Hallstatt at around 6 AM. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Hallstatt Is a Picture-Perfect Austrian Getaway. Here's How to See It Without the Crowds.

Train Travel Insider Guides
by Suzie Dundas Mar 30, 2022

Even if you don’t know the town of Hallstatt, Austria, you’ve probably seen pictures of it. It’s the picture-perfect definition of a charming European village.

No, seriously. Do an image search for “charming European village” and the lakeside town that pops up, well, that’s Hallstatt.

Unfortunately, the word is out that Hallstatt is drop-dead gorgeous, and it has a serious overtourism problem — at least between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM, when the combination of trains and a ferry allow daytrippers from nearby towns like Salzburg to arrive in droves. That brings an insane amount of tourists to the town of around 850 people, resulting in tourists walking through the yards of private homes and locals unable to get in and out of town without 45-minute delays.

This creates a challenge: how does a tourist get to see the gorgeous town without contributing to the problem? Simple: go in the off-hour. Here’s the perfect guide to 24 hours in Hallstatt — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — with a special focus on avoiding crowds and experiencing the town with a little more space to yourself.

Planning and logistics for Hallstatt

Hallstatt lake

Photo: Suzie Dundas

When to go to Hallstatt

Summer is by far the busiest time for tourism in Hallstatt, so consider going in winter (it’s close to ski resorts) or in the shoulder season (November or March) if you really want to avoid crowds. I visited in March, and while days were sunny and in the 50s Fahrenheit, mornings were quite cold — it really felt like I was tucked away in the mountains.

However, more important than when you go is what time you go. I can’t stress enough what a better experience you’ll have if you do the opposite schedule from most people: arrive in the late afternoon, spend the night, and spend the next morning and afternoon there before leaving that afternoon. You’ll be able to see the major sights in town well before the first tourist ferry arrives for the day.

How to get to Hallstatt from Salzburg or Munich

hallstatt ferry terminal

It’s a very short walk from the train station to the ferry. Photo: Suzie Dundas

As long as you don’t mind a few fast and easy train rides, the journey is quite easy. From Munich Central Station, you’ll first take the train to Salzburg, then swap trains to get to the town of Attnang-Puchheim, where you’ll get another train to Hallstatt station. The Hallstatt train station is across the lake from the town, but the ferry station is about 50 yards from the train station, and its timing mirrors the train’s timing. So the ferry will almost always be sitting there when you get off the train. A round-trip ticket is about €5.

Where to stay in Hallstatt

Hallstatt austria - waterfront hotel view

My view from the Bräugasthof Inn. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Keep it easy: stay at the Bräugasthof Hallstatt. It has only seven rooms and is in an old brewery building from the 15th century. It’s on the water and is one of the closest hotels to the town center. My room had a small private balcony overlooking Lake Hallstatt and the complimentary breakfast is in an adorably charming dining room. It’s about $150 a night and runs a beautiful outdoor restaurant in the summer and fall.

Another convenient (but pricier) option is the larger Hotel Gruener Baum, with more luxurious but slightly more corporate-looking rooms. Both hotels are within a 10-minute walk of the ferry terminal and are easy to reach while towing luggage. The town also has plenty of apartments and guesthouses (gasthaus) for rent at rates more comparable to hostels.

We hope you love the Hallstatt hotels we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Your perfect plan for 24 hours in Hallstatt

Day 1: Afternoon/evening

Hallstatt town square

A nearly empty Hallstatt after the last ferry. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Plan to arrive in town by around 4 PM, and ideally, a bit earlier in the middle of winter when days are shortest. That’ll allow you to check into your hotel, drop off your luggage, and still have a few hours of daylight left. All overnight guests to Hallstatt get a tourist card, which comes with discounts on attractions and stores, so pick that up when you arrive from your lodging.

Immediately after you’ve arrived is a great time to take some photos or swing by a local cafe for a coffee or beer (or both) to celebrate the end of a (probably) long journey. You could also stretch your legs on a hike to the Wasserfälle Hallstatt (Hallstatt waterfall). Daytrippers will be on their way back to town, so you likely won’t encounter too many people heading in the same direction on the trail. It takes just over an hour each way, give or take, for fit hikers. Afternoons are also a great time for a boat rental, especially if you catch the golden hour light. Boat rental rates are shockingly affordable, starting at about €10 an hour.

Have dinner in town. While reservations can’t hurt, the crowds go way down after the daytrippers have left, even in the summer. Have dinner in a traditional restaurant like Gasthof Zauner or Seehotel Gruner Baum (outside the hotel). Hallstatt isn’t a late-night place, so while you can certainly hang out and have a few Austrian beers, don’t plan on a super late night.

Day 2: Morning

hallstatt at sunrise

Hallstatt at around 6 AM. Photo: Suzie Dundas

The morning of day two is when you’ll really start realizing how well you’ve maximized your time. Wake up early (a little before sunset) and walk to the Hallstatt photo viewpoint, from which the town’s most famous photos are taken. It’s usually packed with tourists, but it’s relatively empty first thing in the morning, which also happens to be when sunlight is just starting to shine on all the buildings as the town faces east. It’s a 10-minute flat walk from downtown.

Afterward, come back and have breakfast at your hotel or grab a verlängerter (similar to an Americano) and a schaumrollen (cream pastry) at a cafe like Taglich Frisch Gebacken. After breakfast, hightail it to the town’s most popular tourist attraction: the salt mine atop salt mountain (called Salzburg, like the city). The trip starts with a quick ride up a funicular (though you can also hike up in about an hour). At the top, head straight to the starting point for the world’s oldest salt mine. The surprisingly exciting tour takes about 90 minutes, which includes several chances to ride a slide deep inside the mountain.

halltstatt austria - mountain top coffee shop

Photo: Suzie Dundas

After touring the mine, walk around the trails at the top, taking in the fabulous views of the Alps from the Skywalk. I also recommend having a coffee at the cafe on top (Rudolfsturm), which has equally great views and reasonably priced coffees and sandwiches. It’s best to be on the first tour of the morning, and if you’re visiting in the off-season, expect quite small crowds. The tour can normally accomodate up to 70 people, but mine had three.

Day 2: Afternoon

looking down on the town of hallstatt

The view from Hallstatt’s small cemetery. Photo: Suzie Dundas

If you didn’t have lunch at the Rudolfsturm by the salt mine, head back to town and grab a casual lunch to enjoy outside. Burgerman: the Station has excellent burgers and sandwiches (plus veggie options) near the entrance to the salt mine funicular, and you can walk just a few steps to sit and enjoy your meal on the water. Simple 169 is an affordable local cafe, and Maislinger sells all types of Austrian chocolate, breads, coffees, beers, pastries, pretzels and more, in case you’d like to put together your own traditional picnic.

It’s around this time you’ll probably start to notice the tourists in town, so head to one of the lesser-known attractions — nearly all visitors head to the Salt Mine and Skywalk first. Walk just up the hill behind town to visit the Ossuary Chapel, a petite church filled with more than 1,000 painted human skulls. Or keep learning about Hallstatt’s history by visiting the Hallstatt Museum or taking a walking tour; you can pick up a map of the more than 20 historical signs around town at the Hallstatt Visitors Center. Afternoons are also a great time to browse the various shops in the town, especially the high-end craft ones that can feel a bit awkward if you’re the only customer when you walk in. You won’t ever be the only customer on an afternoon in Hallstatt. Oh, and there’s a free archaeological exhibit you can visit in the basement of the Janu Sport Shop.

Outside dining in Hallstatt

Photo: Suzie Dundas

And one more suggestion: if it’s sunny, you’ll find no shortage of places to post up with a local Austrian beer.

Day 2: Evening

Hallstatt from the water

Some of the best shots of Hallstatt are from the town’s ferry or piers. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Time to take a final few photos from the ferry as you say goodbye to Hallstatt and head to your next destination. The Austrian train system is exceedingly efficient and from Hallstatt, it’s easy to get to Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, or cities even farther afield. The OBB train system has reliable Wi-Fi and a cafeteria car, so you can check your email and drink a coffee (or both).  You can choose from second, first, or business class (business class is the nicest) and you can pay extra to reserve your seat in first class if you’re worried about making sure your group can sit together.

Tips for visiting Hallstatt

translatnig english to german w google translate

Pretty neat, eh? Photo: Suzie Dundas

Unless you speak German, download the Google Translate app and download German (yes, you can download the entire language to your phone). This will allow you to translate everything from signs to menus to museum displays in real-time using your phone’s camera. Just hover over the text and it’ll translate it on your screen, though you can also take photos and upload them to the app, which may save a little more battery. As long as you downloaded German, you’ll be able to read anything you want, even if you don’t have service.

I’d advise buying your round-trip ferry ticket when you head to Hallstatt. It doesn’t save any money, but it saves a bit of time and ensures you can walk right onto the ferry for the return trip without having to dig our your wallet again.

Use an app like AllTrails or GoogleMaps to download a map of Hallstatt if you plan on taking any of the area hikes. The trails are easy to follow, but if you’re curious about how much farther you have to go, you may appreciate being able to look at your exact location.

Finally, I’d advise taking a photo of the ferry schedule and map posted at the entrance to town. You’ll be able to pick up maps at the tourist centers, but having the ferry schedule handy is quite helpful. You only need to arrive at the ferry terminal a few minutes before departure.


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