Hallstatt, Austria, is one of my very favorite places on Earth. Surrounded by the gorgeous Salzkammergut Mountains with resplendent views of breathtaking Lake Hallstatt, full of history dating back thousands and thousands of years, and chock full of unique things to do, this idyllic alpine village is so much more than first meets the eyes. While many recommend visiting Hallstatt as a day trip, I am so thankful we spent several blissful days here, taking in the scenery, hiking, enjoying the local cuisine, and learning about the area’s history. This is definitely near the top of the list of my top 10 favorite places I’ve ever been, alongside Kyoto, Japan, Isle of Skye, Scotland, Tulum, Mexico, Charleston, South Carolina, and Paris, France. I hope this Hallstatt, Austria luxury travel guide helps you have the most magnificent time in one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited.
Surrounded by the Dachstein (Dachsteingebirge) and Salzkammergut Mountains, which are part of the Northern Limestone Alps and home to crystal clear Lake Hallstatt (Hallstätter See), this area is home to the early Celts of the early Iron Age, making this one of the most hisitoried places in all of Western Europe. Home to the oldest salt mines in the world, Hallstatt and nearby Salzburg are famous for their production of salt, even to this day. In fact, the salt trade is what allowed this region to blossom, and while this may sound a bit bland at first, it’s actually incredibly fascinating how the existence of salt within the mountains shaped the culture, economy and history of Austria and the areas around it. Isn’t it amazing how something as small as grains of salt can have such a tremendous impact on the world?
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hallstatt is famous worldwide for its breathtaking views, historical and cultural significance, and iconic dark wooden buildings. This small village is home to fewer than 800 people year-round, but it receives more than a million visitors annually. While there, we noticed a lot of day tourists wearing hijabs, which always catches my eye because one of my best friends is a hijabi. When we looked into it, we learned the reason why this seemed to be a popular destination for Muslim travelers is because a marketing agency called Zell am See noticed similarities between how the Qur’an describes paradise as a lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains and how Hallstatt actually looks. So, they ran some ads promoting tourism to the region in the Middle East, and people from Islamic countries still flock here years later. This is why you’ll notice that practically every restaurant has halal food options too.
It truly is worth traveling around the world to see this gorgeous place!
How to Get to Hallstatt
Hallstatt is easily accessible by train. We traveled from Prague‘s main station to Hallstatt in around six hours, and the train journey was breathtaking the entire way, particularly once we crossed into Austria. If I had a euro for every time, I gasped or thought to myself, “Wow, this is amazing!” I could have bought a house in Hallstatt! The train dropped us off at the Hallstatt boat station, which was directly uphill from the ferry that takes visitors to the village.
The ferry tickets are €3.50 per person, and the journey takes around 25 minutes. Get your cameras ready, because the views from the lake are absolutely incredible. Luggage doesn’t cost any extra, and tipping is not expected. The ferry will drop you off at the docks downtown, making it a very convenient way to reach the city.
We didn’t drive around Austria, but we met some Australians who had, and they said the drive in was one of the most scenic, breathtaking drives they’d ever enjoyed, and they claimed to have visited 75 different countries. They said they parked at the top of town just past a mountain tunnel near a waterfall, and while we were hiking around town, we found the exact parking lot they’d described. So, if you’re driving, know that it’s a very convenient, well-maintained, picturesque trek.
Best Time to Visit Hallstatt
We visited in autumn, and it was absolutely breathtaking. It rained nearly every day of our stay, but we are both big fans of rain and had brought appropriate clothing, so it wasn’t an issue for us. The leaves were just beginning to change colors, and the weather was a little cool, but even so, it was a wonderful time of year to visit. There isn’t a bad time to visit Hallstatt.
In the winter, the mountains are snowy, the lake is icy, and the views are splendid. In springtime, songbirds fill the valley, flowers bloom all over the village, and days get longer. In the summertime, lake fish are in season, as are numerous summer vegetables. The days are the longest, the temperatures are higher, and the outdoor activities become that much more fun. If you’d like to spend most of your time indoors relaxing, I’d recommend visiting in autumn or winter, and if you prefer to spend your time outdoors, I’d recommend visiting in spring, summer, or autumn.
The September timing of our visit couldn’t have been more perfect. We were able to enjoy the great outdoors, sail on the lake, explore the salt mines hundreds of meters below ground, and take in the region’s natural beauty very comfortably. Plus, there were very few other visitors, so it was fantastic all around. If we ever return, we’d like to see it in winter!
Where to Stay
We stayed in the gorgeous HOLZ deluxe suite at Hallstatt Hideaway, and it was one of my favorite hotels we’ve ever visited. The views of the lake and mountains from our room, paired with the wood-burning fire stove, full kitchen, comfortable, handmade four-poster bed fitted with organic linens, and the spacious dining room table and chairs with an amble bookcase filled with tomes from around the world made this truly feel like our home away from home.
Read the full review of our stay and see more photos, here.
Where to Eat
The food in Hallstatt was very delicious. I do wish there would have been more plant-based or lighter options in the area because that’s my favorite kind of food, but traveling is all about trying new things, which is precisely what we did during our visit. We enjoyed fish freshly caught from Lake Hallstatt, and seasonal vegetables, and we cooked several meals for ourselves in our suite. Below are a few of our favorite places to eat in Hallstatt.
This lakeside café had great service, and our food was made very quickly. Serving standard breakfast foods like eggs, croissants, coffee, and yogurt, we were able to dine here quickly and be on our way with ease. Everything was delicious, made to our specifications, and very fresh. Across from the café is a large grocery store that sells plenty of produce and beverages, which is great if you’re in the area hoping to cook for yourself.
Seehotel Grüner Baum
Inside this hotel was a lovely restaurant with lake views, a great assortment of food and drinks, and very kind staff. Our food here was fantastic. I had fresh fish and vegetables while Robin had Spätzel, soup, and a salad, and we both greatly enjoyed our meals. Everything is made from scratch here, so you really get an authentic sense of Hallstatt cuisine. Of course, they have freshly mined salt on the tables too!
Just beyond the salt mines is a restaurant with arguably some of the best views in Hallstatt. Overlooking the lake and the mountains, guests of Rudolfsturm may dine inside or out. We elected to dine outside, and it was simply breathtaking. The food here was delicious. Originally a medieval defense tower, this restaurant has undergone numerous changes over the years, but one thing remains the same: you won’t find a restaurant with better views in the entire town. In the photo below, you can see the bridge connecting the restaurant to the rest of the trail and the outdoor seating to the right of the building.
What to Do In & Around Hallstatt
Salt Mine Tour
One of the most underrated things we did in Hallstatt was touring the salt mines. My husband was so excited about this, but I had almost no interest in going. After all, why would I want to spend my time under the mountain when there were such gorgeous views all around us above ground? Still, I put on a smile along with the overalls and protective clothing they make visitors wear and headed into the salt mines nonetheless. I was expecting to be bored and cold so far underground, but I was willing to do it because he so often does things that aren’t his favorite for my sake, and I wanted to try to make the most of it. Plus, it was a new experience, and you know I can’t say no to it! I was not at all expecting to be in awe of the world’s oldest salt mines and was nearly brought to tears by the incredible tales of the people who worked in this place for millennia and how their lives shaped Western Europe. Touring the salt mines turned out to be one of my favorite things we did on this trip, not only because of the awesome history of the place but also because of how fun the tour itself was.
We slid down old wooden slides to descend deeper and deeper underground, and as it got colder and darker (I don’t recommend doing this if you’re afraid of heights, the dark, or being underground), I was more and more enthralled. I can now say I’ve not only been hundreds of meters under a mountain in Austria, but I now know that the world’s oldest ladder, oldest salt mine, and one of the oldest bodies ever found in Europe are there as well. If you have any interest at all in new experiences, history, or learning more about the region, this two-hour tour is well worth your consideration.
As I mentioned above, the Hallstatt region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you aren’t sure what those are yet, read this to learn all about why these sites are crucial to our collective history. Near the Rudolfsturm restaurant, which is near the path to the salt mines, is a viewing platform that allows visitors to take in the incredible vista. It’s truly stunning. Even if you don’t eat at the restaurant or visit the salt mines, you can’t leave Hallstatt without going here and seeing it for yourself.
On days with nice weather, boats are available for rent, and visitors can navigate around the lake on their own. Be aware of others sailing and the ferry that leaves regularly from the train station, and consider packing a lunch to enjoy out on the water. Or, like us, if you are kind to the locals and respectful of the fact that this is their home and not a museum to be traipsed upon, they might just offer to take you on a little tour, gratis.
This is one of the more macabre things to do in Hallstatt, but still worth a visit. As Hallstatt is quite small, they quickly run out of places to store their deceased loved ones. So, the tradition of digging them up, painting their skulls, and putting them on display began. For a small entrance fee of a few Euros that goes to helping to preserve these remains, guests can go into a crypt and see hundreds of skulls stacked upon one another with the names and dates the deceased lived. It’s actually a very beautiful thing that people loved their lost ones so much, years later, and took such care painting their remains. Photos are strictly prohibited within this place.
Hiking around Hallstatt is an adventure in and of itself. We simply picked a direction and began walking and had a wonderful time. Follow the painted trail markers and signs to stay safe. Even if you’re an inexperienced hiker, you can still navigate around the town with ease, all without losing sight of the lake, for an entire day if you’d like. More experienced hikers can easily branch out into the surrounding mountainside and go on longer treks. There’s an outfitter in town called Hallstatt-Shop right downtown that sells boots, jackets, and more, in case you’ve forgotten something.
In the warmer months, guests of Hallstatt Hideaway can access the private lakeside retreat where they can swim, sun themselves, and relax without anyone else around. I’m not certain about other swimming areas in the region, but always ask before entering the water, keep an eye out for signs that say no swimming, and use good judgment.
Day Trips from Hallstatt
Vienna and Salzburg are three hours away each, so they make for excellent day trips. Arguably, if you plan to stay in one of the three cities, it might be better to stay in a larger city longer than Hallstatt as it is rather small. However, if you’re looking for a peaceful getaway far from road noise, light pollution, and crowds, Hallstatt will take your breath away. The memories I made here are irreplaceable, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. While most travel organizations will push visitors to enjoy Hallstatt as a day trip, I’d urge you to consider spending at least two or three nights here if you’re looking for a tranquil oasis in which to relax.
We always felt extremely safe in Hallstatt. The locals were very kind and friendly to us, particularly because we could speak German. At night, the city mostly clears out, and it seemed that there weren’t many people who stayed there overnight, as there are only a handful of hotels in Hallstatt. Still, we never once felt unsafe. Even so, there were signs around town to keep an eye out for pickpockets, which is something one should be aware of no matter where they go.
As I mentioned, there’s ample hiking around Hallstatt, particularly up into the mountains. As with any hike, be sure to have a fully charged cell phone, appropriate clothing, enough water for your journey plus an additional 50% just in case, and to make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you’ll return. The trails we hiked were well marked, but even so, in snowy or foggy conditions, one could theoretically get lost, just as with any other hiking venture, so keep your wits about you, be careful, and use your best judgment when determining whether or not to go hiking.