When I first started planning this trip to Europe, Hallstatt was one of the first places added to the list of places I wanted to go to. There are so many beautiful photos if this picturesque lakefront town floating around, I just had to go and see it for myself.
The first draft of our itinerary had us staying here in Hallstatt for a night, but as I kept making changes, looking at the amount of time we had and what I was trying to fit in, we instead decided to not stay here, but stop here for a day as we were driving from Salzburg in Austria to Bled in Slovenia.
Sitting on the edge of a lake, Hallstätter See, Hallstatt is all about the views. We had left Salzburg quite early, and arrived in Hallstatt before 9am. Hallstatt itself is not very big, so an hour spent wandering around pretty much covered the whole town. We explored the cute little streets, looking at the churches and other lovely architecture, browsing the small little shops filled with all sorts of knick-knacks for the tourist markets. As we were walking back towards the centre from the farthest edge, the crowds were noticably increasing – the tourist buses from Salzburg and other nearby towns were now arriving.
We visited the tourist information office and browsed through the information trying to decide how we would spend the rest of the day. At first we thought we would follow in the footsteps of almost every other visitor to town and take the cable car up the mountain to visit the Salzwelten, or Salt Mines, and a viewing platform looking over the town. We had been to salt mines before in Krakow, and while they were interesting, this day we were not feeling like repeating the experience. Instead we decided to just catch the funicular up, enjoy the view (if the clouds parted) then hike back down again. First though, we would need lunch since this was going to take a few hours.
The place we decided on was Simple 169. It lived up to it’s name, serving simple but delicious food and coffee. Simon had soup, and I had Flammkuchen, a traditional German pizza. If you are looking for something a little lighter for your lunch in Hallstatt, Simple 169 is a great option.
As we sat and ate I casually flicked through a flyer I had picked up from the tourist information office, and noticed mention of a nearby waterfall. My curiousity piqued, I looked a bit more and saw that there was a hike leaving from where we had parked the car to the waterfall. The hike information was a little vague, but it did say the hike would take about two hours. We thought we would give this a go first, and avoid the dozens of tour buses delivering groups who were swarming over the town and going up the cable car! There were so many people in such a small place and getting out of town was the best way to go. We would reassess the trip up to the viewpoint when we came back.
In the end the hike took us closer to three hours thanks to the lack of signs and directions, and we weren’t exactly hurrying. There were a few interesting things to see along the way including the “glacier garden”. There were also signs talking about the geology of the area, including the fallen “rune stone” rock, as well as information on a local artist who had done a lot of painting in some of the places on the path.
We eventually found the waterfall, and it was pretty spectacular. We probably only saw about ten other people the whole time, and on more than one occasion were asked for directions, so it wasn’t just us having trouble with the signage. All in all this was a fun hike, and I was not at all missing the crowds in the centre of Hallstatt.
When we eventually arrived back to our car we debated whether we still had time to go up the funicular. We still had a four hour drive to get to Bled and a bit over five hours until we had to be there – could we do it? In the end we decided no, we wouldn’t have enough time. By the time we made a bathroom stop and grabbed some snacks it was time to get. into the car and make a move. It was already going to be a decent drive and we would be arriving into Bled after dark.
I had enjoyed out time in Hallstatt. It really is worth visiting, but maybe, if you are here in summer when it is busy, arrive late afternoon, spend a couple of hours exploring then (the funicular runs until 6pm in summer), stay the night, get another couple of hours in the next morning, and leave as the tourist buses arrive.
There were two other things I would have liked to have a look at if we had more time. Firstly, there is an ossuary in town that I somehow completely missed, even if it was on the same flyer as I had found the waterfall hike. I’ve only been to the Catacombs in Paris, but I think the history of the bones is interesting in a macabre kind of way.
The other thing is a little out of town, in the opposite direction to where we were going so I had already realised we probably wouldn’t get there even before we arrived, and that’s the 5 Fingers Observation Deck. It looks down along the lake towards Hallstatt in the distance. On the day we were there we probably wouldn’t have seen a thing though even if we had time to go there.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.