Hallstatt is known as one of the most photographed villages in the world and the most famous village in Austria. Hallstatt is a great day trip from Salzburg, but what are the things to do in Hallstatt other than take Instagram pictures? It’s far more than a trendy spot for sharing selfies on social media.
Do you know that the oldest salt mine in the world is located in Hallstatt, that the village did not have enough space to bury its dead, or that Hallstatt was not connected to the rest of the world by land until the 19th century? There are many more things to do in Hallstatt and that’s what this article is about.
1. Take a walk & snap the picture-perfect Instagram Photo
Hallstatt is squeezed between the mountain and the lake. Therefore, the center of Hallstatt is actually just one street along the shore of the lake. That street and the views from it is the reason why so many visit Hallstatt. Many travelers’ favorite things to do in Hallstatt include taking pictures for their social media profiles. There are several spots along the main street in Hallstatt that offer different views of the lake, the unique architecture of Hallstatt, and the mountains in the background.
Especially the ends on either side of the village offer great views and options for your perfect Instagram snapshot. Finding your way around town couldn’t be easier. You follow the crowds and there is just one way to go but make sure to walk all the way to the end past the cemetery and almost out of the village. Check this Google maps link to find out what I mean.
2. Hang out at Hallstatt market square
There is nothing exciting to do in the heart of Hallstatt, at the Market Square. But the market square is located right in the historic center of Hallstatt. Traditional buildings surround the trinity fountain and the square that served as the marketplace in the early times of Hallstatt. The square is surrounded by souvenir shops and expensive food & drinks but you might want to take time to enjoy a cup of coffee, sit on a bench to people-watch, or enjoy the Holy Trinity fountain in the middle of the square.
3. Discover the skulls at Hallstatt Ossuary
A visit to the Hallstatt Ossuary, the Bone House, is one of the most memorable things to do in Hallstatt. The architecture of Hallstatt with the houses built on the side of the mountain stems from the lack of space in the past. Squeezed between the hillside and the lake, there was not even space for a proper cemetery, and cremation was not allowed by the catholic church in the past.
This was solved by only burying the dead temporarily before exhuming them and painting their skulls with their names and lifespans before placing them at the Bone House chapel next to the catholic church of Hallstatt. This practice was stopped in the 1960s but nowadays you can visit the bone house for an entrance fee of a few bucks. We consider the Ossuary one of the must things to do in Hallstatt during a visit.
4. Visit the oldest Salt Mine in the World
Hallstatt is home to the oldest salt mine in the world. Dating back thousands of years, the Hallstatt salt mine already existed before the Romans. In fact, the world “Hall” in Hallstatt comes from the Celts and means salt. Hallstatt’s salt mine is touristy and twice as expensive as two other salt mines nearby Salzburg, in Hallein, and in Berchtesgaden, while offering the same experience.
If you are really interested in salt mines, would like to opt for other things to do in Hallstatt and have the time to take one more day trip, you could also skip the salt mine in Hallstatt and go for one of the other two salt mines instead. They are in areas that are equally interesting to visit independently of Hallstatt.
If you don’t have time for a day trip dedicated to a salt mine but half a day to spare in Hallstatt and are curious about salt mines, visiting the salt mine is one of the best activities in Hallstatt. To get to the salt mine in Hallstatt, you take a funicular. The funicular is located close to both, the parking slots as well as the Hallstatt Lahn bus stop and the boat docks. You can walk there.
The funicular ride takes you close to the Hallstatt Skywalk takes three minutes. The Salt Mines, where a guided tour takes place, is another 15 minutes walk from the Skywalk. Read this article, to find out everything there is to know about the Salt Mine in Hallstatt.
5. Admire the view over Hallstättersee from the Skywalk
The Skywalk in Hallstatt, as mentioned in the previous point, offers stunning views over Lake Hallstatt and the surrounding mountains. It takes you up to the viewing platform at the top of the Skywalk building. The platform is 12 meters long and located at an elevation of 838 meters (350 meters above Hallstatt) in front of Rudolfsturm, a medieval defense tower dating back to the 13th century. Rudolfsturm nowadays serves as a restaurant.
The skywalk is also an excellent option if you would like to hike from Hallstatt. In fact, if you don’t visit the salt mines, we would only recommend visiting the Skywalk, if you are up for hiking it. The view is not great enough for a €20,- funicular ride. The hike to the Hallstatt Skywalk takes about an hour up. Be prepared for a sweaty climb of 350 meters on this moderately difficult trail. You find the beginning of the trail at the end of the village, close to the catholic church where the bone house is located.
6. Hiking to the Kalvarienberg Church and beyond
If you want to take a hike with beautiful views of the village of Hallstatt, you should consider adding a hike up Kalvarienberg mountain and past the Kalvatienbergkirche church to your list of things to do in Hallstatt. In fact, you should not stop at the church but ascend higher along the hiking path. On that path, other than on the Skywalk, you are located opposite the village of Hallstatt. Therefore, you get wonderful views and photos of the unique architecture of Hallstatt, and your first destination on that hike is even called “schöne Aussicht”, beautiful view.
If you really feel like hiking, the “Schöne Aussicht” is not where you need to stop. You can continue your hike along the path and extend it to up to 2 hours by hiking all the way to Hirschau Alm, an alpine pasture at about 900 meters above sea level. The entrance point for the hiking trail is located close to the P1 parking next to the petrol station from where you can already see Kalvarienbergkirche church, your first stop along the way.
7. Dachstein Krippenstein – Five Fingers and the Hallstatt Ice Caves
Rather than one of Hallstatt’s things to do, a visit to Dachstein Krippenstein’s Fiver Fingers and Dachstein Ice Caves is a day trip from Hallstatt. Getting there only takes an hour or less but there is so much to do on Dachstein that you should spend the day there if you have the time. There are three cable cars, two caves, the five fingers, the Dachstein shark, and more.
In the first cable car, you would reach the Ice Cave, but the Ice Cave is located in a pit. From there, you would not be able to see the full extent of the impressive alpine landscape of the Dachstein. To make the most of your visit to Dachstein you should at least take the second cable car and hike to the Five Fingers but if you take an entire day, you could also visit the Mammut cave in addition to the Ice Cave, hike to the Dachstein shark and take the third cable car for nostalgic reasons.
Dachstein Krippenstein can be reached by bus 543 from Hallstatt, or, if arriving by bus and train in Hallstatt, or only by train, you can stay in Obertraun and take the bus from there. You should read our complete guide to visiting Dachstein Krippenstein and watch the video below, if Dachstein is one of the things you want to do in Hallstatt.
8. Take the ferry across lake Hallstatt
In my post on how to get to Hallstatt by public transport from Salzburg, I recommended taking a combination of a bus, a train, and a boat. Taking the buses only would be more convenient, but sitting on the deck and watching the village slowly approach is one of my favorite things to do in Hallstatt. But even if you decide to go for buses only, you can take a boat trip on Hallstättersee.
Boats that circle the lake and bring people to and from the train station and the village are inexpensive and can be used for sightseeing trips across the lake. Boats also offer round trips of up to 1 hour and 15 minutes to other destinations on Lake Hallstättersee. These tourist excursions only run in the summer, however, taking the trip to the Hallstatt train station and back is also worth the few euros it costs.
An experience that is one step higher would be to take a so-called “Zille”. Zillen are the historic flat bottomed vessels, simple constructions that are between 5 and 30 meters long. They actually look more like a Kanu and are still popular on lake Hallstättersee today. These rides are only available in summer. They cost a few euros more but if you would like to have a real special boating experience that’s the way to go.
9. Become the Captain of your own Ship
In addition to taking a ride on the public boats, you can also steer your own rented ship across Lake Hallstättersee. Admittedly your reach on the electric and the pedal boats you can rent in the center of Hallstatt is limited. Even though you couldn’t make it all the way across the lake, you can go far enough out to get a unique view of the town and snap some more unique pictures by getting a perspective not everyone gets, and paddling your own rented boat is one of the most fun things to do in Hallstatt.
10. Visit the Hallstatt Museum to learn about History
If you would like to understand what’s so special about Hallstatt, you have to understand its history. Did you know, that Hallstatt has its own time period in history? Scientists came up with the Hallstattzeit in the 19th century when grave fields were found and it turned out that there was a culture of its own in Hallstatt that was already more developed than other parts of the world.
The exhibits from various periods of history at the museum in the center of Hallstatt will take you on a journey from the stone age to the present with exhibits from different eras.