An Overnight in Hallstatt
Okay my friends, it’s finally here – Hallstatt, Austria, the land of magic, fairytales, and salt! Its name actually means salt settlement, which is what this town has been pumping out for the past thousands of years. Tall snow-capped moutains, pristine Hallstatter See, and quaint Austrian houses complete the overall charm of Hallstatt. In case you missed our first look into Austria, you can check out our Innsbruck post and then come back over to see our favorite small town in this special country. We only got one night here, but it was a magical night indeed. With better planning we would have been able to utilize our time a little better, but sometimes traveling just happens that way huh? We recommend at least a full day here, two if you want to explore some of the activities around the area. Whether you want to explore or relax, Hallstatt is the perfect place to unwind while taking in the views and the alpine air!
Hallstatt is not the most convenient village to get to without a car, but it’s definitely not impossible. If you are coming by train, the train ride in is absolutely breathtaking and worth the visit on its own. In order to get to the actual town of Hallstatt from the train station of “Hallstatt”, you will have to either jump on a ferry to cross the Hallstatter See or continue on to the next train station of “Obertraun” and hop onto the bus towards Hallstatt. The ferry is pretty convenient if you’re coming straight from the train and should only cost you about $2.50 per person one way. No matter how you get here, it is worth the detour!
where to stay
We actually stayed in the town of Obertraun, which is technically located across the lake from Hallstatt but it was the cheapest that we found last minute when we booked it. At the Apartment House Seerose we got a killer view of the lake and really cute hosts who helped us figure out the bus route. Obertraun is a pretty cute little “town” all on its own so if you happen to find yourself here it is a nice walk around to see some real life Austria happening. The town of Hallstatt is very walkable and the streets are small so if you do stay on this side, make sure to book something with adequate parking so you can ditch the car while you explore the town by foot.
Trav Tav’s Tip:
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when to visit
Hallstatt is a complete year round destination – rain, snow, or shine! Visiting in winter will get you access to the ski resort and Christmas time ambience but it will be COLD. Summer will be very busy and since its such a small town it might lose some of its magic with a lot of people crammed in its tiny streets. Visiting in the shoulder seasons is your best bet to miss the crowds and still have alright weather, April to May and September to October. Although it drizzled on us a bit during our day in Hallstatt, we felt like we visited in the perfect time since we basically got the place to ourselves.
things to do
Even though Hallstatt is a small place, there is a lot to find hidden within its streets and the outlying mountains. The best way to do that is to just get lost and find your own little gems around the city. Here were some of ours!
This was the smallest market square that we visited on all our trips to Europe, but it still has so much character and charm! There’s a couple small restaurants and shops around the square but not too much else going on.
Can you imagine how beautiful this is at Christmas?!
Evangelical Church of Hallstatt
This is probably the most iconic building of Hallstatt, the one you’ve seen in all the pictures of the town, EVER. It will be hard to miss since it is located in the center of town and pretty much visible from every vantage point. The Evangelical Church has had an interesting history that you can learn about on some bulletins around the church walls and also regularly holds cultural concert events.
Charnel House + St. Michael’s Church
A few steps above the Main Street of Hallstatt you will find the catholic church of St. Michael’s, it’s cemetery, and the Charnel House, a particularly intriguing attraction. We walked through the cemetery and spent the $3 entrance fee to get into the “Bone House”, a collection of 600 painted skulls. This was done to commemorate deceased family members when they ran out of grave space and had to transfer the remains. The skulls have the family members names painted on with their death dates which makes its a really interesting site to check out some of the history of Hallstatt!
Waterfall above Town
Up behind the Charnel House we found a staircase that led up to a trail that leads all the way to the Skywalk. We only took it part of the way up but we found a really beautiful waterfall and some breathtaking views, even in the rain!
We can’t rave enough about the views of Hallstatt! From literally every angle this town is stunning and you probably won’t be able to stop taking pictures of E V E R Y T H I N G, it’s just too perfect.
things we missed
◊ Skywalk – This is probably the most amazing view of Hallstatt and the outlying area but we just didn’t have the time to make it up. It’s located almost 1,200 ft. up the Salzburg, or Salt Mountain, and gives you a full 360 panorama out on a viewing platform. You can reach the Skywalk by walking up the mountain or by taking the cable car up.
◊ Salt Mine – The Salt Mine in Hallstatt is the oldest salt mine in the world, dating back to 800-400 B.C. You can also take tours of the mine from mid April to November where you can learn the history of the mine and how it used to operate.
◊ Ice Caves – In between Obertraun and Hallstatt is where you will find the Dachstein Ice Caves. You can take a 50 minute guided tour into the underground world of frozen stalactites and passageways of ice sculptures. Every August, they even hold a concert in one of the ice rooms! This would be a great activity if you have kids, but again is only open from mid April to November – and make sure to wear warm clothes no matter what the weather!
where to eat + drink
Visiting in the shoulder and off seasons are great for a number of reasons, but one not so helpful one is that many businesses close early or completely down when it’s not busy. In Hallstatt we found this to be a problem since the amount of options were already limited and there was a lot of stuff closed for the season. There was also some businesses – like the grocery store! – that closed between the hours of 12-3 pm so make sure you plan accordingly! Plus, food is a lot pricier here than a lot of the other towns we have been to so make sure to plan $5-10 more for meals than what you would normally spend.
◊ Gasthaus Zur Mühle – We found this Italian restaurant on our first night when we arrived in town during the early evening. It was literally the only place we found that was open and had reasonable prices. Meals are a bit more of a laid back, social event in Europe so make sure you reserve a bit more time for food, especially dinner!
◊ Cafe Derbl – Breakfast was also hard to come by in Hallstatt, so don’t plan on a traditional American breakfast of eggs and toast – unless you find a hotel that has breakfast included! Our hotel did have a breakfast but it was an extra $15 per person and we thought we could find something cheaper in town. However, in hindsight we probably would have been better off just eating at our hotel because we were really dying for a big hearty breakfast. This cafe was great for a cup of coffee but lacked what we really wanted for food. Much like what we experienced in Innsbruck, Austrians really do love their strudels and sweet pastries for breakfast so that is what we ordered. Given our limited options though, this one was adequate, had good service, and was located conveniently in the Market Square!
◊ Braugasthof Lobisser – If you need a place to drink, this place is a cozy restaurant and beer house. They have a very fresh menu but it can get very busy and they occasionally run out of food, but the view is a great one out onto the water! They also have a hotel upstairs with very reasonable rates with enough of an advanced booking and a beautiful outdoor patio in nice weather!
This is just the tiniest glimpse into Hallstatt, but hopefully it gets your motors going to head on over to this beautiful place! Let us know your favorites in the comments below!