dachstein Visitor Center, ride up Stone Mountain (Dachstein) on the cable car gondola, and hike for 20 minutes to get to it. Do note that the ice caves are closed in winter (November through May), but the mountaintop views are fantastic all year long.
5. Great In Every Season
Each season brings something different to Hallstatt, making the town a magical place to visit any time of year.
Winter brings stunning views of snow-capped mountains, while fall offers changing colors and crisp yet comfortable temperatures. In the spring, the town comes to life and the region’s local flora is in full bloom, and summer offers warm temperatures ideal for swimming and boating.
6. Winding Streets And Colorful Houses
Gazing upon Hallstatt is like looking at a work of art. It’s hard to turn away from the breathtaking views of the Austrian Alps, but if you take the time to wander through the town’s winding cobblestone streets, you’ll see that each little nook and cranny holds more charm and beauty than the last.
Hallstatt is full of pastel-colored houses and picturesque streets ideal for getting lost in. You can wander through the small village for hours on end, taking in the sounds and smells of the shops and bakeries and watching life unfold in this tiny Austrian village.
7. Historic Market Square
Colorful buildings surround Hallstatt’s historic market square in the car-free center of Old Town Hallstatt. The marktplatz is home to souvenir shops, cafés, restaurants, and a bar. It also hosts several events, including the romantic Christmas market during Advent season.
8. Delightful Cafés
Hallstatt’s adorable cafés are ideal for a midday snack, a quick coffee break, or a rest during a long day of sightseeing.
9. Swans At Lake Hallstatt
Some of the town’s most beloved residents are the swans who have made their home in and around Lake Hallstatt.
The celebrated birds were imported in the late 19th century by Empress Elisabeth of Austria and her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph I, who once owned a summer resort in Hallstatt.
10. Basecamp For Central Austria
Situated as it is in central Austria, Hallstatt makes a great base for exploring the area. It’s conveniently located near the popular tourist destination of Salzburg, and it is within driving distance of major European cities like Munich and Vienna.
Saint Gilgen is a traditional Austrian village that you can visit when taking the 150 Bus from Hallstatt to Salzburg. The area isn’t well known to tourists, and visitors can take a peaceful stroll through the town or enjoy views of Lake Wolfgang.
Munich, one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations, is only a 3-hour train ride from Hallstatt. The capital of Bavaria is known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration and its popular glockenspiel show that tells stories from the 16th century.