The good and the bad side of Hallstatt after Corona.
Without any question, Hallstatt is every photographer’s dream come true. I think there is no other place in Europe than this little town that shows picture perfect opportunities around every corner. The iconic image of the church tower, next to the lake, surrounded by mountains is one of the most famous photo spots in the world. As well as an Instagram photo hotspot.
It really does remind someone of the popular view across Oia in Santorini. Just that it´s Austria, and with wooden houses instead of white stone ones. And with a church instead of a wind mill.
No surprise that the UNESCO declared Hallstatt and the surrounding mountain region Dachstein/Salzkammergut to be a World Heritage Site in Austria.
In Hallstatt you will see a lot of international travelers of all kind. Of course dressed up travel influencers looking for the best photo spots, but also couples wandering through the narrow alleys holding hands. Families with kids as well as typical Asian travel groups with all their camera equipment.
But also friendly locals sitting on their veranda and watching people exploring their little town.
However as beautiful as Hallstatt is, I can’t say that I liked all about it. In fact there are some points I don’t like that will make me think twice if I will come back here one day or not.
Keep on reading to find out why.
Where is Hallstatt in Austria
Hallstatt is a little town/village that is located in the Austrian alps next to the big lake Hallstätter See.
It is part of the Dachstein region, with a lot of hiking trails and fantastic view points over the alps.
The good thing about Hallstatt
Hallstatt is without any doubt breathtaking beautiful. The little village was build perfectly on the hillside of the mountains facing the big lake Hallstätter See. Every house in Hallstatt has a unique, almost enchanting look and character. Some are build completely out of wood with beautiful flower bouquets in front of the windows. Others have whole trees growing along the walls. I wonder if little fairies life in there. The streets are narrow and fun to explore. Turn off your google maps and step back in time. Explore Hallstatt from every angle and discover hidden places around every corner.
And can you believe it? There is even a waterfall that can be seen from the town! It is just magical!
The fact that the village fits perfectly into the surrounding mountain area and was build around nature gives this place a real fairytale look. I think it is just a matter of time until Disney decides to shoot one of its life adaptation movies over here. The central square with the little fountain and the church looks like a place where Belle would read one of her books.
Altogether Hallstatt delievers a true middle European style of living, together with an old history.
Driving to Hallstatt is quiet easy. But there are two major problems that can make a stay a bit uncomfortable if you are not prepared.
Things to see and do in Hallstatt and around
Explore the town
It does not take long to walk around the little town. In fact half a day is enough, but Hallstatt is so charming that you want to stay longer. So take your time to wander around, check out the cute little shops enjoy the views over the town from different points. There is something beautiful around every corner.
Make a cruise on the lake
Different companies offer cruises over the lake with beautiful views from the water of Hallstatt. The cruises are in small groups and take between 30 and 60 minutes. The cruise is very relaxing and the boat drivers very friendly. They will tell you a lot of stories about Hallstatt but also how Corona has changed the tourism industry for the people living here.
Go up the mountain with the cable car to the famous “Welterbeblick – World Heritage View”
Are you afraid of height? You better be not, or you would miss out one of the most breathtaking views in the world.
The World Heritage View can be seen from a triangle platform that is 360 meter freestanding over Hallstatt. The view across the lake and the mountains is just out of this world and a dream.
To get here you have to take the cable car up the mountain. From the town center you can easily walk to the cable car station in 10 minutes. You can buy the tickets inside, just remember to wear your mask.
The ride goes very fast, it only takes two minutes and you reach the top.
From there you can walk to the viewing platform.
If you want to enjoy the view longer you can go to the restaurant and have some lunch or dinner outside on the terrace. Prices are also very good, so you don´t spend a fortune.
Visit the Salt Mines “Salzwelten” of Hallstatt
From the viewpoint you have to walk 10 minutes further through the forest to reach one of the oldest salt mines in the world. Going into the Salzwelten was an absolute fun experience. Especially on a hot summer day it is nice to go insite and to cool down, the temperature in the mine is never higher than 7°Celsius.
You can only visit the mine with a group tour. Before you enter it you have to put on a typical mine worker outfit. It looks cool, trust me! You can leave all your valuables in the locker. All you need is just your camera and good closed shoes!
The tour starts by going through a long tunnel inside the mountain. During the tour the guide will explain a lot about the mines and the rich history. Basically it all began with an ocean million years ago. Through the years, dry periods and continental movements, the salt of the ocean got left behind inside the earth and the mountains were formed. The geological history is beautifully explained with video screens and 4D light holograms.
As part of the tour there are also two mine slides, which are the most fun part! The first one is about twenty meter long, the second about 50 meter. You have to put on your best smile, there are cameras taking pictures of you! :)
On the slide we were allowed to take off our mask for the picture, which was nice.
Another great part of the tour was an underground lake with a beautiful laser light and music show. The light show showed again the history of the mine, the evolution but also the tragic death of mine workers when the mine once did collapse.
Europes oldest stairway
Before the tour ends you will also see the official “oldest” stairway in Europe, maybe in the world. The wooden stairs were found in 2002. Archeologists found out that the stairway must have been from the bronze age, which was around 1344 years BC!
They put the pieces back into their original form and placed it behind a window in an airtight room.
So it is very old, but also fascinating that something so old, in such good condition still exists in our world. Although it is just a stairway it brings history to life.
The tour ends with a fun drive on a mine train through a narrow tunnel out of the mountain. Watch your head, the tunnel is really narrow and small.
Altogether the tour is really fun and informative. It takes around 2 – 3 hours and is really worth it!
And as a little souvenir you get a mini salt shaker with original Hallstätter salt.
To get more information about the Salzwelten salt mines click here.
The bad site – Hallstatt is difficult and very expensive to travel
Crowds in Hallstatt before Corona and Now
But as it is with every beautiful place that exists, tourists aren’t far. And that was highly underrated before Corona happened. Hallstatt grew to a huge fame in the last 10 years. Especially among Chinese and Japanese tourists Hallstatt was like a pilgrim point. By the way, did you know that China rebuild a Hallstatt copy already? Yes! There is a second Hallstatt in China! You can google it!
Not that any place in the world would mind having a lot of attention. But once mass tourism takes over a small town like Hallstatt, it is no more fun and all the beauty of this place is gone.
Just imagine 10000 foreign visitors per day in a little town that has just a bit over 750! residents. Imagine being a resident, how would you feel about all those tour busses and crowds taking over your home?
Tourism in Hallstatt now
However all that came to a sudden stop thanks to Corona. Some famous places around the world like Venice or Santorini were able to breathe again and locals got the peace and serenity of their home back. Like the way it was before the tourist industry exploded.
The same happened in Hallstatt and the local people don´t mind at all that it is now way more quiet and peaceful than it was all the years before. The town does even consider to ban tour busses completely in the future.
On a normal August day, which is in the middle of the high season, Hallstatt still feels busy, but not as it was before. People walk around the streets, but without pushing others aside. It is possible to get a free table in a restaurant without booking weeks in advance. And it is possible again to go on attractions, like the salt mines, without waiting for hours in line.
The previous years the tourist industry brought million Euros to Hallstatt. The little town has made a fortune. Now it can sit back and relax. That is the good part and something the people here wish will stay for longer.
And who can blame them, at the end of the day, it is their home.
How to get to Hallstatt
The nearest airports are in Salzburg, Graz and Linz. Other international airports that are more further away are Vienna airport (288km away) or Munich airport (247km away).
Getting here by car
The nearest bigger city is Salzburg, which is just 79km away. Driving from Salzburg to Hallstatt takes a bit more than an hour.
It is a fantastic drive with amazing scenery on the way.
Vienna is about 288km away from Hallstatt. The drive takes approximately 3,5 hours.
Always remember that you need to buy an Austrian motorway toll sticker (Autobahn Vignette) when you drive on the motorways. You can buy the sticker at every petrol station and just put it on your windscreen.
However as convenient as it is to go here by car, parking is a huge problem in Hallstatt!
Parking in Hallstatt
One of the major problems in Hallstatt is of course the parking situation. But that is something that can not be solved easily.
Hallstatt lies directly beside mountains on the one site, and next to a big lake on the other site. There is not enough space for a lot of parking lots. So plan your times when you drive here.
There are three public parking lots that are clearly marked when you drive to Hallstatt and will tell you how many parking spaces are left. The parking places are called Parking A, B and C.
On a normal day the parking places will be already full by 10AM! Yes! That is right! So you have to come either very early or later in the afternoon when other tourists will leave.
There is no parking opportunity in the old part of the town. It is closed for vehicles other than locals.
Also keep in mind that parking is very expensive in Hallstatt.
Going to Hallstatt by train
Probably the most effective way to travel fast and uncomplicated to Hallstatt is by train.
You can either catch the train from Salzburg or Vienna by the Austrian OBB train to Attnang-Puchheim and from there catch the local train REX to Hallstatt.
The train station is opposite of Hallstatt on the other site of the lake. However as soon as the train arrives, there will be boats waiting to bring the passengers either to Hallstatt or to Obertraun. So no need to worry about parking.
If I decide to come back here that is what I am gonna do. I just wished I knew about this option earlier.
Accommodation is expensive
If you look for hotels in Hallstatt you have to grab deep into your pockets. The town is a tourist magnet and knows how to make money. In Hallstatt the cost for a double hotel room is on average between 180 Euro and 400 Euro per night.
Also parking is not available at every hotel. You have to leave your car in one of the public parking lots and walk with your bags to your accommodation. Just a tip, there are some hills in Hallstatt, so better pack light.
If you look for a more cheaper place to stay look for hotels outside of Hallstatt. Like the little town of Obertraun, which is just on the other site of the lake, about 5km away from Hallstatt. The cost for a double room over here is around 100 Euro to 150 Euro per night.
How to get from Obertraun to Hallstatt and back
If you decide to stay in Obertraun I highly recommend you to leave your car there and to take the boat over the lake to Hallstatt.
The boat ride takes around 20 minutes and a return ticket costs 14 Euro. It is still expensive but a way better option than to drive with the car to Hallstatt and pay for parking.
You have to stick to the timetable, or you have to wait for an hour until the next boat arrives.
Also coming back to Obertraun, the last boat leaves in summer no later than 07:30PM. So if you miss it you have to walk.
Alternatively you can hire a bike and drive for 5km along the road. Probably the fastest and cheapest option.
You see traveling to Hallstatt and around is not so easy and also not very cheap. So plan your visit well in advance and plan your time you wanna stay. Beside that Hallstatt is really beautiful and there are even more things to do around the area.
For me I left Hallstatt with mixed feelings behind. On one hand it was absolutely beautiful so that I do consider a second trip in Autumn during off season. On the other hand I was very relieved after we’ve left the town and the church tower behind.
All expectations were met, the goods as well as the bad. But that is just my opinion. You need to decide for yourself. Like with every other place in the world.
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