Oh Hallstatt – so picturesque and yet (perhaps because of that) so overcrowded! The small, scenic town of Hallstatt in Austria is the perfect example of what we would call overtourism.
Before the pandemic outbreak, up to 10,000 visitors crowded themselves into the small alleyways between the mountains and lake. That all came to an abrupt end. Thanks to Covid, Hallstatt is now comparatively tranquil. And so, our tip: The best time to pay Hallstatt a visit is right now.
In this travel guide, we show you which sights not to miss on your visit to Hallstatt. We take you to the most beautiful photo spots and let you in on our personal tips for a wander through Hallstatt.
1. Hallstatt: Between Mass Tourism & the Idyllic Alps
Old wooden houses, the mirror-smooth Lake Hallstatt and an imposing mountain backdrop. Yes, Halstatt really is at first sight a picture-perfect Austrian village. There is a reason Hallstatt (along with the surrounding region) is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Before the corona pandemic, Hallstatt was far from the idyllic alp village. Selfie sticks, the buzzing of drones (despite being strictly forbidden!) and souvenir shops everywhere you look – the tiny town was overrun by mass tourism like an avalanche.
Is Hallstatt overcrowded?
780 inhabitants and 1 million visitors per year. What has developed in Hallstatt over the past years is the prime example of mass tourism in Austria.
Most of the tourists come from East Asia such as China, Hongkong or Taiwan. Hallstatt is particularly extremely popular for bus tourists. Many spend just one or two hours in Hallstatt before they are off again.
To say it in short: Yes, Hallstatt is more than overcrowded. Or better said: Hallstatt was overcrowded. Through the Covid pandemic, the peace has returned. Currently, Hallstatt is mainly visited by tourists from Austria, Germany and other European countries.
Hallstatt remains a well-frequented village, but luckily the huge crowds aren’t anywhere to be found. Whether or not it will be possible to establish sustainable quality tourism in Hallstatt, only the future will tell.
Why is Hallstatt so famous?
Even without Hallstatt, there are as many pretty mountain villages in Austria as there are grains of sand on the beach. So why Hallstatt? Why does this particular place in the Salzkammergut experience (or did experience) this strange hype?
Initially, a South Korean soap opera from 2006 was responsible for it. Hallstatt was one of the set locations (along with Salzburg). The real rush to get to Hallstatt did not occur until some years later when a small village in China was constructed as a real life replica – secretly and only with the help of photos, mind you. Since then, many people would like to see the ‘original artwork’ of this strange copy with their own eyes and then travel in droves to Hallstatt.
Hallstatt is also hugely popular as a location for wedding photos. Soon-to-be-wed couples travel to Hallstatt equipped with photographers and makeup artists to be photographed in the most famous photo locations so they can then proudly show off their photos at home.
2. Sight & Photo Spots in Hallstatt: Our Travel Guide & Tips
Postcard motifs in Hallstatt
Let’s begin with the most well-known photo motif in Hallstatt, the famous view of the Hallstatt church with the mountain backdrop behind it. From this perspective Hallstatt really looks like a town from a picture book. Simply beautiful!
To reach this viewpoint from the carpark (more about this later), you walk through Hallstatt to the other end of the town, more precisely until you reach the address 68 Gosaumühlstraße. The spot is hard to miss. If in doubt, when you see a whole bunch of cameras out, you know you’re in the right place.
Hallstatt cemetery & ossuary
Hallstatt’s cemetery, together with its historic ossuary, is located just a stone’s throw away from the viewpoint mentioned above. You can enjoy a very pretty view of Hallstatt and the Hallstatt Lake from the small, beautifully landscaped cemetery.
The peculiar part of this place is found inside the walls of the ossuary in the Michaels chapel. Skulls have been stored inside there since the 12th century (!). The reason why: For a long time, the Hallstatt cemetery was too small to hold all of the deceased. Therefore, the graves were re-opened after 10 to 15 years, the bones taken out and cleaned, (sometimes) artistically painted and then kept in the ossuary. There are currently around 1,200 skulls stored inside there.
You can visit the ossuary between May and October (entrance: 1.50 euros). It is open outside of the season on request. Good to know: The ossuary consists of ‘just’ one small room. However, the mystical, eerie ambience is really unique. Anyone who enjoys the more unique kind of sights should not miss a visit to the Hallstatt ossuary.
Hallstatt market square
While on a stroll through Hallstatt, you should definitely make your way towards the historical market square. It is located in the heart of Hallstatt and is undoubtedly the most well-known square the town.
Usually, you will find a dense crowd at the market square during the day. When we visited the pretty square was abnormally empty due to the corona pandemic, so we could admire the picturesque houses in peace.
There are a few cafes and restaurants located in the market square. You probably shouldn’t expect to find fine culinary treats here at what is likely the most touristy spot in Hallstatt. However, the scenic backdrop is unique.
World heritage viewing platform: Hallstatt’s skywalk & salt mine
The most spectacular bird’s eye view over Hallstatt can be enjoyed from the world heritage viewing platform. The skywalk floats on a mountain 360 metres above the town centre and gives you fantastic views over Hallstatt, the Hallstatt Lake and the surrounding mountain peaks.
There are two options to get to the viewing platform from the centre of Hallstatt:
- Option 1: Walking
A serpentine trail snakes its way up from the old town of Hallstatt (near the market square). You need to allow around 45 to 60 minutes walking time for this track (a good 300 vertical metres).
- Option 2: Taking the salzberg cable car
Do you prefer to take it easy? Then the cable car is the right option for you. This will transport you up there in no time. A ticket for the ride up and down costs 18 euros.
Important to know: We were very lucky and were able to photograph the viewing platform with almost no people. However, this is more of an exception – especially during the salzberg cable car operating times.
The entrance to one of the most well-known sight in Hallstatt, the salt mines, can also be found up here. For those who wish to visit the famous salt mine, there are combo tickets which include the ride up and down on the salzberg cable car (price: 34 euros).
Hiking above Hallstatt
A small insider tip is the hiking trails far up above the hustle and bustle of Hallstatt, some of which are former work routes of the miners.
World heritage hiking: Loop walking track via the salzberg
Do you feel like going on a small hike? Then perhaps this loop track is right for you. It takes you up to the salzberg (past the skywalk and other sights) and back down to the centre of Hallstatt in around three hours.
The track up to the salzberg follows the serpentine trail (to the skywalk) that we mentioned earlier, located close to the market square. Once you reach the top, you take the track down on the back side of the Rudolfsturm and then wander back along the Soleleitung (saltwater pipeline) in the direction of Hallstatt.
You can find a detailed route description here: World Heritage Hiking
Paths over the rooftops of Hallstatt
Would you rather take a more relaxing route? Then we can recommend a path along the (higher) pathways near the centre of town. For example, you can get very nice views over the rooftops of Hallstatt from the Müllerstiege (miller’s staircase).
Boat trips over the Hallstatt Lake
You can gain another completely new perspective of Hallstatt from the water. If you take the train to Hallstatt (more info on getting to Hallstatt to follow), then you will automatically enjoy a boat trip. This is because the Hallstatt train station is located over on the opposite shore.
For everyone else, we would recommend booking a boat trip across Lake Hallstatt. Our tip: The so-called Zille are a more intimate option than the larger boats for excursions. You can cruise comfortably across Lake Hallstatt in these small authentic boats. The price for a small Hallstatt trip (about half an hour) is 10 euros per person.
You can find more detailed info here: Zillen Trip in Hallstatt
3. Tips for Staying the Night in Hallstatt
Option 1: In the centre of Hallstatt
Hallstatt is tiny, however there are a few hotels in the town centre. If you decide to stay in Hallstatt itself then of course you have the benefit of being right in the middle of the action. Additionally, you can explore Hallstatt nice and comfortably in the quiet morning or evening hours when all the tourists are gone.
Personally, we would opt to stay somewhere else in the Salzkammergut (our tip to follow soon), but if you decide upon Hallstatt, then we can recommend the Fenix Hall Boutique Hotel Hallstatt. This small, family-run hotel is located just minutes from the historical town centre.
You can book the hotel here: Fenix Hall Boutique Hotel Hallstatt
Option 2 (our tip): In the surrounding area
Our personal opinion is that nearly everywhere in the Salzkammergut is better suited for staying the night than in Hallstatt itself. Not only because Hallstatt is very touristy, but the expensive parking system is also agony. Therefore, our tip is: It’s best to find a hotel in the surrounding area.
The hotel of our choice in the Salzkammergut has been the Seehotel Das Traunsee on the lake of the same name, the (beautiful!) Traunsee, for years now. The rooms with views over the Traunstein mountains are wonderful, the breakfast is a dream, and the general hotel atmosphere is so comfortable that we find it difficult to say goodbye every time.
We already wrote a blog article about Traunsee. There you can find more information about the region as well as the hotel: Tips for Traunsee.
You can book the hotel here: Seehotel Das Traunsee
4. Further Travel Tips: Getting There, Parking & etc.
Getting there: What is the best way to get to Hallstatt?
When making your way to Hallstatt, you have two options: Take the train (and boat) or by car.
Many recommend taking the train – and for good reason. The route is considered exceptionally beautiful and in addition: You even get to enjoy seeing Hallstatt from the water. The Hallstatt train station is located on the opposite side of the Hallstatt Lake. A ferry will then take you to the town centre for three euros. Don’t worry: The ferry travel times are made to fit in with the trains.
Travelling by car is also very popular. Important to know: You are not allowed to drive into the town centre. You need to park in the carpark outside of the town and then walk a few minutes into the centre.
Parking in Hallstatt: Useful information
If you are taking your own car to Hallstatt, it’s best to head to the large paid parking spots in front of the town centre (in the town district Lahn). The parking spaces are well signposted and it’s hard to miss when you’re there.
Before the corona pandemic, the parking spaces were often already hopelessly over full in the morning. In the meantime, you won’t even notice this issue and will usually have no problem finding a parking spot.
However, parking in Hallstatt will burn a hole in your pocket. The price is 4 euros for the first hour. Every hour after that is cheaper. If you stay five to six hours in Hallstatt, then you will need to pay 9.50 euros for parking.
What is the best time to visit Hallstatt?
Hallstatt is worth a visit all year round. For example, in winter when the snow is there the flair is equally as special as in autumn when the leaves are in colour.
Before the pandemic, there was hardly any time of year where you would notice that it was less busy. There was even a great rush in winter. Therefore, the best time to visit Hallstatt is the time that suits you best.
We would definitely recommend – if possible – leaving out the weekends and visiting during the week instead. And: The earlier you come, the more peaceful it usually is in Hallstatt.
Disclaimer: Affiliate Links
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
We are excited to hear about your experiences: Have you already been to Hallstatt? How did you like it? Do you have some more tips? We look forward to your comments.