I have been dreaming of visiting Hallstatt in Austria for a long time, so when the weather was nice in Munich, we jumped into the car and crossed the Austrian border. This place is considered to be the most beautiful town in Europe, so my expectations were high. We visited this place in the spring, but I saw in the pictures that it looks beautiful also in winter, just a tiny village surrounded by snow-covered mountains. Is it worth visiting Hallstatt in Austria?
Hallstatt in Austria – a bit of history
Hallstatt has been famous for centuries thanks to its salt mine, the oldest one in Europe. It is estimated that mining started here in the Bronze Age! During Kilb-Werk’s excavation in 1734, scientists found even a prehistoric miner preserved by salt. You can still visit the mine today. You should also definitely go to the nearby Skyview panoramic platform, which overlooks the whole town and the Hallstättersee lake. We, unfortunately, didn’t succeed here – the platform was just under reconstruction.
Although the town has less than 800 inhabitants, in 2011 it caused a small diplomatic scandal. The Chinese (totally loving this place) had decided to build a replica of the village in their homeland! Austrians were deeply offended that no one even asked them about this idea… The Chinese, as masters of counterfeits, didn’t take it very seriously and continued with construction work. Eventually, on June 2, 2012, in Huizhou City, in Guangdong province, a replica of Hallstatt was opened. See how Hallstatt looks like in China. As a fun fact, I can tell you that it wasn’t the first replica (and definitely not the last one) of the Western architecture. The Chinese also copied the famous chapel of Le Corbusier in Ronchamp, France – in the Chinese version, it is a BBQ restaurant located in Zhengzhou…
How to get to Hallstatt in Austria?
Hallstatt is located next to the junction of national roads 166 and 145, about an hour from Salzburg. The town itself is the UNESCO World Heritage site. This means that any interference in its appearance is rigorously regulated. Until the end of the 19th century, you could only get to Hallstatt by boat or very narrow paths. To this day, the traffic is very limited and the village center is not accessible by car. You have to leave your vehicle at designated parking lots above the town, but in the high season, it can be really hard to find a free spot. Although we were in a low season, all the spots were occupied anyway, mainly by buses with… yes, you guessed it right – tourists from China.
Unfortunately, Hallstatt as the main tourist attraction in Austria, hasn’t withstood the trashy plastic souvenirs which make this place a little less romantic… Walking through the streets of Hallstatt is a truly remarkable experience, although I must admit that I find Bavarian towns in the Alps such as Grainau or Mittenwald as much charming as Hallstatt. They are equally picturesque, and the most important – there aren’t so many tourists. Although the views here are truly unearthly, you already feel the spirit of the great tourism industry… Already in May, it was very crowded. I heard from the other people visiting Hallstatt that in summer you have to actually walk the streets elbow to elbow… Yeah, I know, this is a charm of popular tourist places 🙂 There is no denying that the town itself is beautiful, but I sincerely recommend visiting Hallstatt in spring or autumn, when it is a little less crowded. For example, you can also combine visiting Hallstatt with a trip to Christmas markets in Bavaria.
What to do in Hallstatt?
The town is really tiny, so actually visiting Hallstatt takes maximum 2 hours. The streets are full of restaurants and cafes serving local specialties. Also, while visiting Hallstatt you should definitely go into the small shops offering products from the salt mined here. You can also enter the famous chapel. The inhabitants of Hallstatt have suffered from the scarcity of land for ages (remember that we are in the Alps!), so they had to find creative ways to bury the dead. Every ten years the bones were exhumed and moved to the morgue to make room for the new dead ones in the cemetery. That’s why, in the chapel, you can see a collection of intricately decorated skulls, with the name and the profession of the deceased…
You should definitely take a boat ride on the lake. It was the most fabulous highlight of our trip, it was so quiet and away from the crowds… You can calmly contemplate the Alpine views and admire the panorama of the village. For the lazy ones, there is also a normal boat cruise to the opposite side of the lake.
Where to stay in Hallstatt?
I have to admit that one day is enough for visiting Hallstatt, even if you have to travel from Salzburg or Munich. Of course, if you are dreaming of a breakfast with THIS view, you have to stay in Hallstatt overnight. Due to the size of the town, there is a really small selection of hotel. On the other hand, there is also a huge demand, so prices are totally not budget-friendly.There are basically only a few places to stay in Hallstatt, and prices start at 200 euros per night. Interestingly, even the rooms in guest houses reach such crazy prices (often the same ones as 4 * hotels!). Where to stay in Hallstatt?
- Hallstatt Hideaway – very luxurious accommodation in Hallstatt. Beautiful apartments (some with jacuzzi on the terrace) overlooking the lake, a little further away from the main square. Only for adults, ideal for a romantic weekend.
- Seehotel Grüner Baum – a 17th-century hotel, in a beautiful location overlooking the lake. There is also a restaurant serving fish caught straight from the lake. Fun fact: the building served as scenography in many movies. Actually, also many celebrities stayed here: the Empress Sisi, Agatha Christie and the Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter.
- Heritage Hotel Hallstatt – the hotel consists of three buildings. One of them, Haus Stocker, whose history dates back to more than 400 years, is the oldest building in Hallstatt. The hotel is situated at the end of the main street of the town. There is also an excellent restaurant serving Austrian cuisine.