12 Best Things to do in Hallstatt, Austria: Top Attractions to Visit

by Jem
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Situated between the serene waters of Lake Hallstatt and the towering Dachstein Alps, Hallstatt is a destination that feels like a dream. This small town, with its charming wooden houses and narrow cobblestone streets, is a testament to Austria’s rich history and unparalleled natural beauty. Based on my many visits here, here are the things to do in Hallstatt that keeps drawing me in!

The town’s rich tapestry of history dates back to prehistoric times, evident in its ancient burial sites and age-old traditions. Every corner of Hallstatt tells a story, from its UNESCO World Heritage status to its renowned salt mines, which have been in operation for thousands of years.

Beyond its historical significance, this beautiful place in Europe offers a tranquil escape for those seeking solace in nature. The panoramic views, the echoing sounds of church bells, and the aroma of traditional Austrian cuisine fill the air, making every moment memorable. Dive into this guide to uncover the best of what this Austrian gem has to offer. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Hallstatt.

The nicest places to visit in Hallstatt right now
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Best Places to Visit in Hallstatt

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Hallstatt? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this idyllic vacation spot in Austria. So keep reading to discover all these unique Hallstatt places to visit.

Are you looking to enjoy leisurely strolls through charming, picturesque streets, take in the stunning alpine scenery and visit local shops and cafes? Or would you prefer to partake in activities like hiking, boating on the pristine lake, or exploring the region’s breathtaking natural surroundings? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Hallstatt can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Hallstatt that you should know about.

1. Hallstatt Salt Mines

One of the best things to do in Hallstatt is to explore its ancient salt mines. Often referred to as the “Man in Salt,” these mines have been a significant part of the town’s history for over 7,000 years. A visit here isn’t merely about understanding the salt extraction process; it’s a journey through time.

You’ll start with a funicular ride up the mountain, offering panoramic views of the town and lake below. Once inside, the guided tour takes you through a maze of tunnels, showcasing tools and techniques from different eras. The highlight for many is the slide down to the lower levels of the mine – a thrilling experience!

Beyond the mines themselves, the surrounding area is rich in natural beauty. Stalactites and stalagmites adorn some of the caverns, formed over millennia by dripping water. These natural formations add an otherworldly charm to the underground landscape.

Additionally, the “Salzwelten Hallstatt” offers insights into the life of the prehistoric miner found preserved in salt. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past, making the salt mines not only an adventure but also an educational experience. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a unique activity, the salt mines are a must-visit when in Hallstatt.

Ancient salt mines in Hallstatt are being discovered.
Ancient salt mines in Hallstatt are being discovered.

2. Hallstatt Skywalk

Perched high above the town, the Hallstatt Skywalk offers visitors a chance to see Hallstatt from a completely different perspective. This viewing platform, often referred to as the “World Heritage View,” juts out over the valley, providing unparalleled views of the town. Additionally, you can see Hallstätter See and the surrounding Dachstein Alps.

Getting to the Skywalk is part of the adventure. A funicular ride up the mountain not only saves your legs but also offers a scenic journey with every ascending meter. Once at the top, a short walk leads you to the platform. As you step out, the panoramic vistas might just take your breath away.

For those with a penchant for thrill, the Skywalk’s glass floor section offers an adrenaline-pumping experience. Looking straight down gives a bird’s-eye view of the town below, making for a heart-racing moment.

The beauty of the landscape captivates visitors on its own. However, what truly stands out is the realization of the town’s layout. It’s nestled perfectly between the lake and the mountains. For photographers and nature lovers alike, the Skywalk is a dream come true. Remember to wear sturdy shoes and check the weather before heading up; the views are best on a clear day!

Visitors may experience Hallstatt from an entirely new angle thanks to the Hallstatt Skywalk.
Visitors may experience Hallstatt from an entirely new angle thanks to the Hallstatt Skywalk.

3. Dachstein Ice Caves

One of the coolest things to do in Hallstatt is to explore the mesmerizing Dachstein Ice Caves. Located a short drive from Hallstatt, these caves offer a unique experience, quite literally. As you venture inside, you’re greeted by nature’s icy artwork, with frozen waterfalls, towering ice pillars, and shimmering walls that glisten like diamonds.

Guided tours lead visitors through the caves, illuminating the history, geology, and the fascinating formations that have taken thousands of years to shape. The temperature inside is chilly year-round, so dressing warmly is a must. As you walk through, the play of light on the ice is mesmerizing. It creates an ethereal atmosphere, making you feel as if you’ve entered another world.

Adjacent to the Ice Caves is the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave, another underground marvel. This cave boasts massive ice formations, some resembling mythical creatures and others appearing like cascading waterfalls frozen in time.

Beyond the ice formations, the Dachstein mountain range itself is a spectacle. If you have time, consider taking one of the hiking trails around the area. The combination of alpine landscapes and the subterranean wonders of the ice caves makes this a must-visit spot when in Hallstatt. Just remember to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Experience the breathtaking Dachstein Ice Caves.
Experience the breathtaking Dachstein Ice Caves.

4. Market Square

When you wander through Hallstatt, it’s hard to miss the charming Market Square, often considered the village’s beating heart. This central spot is surrounded by colorful, centuries-old buildings that reflect the rich history and culture of the region. Many of these structures have been meticulously preserved, showcasing the classic Alpine architecture that Hallstatt is renowned for.

The square is always buzzing with activity. Locals go about their daily routines, while tourists snap photos, dine at quaint cafes, and shop for unique souvenirs. One notable landmark here is the Trinity Column, a monument erected in the 18th century. This stands as a testament to the town’s resilience through various challenges.

Frequent festivals and events take place in the Market Square, making it a hub of local traditions and celebrations. If you’re lucky, you might catch a local music performance or a seasonal market. No matter when you visit, taking a moment to sit, relax, and soak in the atmosphere of this historic square is a must. It offers a genuine taste of Hallstatt’s vibrant community spirit.

The lovely Market Square is easy to miss as you stroll around Hallstatt.
The lovely Market Square is easy to miss as you stroll around Hallstatt.

5. Hallstatt Ossuary

For those seeking the more unusual and unique things to do in Hallstatt, the Hallstatt Ossuary is a must-visit. Located beneath the Catholic Church of St. Michael, this small chapel houses over 1,200 painted skulls. It’s a tradition that dates back centuries when space in the local cemetery was limited. Instead of leaving the deceased in the ground indefinitely, the bones were exhumed, cleaned, and placed in the ossuary. The skulls, often lovingly painted with floral designs and the deceased’s name, offer a deeply personal connection to Hallstatt’s past residents.

The designs on the skulls are not random; each pattern and symbol has a specific meaning. Some represent family lineage, others signify the deceased’s profession, and some are indicative of the individual’s life journey.

Visiting the ossuary provides a unique perspective on how different cultures approach death and remembrance. While it might seem macabre to some, understanding the history and significance behind this tradition offers a deeper appreciation for the community’s respect for their ancestors.

The ossuary serves as a poignant reminder of the cycles of life and death, and the ways in which communities remember and honor their loved ones. It’s a thought-provoking stop that adds depth to any Hallstatt itinerary.

The Hallstatt Ossuary is a must-see for people looking for odd and distinctive things to do in Hallstatt.
The Hallstatt Ossuary is a must-see for people looking for odd and distinctive things to do in Hallstatt.

6. Hallstatt Lake

Hallstatt Lake, known locally as Hallstätter See, is the shimmering jewel at the heart of the region. Taking a boat tour here isn’t just a leisure activity; it’s a journey through the very essence of Hallstatt. As you navigate the clear waters, you’ll pass by the iconic Mühlbach Waterfall. Cascading down the mountainside, it’s a sight that’s especially impressive in spring.

Starting from the main boat rental area near Seestraße, you can opt for electric boats or traditional wooden rowboats. If you head towards the southern part of the lake, you’ll get a splendid view of the Dachstein Krippenstein mountain range. On the eastern shore, the tiny village of Obertraun offers a picturesque backdrop. The northern end is dominated by the towering Schroffen Cliff.

For a touch of history, aim for the Rudolfsturm Tower on the lake’s western side. Once a defensive fortress, it now stands as a testament to Hallstatt’s rich past. Whether you’re steering your own boat or joining a guided tour, the lake reveals Hallstatt’s landmarks in a way no land-based tour can.

The sparkling gem at the center of the area is Hallstatt Lake.
The sparkling gem at the center of the area is Hallstatt Lake.

7. Hallstatt Museum

Nestled in the heart of the town, the Hallstatt Museum offers a deep dive into the region’s rich history. Spanning over 7,000 years, the exhibits here trace the evolution of Hallstatt from its early Bronze Age beginnings to its present-day charm. The museum’s collection is vast, showcasing artifacts from prehistoric times, Roman-era relics, and medieval treasures.

The museum’s design is as intriguing as its contents. The layout is thoughtfully curated, guiding visitors through different eras and highlighting the significant events that shaped Hallstatt. One standout exhibit is the replica of a prehistoric salt mine, shedding light on the town’s salt mining heritage.

Children aren’t left out either. The museum features a kid-friendly zone with hands-on activities and educational games. These are designed to make history engaging and accessible to younger audiences, ensuring that they too can appreciate Hallstatt’s rich past.

For those wondering about other Hallstatt things to do, a visit to this museum provides a comprehensive overview. It’s not just about artifacts; it’s a journey through time, offering insights into the traditions, culture, and events that have made Hallstatt the iconic destination it is today. Whether you’re a history buff or just curious about the town’s past, the Hallstatt Museum is a must-visit.

The Hallstatt Museum provides a thorough exploration of the area's extensive past.
The Hallstatt Museum provides a thorough exploration of the area’s extensive past.

8. Gosauseen

A short drive from Hallstatt brings you to the pristine waters of Gosauseen, a series of three lakes surrounded by the Dachstein Alps. The largest of these, Vorderer Gosausee, offers a picture-perfect setting with its clear waters reflecting the towering Dachstein Glacier. It’s a scene straight out of a postcard.

Hiking enthusiasts will find plenty of trails around the lakes, ranging from easy walks to more challenging treks. For those looking to relax, there are several benches along the way, perfect for picnics or simply soaking in the views.

Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted with the area’s biodiversity. The lakes and their surroundings are home to various species of fish, birds, and alpine animals. With a bit of patience, you might spot marmots, golden eagles, or even the elusive chamois.

While Hallstatt gets much of the attention, the beauty of the Gosauseen lakes reminds visitors that the region has so much more to offer. It’s a quieter alternative to the bustling town, and for many, a highlight of their trip to the area. Whether you’re into hiking, photography, or just want a peaceful escape, Gosauseen is a must-visit spot.

You may reach the Gosauseen's magnificent waters after a brief drive from Hallstatt.
You may reach the Gosauseen’s magnificent waters after a brief drive from Hallstatt.

9. Five Fingers Viewing Platform

Perched high above the ground, the Five Fingers Viewing Platform offers one of the most exhilarating vantage points in the region. Named for its five distinct “fingers” jutting out over the abyss, this observation deck provides unparalleled views of Hallstatt, the Dachstein Alps, and the sprawling lakes below.

Among the best things to do in Hallstatt, a visit to this platform is a rite of passage for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike. Each “finger” offers a unique perspective, with one even having a glass floor for those brave enough to step out on it. The journey to the platform is equally rewarding. A cable car ride followed by a short hike leads you to this architectural marvel.

While the heights might be intimidating for some, the panoramic vistas are well worth the adrenaline rush. It’s a reminder of the sheer beauty of the Austrian Alps and the adventures that await in every corner. Whether you’re capturing the perfect photo or simply taking in the majesty of nature, the Five Fingers Viewing Platform is an experience you won’t soon forget.

The region's Five Fingers Viewing Platform provides thrilling observation spots.
The region’s Five Fingers Viewing Platform provides thrilling observation spots.

10. Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car

Nestled in the heart of Obertraun, the Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car stands as a testament to man’s desire to touch the sky. This engineering marvel offers a direct route from the quaint village of Obertraun to the towering heights of the Krippenstein plateau. The plateau stands at a staggering 2,108 meters above sea level.

As the cable car ascends, passengers are treated to a transformative landscape. The charming rooftops of Obertraun gradually give way to dense alpine forests, which then transition into sprawling meadows and jagged mountain ridges. Upon reaching the summit, a panoramic vista unfolds, showcasing the iconic Hallstatt village and its reflective lake. In the backdrop, the majestic Dachstein Alps stand tall.

Families with children will find the Krippenstein to be a playground of wonders. Interactive nature trails designed specifically for the young ones make learning about alpine flora and fauna an engaging experience. There’s also a dedicated adventure park, complete with climbing walls, rope bridges, and zip lines, ensuring fun for all ages.

Beyond the views, the Krippenstein area is a hub of activity. Hiking trails crisscross the plateau, leading to hidden gems like the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave. And when winter blankets the region, the slopes come alive with skiers and snowboarders. For those visiting Obertraun, the Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car isn’t just a ride. It’s an experience that encapsulates the essence of the region.

The Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car is a symbol of man's quest for the stars.
The Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car is a symbol of man’s quest for the stars.

11. Hallstatt’s Historic Churches

Hallstatt is not only renowned for its picturesque landscapes but also for its rich history, and nothing exemplifies this better than its historic churches. The Catholic Parish Church of Hallstatt, with its iconic slender tower, stands as a testament to the town’s medieval past. Built in the 12th century, this church is adorned with intricate frescoes and wooden altars that tell tales of bygone eras.

Adjacent to the Catholic Parish Church lies the historic Hallstatt cemetery. This serene resting place is renowned for its Charnel House, or Beinhaus, a small chapel that houses over 1,200 painted skulls.

A short walk away lies the Evangelical Church of Hallstatt, a more recent addition from the 19th century but equally captivating. Its neo-Gothic architecture and stained-glass windows offer a different, yet equally mesmerizing, glimpse into Hallstatt’s religious heritage.

Exploring these churches offers a serene break from the bustling tourist spots. As you wander their hallowed halls, the outside world fades, replaced by a profound sense of peace and reverence. For those seeking unique things to do in Hallstatt, delving into its spiritual side provides a deeper understanding of the town’s soul and history. Whether you’re a history buff or simply seeking solace, Hallstatt’s churches promise a memorable experience.

The medieval churches in Hallstatt are the best examples of its rich history, which it shares with its fame for beautiful landscapes.
The medieval churches in Hallstatt are the best examples of its rich history, which it shares with its fame for beautiful landscapes.

12. Traditional Boat Tours on Lake Hallstatt

Nestled between the towering Dachstein Alps and the tranquil waters of Lake Hallstatt, the town itself is a spectacle. But to truly appreciate its splendor, one must take to the waters. Embarking from the Seestraße dock, traditional wooden boat tours offer visitors an unparalleled view of Hallstatt’s iconic landmarks.

As you row or glide with a guide, the Mühlbach Waterfall cascades in the distance, its waters shimmering in the sunlight. The boat passes by the Lahn area, where ancient salt miners once lived, giving you a glimpse into the town’s rich history. On the eastern shore, the silhouette of the Dachstein Salzkammergut Mountains looms majestically, a testament to nature’s grandeur.

As the boat gently moves across the lake, the reflection of Hallstatt’s pastel-colored houses becomes evident. The spire of its historic churches also dances on the water’s surface. Together, they create a mesmerizing mirror image. The gentle lapping of the waves and the distant calls of alpine birds add to the serene ambiance, making the experience even more enchanting.

The highlight? Drifting close to the Hallstatt Lido area, a popular beach spot in summer, where locals and tourists bask in the sun and take refreshing dips in the lake.

This boat journey isn’t just a tour; it’s a step back in time, offering a unique vantage point of Hallstatt’s historical and natural wonders.

Traditional wooden boat trips provide tourists a unique perspective of Hallstatt's famous attractions. Image Credit to havesomecolor
Traditional wooden boat trips provide tourists a unique perspective of Hallstatt’s famous attractions. Image Credit to havesomecolor

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Hallstatt

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Hallstatt? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Hallstatt:

How do I get to Hallstatt?

Reaching Hallstatt is a journey in itself. From Salzburg, you can board a train to Attnang-Puchheim. From there, a local train will take you to Hallstatt. Once at the Hallstatt station, a picturesque ferry ride across the lake transports you directly to the town’s heart. This entire journey offers glimpses of Austria’s stunning landscapes.

Is Hallstatt crowded?

Hallstatt’s beauty has made it a magnet for tourists worldwide. Yes, it can get notably crowded, especially during the summer months. However, if you’re looking for a quieter experience, consider visiting during early mornings or late afternoons. These times often offer a more peaceful atmosphere.

Where can I stay in Hallstatt?

Accommodation in Hallstatt varies from luxurious lakeside hotels to quaint, family-run guesthouses. Given its popularity, it’s wise to book your stay well in advance, especially if visiting during peak seasons. Alternatively, nearby towns also offer lodging options, allowing for easy day trips to Hallstatt.

How much time do you need in Hallstatt?

The amount of time you need in Hallstatt depends on your interests and what you want to see and do. Here’s a general breakdown:

1. Day Trip (5-8 hours):

  • If you’re short on time or visiting from a nearby city like Salzburg, a day trip can give you a good taste of Hallstatt’s charm.
  • You can explore the main town, visit the Market Square (Marktplatz), the Parish Church, and the Bone House (Beinhaus).
  • Enjoy a boat ride on Hallstätter See.
  • Have lunch at a lakeside restaurant.
  • Take the funicular up to the Skywalk viewing platform for panoramic views.

2. Overnight Stay (1-2 days):

  • An overnight stay allows you to experience Hallstatt without the day-tripper crowds, especially in the early morning and evening.
  • In addition to the day trip activities, you can visit the Hallstatt Salt Mine.
  • Consider a trip to the Dachstein Ice Caves or the 5 Fingers viewing platform.
  • Enjoy a leisurely dinner and perhaps some local entertainment.
  • Stroll the town at different times of the day to experience its changing moods and lighting.

3. Extended Stay (3-4 days):

  • If you’re looking for a more relaxed pace and want to delve deeper into the region, consider an extended stay.
  • Explore hiking trails around Hallstatt and the Dachstein Alps.
  • Visit nearby towns like Obertraun and Gosau.
  • Spend more time on the lake, perhaps trying out different water activities.
  • Delve deeper into the history and culture of the region, visiting local museums and cultural sites.
Hallstatt provides a peaceful haven.
Hallstatt provides a peaceful haven.

What’s the best time to visit Hallstatt?

While Hallstatt is beautiful year-round, spring and fall strike a balance between pleasant weather and manageable crowds. Winter, with its snow-clad charm, is perfect for those who prefer a tranquil, frosty landscape, making Hallstatt resemble a scene straight out of a fairy tale.

Is Hallstatt expensive?

Hallstatt, being a top tourist hotspot, can be pricier than some other Austrian locales. Dining and accommodation might come with a slightly higher tag. However, with careful planning, budget-friendly options are available, ensuring you enjoy all that Hallstatt offers without breaking the bank.

What is Hallstatt famous for?

Hallstatt is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, nestled between the Dachstein Alps and the pristine Hallstätter See. This UNESCO World Heritage site boasts a rich history, evident in its ancient salt mines, which are among the oldest in the world. The town’s charming wooden houses, reflecting on the clear lake waters, and its picturesque market square further amplify its fame.

Is 1 day enough in Hallstatt?

One day in Hallstatt is enough to see the main highlights and get a feel for the town’s charm, but it will be a packed day. Here’s what you can cover in a day:

  1. Morning:
    • Arrive early to avoid the majority of the day-tripper crowds.
    • Start with a stroll through the town, admiring its historic buildings and picturesque setting.
    • Visit the Market Square (Marktplatz) and see the iconic view of Hallstatt with the lake and mountains in the background.
    • Explore the Parish Church and the nearby Bone House (Beinhaus).
  2. Afternoon:
    • Take a boat ride on Hallstätter See to enjoy the town’s beauty from the water.
    • Have lunch at one of the lakeside restaurants.
    • Take the funicular up to the Skywalk viewing platform for panoramic views of Hallstatt and the surrounding area.
    • If time allows, consider a quick visit to the Hallstatt Salt Mine.
  3. Evening:
    • Enjoy dinner in the town.
    • Take a leisurely evening stroll along the lake, enjoying the serene atmosphere as the day-trippers depart.

Is Hallstatt Austria worth visiting?

Absolutely! Hallstatt is a gem in Austria’s crown, offering visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, history, and culture. The serene lake views, combined with the town’s ancient architecture and the surrounding alpine scenery, make it a must-visit. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Hallstatt promises an unforgettable experience.

Closing Thoughts on Exploring Hallstatt

Hallstatt is more than just a picturesque postcard town; it’s a journey through time, nature, and culture. With its rich history and stunning landscapes, it’s no wonder travelers from all over the world are drawn to this European gem.

While it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of the lake and mountains, don’t forget to dive into the town’s unique attractions and hidden corners. From ancient salt mines to tranquil boat rides, there’s something for every traveler. So, if you’re planning a trip to Austria, make sure Hallstatt is on your list. It’s a destination that truly lives up to the hype.

The top things to do in Hallstatt for all types of travelers.
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