The first thought which comes to my mind as I step into the Austrian village of Hallstatt? Picture Perfect! This pretty village on the Lake Hallstatt with the Dachstein-Salzkammergut mountains as its backdrop, has fairy tale written all over it.
Actually for a minute, I imagine fairies flying around with their magical wands. My kids are totally enamoured by the beautiful village with cobblestone streets, with the summer flowers in full bloom and the picturesque lake.
Tourism in Hallstatt tourism increased by leaps and bounds after it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It is also known as “the most Instagrammable town in the world,” . As per an article in the Washington Post, Hallstatt received a million visitors in 2018 despite having a population of just 800.
Explore Hallstatt on foot
Well, this is the best and the only way to explore this tiny idyllic village. We follow the path along the Lake Hallstatt and on our way, stop by the lake to talk to the ducks (that’s what the kids did!).
Stop at the Hallstatt Postcard Angle Viewpoint
After walking for about 5 minutes, we reach the viewpoint located on the Gosaumühlstraße. This place can get very busy since it has incredible views and is also known as the “Hallstatt Postcard Angle”. So if you want to take some great shots, try to reach a bit early.
If you fancy learning about the history of Hallstatt, you can take a city tour (€ 8). The 75 minutes tour begins at the Hallstatt Tourist Information Centre every Monday and Saturday at 4.30 P.M.
The beautiful houses
The houses painted in yellows and reds, with the windows covered with beautiful flowers such as geraniums and Ivys, make for a very pretty sight.
Spend some time at the historic market square
We explore the village and then go to the historic Market Square to have some ice cream and just sit and relax. This is the most vibrant spot in this otherwise quiet village and there are quaint cafes and restaurants in the Market Square around the holy Trinity Column.
Take a boat ride on Lake Hallstatt
The kids insist on taking a boat ride. We rent swan shaped pedal boats (€ 10) and explore the lake. There are some nice views on the way. We enjoy the beautiful sunshine and the fresh air and the beautiful ride.
There are plenty of options available for boat rides and you can also take an organized boat tour ( € 10 per person-30 minutes duration) or rent your own boat (€ 8 for a rowboat or € 10 for a pedal/electric boat).
But life’s not always a fairy tale-visiting the Hallstatt Charnel House
Within this fairy tale village, there also lies a bone house, something unexpected but intriguing. The bone house or the Hallstatt Charnel House, as it is known is filled with around 1200 skulls, out of which more than 600 are intricately painted.
The story goes that in the 17th century, due to lack of proper burial grounds, the villagers, in order to pay due respect to their dead, began to dig up their loved ones’ skeletons.
Once exhumed, the bones were sun bleached and painted with symbolic decorations, as well as dates of birth and death so that the dead would be remembered, even if they no longer had a grave. The same would then be stacked next to their nearest kin.
The burial space issue has since been resolved and this practice has been dying down. The last resident to do so was a woman who died in 1983. Her skull was added in 1995 and can be identified by a gold tooth.
Shop for souvenirs
There are a lot of artisan shops you will find in Hallstatt, especially near the market square. Buy some Austrian salt sourced from Hallstatt’s own salt mines and traditional toys as souvenirs.
Visit the oldest salt mine in the world
A lot of the initial wealth in Austria was because of mining of salt. Who knew that one day the salt mines would turn into stunning tourist attractions.
The Salzwaten Salt Mine or the Hallstatt Salt Mine is the oldest salt mine in the world. The mine is underground and very cold so it is important to be appropriately dressed in warm clothes and a good pair of walking shoes.
There are two ways of reaching the mine. You can walk up to it but it is a steep one hour hike. We decide to take the funicular which is a short walk away from Salzbergstraße 21 (near the paid car park).
|Ticket cost for the Funicular – Adult: one-way is € 10 and two-way is € 18 and Child: € 5 and € 9.|
|Ticket cost for the salt mine – Adult: € 22 and Child: € 11|
|Combined ticket for Adults: € 34 Child: € 17|
(Children 4-15 years)
It is a beautiful journey up and the vistas all around are stunning. We reach the funicular station and take a panoramic lift to reach the top. Its a short walk to the mine from there.
The staff at the mine gives us some overalls to be worn over our clothes. We have fun with the slides at the oldest salt mine in the world. It is amazing to see Europe’s oldest wooden staircase and the man made lake. The guided tour lasts for around 70 minutes and is available at half-hour intervals.
Take in the views from the Skywalk
We go to the Skywalk with the World Heritage View, 360 meters above the ground and the views all around are stunning.
From Salzburg – Take the Bus Number 150 from Salzburg Main Bus station to Bad Ischl. Take the train from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt Railway station and then take the ferry till the village.
You can also take the train from Salzburg to Attnang Puchheim, train from Attnang Puchheim to Hallstatt railway station, then take the ferry till the village.
Alternately, you can take the Bus 150 to Bad Ischl, bus 542 heading to Gosau and switch to bus 543 to reach Hallstatt.
Driving down from Salzburg is also a good option. Just take the 158 road east out of Salzburg heading towards Bad Ischl which is a very scenic road. Then take the 145 to Bad Goisern and switch to the 166 and L547 before arriving in Hallstatt.
The village is accessible only via foot, so you’ll need to use one of the nearby parking facilities which are generally full.
We opted for the bus-train-ferry journey and were totally taken in by the beautiful sights.
We did a day trip but in case you wish to stay, the Heritage Hotel comes highly recommended. Right in the heart of the village, it is spread over 3 historic buildings including the oldest house in Hallstatt. All the rooms come with a view of the beautiful lake and the village.
I had a great time at Hallstatt with my kids. Have you visited Hallstatt or wish to visit? Do share in the comments section below.
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