The Ultimate Guide to Hallstatt

Table of Contents

When to visit Hallstatt

Hallstatt is charming all year round, whether it is covered with a fresh blanket of snow, bursting with autumn colors, or green and lush. So, the best time for you to visit depends on factors other than the weather.

If you are looking to avoid the crowds, bear in mind that summer is the peak season, while winter can also be busy, particularly around Christmas. On the other hand, if you intend to visit some other attractions, such as the Salt Mine or the Dachstein Caves, then late spring to early autumn are the months to go. And if you are looking to visit this charming village on a special occasion, we’ve got you covered:

Summer is the peak season, and aside from battling the heat, you are sure to battle large crowds of people that flock to the village. Winter can also be busy, particularly around Christmas, but this is when you will find some of our favorite festivals. So, this leaves us with autumn and spring, which offer pleasant weather, cheaper rates, and fewer crowds.

| June (Thursday after Trinity Sunday) – Corpus Christi Procession

This traditional procession dates back to the 1600s when the Jesuits formed colorful processions through the old salt-mining village. However, due to the limited open space, the procession moved onto the Hallstätter See, on salt-carrying ships and traditional boats, decorated with flowers and garlands. That afforded the locals some lovely views towards the “Salt Mountain” which had been their source of income for thousands of years.

| 29th of November – St Nicholas crosses the lake

Once a year, the children of Obertraun congregate on the shore of Lake Hallstatt with torches in their hands and eagerly await the arrival of St Nicholas. He crosses the lake by a typical wooden boat to visit them, carrying a large sack crammed full of apples, nuts, and chocolate.

| 5th of December – Krampus Procession

Every year, on the Eve of St. Nicholas, revives the Krampus tradition. The Krampus are locals dressed in scary hand-crafted masks that descend from the Hirlatz Cave, high above Hallstatt. They have to punish the naughty children and bestow, with the help of St. Nicholas, the good ones.

| 8th of December – Hallstatt Christmas Market

The Hallstatt Christmas market traditionally takes place every year on the 8th of December. Take a stroll through the fairytale Christmas Market, and admire the three-dimensional crib scene. Oh, and try some of the famous Christmas cookies and spicy smoked fish from Lake Hallstatt!

Tip: If you are visiting during peak season book an overnight stay well in advance, either in Hallstatt or in a nearby village, and visit Hallstatt early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

How to get to Hallstatt

With frequent bus and train connections with most Austrian cities, getting to Hallstatt is pretty easy, especially from Salzburg. Traveling from other places within Austria, our recommendation is to travel either by car or by regional trains using the Einfach-Raus ticket (more below).

So here is everything you need to know about how to get to Hallstatt!

By Car

Driving is the easiest and possibly the cheapest way to reach Hallstatt. Its historic village center is closed to cars during the daytime, but you will find two parking lots. Follow the signposts leading to them, where electronic displays will show you how many spots are still available. You can find the exact locations, as well as the parking fees here.


By Train (& Ferry!)

Traveling from other parts of Austria to Hallstatt by ÖBB train usually requires a transfer at Attnang-Puchheim. From this point on, only (slightly) slower regional trains run to Hallstatt, calling at the Hallstatt Bahnhof, on the east bank of the Hallstätter See. Since the village lies on the west bank, you will have the unique experience of approaching Hallstatt across the water. A regular ferry service meets each arriving train and takes you to the Schiffstation, just north of the Marktplatz.

| Ticket Prices: To begin with, make sure you book your tickets well in advance. The train tickets are expensive, and they tend to cost even more as you get closer to your travel date. That said, the cheapest one-way ticket (OBB Sparschiene) will cost you 19€ from Vienna and Innsbruck, and 9€ from Salzburg. Additionally, at the quayside, you also have to pay 3€ before boarding the ferry.

The Einfach-Raus ticket

If you are not traveling alone and time is not an issue, then the Einfach-Raus ticket is your best option. Its price is calculated based on the number of travelers, so expect to pay 35€, 39€, 43€, and 47€ for 2-5 people, respectively. It can be used throughout Austria – except for Vorarlberg – for any number of ÖBB’s local and regional trains (R-, REX, CJX, S-Bahn). Therefore, it is great for travels to and from Hallstatt, as most of the journey is on slower, regional trains.

The ticket is valid on the selected day until 03:00 a.m. of the following day. Just keep in mind that during Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays, it is valid all day long (00:00 – 03:00 of the next day), while from Monday to Friday, its validity starts at 09:00.


By Bus (from Salzburg)

Once in Salzburg, you can reach Hallstatt by bus as well: First, take Bus #150 to Bad Ischl (1h 25m, every 30min), and then hop on Bus #542 to Hallstatt Gosaumühle (30min, every 20min). Finally, take Bus #543 to Hallstatt Lahn (10min, hourly), from where it’s just a short walk into the village.

|Ticket price: The tickets cost around 15€ each way, and you can buy them directly from the first bus driver. Just let them know that you are heading to Hallstatt Lahn so that you don’t have to purchase tickets separately.


Once there, you can easily walk from one end of the village to the other in less than 30min. Stroll around its car-free center and if you want to explore beyond it, take the funicular up to the Salt Mines or the local bus to the Ice Caves.

Attractions in Hallstatt

Stroll along the Hallstätter Lake

The first and obvious thing to do is to stroll along the waterfront. Rustic gabled houses casting shimmering reflections onto the glassy waters of the lake, elegant swans, and old wooden boats by the water’s edge are attractions on their own! Walking from one end of the village to the other should take you less than 20min. Still, you may find yourself stopping every few steps trying to take that postcard-perfect photo.

And just in case you can’t find that famous Hallstatt viewpoint, search for Postcard Angle on Google Maps!


Old Town & Marktplatz

After your stroll along the waterfront, it’s time to discover the car-free Old Town.

Staircases lead up to higher parts of Hallstatt and take you to even more charming pastel-colored houses. The main landmark here is the little triangular Marktplatz (Market Square), once a bustling medieval center of trade and commerce. Today, it is the main square of the village and a venue for concerts, cultural evenings, and the Christmas Market.

By the Marktplatz, the Hallstatt Welterbemuseum (World Heritage Museum) presents a comprehensive picture of the region’s history of the Iron Age and salt mining. It includes sections on local geology, natural history, handicrafts, and the religious strife between Catholics and Protestants.


Pfarrkirche & Beinhaus

Raised above the lake on a terrace north of the Marktplatz stands the village’s 15th century Catholic Parish Church (Pfarrkirche). Inside, the most intriguing altar is a carved wooden one with the gilded statuettes of the Madonna and Child. It is flanked by St. Barbara, patron of miners, and St. Catherine, revered by woodcutters.

In the cemetery surrounding the church stands the Beinhaus, an ossuary serving as a storehouse for some 1.200 human skulls. Due to a shortage of space in the graveyard, they had to store somewhere the bones of the deceased. Hence, once sufficient time had elapsed for complete decomposition of the body, the bones were recovered and stored in the Beinhaus. Interestingly enough, the skulls were painted with decorative designs: the male ones with oak or ivy leaves, and the female ones with floral motifs. Moreover, they sometimes added the name of the deceased, the date, and a symbol of the cause of death.


Skywalk & Salt Mine

High above the village is the wooded valley of Salzberg (Salt Mountain), also known as Hallstätter Hochtal (Hallstatt High Valley). There, you will find the breathtaking Skywalk viewing platform and one of the oldest known Salt Mines in the world.

Rudolfsturm, a medieval defense tower, guards the entrance to the Salzberg area. It once served as a residence for the respective manager of the salt mine, but now hosts a restaurant. Directly below the tower stands, the Skywalk (Welterbeblick, World Heritage View), 360m above the rooftops of Hallstatt. Step onto this lookout platform and walk the 12m out to its tapered point for majestic views. About ten minutes away, the Salt Mine (Salzwelten) can only be visited on a 90min tour, detailing the history of mining. You will get down into the depths on 60m miners’ slides, through mysterious tunnels, and to an underground salt lake.

| Getting there: The easiest way to make your way up there is to take the 5min funicular railway from the visitor center. Alternatively, take the steps behind the Beinhaus and follow the trail past the waterfall and up. Bear in mind, however, that this is a tough climb that takes about an hour.

| Prices & Opening hours: Access to the Skywalk platform is free, while the entrance to the Salt Mine costs €24. If you make your way up by funicular (Salzbergbahn), it will additionally cost you 18€ for the round trip. In this case, opt for the 34€ Combo ticket that includes the Salt Mine and the funicular round trip.

Attractions around Hallstatt

Dachstein Caves

Dachstein Caves & 5 Fingers

The Dachstein Krippenstein Seilbahn (cable car) takes you to explore the highlights of the Dachstein massif, offering at the same time stunning panoramic views. Getting off at its first station you can visit the captivating Dachstein Caves, where you will find yourself in a strange world of ice mountains, glaciers, and frozen waterfalls. At the next one, admire the view from the 5Fingers Viewing Platform or get off at the last station to hike through alpine meadows. 

| Getting there: From Hallstatt Lahn take Postbus #543 and get off at Obertraun Dachstein Seilbahn (15min, €2.60). Arriving by car, you can park free of charge at the valley station. From here, take the cable car, which departs every 15min, and alight at any of its three stations. 

|Prices & Opening Hours: Expect to pay €34-€66, depending on the attractions you want to visit. All caves are open to the public only during the spring and summer seasons (May-October). You can find more details here.


Gosauseen

The three small mountain lakes, known as Gosauseen, lie one after the other, surrounded by forest and limestone rocks. An undemanding 4km walk around the biggest one, the Vorderer Gosausee, will reward you with superb views of the surrounding mountains (1h). If you want to explore the rest, walk past the Gosaulacke (Lacke means puddle), and you will get to Hinterer Gosausee, a small green-blue lake enclosed within a host of stunning grey peaks (1h 30min).

Getting there: From Hallstatt Lahn first take Bus #543 to Gosaumühle (10min) and then change to Bus #542 to Hintertal b.Gosau Gosaukammbahn (24min). Traveling by car, this is also where you will find the parking lot. The trailhead is easy to find and follow.

Tip: If you have a head for heights, then opt for the Laserer Klettersteig (via Ferrata) that allows you to enjoy stunning views of the majestic Gosausee below.


Waldbachstrub Wasserfall

The imposing Waldbachstrub Waterfall in Echerntal Valley, known as “The Place for Romantics”, is Hallstatt’s hidden gem.

You can easily get there from the center of the village, following the trail that starts from the P2 parking lot.

The hike takes about 1h 30min, while an extra 30min detour takes you to the marvelous Gletschergarten (Glacier Garden). 


Himmelsleiter

What is known as Himmelsleiter, Jacob’s Ladder, Ladder to Heaven, or Stairway to Heaven, is a climbing enthusiasts’ favorite. Part of the Klettersteig Donnerkogel, Sky Ladder is a 40m long Via Ferrata that bridges a gorge on the Donnerkogel.

| Getting there: From the Vorderer Gosausee first take the Gosaukammbahn cable car up into the Zwieselalm and then follow the path to the Gablonzer Hütte. Follow the signs towards the official starting point of the Klettersteig Donnerkogel and get ready for a unique experience!

Where to stay around Hallstatt

Staying overnight in Hallstatt allows you to explore it without the crowds. Nevertheless, since the village is pretty small and the available rooms may be out of your budget, opting for a nearby village can be a great alternative.

For example, Obertraun is really close and makes an excellent base for exploring the nearby caves and the 5fingers. To get there, just hop on Bus #543 from Hallstatt Lahn and you will be there in 7min (€2.30).

Similarly, Bad Goisern offers some nice walking paths, while from the village of Gosau, you can explore the lovely Gosauseen. To reach them, from Hallstatt Lahn first take Bus #543 to Gosaumühle (10min). Then, change to Bus #542 to Bad Goisern (11min) or to Gosau (17min).


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