Hallstatt, a small town overlooking Lake Hallstatt, with breathtaking views, is one of the most beautiful lakeside towns in the whole world. Its picturesque charm and surrounding glorious mountain range makes it a perfect gateway for couple of days.
It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, the oldest still-inhabited village in entire Europe. UNESCO describes this place as “an outstanding example of a natural landscape of great beauty and scientific interest which also contains evidence of fundamental human economic activity”.
Hallstatt has enjoyed a prosperous history. The town is filled with exquisite architectures, beautiful alleys, little houses, cosy outside cafes with view of the mountain and the lake.
Hallstatt is so beautiful that China built a full-scale copy of it in the southeastern province of Guangdong.
Much of Hallstatt’s appeal lies in its breathtaking setting on the narrow shores of the Hallstätter See, with the Eastern Alps rising majestically all around.
With a total area of around 60 sq km and little over 1000 inhabitants, Hallstatt is small town, but it makes up for in magnificent alpine landscapes, old-world charm, and beautiful architecture.
Location and how to visit Hallstatt
Its located between Salzburg and Graz, in the Salzkammergut Lake District of Austria.
Its not really straight forward to arrive at Hallstatt, unless travelling by car, which itself is another amazing experience. This place is often disregarded by travellers given its limited accessibility.
Car route is around Lake Attersee to Weissenbach, then up the pass between two mountains. The road is twisted and through the forest. The mountains which rings the lakes are steep in many places. The last part is a tunnel which emerged at Hallstatt.
If travelling from Czech Republic, one first needs to go to Cesky Krumlov, which is about 3 hours bus drive from Prague. From there take a shuttle bus for Hallstatt. During low season these buses are less frequent. There are many shuttle companies offer the commute, like Bean Shuttle and Shuttle Cesky Krumlov.
If coming from Vienna or Salzburg, reach Attnang-Puchheim first. Then take train for “Bad Ischl and Obertraun”, Halstatt station is one stop before Obertraun. From there take a ferry across the lake to Hallstatt, another beautiful experience, approaching the town from the water and glancing at the terraced wooden houses reflecting in the glassy waters is like walking into a postcard.
Ideally one should combine Hallstatt with Vienna and Salzburg.
What to see & do in Hallstatt?
The main attraction is the picturesque town itself! Undoubtedly the best thing one can do here is relaxing and wandering the tiny cobbled streets lined with picturesque houses of various styles and shades, from the pastel colored Baroque buildings adorned with flowers and greenery in the Old Town area to the beautifully preserved timber homes that line the lake shore.
Hallstatt’s main hub is the Market Square, a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike, surrounded by eye-catching architecture, small souvenir shops, restaurants, and pretty cafes where you can sit outside, soak in the views, and absorb the outstanding beauty of the place. A variety of concerts and cultural events, including the annual Corpus Christi procession and the lovely Christmas Market, are held here throughout the year.
If the weather permits, you can swim or take a relaxing boat tour around the lake to admire the stunning scenery and feed the swans. For adventure seekers, the surrounding mountains provide numerous hiking and rock climbing opportunities, while culture and history lovers have their choice of places to explore.
Housed in the 12th century Michael’s Chapel, Beinhaus (Bone House), where more than 1200 skulls are on display (some of them painted), is one of Hallstatt’s most impressive attractions. This tradition began in 1720, when, due to a lack of space in the town’s cemetery, the skulls and bones of long-dead locals were removed from their graves and exposed here.
The World Heritage Museum tells the history of this charming mining town (from Stone Age to the present day) through an outstanding collection of artifacts and archaeological finds, while the Salzwelten Hallstatt (Hallstatt Salt Mine) plays host to a subterranean salt lake, a stunning underground cinema, as well as the oldest wooden staircase in Europe. Also here, next to the oldest salt mine in the world, visitors will find the spectacular Hallstatt Skywalk.
Other than the town another attraction is to visit the 250 year old salt caves. High above Hallstatt the funicular takes tourists up the almost vertical mountain to the mountain fort of Rudolphstorm (Rudolph’s Tower). The old fort was built back in the 13th century to protect the old salt mine. It’s quite mind blowing to realise that people have been mining salt here for 7,000 years here. These days the salt mine is a tourist attraction with historic displays, underground tours, panoramic views, salt slides and of course the funicular ride up the mountain.
The salt which was mined here was transported across the lake and down the river. The salt was transported on flat bottomed barges with high curved bows, the perfect boats for navigating through the canals connected to the lake.
Another activity is to see the ice caves on the other side of the lake in Dachstein. Dachstein Ice Caves are proof that this UNESCO-protected area is just as remarkable underground as it is above. Accessible by cable car and/or hiking, these eerie, century-old ice caverns, with their spectacular glaciers, icebergs, and frozen cascades, are a must-do day trip for anyone visiting Hallstatt.
Where to Stay in Hallstatt?
Travellers are spoilt for choice here. Family run B&B, cozy chalets, chain resorts, historic hotels, everything is available here. For a cheaper option, one can stay at Obertraun. The price gets costlier for accommodations near the lake. Few options:
Rudolfsturm: a converted 13th century medieval tower perched high above Hallstatt.
The Lakeside Hotel Grüner Baum in the historic marketplace.
Where to Eat and Drink in Hallstatt
The town’s restaurants are centered in the Market Place or along the waterfront, and most of them specialize in fish (freshly caught from Lake Hallstatt). Nevertheless, Hallstatt’s dining venues have something for everyone, ranging from traditional time-honored establishments renowned for their heartwarming home-style cooking to lovely cafes serving delicious Austrian apple strudels.
A large number are situated inside guesthouses, but there are also some excellent independent restaurants where you can indulge in local and international (especially Italian) cuisines.
Some of the best places to eat in Hallstatt include Restaurant zum Salzbaron (Seehotel Grüner Baum), with its enchanting lakeside terrace; Seewirt (Gasthof Zauner), which focuses on regional gastronomy with a modern twist, and the elegant Im Kainz restaurant at Heritage Hotel Hallstatt, where guests are welcomed with Austrian classics and international gourmet specialties.
This article is by UNWINDERS
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