Lake Hallstatt in Hallstatt, Austria, featured on Family Travel with Colleen Kelly

Hallstatt, Austria, has always eluded me, or rather I eluded her. You see, as many of you know, I did a year as an exchange student in another fairytale town, Salzburg, Austria, also known as where the Sound of Music was filmed. In addition, I got engaged there, and a year later my husband and I decided to marry in Salzburg. However, all this time, Hallstatt was only 45 minutes away, and I never visited this historic little village. I just thought I should really be exploring all over Europe; and so I did, and poor Hallstatt never got a visit from me. For 20 years, I have regretted it, and so last year my husband and I decided to take our 20- and 18-year-old daughters to see where we got married. I put not only Vienna and Salzburg on the list, but we finally added Hallstatt.


Hallstatt, Austria, is an enchanting and charming little village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Austrian Alps, the village of Hallstatt looks like a fairytale. With its 16th century alpine houses overflowing with flowers in the summer, this quaint and charming village lies on the edge of the scenic and shimmering Lake Hallstatt. When you see photos, it hardly seems real. In fact, when we turned the corner down the winding road for the first time, this little mountainside village with its glistening lake truly took our breath away.


If you are looking to explore Hallstatt, it is a great day trip, or two-night trip, from Salzburg–and, again, not to be missed.


How to get there

Hallstatt is located about 45 miles and less than an hour and a half from Salzburg. We opted to rent a car. The drive to Hallstatt winds through the Salzkammergut, or lake region, and we were constantly wowed by the gorgeous lakes and villages on our way. Note that you can also take a bus from Salzburg, which takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes but is super affordable at only about 15 Euros each way per person. Lastly, you can take a train, but it is a little more work. You need to take one train, then transfer to another, and finally take a ferry across Lake Hallstatt to the village. This is a little more strategic, but the views are stunning. And, hey, you get a boat ride out of it!


TIP: Hallstatt is a traffic-free village, so if taking a car, you will need to find a parking lot. Spaces can be limited, so try to get to the town as early as possible to secure a spot for your vehicle.


Where to stay

We wanted to stay overnight in Hallstatt, but it was June, so it was quite full. That said, there are a ton of little villages you can stay in that are a short drive into Hallstatt. We opted to stay in the local and very charming village of Bad Goisern. It was about 10 minutes outside Hallstatt and filled with locals enjoying their coffee in the morning and libations in the evening. There were hardly any tourists, unlike in Hallstatt, so we felt like we were really experiencing Austria from a local’s point of view.


However, if you do want to stay in Hallstatt, it is lovely to stay for two nights. By day, the day-tripper tourists fill the town, but, at night, the village clears out, and it can be quiet and really just magical. Keep in mind that not just the hotels but also dinner reservations fill up quickly, so make those reservations as soon as possible. Also, check out the Airbnbs. Although we didn’t stay in one, there were some gorgeous options available on the Airbnb site with stunning views, as well.


What to do

Salt mind in Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt is a quiet village, so if nightlife is what you are looking for, you won’t find much here. However, if you love dinner and drinks and stunning views, then this location has it in spades. Enjoy walking the village, sitting outside facing the lake while you enjoy your meal, and take a boat ride across Lake Hallstatt. Then go back to your room, where perhaps you have a balcony, and enjoy a glass of wine taking in the awe-inspiring views.


However, don’t think that’s the extent to what you can do! With two grown young daughters, we still needed a little adventure during the day, and so we chose as a family to check out the Hallstatt Salt Mine. The Salzwelten Hallstatt, as it is called, is the oldest salt mine in the world. To get to the salt mine, you ride a funicular up the hill, and you walk along a scenic skywalk that provides mile-high views of the lake, village, and mountains.


Once you arrive at the salt mine, you get suited up in a full white suit (so as not to get the clothes covered in salt). You then get a tour underground exploring passageways, and you even get to slide down a miners’ tunnel. Lastly, you jump on a little miners’ rail car to ride up to the top of the mine. The salt mine is a fun adventure to explore, especially with kids, and the historical significance of the salt mine to the region will also appeal to history lovers.


If you ever get to Austria, you must take this little side trip to Hallstatt. You won’t regret it. 

Sadly, I waited 20 plus years to visit you, my dear Hallstatt. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

We shall, for sure, be back.


Read related article:

Vienna: A Fascinating Holiday Destination for All the Family

Family Travel to Salzburg, Austria

Traveling with Teens to Europe: Munich, Germany


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