The Hallstatt-Dachstein Salzkammergut region with 7,000 years of history, rich culture, the prehistoric civilization, and the oldest salt mine is rich in nature too.
The historic region, thus, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape.
The Dachstein-Salzkammergut region comprises the little towns of Bad Goisern, Hallstatt, Gosau, and Obertraun.
Hallstatt is the soul of the Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape.
This picturesque teeny-weeny village on Lake Hallstatt (Hallstätter See) enveloped by Dachstein Alps in the Salzkammergut region in Austria is often dubbed the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe.
A town that has been gloried by famous writers, poets, painters, photographers, and explorers; Hallstatt right on looks like a picture-book town.
A little over an hour drive from Salzburg makes Hallstatt an ideal day-trip destination or a weekend getaway.
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You can keep Salzburg as a base to explore this tiny village and other places in the Salzkammergut region though we strongly recommend spending a night in Salzkammergut to get a taste of the Austrian countryside.
Let me first answer the questions floating around the internet about Hallstatt. Does it just look beautiful in pictures or is it really worth a visit? Is it overhyped?
Is Hallstatt Overrated?
You must have come across tourists quoting Hallstatt as an overrated or overhyped destination while researching about the town.
It is overrated. Maybe. Or it seems to be overrated to you.
After lusting at photographs of the stunning town all over the internet, you decide to visit Hallstatt with already-high expectations.
You saw a little town set in just about 59 km square.
It’s a cute, charming, picturesque town enveloped by breathtaking wilderness. No doubts about it.
But it’s just a one-horse town settled on a single main street lined with cottage houses, shops, cafes, restaurants, two churches, a museum, and one market square.
You spent an hour or so strolling the streets and taking a good number of photographs in exactly the same style and composition you’ve seen on Instagram but what after that?
Hallstatt feels underwhelming then.
It fails to meet your exceeding expectations.
It’s not because it doesn’t deserve the hype but because you had high hopes.
A tiny town with less than 800 inhabitants warmly welcomes about eight hundred thousand tourists every year.
There’s a reason that travelers flock from all across the world to see it. There’s a reason China made an all-out replica town inspired by Hallstatt. Isn’t it?
Is Hallstatt Worth Visiting?
I know. I know. This is your next question.
Of course! You can’t afford to miss the other-worldly and pure experience that is Salzkammergut when in Austria.
When you add Hallstatt in your itinerary, keep only 3 to 4 hours for it. Club it with other gorgeous places in the Salzkammergut region like Attersee-Attergau, Ausseerland, Bad Ischl, Dachstein, Fuschlseeregion, Mondsee-Irrsee, Traunsee-Almtal, and Wolfgangsee depending upon the time you have on hands.
Also, it’d be lovely to spend a night at one of the lesser popular yet beautiful towns near Hallstatt.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Hallstatt?
For the quintessential experience in Hallstatt, visit during shoulder-season or off-season.
We visited during Summer and the streets were bursting at the seams. Nevertheless, Hallstatt is a stunning sight despite it being jammed with tourists.
It looks fairy-tale town all covered in snow in winter (December through January) and thus, is the second busiest time of year in terms of tourists. I’d totally recommend going to Hallstatt in winter. It’d be lovely to walk in the winter wonderland!
Spring (March and April) and Fall (October and November) are the least crowded and least expensive months to visit this storybook village.
How to Get to Hallstatt
Salzburg to Hallstatt
If you plan to visit Hallstatt as a day trip and don’t intend to explore or spend a night in the Salzkammergut region, it’s advisable to keep Salzburg as your base as it’s the closest city to Hallstatt.
ÖBB bus numbers 150 from the Salzburg bus terminal at Südtiroler Platz takes you to Bad Ischl from where you transfer to a regional train that goes to Hallstatt train station and finally, you board a ferry Stefanie from the train station to Hallstatt Markt.
Hallstatt train station which is in fact Obertraun is on the other side of the lake from the town. So, taking a ferry is unavoidable while coming by train.
Alternatively, you can board bus number 542 to Gosaumühle and switch to bus number 543 from Gosaumühle to Hallstatt Lahn (main bus stop, Hallstatt.)
The same bus continues to the Dachstein Krippenstein in Obertraun.
ÖBB (Railjet) train from the Salzburg’s main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, takes you to Attnang-Puchheim from where you change for the regional train to Hallstatt train station and then a ferry Stefanie from the train station to Hallstatt Markt.
If you are planning to get back to Salzburg on the same day, please be aware of the last ferry and bus and/or train timings.
By Rental Car
Driving is the easiest, fastest, and beautiful way to reach Hallstatt from Salzburg. It takes a little over an hour for the entire journey. You save a lot on time, you see.
There are two driving routes to travel from Salzburg to Hallstatt, whatever you take, breathtaking views are guaranteed.
You’ll be urged to pull off the road and breathe in the views.
Route A10 and B166: Salzburg – Hallein – Golling – Abtenau – Gschütt Pass – Gosau – Hallstatt
Route B158: Salzburg – Fuschl – St Gilgen – Strobl – St Wolfgang – Bad Ischl – Bad Goisern – Hallstatt
Vignettes (Motorway Toll Stickers) are mandatory for driving on all Austrian motorways and highways. You can buy one from gas stations, post offices, rest areas, or automobile clubs. A 10-day sticker costs 9.20 Euro.
Vienna to Hallstatt
It’s not a good idea to travel to Hallstatt from Vienna as a day-trip because of inordinate distance. It approximately takes 4 hours by train and 3 hours by car.
Instead, you can also explore this little town as a stop while traveling from Vienna to Salzburg.
ÖBB train from Vienna’s main train station, Wien Hauptbahnhof or Vienna’s west train station, Wien Westbahnhof takes you to Attnang-Puchheim from where you change for the regional train to Hallstatt train station and then a ferry Stefanie from the train station to Hallstatt Markt.
The driving route A1, B145 from Vienna via Melk, Gmunden, and Bad Ischl takes around 3 hours 30 minutes.
Parking in Hallstatt
Hallstatt has 3 public parking areas (P1, P2, and P3,) all within walking distance from the old town.
P1 and P2 are located near the Cable Car Station to the Salt Mine while P3 is located a bit away.
We reached quite early in the morning and thus, got a convenient spot in Car Parking P2.
As you enter the town, the electronic sign-posts clearly show the number of parking spots available.
Get your parking ticket from the ticket machine and pay at the time of exit by cash or card.
Things to do in Hallstatt
Hallstatt is one of those places where you’d love to do nothing. Don’t we all need such undemanding places in our itinerary to get the much-needed break in between hectic travel?
Stroll the Old Town
Hallstatt is magical. It’s enthralling to stroll the streets lined with little shops and pastel cottage houses with window boxes filled with colorful flowers.
Such extraordinarily good outdoor touch! They look like a work of art!
It takes no more than 15 minutes to stroll from one end to another. It’s that small!
You can get to the Tourist Information Center at the south end of the town to learn about the region or get the activities brochures.
Old Town Market Square (Hallstätter Marktplatz)
The historic market square, surrounded by the little picturesque houses, souvenir shops, and cafes and a mighty Holy Trinity statue in the center serves as a venue for most of the events and celebrations in the town.
Hallstatt Advent (Hallstatt Christmas Market) on December 8th every year at market square attracts thousands of tourists from all around the world.
Evangelical Church of Hallstatt
The Neo-Gothic Evangelical Church of Christ founded in 1863 steps from the Market Square of Hallstatt.
The church regularly holds cultural events apart from the sermons.
Museum Hallstatt (Welterbemuseum)
The World Heritage Museum takes you back in time when the ancient salt mining town was formed 7,000 years ago.
You’ll learn how Iron Age was named after Hallstatt and how the Great Fire of 1750 gave Hallstatt a new look.
The history is presented in such a fun yet informative way using video animations, 3D presentations, cycloramas or dioramas, and holographic representations that kids are hooked till the end.
The archeological excavations beneath the Janu sports shop (Dachsteinsport Janu) are worth-seeing. The shop is located exactly opposite to the World Heritage Museum.
Hallstatt Charnel House
Just at the back of Hallstatt Catholic Parish Church, St. Michael’s Chapel, in a well-maintained cemetery or graveyard is the Hallstatt Charnel House aka Hallstatt Beinhaus or Hallstatt Ossuary.
A small subterranean cave-like room is tightly and neatly stacked with around 1,200 skulls and other bones. Around 600 skulls are delicately and artistically hand-painted by family members with symbolic adornments, dates of birth and death to remember the deceased ones when they no longer had their own grave.
Hallstatt being a small place has a small burial ground. The church dug up corpses as the cemetery filled to make way for newly deceased and the skulls plus bones from the buried bodies were moved to the charnel house.
A short hike on the Hallstätter Höhenweg (High Trail Hallstatt over the rooftops of Hallstatt) starts behind the cemetery and takes you through a forest road to Marienruhe lookout point.
After taking in the wonderful postcard views over Halstatt lake, walk to the bridge at Mühlbach (mill brook) waterfall.
From here, you can either take downhill to Salzburg Cable Car or walk a few steps forward to take the Müllerstiege (Müller staircase) that leads you back to the center of Hallstatt.
The lake connects the towns of Hallstatt, Obertraun, Bad Goisern, and Gosau in the Dachstein Salzkammergut region.
The best way to experience the Dachstein Salzkammergut is from the waters of Hallstätter See (Lake Hallstatt.)
You can rent a pedal boat, electric boat, or a rowboat to cruise the lake on your own.
Else you can take one of the roundtrip ferry rides or cruises on the excursion boats offered by Lake Hallstatt Schifffahrt Hemetsberger GmbH.
Hallstatt Skywalk Welterbeblick
The World Heritage Skywalk hangs 350 meters over the cliff above the roofs of Hallstatt on the Salzberg (salt mountain) and offers breathtaking panoramic views of UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut.
You can either take a funicular (Salzbergbahn) or hike for an hour or so to reach the skywalk. The roundtrip funicular ride costs 18€.
Hallstatt Salt Mine Tours (Salzwelten)
All dressed in a miners’ gears, you can take a guided tour to the pre-historic salt mine. The tour lasts about 70 minutes and starts near the Welterbeblick.
The total time needed including the roundtrip funicular ride is somewhere around 3 hours. Add the hours you’ll spend on the skywalk.
The tour costs 34€ per adult and 17€ per child including funicular ride. Family tickets are also available.
The smallest of four communities with about 760 inhabitants in the World Heritage Dachstein Salzkammergut region, Obertraun snuggles in a valley formed by the River Traun at the foot of Dachstein, surrounded by the Alps on the southeastern shore of Lake Hallstatt.
The Krippenstein mountain is the most dramatic feature of Obertraun.
Just 15 minutes drive from Hallstatt takes you to a whole new world of adventure amid nature, Dachstein Krippenstein in Obertraun.
A beautiful short hike that starts from the Dachstein Krippenstein valley station along the Koppentraun river is all it takes to explore the newest of the three Dachstein caves, Koppenbrüller Cave.
A panoramic cable car rides you to Krippenstein peak that offers drop-dead gorgeous views of Dachstein Glacier. The viewing platform, 5fingers present spectacular views down over the Salzkammergut region.
You can explore the other two entrancing Dachstein caves – Giant Ice and Mammut caves on the way to Krippenstein. Get down at section I mountain station – Schönbergalm.
Once you are done with caves, you can ride a cable car to section II mountain station – Krippenstein.
There are a couple of hiking trails for families that starts from the mountain station II Krippenstein.
A 5 minutes hike from Krippenstein towards right leads you to Welterbeblick, a viewing platform that presents the World Heritage View.
A 15 minutes hike from Welterbeblick takes you to another viewing platform Welterbespirale that offers a 360-degree panoramic view to the Dachstein.
A little downhill ahead of Welterbespirale, the 5Fingers platform welcomes you. An adrenaline rush at its best!
The five different platforms and five different experiences!
The one made entirely of glass left me weak-kneed!
If you turn left from the mountain station II Krippenstein, you can walk the Heilbronner Circular trail for about 30 minutes to reach Dachstein Shark, the high point of the trail.
You can come back to Krippenstein from here but if you’ve time and energy, you can hike for another hour or so to Heilbronner Cross and further to mountain station III – Gjaid and board the cable car all the way down to the valley station Dachstein Krippenstein.
There are many moderate hiking trails from Gjaid for the hiking enthusiasts – Dachstein Nature Trail, Dachsteinblick, and Taubenkogel.
Where to Stay in Salzkammergut
Hallstatt, Gosau, Obertraun, Bad Goisern, Bad Ischl, St Gilgen, Strobl, St Wolfgang and other gorgeous cozy little villages in Salzkammergut and around have a perfect setting for a beautiful night stay.
Hotels in Hallstatt
Just a short walk from the old town, Ferienhaus is rated the best in Hallstatt by families with kids and couples time and again.
Hotels in Gosau
Located in one of the best areas in Gosau, COOEE alpin has a great location score as it surrounds itself by the spectacular Alps.
Hotels in Obertraun
A perfect little spot in Obertraun away from the heaps of tourists in Hallstatt, Haus Salzkammergut is good for couples and families.
Located at the foot of Krippenstein, Haus Rye comes highly recommended by every kind of traveler – solo travelers, couples, or families with kids.
Hotels in Bad Goisern
The best value in Bad Goisern, Apartmenthaus Hinterer is a beautiful apartment with mountains view.
Located in the Bad Goisern spa park, the rooms of the property offers beautiful views and serves organic cuisine from the region.
Hotels in Bad Ischl
Just a 5-minute walk away from the center of Bad Ischl, the property is highly rated for the courteous staff and awesome vegetarian buffet breakfast.
Hotels in St. Wolfgang
Located right on at Lake Wolfgang, the property has a private beach and a restaurant with a beer garden. Luxury in nature!
Hotels in St. Gilgen
A beautiful traditional, family-run hotel is located just 300 meters from the Wolfgangsee Lake. It has been rated 9.4 for a stay with kids. A great choice for families!
Tips for Visiting Hallstatt and the Dachstein Salzkammergut
- If traveling in summer months, plan to reach as early as possible like by 8 am or so before the daytrippers arrive. This way you’ll have a little town all to yourself, take as many postcard-perfect photos as you want, and get the parking easily if coming by car. It usually gets busy by 10 am.
- Make sure to book your hotel in advance to get the desired accommodation as the stay options are limited.
- For a relaxing holiday, travel to Hallstatt and the rest of the Salzkammergut region during the off-season. The area sees the maximum number of visitors during the months of June, July, August, and September.
Have you ever been to Hallstatt or Dachstein or other places in the Salzkammergut region of Austria? How do you like it? Did you also feel that Hallstatt is overrated? I’d love to know!
And if this post helped you plan a beautiful trip to Hallstatt and Dachstein, be a sport and please share it with the world.
You might want to read before planning a trip to Europe:
- Vienna, Austria
- Wachau Valley, Austria
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Undredal – a Fjord Village in Aurland, Norway
- Oslo, Norway
- Finnish Lapland in Summer
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Dragør, Denmark
- Renting a Car in Europe
- Schengen Visa for Europe
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