Salt Mine Area Attractions:
Oldest In The World: The salt mines here date back to 5,000 B.C.
Time Required: 3-4 hours for all sights including 2 hour mine tour (+1 hour for Brine Trail hike)
Fun Scale: 8 out of 10
Salt was so vital to life before modern refrigeration, we often take it for granted today. The entire existence of Hallstatt, and Austria’s early wealth for that matter, only came because of salt – White Gold. If you are in Hallstatt for at least two days you need make sure to visit the 7,000 year old Salt Mine! On the flip side if you are only in Hallstatt for one day you’re going to have to make a tough choice between visiting the Ice Caves or the Salt Mine attractions as both of them are about a half day experience. Here is how you can do both.
Closed During The Winter:
Please note that the Hallstatt Salt Mine tours, funicular lift, and adjoining sights are closed each Winter from the end of November until early-April. The salt mine in nearby Altaussee is open though and the only one in Austria that is open year round. The journey from Hallstatt to Altaussee is only 20 minutes to the Northeast by car or 90 minutes away by bus with transfers, however, in the Winter the special REX Bus 3412 cuts the journey from Hallstatt down to 40 minutes.
Depending on where else you are visiting, the year round salt mine in Berchtesgaden, Germany may be a better option to visit than Altausee. The village is only 13 miles South of Salzburg, directly connected by Bus 840, and has other Winter activities like the King’s Lake Ferry Tour.
1. Salt Mine Visitor Center:
About The Salt Mine Visitor Center: Opened in 2016, the visitor center at the base of Salt Mountain is a great place to get a peak at the tours of the Salt Mine. The bag lockers at the Visitor Center are also one of the only two places in Hallstatt where you can store your luggage while visiting town.
Hours: Stays open until 1 hour after the funicular lift. April through late-September 9am-7pm; late-September through early-November 9am-5:30pm; the rest of November 9am-5pm; CLOSED late-November until early-April.
2. Panorama Funicular (Salzbergbahn):
About The Panorama Funicular: The glass walled funicular turns what would be a 1 hour steep hike up the 1181 foot mountain side into a 3 minute relaxing experience. As you can imagine, the panoramic views from this high above an lakeside village surrounded by the Alps are truly amazing. Many visitors who have no intention of visiting the Salt Mine still make the quick trip up the funicular simply for the unbelievable vistas. We like to take the funicular up the hillside then after finished the Hallstatt Salt Mine tour, follow the Salt Trail (explained before) to hike back to the city center. Because the hike down takes 40-60 minutes you’ll want to take the funicular round trip if you are pressed for time or if it is raining.Funicular Hours: April through late-September 9am-6pm; late-September through early-November 9am-4:30pm; the rest of November 9am-4pm; CLOSED late-November until early-April. (Current Schedule). Cost: Funicular costs 16€ round trip for Adults or 9€ one way; children 50% off; family passes available. Combo rates available if attending the salt mines. Very Important: You must get on the funicular at least 30 minutes prior to the last Salt Mine tour departure in order to make it up in time including the hike and getting changed into your provided “miner” clothes. On the way back, if you miss the last funicular it is a steep 45 to 1 hour hike down to Hallstatt on the steep, but enjoyable Brine Trail. Since the Hallstatt Salt Mine tours take 2 hours, having to hike is common toward the end of the day.
3. Rudolph’s Tower Restaurant:
About Rudolph’s Tower: Rudolf’s Tower Restaurant greets all Salt Mine visitors directly at the top of the funicular route, 11811 above Lake Hallstatt. Walking to the tower is tons of fun as you get to cross the Lookout Bridge spanning a small gorge sitting hundreds of feet below you. The tower, built in 1282, was constructed by Duke Albrecht I of Austria as a defense for the mine workers on Salzberg (salt mountain). He named the tower after his father Afder Rudolf I, the first leader of the Hapsburg empire. In 1313, the tower became the residence of the mine manager and remained so for more than 640 years. During this time many famous people of the day visited the tower such as Emperor Maximilian. Johann Georg Ramsauer, discoverer of the Hallstatt cemetery in 1833, renovated the tower and expanded the grounds after a fire claimed much of the area in the 1800s. The current restaurant was opened in 1960 and it is a great place to grab food with a view either before or after your Hallstatt salt mine tour.
Getting To The Tower: You can either do a strenuous hiking up 1 hour from the center of Hallstatt or the easy option is to take the funicular. Rudolf Hours: Open daily the last week of April through July 15th from 9am-6pm, July 16th through October from 9am-4:30pm, and CLOSED November through the last week of April. Rudolf’s Tower Website: Here.
4. Skywalk Lookout:
About The Skywalk: One of the most impressive lookout points in Hallstatt is the patio section of Rudolph’s Tower that that hangs over the cliff side called the Skywalk. The V-shaped walkway literally juts out 1148 feet directly above the roofs of Hallstatt’s village. If you are brave enough, you’ll experience unmatched open air views of the the lake, village, and surrounding mountains. It’s truly an impressive sight, especially cool to visit if you don’t have time to get all the way up to 5 Fingers Lookout 5000 feet up nearby Dachstein Mountain.
Cost: Free. Hours: While the funicular, restaurant, and salt mine have set hours and are closed in the Winter, you can visit the lookout point from dawn to dusk any time of year there isn’t snow on the ground. Keep in mind that if you are hiking it is a 1 hour long steep path so you need proper shoes and enough time to get back down before dark.
5. Hallstatt Salt Mine Tours:
About The Salt Mine Tours: You’d think that the discovery of concrete in the mine from 1,500 BC would make this an old salt mine, but it’s actually much older. In 1838, workers found a pick made of stag horn from the Neolithic Age dating back to 5,000 BC. This unbelievable find makes Salzwelten the oldest salt mine in the World at over 7,000 years old!!! During the 1800s there were even more huge discoveries at the mine, like in 1833 when mining director Johann Georg Ramsauer found the Hallstatt miners burial ground. These discoveries, along with other comprehensive finds from the early Iron Age, have lead historians to call the period from 800-400BC the Hallstatt Era.Today visitors to the mine are given a very wide range of activities from a a visit to the mine’s underground lake, interactions with large salt blocks, a thrilling ride down the old wooden miners’ slide, a ride on cool miner train, and a peak at the Man in Salt which is our favorite thing. The Man in Salt was discovered in 1734 when the body of a former miner was found, perfectly preserved in salt. Records describe the corpse as being “pressed flat as a board and features worn away by stone. Clothing and tools quite unusual, but completely intact.” Visiting the salt mine is fun for the entire family and is one of the best rainy day activities in Hallstatt.
Salt Mine Tour Hours: Two hour long tours run Daily the last week of April through late-September departing from 9:30am-4:30pm; mid-September through October from 9:30am-3pm; November from 9:30am-2pm; and are CLOSED late-November until April, (Current Schedule). Salt Mine Tour Cost: Tour by itself is 22€ for Adults or 30€ for tour with round trip funicular ride; children 50% off; family passes available. For the funicular only the cost is 16€ round trip or 9€ one way. Online Tickets: Buy your tickets online to avoid waiting in line or having a tour group take all the spots HERE. This is very important if you are taking a late tour.
Very Important: You must get on the funicular at least 30 minutes prior to the last Salt Mine tour departure in order to make it up in time including the hike and getting changed into your provided “miner” clothes. On the way back, if you miss the last funicular it is a steep 45 to 1 hour hike down to Hallstatt on the steep, but enjoyable Brine Trail. Since the Hallstatt Salt Mine tours take 2 hours, having to hike is common toward the end of the day.
6. Salt Brine Trail:
About The Salt Brine Trail: If you are looking to get some hiking in while in Hallstatt, then the Salt Brine Trail is a wonderful alternative to the funicular for heading back down the hilltop to town. The trail follows a the world’s oldest brine pipeline, established in 1607, which sent salt brine down to Hallstatt and surrounding towns to be processed into pure salt. In addition to gorgeous wooded paths and stunning views you’ll also pass by the Franz Joseph Tunnel and the impressive Mühlbach (mill brook) Waterfall which cuts through the heart of town. The large mansions near the waterfall were once the grain mills that produced Hallstatt’s flour. While the full trail heads North of Hallstatt for another 40km, the local section ends at the parking lot near the Catholic Church and Bone House.
If you want a little shorter hike down to town, you can knock off 20 minutes by taking the steeper Panorama Trail from of the base of the Skywalk. With a series of switch backs through the woods, you will descend right over the rooftops of Hallstatt with panoramic views most of the way.