Hallstatt – the gem of the Austrian Alps
April 24, 2019
We don’t always have to cross an ocean to find magical places and relax for a second. In Europe, not too far from my home, there are plenty of wonderful things to see. One of them is Hallstatt that I’ve heard a lot about before, but I never imagined that it would be so dazzling. Not particularly the village, more the surroundings, the landscape and the Salzkammergut region all in all, which is righteously called the gem of the Alps.
The area itself lies east, south-east of Salzburg and covers quite a large territory with hills, mountains and picturesque lakes that fascinate even those travelers who only cruise through. We didn’t go around the whole region either of course. The region was named after the salt chambers found here, some of which, in addition to being a salt mine that can be visited, are still functioning today.
Perhaps the most known place is Hallstatt, a picturesque little village on the shores of Lake Hallstätter. Many people know it from postcards and photos as it has an unmistakable sight.
When to visit?
For sure each season has its charm. Winter is perfect not only for the regular visitors, but also for the fans of winter sports. In the wintertime the white, snow-covered landscape gives it a beautiful, fairytale-like look. In the summer everything turns green and hikers can really enjoy themselves in the area.
We visited here at the beginning of March and the weather, what to say, proved to be quite whimsical. During our way to Hallstatt from Linz it rained, in fact the whole afternoon and evening, so we couldn’t do much. And to be honest I was a little worried that the weather would remain ugly for the rest of our stay. The sight was not what we expected, though the snowy mountain peaks rising from the clouds were still amazing. Then the next day the sky was clear with a few clouds, but from the early afternoon it darkened again and started to rain. On day 3 there was a snowstorm on the top of the Krippenstein mountain but it only lasted for and hour. The wind was so strong though it blew the clouds away, so after all we enjoyed the snow-covered hills in the sun. We were really lucky during the whole trip: the sun was came out always the in best possible moments for us.
What we’ve noticed was that there were a lot of tourists, especially Asians, and I think there will be more in the summer. Perhaps the flood of people makes the whole experience a little less enjoyable during the high season. Who knows….
What to do in Hallstatt?
1) Walk on the main street
Take a stroll on one of Hallstatt’s miraculous streets. Start from the southern harbor towards the north of the lake (Seestrasse). Enjoy the view of the surrounding that are reflected in the lake’s water.
2) Houses on the hills
Admire the wooden houses that are standing casually on the hillside between the colored houses with triangular roofs that have wooden details.
Pay a visit to Hallstatt’s iconic evangelical church and check out the wonderful and cosy Maria am Berg (Mary on the Hill) catholic church for a moment to quiesce and render thanks.
4) Postcard view
Go further, through a big gate, until you get back to the shore and get to the point where thousands of tourists take a photo of the place’s world-famous view – it’s not that bad for such a small village.
5) Higher streets
On the way back roam on the streets above, so you can get a glimpse from a different angle.
6) Cream horn
Finish the mini tour of Hallstatt with a really yummy, typically Austrian delicacy that is baked freshly every day. This is the famous cream horn. Walking along the main street, there is a lovely chalet with a small bakery at the bottom. Around its window some pastries, whiskers and eggs are suggesting that something very delicious can be eaten here (€ 2.50).
7) Boat ride
If your time allows, take a boat ride to check out the village from the lake, there is a ship called Stefanie that runs all year around between ATO Hallstatt Markt (north port) and the eastern shore of the lake to the train station Hallstatt Bahnhst (3 EUR / direction). You can find out about the timetable and additional boating options on the website.
8) Viewpoint and the salt mine
It would be wrong to miss the Hallstalt salt mine and the viewpoint tower that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and I’ll write about it in another post.
Parking in Hallstatt
Several parking options are available inside and outside the village. Most have to be paid for, either cash or card payment is accepted. And I think it’s ridiculously expensive.
- P2 parking: it’s right at the bottom of the funicular and it only functions in high season
- P1 parking: in the winter this is the best option as it has a covered part too
- P3 parking: if there is no free space in the other 2, you can use this one, though it’s a bit out of the village
- Echentral parking: from here you can walk up to the Waldbach waterfall (we’ve missed this one because of lack of time)
- Disabled parking: located directly at the southern harbor.
Extra information: a few steps away from the harbor on Seelände Street there are some parking spots available. This is where we left the car when we made a quick walk in the village. We found it accidentally, I don’t know whether we were suppose to pay there, we did not see any machine. However, several cars with foreign license plates were parked there so we joined them. Now we are hoping that the postman doesn’t bring the penalty check 🙂
Accomodation in Hallstattban
Since accommodation prices were incredibly high in Hallsatt, we decided to book a room in the neighboring village of Obertraun, only 4 km away. I always use booking.com for my bookings, and this time I found a wonderful small guesthouse called Landhaus Osborne. An older Austrian-English couple operates it and really their hearts and souls are in it. There are only 3 apartments in the house (plus their own apartment). Each small apartment is beautiful and stylish and super cosy.
We got to the little rooftop hut, where we could enjoy watching the mountains from the bed and listened to the raindrops falling on the windows – this somehow compensated us for the somewhat ugly weather. The tiny kitchenette was fully equipped, even with spices and olive oil so any food could be fixed quickly. The welcoming was very friendly and warm and we did not suffer any shortage so I can only recommend them. It is best to book it directly with them.