Top 10 Things To Do in Hallstatt:
The tiny Alpine village of Hallstatt has such a great collection of unique sights making it hard to prioritize them on a short visit. Knowing the top ten things to do in Hallstatt will help to make your trip a lot more fun. The unbelievable activity options range from gliding across the fjord-like lake, strolling the streets along timber homes, exploring an expansive ice cave, sliding down a salt miner’s slide, or taking in unmatched mountaintop views while hiking.
Most visitors to Hallstatt only stop through for one day as a side trip from either Salzburg or Vienna which doesn’t give you much time to take it all in. With a little bit of planning and an early start to your day, you can really cover a lot of top ten things to do in Hallstatt.
Top 10 Things To Do In Hallstatt:
1. The Lake Hallstatt Stroll:
About The Lake Hallstatt Stroll: Taking a stroll on Hallstatt’s main lakefront street is beautiful, relaxing, and straight out of an Alpine storybook. Although the entire stroll from South to North through the sleepy town is only a little more than 1 kilometer long, it will be ingrained in your memory forever. From classic village viewpoints to dozens of elegant swans on the water’s edge, and centuries-old half-timber homes tightly packed along the lakefront, you won’t want the walk to end. Take your time, take it all in, fall in love with Hallstatt! Even if it’s only a one night stand, you’ll remember strolling through Hallstatt forever.
Read More: Old Town Hallstatt Walking Tour
2. Dachstein Ice Cave (Dachsteinhöhlen):
About Hallstatt’s Ice Cave: Sitting high above the Obertraun on Stone Mountain (Dachstein), Hallstatt’s Ice Cave provides an excellent opportunity to tour an amazing Alpine wonder. The relaxing ride up the Dachstein Mountain’s gondola cable car will give you a preview of the beauty that is in store above as you take in breathtaking views of the valley and lake below.
The Ice Cave, discovered in 1910, is impressive not just for its huge frozen waterfalls and wonderful ice formations, but also for the sure size of some of the rocky caverns. Even in the dead of Summer, you’ll want a jacket during the chilly and entertaining 1-hour tour of the cave. Your local guide will cover the history of the cave, the key features, and many interesting details on how the enchanting ice formations are naturally created.
In addition to the tour, the cave’s entrance offers awesome views of the surrounding mountain peaks. The Ice Caves in Werfen Austria are even larger as they are the biggest in the World, but we prefer to tour Dachstein because of it’s close proximity to Hallstatt.
Getting Here: Bus 543 from Hallstatt for 15 minutes to the Dachstein Visitor Center; ride up the cable car gondola to the 1st station and hike the well-marked trail for 20 minutes to the entrance. Closed In Winter: The Ice Caves are closed for Winter each November until May, but the mountaintop still provides great views and snow sports in the offseason.
Read More: Dachstein Ice Cave Tours
3. Hallstatt Salt Mine (Salzwelten):
About The Hallstatt Salt Mine: At over 7,000 years old, the salt mine in Hallstatt is often considered the oldest in the world. Before there was even a Rome, it was these salt deposits that helped an early day Hallstatt prosper. Salt, also known as white gold, was so valuable at the time that an entire period in of the early Iron Age became known at the Hallstatt Era (800-400 BC). Excavations of the current mine, opened in 1719 have uncovered some of the amazing discoveries from a completely preserved salt man found in 1734 to concrete from 1500 BC and tools from the Iron Age. The best discovery was in 1838 when workers found a pick made of staghorn from the Neolithic Age dating the salt mine back to 5,000 BC.
Touring the salt mine today will bring your down a thrilling miners’ slide, the oldest wooden staircase in Europe, and an underground lake, and on a journey on a cool miners’ train. During the one hour long tour you’ll hear plenty of history on the mine, the daily life of early workers, and hands-on time with raw blacks of salt. It’s here where the salt is broken down into brine and sent by pipes to surround villages as it has been for thousands of years. It really is fun for visitors of all ages.
Getting Here: Take the Salt Mine Funicular lift from the visitor center up Salt Mountain (Salzberg) followed by a short hike. You can also hike up the hillside which takes over an hour. Closed In Winter: The Salt Mine is closed for Winter from early-December until early March. There are also some alternative mines nearby we recommend in our guide for the months Hallstatt is closed each year.
Read More: Hallstatt Salt Mine Tours
4. The Bone House & Cemetery (Beinhaus):
About The Bone House & Cemetery: Filled with human bones and painted skulls, the Bone House in the lower level quaint Saint Michael’s Chapel is one of the most memorable of the top 10 things to do in Hallstatt. Since 12 AD locals have more the bones to the dead into small ossuary bone houses until they gained a permanent home when the quaint chapel was built next to Hallstatt’s Catholic Church in the 1100s. The practice became even more popular later in the Middle Ages as compact Hallstatt had limited cemetery space and cremation wasn’t yet allowed by the Catholic Church. The local solution was to bury the dead for 10-12 years, then exhume the bodies, clean the bones, and place them in the Bone House, therefore, opening up one of the cemetery’s 100 plot for someone else.
In 1720, a new tradition began as they started to decoratively paint the skulls that entered the Bone House. More than 600 skulls of the 1200 people resting in the Bone House have been painted. Symbolism runs heavy in each one of the skull’s paintings. Along with names and each person’s lifespan, the most common paintings are of wreaths wrapping around the skulls to represent the flowers that were laid on their graves. Other painted symbols show social status and the skulls are carefully placed in family groupings above neatly stacked piles of bones from other body parts. The skulls sitting on bibles to either side of the wooden Cross of Salvation were those of Catholic Priests.
The practice of skull painting has died off since the prohibition on cremation was lifted in the 1960s, however, you can still put it in your will to be moved to the Bone House and the last occurrence was in 1995. Make sure to visit the beautiful two-tiered cemetery sitting in front of the Bone House before leaving the elevated church terrace. The unique wooden with rod iron grave markers along with brightly flowered plots make the compact cemetery very impact.
Read More: Old Town Hallstatt Walking Tour
5. Boating On Lake Hallstatt:
About Boating On Lake Hallstatt: Surrounded by mountain peaks, the clear Alpine waters of Lake Hallstatt just beg you to get out on the water. Even just a 30-minute glide across the lake can make you feel rejuvenated and there are plenty of options to facilitate your journey.
With the train station located across the lake from the city center, the most common way visitors get out on the water is on the Stefanie Ferry run by the Hallstatt Shipping Company (website). The Stefanie Ferry route (2.50€) runs 365 days a year and offers a quick glance of the lake as it goes round trip almost once an hour to meet the incoming trains. The company actually has a full fleet of small ferries and has more tour options available in the Summer. There is a 50-minute Southern lake tour (9€) that leaves 4 times a day May-October, and an 80 longer full lake tour (12€) from July-September. You can even get a 1-day combo pass for all of the ferries for 18€.
The coolest tour boat company on Lake Hallstatt is Navia (website) which uses traditionally crafted wooden salt boats called Fuhre. These unique style punt boats are specially designed wide and flat to carry heavy loads in shallow water. Navia has daily 30 minute tours May through late September from Hallstatt and 1 hour morning tours from Obertraun Seecafé May through October for 15€. We love their specialty trips like the 1-hour long nighttime tour for 20€ around each of the Summertime full moons as well as private dinner and lunch tours. If you can visit during the annual Corpus Christi celebration you can join a tour to get up close to the lavishly decorated boats as they do a processional around the lake.
If you are looking to freestyle your boat time, or just want a more private experience, we highly recommend doing a boat rental. The best places to rent from is the shop of the Krumböck Family just North of the main Hallstatt Martkt ferry dock. They have tons of slow speed electric boats, relaxing row boats, and paddle boats to choose from including some giant swan boats. They are open from April through September from 6am to 8pm which gives you a lot of flexibility. Expect to pay 15-18€ for 1 hour in the electric boat which does have a popup canopy shade, 11€ for a 1-hour rowboat rental, or 15€ for a 1 hour rental of the giant swan paddle boats with 30-minute discount options available.
6. Market Square (Marktplatz):
About Market Square: Sitting right in the center of Old Town Hallstatt, Market Square is the geographical and literal heart of the village. It’s hard not to be impressed by the colorful buildings circling the square which served as the marketplace in early day Hallstatt. The salt brine would come down from the hilltop, fish came in from the lake, and goods arrived by boat from surrounding villages to be traded. In 1750, much of Market Square was damaged in a fire leading the buildings to be rebuilt in stone which contrasts nicely with the older timber home around the rest of town.
Grab a coffee and take time to sit on a bench to people watch or take in the Holy Trinity fountain in the middle of the square. There are a number of great restaurants and shops around the square which is also home to the annual Christmas market, Krampus run, and traditional outdoor Summer concerts.
Read More: Old Town Hallstatt Walking Tour
7. 5 Fingers Lookout Point:
About The 5 Fingers Lookout: Jutting out of Dachstein Mountain like metal hand over a 1,300-foot sheer drop off, the 5 Fingers Viewpoint offers one of the most spectacular views in the Alps. From the inspiring viewing platform, you’ll be eye to eye with majestic birds, daring hang gliders, year-round snow-capped peaks, and all the Austrian fresh air you can handle.
Beyond the immediate drop off you’ll be able to see Lake Hallstatt’s dark blue water and the tiny village looking almost fake 5,000 feet below you! Adding to the effect one of the playful fingers of the platform had been made with a glass floor to give you an unobstructed view straight down. Our favorite platform has a large empty picture frame which perfectly outlines the beautiful valley below. You’ll have a ton of fun taking photos at the 5 Fingers Lookout as you relax like you’re the King of Dachstein Mountain. The lookout may be in the lower half of the top 10 things to do in Hallstatt, but it is definitely a must see if you are going up to visit the Ice Cave.
Getting Here: Bus 543 from Hallstatt Lahn for 15 minutes to the Dachstein Visitor Center; ride up the cable car gondola to the 2nd station and hike the easy trail for 0.65 miles to the lookout. Conditions In The Winter: The 5 Fingers and hiking trail to it are open in the Winter, however, in heavy snow you will have to cross-country ski or snowshoe to the lookout area from the cable car station and it will require proper cold weather clothing.
Read More: 5 Fingers Lookout Viewpoint
8. Nature & Alpine Hiking:
About Hiking Near Hallstatt: Getting out in the outdoors for some great hiking is not only one of the top 10 things to do in Hallstatt, but also a very important part of the Alpine culture. From rolling Austrian meadows to gentle clear water lakes filled with swans, amazing endless vistas, and power mountain peaks, there are a ton of perfect hiking opportunities near Hallstatt.
The best hiking starts right in town from the shores of Lake Hallstatt to the Salt Brine Trail which heads up 1200 feet above town to the salt mine. This tree-lined Salt Brine Trail is awesome for its history, the magnificent viewpoints, and the fact that the path goes right by the village’s best waterfall. Our second favorite bit of hiking in Hallstatt sits on top of Dachstein Mountain. After going up a couple cable car lifts almost a mile above the valley floor you’ll be on the top of the world trekking breath-taking trails. You can choose from vistas like the 5 Fingers lookout, the vastness of the popular Heilbronner Cross Loop, or the rugged beautiful going authentic Alpine huts.
If you have even more time you visit the mighty Ewige Wand Trail carved out of the rocky cliff sides in Bad Goisern which is also a famous bike path. It would be a tough choice for use between the Ewige Wand Trail and taking time to hike around the crystal clear Lake Gosau which is surrounded on 3 sides by towering mountain peaks. There aren’t many places in Europe with cooler or more diverse trails for hiking on in such a small area than Hallstatt.
9. Rudolph’s Tower & Skywalk (Welterbeblick):
About Rudolph’s Tower & Skywalk: Overlooking the village from 1200 feet up Salt Mountain (Salzberg), Rudolph’s Tower was built in 1282by Duke Albrecht I of Austria for protection of the local salt miners. The Duke names the defensive tower after his father Afder Rudolf I, the first leader of the Hapsburg empire. The manager of the salt mine lived in the tower over generations for centuries and was eventually renovated into the current structure when a fire claimed the hilltop in the 1800s. A restaurant was opened in the tower in 1960 and today it offers amazing views of Lake Hallstatt and the village below.
Getting to the tower riding the glass salt mine funicular lift is breathtaking as it turns a 1-hour hike up the mountain into a stunning 3-minute journey. Crossing the footbridge to the tower leads you to one of our favorite spots in Hallstatt, the Skywalk. Dangling 1148 feet over the edge of the cliff, the Skywalk will have you literally hovering over the rooftops of the village. Prepare to be impressed as this is truly one of the top 10 things to do in Hallstatt.
Read More: Visiting Rudolph’s Tower & Skywalk
10. Lakeside Dining:
About Hallstatt’s Lakeside Dining: After strolling around Lake Hallstatt, the open-air restaurant terraces will just beg you to stop of food and a relaxing drink along the water’s edge. Just look for a group of umbrellaed tables and pick your spot, they almost all have great views of the water. From White Fish (Reinanke) caught out of Lake Hallstatt, to local dry white wine, and many tradition Austrian dishes, there are a lot of great foods to try during your visit. The famous White Fish will be about 18 euros for a small plate with a whole fish while the Lake Trout (Saibling) is a little cheaper.
Sampling the local food at a lakeside table will be a chance to slow down and appreciate Hallstatt’s laid-back lifestyle. If we didn’t already have a couple of lake-related activities already in the top ten things to do in Hallstatt, the dining experience would definitely be higher up on this list. Our three favorite lakeside restaurants in Hallstatt are from South to North the Braugasthof Lobisser, Seehotel Gruner, and Gasthof Simony.
11. Downhill Sports & Snowshoeing:
About Snow Sports In Hallstatt: While the Ice Cave and Salt Mine close down in the Winter months, the village of Hallstatt comes alive with a broad offering of snow sports. The hilltop of Dachstein Mountain has great downhill runs for Alpine skiing and snowboarding 5,000 feet above the valley below. We prefer to even take in the amazing mountain scenery while trekking around on a pair of rental snowshoes. There are local guides offering snowshoe tours or you can freestyle between mountain huts. If you want to take in the stunning views from the base of the mountains there are excellent cross country skiing opportunities on the frozen Lake Gosau.
12. Attend A Festival:
About Hallstatt’s Festivals: Hallstatt may not have as many famous festivals as Salzburg or Vienna, but if you are lucky to be here during one of the local celebrations you’ll see the unmatched passion. In the Summer months, the biggest festival is the Corpus Christi Boat Procession on Lake Hallstatt. Since 1623, the religiously based procession is led from across the lake to the Catholic church by saluting gunners firing shots from various points of town to bless them starting at 6am. With a lack of space, the procession was extended out onto the lake in 1628 with lavishly decorated salt boats going between four floating blessing stations. You can get up close and personal with the beautiful procession as tour boats weave throughout the lake.
If you miss the Corpus Christi event there are numerous afternoons where the local Salt Mine Band and thigh slapping dancers perform in Old Town Square in the festival-like atmosphere. One of our favorite experiences are the few days around each of the Summertime full moons when there are excellent boat tours after dark.
Some of our favorite Winter festivals in town are the Krampus run and the Hallstatt Christmas Market. Usually held on December 5th (Saint Nicolas Day), Krampus has Medieval roots. During the festival, locals dressed in scary hand-crafted masks are led around by Saint Nicolas as they work hard to scare away evil spirits and the darkness of the upcoming Winter Solstice. Any of these festivals could easily be in the top 10 things to do in Hallstatt, however, because the celebrations are short at only 1-3 days, they can be difficult to time your visit to line up correctly.
13. Archaeological Excavations:
About Hallstatt’s Archaeological Excavations: There was a Hallstatt before there was a Rome, and the best place to get a peek at how old Hallstatt really is are the impressive archaeological excavations below Juno Sports Shop. Discovered in 1990, excavations have uncovered structures and artifacts from the Middle Ages all the way back to the Stone Age.
There are excellent paving stones from early Hallstatt, Roman building foundation sections, and the outer walls of the Habsburg residence from early Medieval Times. We love the salt mine forges which have numerous metal tools and a hammer mill. There is also a wide range of ceramics from the Stone Age, pre-historic era, Roman times, and the Middle Ages.
Cost: Free Hours: Daily in summer 9am-6pm; closed on Sundays in Winter. Read More: HERE.