The Best Things To Do In Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt, Austria is the 7000 year old, fairytale mountain village on the Hallstättersee. Hallstatt sits in the Salzkammergut mountain region, just east of Salzburg. There are many things to do in Hallstatt, including relaxing by the lake! Hallstatt is known for its charming 16th Century Alpine cottages, breathtaking views, and a whole host of summer and winter activities. It is one of Europe’s most beautiful towns with picture perfect scenery all year round.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Purchasing through these links earns me a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Many thanks for using these links!
Hallstatt is home to incredible history including the world’s oldest working salt mine, prehistoric burial sites, and Austria’s prettiest lake. It is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its remarkable past and stunning present. Spend one day, or two enjoying the best things to do in Hallstatt.
What Are The Best Things To Do In Hallstatt, Austria?
Stroll Through Old Town & Market Square
Along the narrow strip between the hillside and the lake are shops, restaurants, and hotels. Wander down side streets and into the neighborhoods. Look for a waterfall cascading between homes and find lakeside cafes for lunch and drinks.
Know before you go
When To Go
When is the best time to visit Hallstatt? I recommend June – August to take advantage of all the lake activities. September – October, is ideal with 70 degree temps and fewer tourists. Spring is rainy, but the temps are mild and the crowds are low. If you are a snow bunny, go in the Winter and enjoy the magic. Think of the village of Arendelle in Frozen. If the cold never bothered you anyway, then Hallstatt, covered in a blanket of snow, tucked into the Alps, is a perfect place to visit.
Hallstatt gets negative press for being overrun with tourism. I visited in the peak of the summer season, and did not find the crowds to be challenging at all. Don’t let a fear of tourists influence your decision to go. It would be a shame to miss Hallstatt if you are traveling to the region. The tourism industry keeps the people of Hallstatt thriving, but because of 30,000 day visitors, you may want to stay overnight. That way, you can enjoy the evening and morning without the crowds, and space out activities without as much competition.
Where To Stay
While Hallstatt is a great place to spend one day, I recommend spending the night so you can fit in more activities. When booking a rental or hotel, I recommend you stay in one of the many lakeside hotels. Some that are highly recommended are the Seehotel Grüner Baum, the Hallstatt Hideaway, and the Heritage Hotel.
Did You Know?
What is the difference between a Funicular and a Cable Car?
A cable car is like a funicular, however, cable cars are not permanently attached to the cable and can stop independently, unlike a funicular whose cars are attached to the cable.
How To Get There
Hallstatt can easily be reached by train or car from Vienna (3-4 hour drive), from Salzburg (1 hour drive), or from Schladming (1.5 hour drive). Here is the Rail Europe link. The prices are not bad but it will take longer. When renting a car in Europe, we use a Hertz member account. Expect extra fees for dropping off the car in a different city, or a different country. An international drivers license is not necessary.
- Go to the Visitor Center as soon as you arrive. Grab a map and get great advice on all the ways to structure your day.
- Eat a late lunch or early dinner because most of the restaurants stop serving dinner early in the evening, and are later only open for drinks and deserts!
- If visiting in the summer, bring layers, sneakers, and light weight rain gear. The village weather is VERY different than up in the mountains!
- The Euro is the official currency of Austria.
- Plug types are types C and F. Type C is the one with two round pins and Type F is the plug with two round pins and two earth clips on the side.
- The language of Austria is German, but Hallstatt is a town thriving on tourism, so you will get by, no matter what language you speak.
Evangelische Pfarrkirche Hallstatt/The Evangelical Church of Hallstatt
The most prominent feature of the town is the famous steeple that graces every photo of Hallstatt. The Evangelical Church, was built in 1785 and hosts masses in German and English. Check the schedule, because there are often concerts at the church. Listening to the local choir who were dressed in traditional costume, is one of my most cherished memories.
Take a Boat Ride
You will find many boat tour options on the lake. I recommend renting the small electric boat for just €17 for 30 minutes. Look for the boat dock directly across from the supermarket, in front of the bus stop.
The 7000 year old salt mines in Hallstatt are the oldest active salt mines in the world. The tour takes you through caves, tunnels, slides, and on ancient wooden staircase. Prehistoric remains have been found on the site where “white gold” has been carried out of the mountain for centuries.
Take the Salzbergbahn Funicular from the Valley Station in Hallstatt to reach the mines and the Skywalk viewing platform. Allow about 3 hours for the round trip adventure. Tickets are €36 per/adult and €18 per child ages 4 and up. There are combination tickets which make it more affordable for families.
St. Michael’s Church Ossuary
Known as the Charnel House, an Ossuary Bone House, the chapel of St. Michael’s Church is an unusual, (not for everyone), spot to visit. It houses over 600 painted skulls.The practice of painting skulls commemorates the dead. When burial sites became full, remains would be excavated, and a second funeral was held. The skulls would be painted with the name of the deceased and decorated with flowers. Its kind of cool, and kind of weird, all at the same time!
On the opposite side of the lake from Hallstatt is the famous Schloss Grub Castle The castle was built in 1522 and is privately owned. It is known for the tragic story of two counts fighting over a woman. They were on the frozen lake when the ice broke, and took their lives. A pillar inside the castle is dedicated to the accident.
Dachstein Krippenstein in Obertraun
As you roam around Hallstatt, you will be blown away by its beauty, but to be in the high country, above the lake, is a must see experience in my book.
Take the short bus ride to the cable car in Obertraun which climbs up to ice caves, views of the Dachstein Glacier, and the hike to the Five Fingers Viewing Platform.
Find Bus #543 from Hallstatt to Obertraun leaving frequently from the many bus stops in Hallstatt. (The stop across from the supermarket is obvious and easy to find.) The bus takes you directly to the base of the Dachstein cable car. There, you can buy round trip cable car tickets and add the activities you want.
The first stop is for the Giant Ice Cave and the Mammut Cave tours and then the top stop is for the easy hike to the Five Fingers Viewing Area.
Have some hot chocolate overlooking the glacier, watch paragliders, see mountain sheep, and soak in the views. Dress for cold and possible rain. The ticket prices range from €25 for children to €50 for adults, depending on the combination of activities you choose.
More Hallstatt Fun Facts
The Beinhaus, or bone house, skull decorating began in 1720 and the last skull was painted as recently as 1995!
The Hallstatt period in history refers to the Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age.
An exact replica of Hallstatt was built in China in 2012.
Hallstatt’s population is just over 900 people, but has an estimated 800,000 visitors each year.