Hallstatt originated as a salt mining town, and is one of Europe’s oldest salt mining places, dating back to prehistoric times. The name Hallstatt literally means the place of salt and was a prominent town in its hay day, due to the importance of salt as a commodity. Today, this fairytale town is busy with tourists from all over the world who come to pay their homage to its beauty and ancient charm.
Here is all you need to know about visiting and spending one day in Hallstatt.
Where is Hallstatt
The Salzkammergut Lake District in Austria is one of the most breaktaking areas of the region. Surrounded by mountains and a lake by its namesake, the little town of Hallstatt is the Salzkammergut’s main star.
Although Hallstatt can be visited from several big cities, including Vienna and Munich, it is best visited from Salzburg due to its proximity to Salzburg. This is especially true if you are only going to Hallstatt for the day.
Salzburg: 2 hour 15 minutes by Bus / 2.5 hours by train plus a short ferry ride/ 1 hour and 15 minutes by car
Vienna: 4 hours by train/ 3 hours 30 minutes by car
Munich: 2 hours 30 minutes by car
When to Go
Hallstatt has become extremely popular in recent times. However, there is a myth that Hallstatt cannot be accessed during winter but contrary to this belief Hallstatt can be accessed during any time of the year.
That being said there are a couple of pros and cons of visiting Hallstatt at different times of the year. For example, summers can be extremely crowded whereas certain places might be closed in the winter. Regardless of the season you visit, this town is sure to provide stunning views and be an amazing experience even if you only spend one day in Hallstatt.
How to Get to Hallstatt
There are a couple of ways to get to Hallstatt each with its own pros and cons. Here is what I found out during my research.
If you are renting a car, driving is the fastest way to get to Hallstatt. The only thing to watch out for is parking. All the available parking in Hallstatt is towards the south of the village. Depending on the time of day you get there, you may find that parking can be scarce.
Pro Tip – If you are doing Hallstatt as a day trip from Salzburg or any of the other cities, get to Hallstatt as early as possible to beat the crowds and for a more calm experience (or at least until the masses arrive)
Getting to Hallstatt by train actually takes longer than all the other modes. From Salzburg or Austria, take an Austria National OBB train to the Attnang-Puchheim station (this takes about an hour from Salzburg). Once at Attnang-Puchheim station, you will need to make a transfer to a regional train to get to Hallstatt.
This train will take you to Hallstatt Bahnhof (about 85 minutes). At this point you will be almost at Hallstatt but not quite. From this tiny station, you will have to take a ferry name “Stephanie” across Lake Hallstatt to Hallstatt Markt to finally get to the village of Hallstatt.
Although “Stephanie” runs all year long (yes, even during the winter!), she stops at a certain time in the evening. By the information on this website, that time happens to be 6.15 pm from Hallstatt Markt. The Ferry and train schedules are synced up nicely so that you don’t spend too much time between transfers.
After researching all modes of transportation to Hallstatt, I decided to take the bus in to the village (didn’t want to drive and the bus is actually faster than the train). Here is how to take the bus to Hallstatt from Salzburg.
You will have to take 3 buses to complete this journey but it is very easy. Just follow these instructions!
1. Salzburg to Bad Ischl (Bus 150) – The first bus starts just outside the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) in Salzburg (stall F) and takes about 90 minutes to Bad Ischl. HERE is the time table. Note the schedule changes from week days to weekends. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find an English version but Google offered to translate for me)
Pro Tip – This bus ride will be one of the most scenic ones you take! Sit on the left side of the bus for some stunning scenes of the Salzkammergut region.
2. Bad Ischl to Hallstatt Gosaumühle (Bus 542) – From Bad Ischl bus terminal, look for bus 542 (there will be a board with the number but stall “C” is where the bus pulled in to when we took this journey). This bus actually goes all the way to Gosausee but you will need to get off at Hallstatt Gosaumühle. Don’t worry though as almost everyone on the bus will get off here along with you. This leg of the journey takes about 20 minutes.
HERE is where you can find a timetable. (Input 542 where they ask for “trainname” and pick the date you hope to visit)
3. Hallstatt Gosaumühle to Hallstatt Lahn (Postbus 543) – The bus stand at Hallstatt Gosaumühle looks like a big parking lot. Hang around here for bus 543 (I believe this is the only bus that will stop here). The bus schedules are generally synced so you don’t have to stand for too long. After about a 10 minute ride, get off at Hallstatt Lahn.
Cost – About 15€ one way per person and can be bought on the bus from the driver. I was traveling with my friend and we purchased a round journey ticket upfront and asked the driver to put both our fares in to one ticket, which he happily did. You will need cash to purchase the ticket.
Pro Tip – Take a print out of the timetables so that you know when the last bus/train out will be. You can also take pictures of the timetables at each bus stand (they will be displayed).
Getting Around Hallstatt
Once you get to Hallstatt, touring the town itself is all on foot.
What to Do in Hallstatt
Explore the Old Town
The entire town of Hallstatt is only about a mile long. The town’s small Marktplatz or Market Place sits right of the center of the town and is a great spot to sit down and people watch. The colorful buildings surrounding the square adds to its old town charm. If you are lucky you may also find a band playing in this square.
Stroll Along the Lake
Enjoy some breathtaking views of Lake Hallstatt and the surrounding mountains as you walk along the lake. Also admire the beauty of the centuries-old timber homes that line the lakefront.
Capture the Postcard Views of Hallstatt
If you love photography, Hallstatt will definitely not disappoint you. There are two great photo spots to get that perfect view of Hallstatt. One is on the south side as you get off the bus.
The other spot is a little further up north, passing the Market Place. This is the more famous shot of Hallstatt.
Enjoy a Boat Ride on the Lake
A slow cruise on Lake Hallstatt is another great way to enjoy the surroundings. There are lots of boating options to choose from, including wooden paddle boats and even a giant swan boat. We chose to do a boat tour that came with an overview of Hallstatt and its history. If you didn’t hop on the ferry to get over to Hallstatt, this option provides another great view of Hallstatt from the lake itself. The cost of this tour was around 10€ and we caught the tour from Hallstatt Lahn on the south side.
Enjoy Local Cuisine
Which happens to be fresh fish from the lake, usually served with potatoes. The preparation is simple but tasty! We had lunch at Braugasthof Lobisser Gasthof . This guesthouse/ restaurant gets 10/10 for location!
Since Hallstatt is only a mile in length, its houses extend up rather than across the town. You will see narrow stairways that you can take to explore upwards. The higher you go the better the views will be.
Hiking up also bring you to this waterfall that cuts right through the middle of the town. Although the waterfall is nothing much, again it is the views that are fully worth the hike.
Other Places to See in or near Hallstatt
The salt mines of Hallstatt are over 7000 years old and you can take a tour of these mines. The tour itself lasts for about 70 minutes but leave 2.5 hours to also account for the round trip journey. To get there, take the Salt Mine Funicular lift from the visitor center up Salt Mountain and then make a the short hike. Current cost is 34€. HERE is the website.
The Dachstein Ice Caves are situated high-up in the mountains and are open during the summer/fall months where visitors can take guided tours. Stay on bus 543 to reach the Visitor Center or take this bus from Hallstatt Lahn. The actual tour itself is an hour but account for travel time to and from Hallstatt.
Hallstatt Ossuary or Bone House
The story goes that Hallstatt was so small that they ran out of cemetery space to bury their dead. Their creative solution was to bury the dead for a few years and then exhume the bodies, clean the bones, and place them in the Bone House.
You may have to stay for a night if you want to do everything on this list. However, even if you don’t stay the night, it’s still a really enjoyable day trip and I am so glad I did it. Just make sure to get on the earliest bus/train and take the last one out.
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