When it comes to idyllic destinations, Hallstatt has it all. This quaint Austrian village sits on the shores of a tranquil lake and at the foot of soaring peaks. White swans float effortlessly across the reflection of the much-Instagrammed church, flower pots hang from traditional houses, and men and women in classic Austrian attire cycle the cobblestone streets, seemingly unconcerned by the crowds of tourists. This small but popular village is so impressive that UNESCO has claimed much of it as a World Heritage Site. If you’re planning a visit, here are some of the best things to do in Hallstatt.
Topping the list of things to do in Hallstatt is snapping the iconic photo that’s been doing the rounds on social media for years now. Although you might have to jostle with throngs of tourists all trying to do the same, the view and photographic proof are worth it.
Top tip: You’ll find the best vantage point of the village and church a short walk north out of town, or roughly here.
Hallstatt is tiny and easily walkable. It’s a pleasant town to explore on foot, and it’ll only take a few minutes. If you’ve arrived by ferry across the lake, you’ll be in the center with three directions to choose from. They each hold interesting surprises.
It may seem counterintuitive to visit Hallstatt and then get out of town. But the surrounding mountains are stunning, and the reality is that Hallstatt can get slightly chaotic at times – especially during the peak summer season. Several incredible short walks and longer hikes depart from the village. Not only will you fill your lungs with fresh mountain air, but you’ll also be exposed to the less touristy side of the region. You’ll encounter cows, squirrels, and even the occasional friendly woodchopper.
Good to know: Pop into the tourist office in the town before you go walking. They can supply you with a map, hiking suggestions, and advice for more things to do in Hallstatt.
Hallstatt wasn’t always famous for being beautiful. The small but interesting Hallstatt Museum is a good place to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the 7000-year history of the village. There you’ll find relics, artefacts, artworks, and displays that trace the origins of the village and surrounding regions.
Good to know: Tickets are available at the door and cost €10.
A trip to the salt mine is one of the most popular things to do in Hallstatt. An old tower, which was once used for fortification, provides incredible views of the lake below. It’s the starting point for most visits to the mine. You can also tiptoe out onto the terrifying Skywalk viewing platform for dramatic views, take a tour through the salt mine, or have a go on Europe’s longest wooden slide. A cable car takes you from ground level to the top in 3 minutes.
Top tip: If you want to visit all the attractions in the salt mine region, then pick up a Salzkammergut Adventure Card at the tourist office. It offers discounts across the town. It’s free if you’re staying in Hallstatt for three or more nights.
Land in Hallstatt is at a premium, so there’s little space to bury the town’s dead. Until cremation was approved by the Catholic Church in the 1970s, officials would reuse graves every 10 to 15 years. They would transfer the bones from the existing graves to the Beinhaus, or Bone House, where they remain on display for visitors. Although this might seem creepy, artists decorate many of the skulls and bones. Visiting the Bone House is a strangely calm yet sobering experience.
Good to know: You’ll find the Bone House in St. Michael’s Chapel alongside the salt mine.
The views of Hallstatt from the lake are fascinating. If you want to head onto the water, several companies offer a range of rentals and tours. Many are fairly costly and fill up quickly with tourists during the peak season.
Top tip: For a more authentic and budget-friendly experience, hop aboard the regular ferries that connect you to the train station on the other side of the lake. Tickets are cash-only and available on board.
Across the lake from Hallstatt is Dachstein, where you’ll find beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and ponds. During winter there are also ice caves and frozen waterfalls. The view from the Five Fingers lookout back towards Hallstatt is breathtaking, more so because of the glass-bottom platform you’ll be standing on.
Top tip: You can purchase combination tickets that include transport on the cable car and access to the viewing platform at www.dachstein-salzkammergut.com.
Hallstatt is one of the most popular villages in Austria. Although it’s by no means the only quaint village worth visiting, if you find yourself in the area on a Eurail trip of Austria, a trip is certainly worthwhile. If you’re on a tight budget, consider staying in one of the nearby towns on the rail route, and catching a train and ferry across to the village. A Eurail Global Pass or Eurail Austria Pass is valid on most regional trains in Austria. Although they’re slower than those on the high-speed routes, they offer impressive views and efficient service.