Hallstatt is Austria’s oldest and probably most scenic lakeside town, so much so that it’s often featured in various travel articles on real-life fairytale destinations. The town is sandwiched between the lake and mountains, on a narrow strip of land. Situated within the UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt-Dachstein-Salzkammergut, it is a place of great natural beauty and awestruck scenery. Join me as I reveal the incredible things to do and also sharing a quick Hallstatt hotel guide.
Salzburg to Hallstat Day Trip
Most tourists would visit Hallstatt as a day-trip (aka day-trippers), typically coming over from the city of Salzburg, or some other nearby town. Now, if you truly want to experience the magic of Hallstatt, I highly recommend you to spend at least a night here. While the town itself is rather small, with the entire town being able to be covered on foot, there’re certain things that you wouldn’t have time to do/experience as a day-tripper. But if you just want a short trip, this Salzburg to Hallstat day trip is one to consider!
How to get to Hallstatt: Quick things to note
There are 3 ways to get to Hallstatt i.e. by car, bus or train.
- By car or bus : The bus drop-off point and carparks are located not too far from the town centre. Some of the accommodations have on-site parking. Note that the town centre is off-limits to private vehicles.
- By train : There are no train routes that bring you directly into the town itself (there’s no space to have a railway passing through!). You have to alight from the train at Hallstatt Bahnhof station, which is actually located across the lake from Hallstatt. You would then transfer over to the ferry waiting nearby, to bring you to Hallstatt. The ferry timings coincide with the arrival timings of the trains.
Unless you’re driving a car, for a more scenic route coming in to Hallstatt, you should take the train (& ferry) option, even though it is somewhat less convenient than the bus option. Trust me, it’s well worth the effort!
Things to do in Hallstatt
So, without further ado, here is my experience in Hallstatt, along with some silly thoughts in my head back then.
Once upon a time…
“Did I get off at the right station?”
When I first arrived at the train station (Hallstatt Bahnhof), I realised it didn’t resemble much of a train station at all. In fact, it’s just a lone building seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
But, there’s nothing to worry about, as we all got instructed by the staff to make our way down to the small ferry waiting nearby. I seemed to be the only passenger with luggage. Hmm…
“Is that Hallstatt in the distance?”
As the ferry moved across the lake, I saw these tiny little buildings in the distance, in stark contrast to the tall mountains that they are nestled into.
“Ok, this looks really nice! Now I can’t wait to get off this boat!”
Upon getting closer, I began to see the vibrant colours of these buildings. Just look at how they are all snug and cosy with the mountains.
This, in my opinion, is how you should arrive at fairytale towns. By boat across a lake. Preferably a misty lake. No mist here though, but hey, you can’t have everything turn out exactly the way you’d imagined right?
When I got off the boat, I was so in awe. I was hastily dragging my luggage over the cobblestone floors to go admire the buildings near the pier. But soon enough, I had to remind myself to check-in at my accommodation first. Otherwise, I’d look like a silly bumbling oaf fumbling around with my big bright orange luggage.
“Hear ye, hear ye, I say to you!”
Well, this is the view from my balcony. Not too bad eh? Feels like you are some prince/princess, looking out of your palace at the courtyard below, seeing your loyal subjects going about their daily lives, and uh… Ok ok, now I’m getting a wee bit carried away.
I do admit though, that I was a little disappointed at not having an unobstructed view of the lake and mountains. When staying over, especially in summer, do book your accommodations early!
And here we are, the town square, the heart of Hallstatt!
It looks all quaint and lovely. The cobblestone floors, the colourful buildings with their cute window panes, the hanging plants and flowers drooping over the balcony railings. And, of course, a statue in the middle. It’s not a proper town square, unless it’s got a statue in the middle.
“So this is what love at first sight looks like!”
When you explore the town, at the very least, you’ve got to take a photo at this very spot. Otherwise, you’d be missing out on this stunning beauty right here.
In fact, just go and google for “Hallstatt”, and you’ll see the first few pages of image results all showing this same view, albeit with much better lighting and composition than my photo.
“Oh Hallstatt, you take my breath away,
with all these stairs I need to climb.”
Things to do in Hallstatt – a lot of walking….
Be prepared to climb quite a fair bit of stairs, as you explore the narrow streets and alleyways. Being a narrow town nestled into the mountains, as you walk inland, you’ll quickly notice the rising elevation, and hence, the presence of stairs like these for traversal.
“I spy with my little eye, a train in the distance.”
But do not let the stairs deter you! For your effort, you’ll be rewarded with a rooftop view like this.
(360 photo ^^)
“I’m on the edge!”
-“Welterbeblick” Viewing Platform
“Hmm.. I feel like one of the seven dwarves now..”
-Hallstatt Salt Mine
Anyone visiting Hallstatt should take the funicular up the mountain. The funicular railway base station is a short walk from the town centre. Once up the mountain, there are the following 2 main attractions :
- “Welterbeblick” Viewing Platform : Breathtaking view of Hallstatt and the lake and surrounding mountains. The triangular platform is protruding out from the mountain, allowing you to see all the way down, down, down.
- Hallstatt Salt Mine : A guided tour through the ancient salt mines, fun for all ages. Kids, as well as those kids at heart, would enjoy the slides (see below). Also, the way you exit from the salt mines is rather memorable. Do note that depending on the queue, waiting times may be 30 mins or more.
You’re in the salt mine. How do you descend to the lower depths? By going down a slide of course! Stairs would just be too slow and boring, wouldn’t it?
“Hi.. umm.. Pinocchio? You seem to be having a runny nose today.”
No fairytale town would be truly complete, without at least a fairytale character, right? I passed by this goofy little fella on my way out of the town, to do some hiking through the forest.
(360 photo ^^)
“Yay I’m all alone here!
Wait.. I wonder if there’re any big bad wolves nearby..?”
About an hour’s hike through the forest, by following the signs along the trail, I arrived at the waterfalls. It was raining quite heavily during my hike, but with my umbrella, I was still able to happily proceed onwards without much trouble.
Admire the view of the waterfalls, without the hustle and bustle of tourists. In fact, I was all alone here for a good 20 mins, before I saw two other fellow hikers arriving.
This hike was actually done on my 2nd day in Hallstatt. Wouldn’t have had enough time for it if I’d been a day-tripper.
“And so the magic begins…”
Now, here is the moment when Hallstatt begins to reveal it’s true charm.
Hallstatt things to do after dark
At the end of the day, as the sky grows darker, and all the day-trip tourists are gone, the town square and the narrow streets and alleyways become quiet. The lights from the buildings turn on, basking the town in a warm soft glow. For me, seeing the town like this, without the throngs of tourists, was what made it truly enchanting, as though this town had been lifted right out of a fairytale.
This was the perfect moment to go and re-visit some of the photogenic areas in Hallstatt, to see them in a different light (no pun intended). I had this narrow window of opportunity to do so, before it became too dark to snap photos with my camera. Time was of the essence!
“It feels so tranquil wandering through the empty streets.”
“Goodnight Hallstatt. It’s been really nice visiting you.”
Unfortunately, while most fairytales end with “happily ever after“, such an ending is not applicable here. But the beautiful memories (and photos) of this place made it a good ending nonetheless.
Hallstatt has been among my favourite places in my travel around Austria. It offers so much more beautiful sights than this post could present. Other activities that I did on my 2nd day here was to take their local Postbus out to the nearby neighbouring region of Dachstein (not covered in this post) to visit their ice caves and “Welterbespirale” and “5 Fingers” lookout points.
Well, that concludes my post about Hallstatt The Fairytale Town in Austria- top best things to do in Hallstatt town Austria.
In general, do yourself a huge favour and go visit this fairytale town!
~ The End ~
Need more fairy tales? Read more about another magical country – New Zealand South Island .