Hallstatt is a charming little garden town nestled in the mountains of Austria. The entire picturesque town is a UNESCO site, and I can totally see why! It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in all my life! It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from our entire 3 week trip, but one of my absolute most memorable was stepping out on the deck of our hotel room at the Heritage Hotel and taking in the gorgeousness that surrounded us in Hallstatt. It was majestic! Seeing the snowcapped mountains surrounding us, having a beautiful lake in front of us, hearing the church bells next door ringing…it was spectacular! All of the stress of getting ourselves and two small children across the world melted away when we saw this view from our room.
To the left…
To the right…
Patrick and I first heard of Hallstatt when traveling to Wadi Rum and Petra. I had asked one of his classmates we were with what countries he had been to and when he mentioned Austria, I picked his brain knowing there was a chance we could be making this current trip. When his friend mentioned Hallstatt being his favorite town in Austria, we looked into it and were instantly intrigued. Patrick deemed it “a must” and I’m so glad he did because I was a little on the fence about it. I am SO happy we visited Hallstatt!
Hallstatt is tiny. Even the most directionally challenged (that would be me!) can confidently navigate through it. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk through the entire lake town, lined with antique houses.
Each home was different but kept with a shabby chic cottage theme. Many were outfitted with charming flower boxes, but my personal favorites were the few with a tree growing on the front. Can you say charming?!
The town is lined with shops, inns and restaurants. A small alleyway, Gasthof Simony, opens up into Hallstatt’s Market Square.
Exploring side streets lead to new discoveries like the bottom of the waterfall that runs down the side of a house laiden mountain. This was one of Beau’s favorite parts of Hallstatt!
Hallstatt is known for it’s salt production and is home to the oldest salt mine in the world. Many shops specialize in salt themed gifts. I’m especially excited to try out a salt deodorant bar I purchased. Since salt kills bacteria and the odor of sweat is bacteria, it makes a lot of sense as to how it could work. One bar lasts 3 years, so it will be pretty cost effective if it does work! We also got a salt block to season meat on that we are looking forward to using!
High atop the town is a salt mine. We rode the glass funicular to the top. Our babies were too young to go inside, but we got to take in the spectacular view that put us high above Hallstatt and eye to eye with the mountains!
If you have the chance to visit Hallstatt, I hear the salt mine is pretty cool, so definitely check it out if you aren’t traveling with small kids!
Another big attraction are the nearby caves in the neighboring town of Dachstein. There are 3 caves to tour, the Ice Caves, Mammut Cave and Koppenbruller Cave. We chose to tour the Ice Cave.
We took the lift up the mountain, but getting to the Ice Cave was a hike…literally! Lugging ourselves and two kids was a lot of work! I guess we were expected to go faster than we did because our tour left without us so we missed the beginning. The guide spoke mostly German so it was quite hard to understand what was going on but it was very beautiful! We’d never been in an ice cave before!
I had read that leaving the cave is one of the best views in all of Austria…I would say that could very well be true!
Higher atop the mountain are some other attractions we had hoped to see, but with there still being snow on the mountain we were urged not to. We were only wearing tennis shoes and had only packed a sweater for each kid…it would have been kind of miserable! If you’re ever in the area, Definitely check out the 5 Fingers Lookout, the Welterbespirale Lookout Point and the Dachstein Shark.
The last big attraction we got to check out in Hattstatt were the churches. The Protestant Church and the Catholic Church are the two churches in town, with the latter being a bit more interesting. The yard of the Catholic Church is the town cemetery, and each plot is a beautiful flowerbed.
Lack of cemetery space lead to exhumation of bodies so that the newly deceased would have the opportunity to “rest in peace”. The bones of exhumed bodies were then placed in what is now called the “Bone House”, and can still be viewed today. The skulls were painted with the deceased persons name and date of birth and death. Women’s skulls are decorated with a crown of flowers, while men’s skulls have crowns of ivy painted on them. It was a fascinating site for sure!
It was eerily interesting to visit the Bone House. One thing that stood out to me is that when the flesh is gone, we all look the same…
Because Hallstatt is such a small town, you can pretty much cover it all in 2 days time. The only thing we wish we could have done was take one of the swan boats out on the lake. It rained the majority of our second day there so no boats were going out. If we’d have known, we’d have hit it our first day! Maybe next time? 😉
Be Blessed + Be A Blessing
TIPS FOR VISITING HALLSTATT
The entire town is a UNESCO site. You cannot drive a car into the town, but locals do have cars they drive in and out and shuttles are always going through. It is not as “car free” as we had expected, and the cars that do go through go fast, so prepare yourself for them.
The Salt Mines are for age 6 and up. I would not suggest this town for people with kids younger as there isn’t a ton for kids to do and it is a mostly older crowd. We still were able to ride the funicular up the mountain and take in the view from the Lookout Bridge though.
Plan your trip later in the year. Many attractions only open at the start of May. As I mentioned previously, we weren’t able to do some of the things we wanted to because we didn’t plan for snow on the mountain.
It costs 1.50 Euro to go in the Bone House…it’s literally a room full of bones. While a cool site and not too expensive, it’s not as substantial as I had thought before entering. We were given a slip of paper from our hotel giving us free entry, but we still had to pay, so I was a little put off that they were so insistent upon payment given the fact that they are profiting off of death…
When visiting the Ice Caves, be prepared for the hike! It was quite steep and rigorous! Also bring a sweatshirt or jacket and wear pants. Patrick and I thought the temperature was quite refreshing after the hike, but we felt super judged that Beau and Patrick were wearing shorts.
If you visit, you MUST order fish! I had the most delicious fish in all my life at the restaurant attached to Gasthof Simony! It was caught from the lake and so fresh…it’s a must!