Fact or fiction?
The Chinese like the Alpine village of Hallstatt in Austria so much they built an exact replica in China.
Fortunately, the original version of Hallstatt is still very much intact after almost 1,000 years. The remarkable Hallstatt-Dachstein Alpine landscape of which it is part has a well-deserved spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The name Hallstatt means salt settlement. Salt has been mined here since the 2nd millennium BC. Today, visitors are simply in awe of the beautiful lakeside and mountain setting of the village where, for some part, time stood still.
Salzburg is the closest Austrian city and a popular starting point for a day trip to Hallstatt. But planning a Salzburg to Hallstatt day trip when you’ve never been to this region of Austria can be quite daunting. What are the best transport options, what can you see and do in one day? This detailed guide will answer all your questions.
How to get from Salzburg to Hallstatt
The distance from Salzburg to Hallstatt is only 71,7 km but this doesn’t mean you can get there in under an hour. Public transport mostly requires at least one change and often a combination of bus and train travel. The scenic road route via the Wolfgangsee and Bad Ischl also takes well over an hour.
Salzburg to Hallstatt with public transport
I searched many different options to find the quickest, cheapest and best-timed public transport connections from Salzburg to Hallstatt. I was looking to depart around 09:00 and coming back in the late afternoon, leaving enough time to explore Hallstatt. Honestly, I don’t think you will get better connections than these.
Option 1 – Combination of Bus and Train
Salzburg to Bad Ischl on Bus 150
Departure: 09:15 from bus stop F on Südtiroler Platz in front of the Salzburg main train station (hauptbahnhof).
Arrival: 10:47 at Bad Ischl train station.
Okay, so there are 54 possible calling points on the 1,5-hour trip but if you’re a curious traveller like me you’ll find it interesting to watch people get on and off the bus. Try and get to the bus early to increase your chance of getting the front right seats from where you have panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. We weren’t early enough but we were fortunate that the occupants got off quite quickly and we jumped to take their place.
Bad Ischl to Hallstatt Train
Departure: 11:03 on Regional Express 3412 from platform 1 (right in front of the station building).
Arrival: 11:24 at Hallstatt train station.
The bus drops you in front of the Bad Ischl train station where you wait around 16 minutes for the train. It’s a charming little station with clean bathrooms.
Total cost of journey: From €13,50 per person. A bargain, I would say.
Option 2 — Salzburg to Hallstatt Train Only
First leg — Salzburg to Attnang-Puchheim
Departure: 09:12 on Railjet 549 (end destination Vienna) from Salzburg main train station.
Arrival: 09:58 at Attnang-Puchheim train station.
Second leg — Attnang-Puchheim to Hallstatt
Departure: 10:11 on Regional Express 3412 (final destination Stainach-Irdning).
Arrival: 11:24 at Hallstatt train station.
This is the same train you will catch in Bad Ischl if you take the 09:15 bus.
Total cost of journey: From under €20 if you book a Sparschiene ticket early.
Return Journey — Hallstatt to Salzburg
The best connection for the return journey, leaving enough time to explore Hallstatt but not arriving back in Salzburg too late, is the 16:32 train from Hallstatt. This means you must take the 16:15 ferry back to the station.
First leg — Hallstatt to Attnang-Puchheim
Departure: 16:32 on Regional Express 3427 (final destination Vienna)
Arrival: 17:47 in Attnang-Puchheim.
Second leg — Attnang-Puchheim to Salzburg
Departure: 18:00 on Railjet 740
Arrival: 18:48 in Salzburg
Total cost of journey: From under €20 if you book a Sparschiene ticket in advance.
Hallstatt Ferry to and from the train station
If you think the Hallstatt train stops in the centre of the village (like I did before I started doing research), you are wrong. Instead, it drops you on the other side of the lake from the village. However, this turns out to be a huge advantage.
I don’t know what I expected of the Hallstatt train station, but it wasn’t the small unmanned building in an idyllic setting in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, it is easy to make your way to Hallstatt from here. In my opinion, it’s also the best way to approach the town. Most of the pretty pictures you see of the town were probably taken from the Hallstatt ferry.
Once you step off the train, just follow the footpath leading to a small lakeside building where the Hallstatt ferry awaits. Someone will sell you a ticket just before you get on board. The cost is €2,50 one way or €5 return. You might as well buy the return ticket right away if you plan to return to Salzburg by train.
The Hallstatt ferry to and from the train station goes 365 days a year. The timetable is conveniently set up to coincide with the arrival and departure of trains. The crossing takes about 15 minutes. The Hallstatt Market docking station, where you disembark, is a 5-minute walk from the Market Square with its colourful houses against a green mountain backdrop.
Tip: Don’t waste time to get to the ferry after leaving the train. Get on the boat as quickly as you can to secure a spot on the open front deck for the best position to take pictures of the idyllic setting.
Note: The Hallstatt ferry is operated by Hallstättersee Schiffahrt who owns four boats cruising Lake Hallstatt. The bigger boats do sightseeing round trips in summer. For €19, you can buy a combi ticket which gives you access to all the boats for one day.
Salzburg to Hallstatt by car
Getting to Hallstatt by car from Salzburg is possible via 2 main routes.
|B158 via Fuschl, St Wolfgang, Bad Ischl and Bad Goisern||72,9 km||1 hr 15 min|
|A10 and B166 via Golling and Gosau||87,6 km||1 hr 20 min|
As you can see there’s not much difference in distance and driving time. The first route is probably the more scenic one, passing through the beautiful Salzkammergut lake district.
The second one takes the A10 highway for which you need the Austrian vignette (toll sticker) before turning off onto the B166 where you will soon travel over the Gschütt mountain pass. Get the full directions with maps for both routes here.
The Hallstatt historic centre and waterfront is traffic free during normal daytime hours. However, there are three big parking areas on the outskirts of town to accommodate visitors arriving by car. They are well marked and even have big electronic information boards indicating the number of free spots available. Car Park P2 is the most convenient for day visitors. Find more information here.
Hallstatt Parking Prices
|Up to 20 mins||Free|
|20 mins to 1 hour||€3,50|
|1 to 2 hours||€6,00|
|2 to 3 hours||€8,00|
|3 to 12 hours||€9,00|
|12 to 24 hours||€0,50 per additional hour|
Salzburg to Hallstatt Shuttle Bus or Tours
A shuttle service or tour is a good option for a Hallstatt day trip if your time is very limited, you are travelling in a group or you just don’t want to be bothered with public transport or renting a car.
Top things to do on a day trip from Salzburg to Hallstatt
1. The Hallstatt Skywalk
To visit Hallstatt and not enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage view from the skywalk 360 m above the historic centre would be a travesty. The panorama of Lake Hallstatt, its lakeside villages, and the surrounding Alps will be forever etched into your memory.
The Hallstatt skywalk is in front of the Rudolfsturm (Rudolf’s Tower) on the Salzberg (Salt Mountain), home to the oldest salt mine in the world. The tower dates to the late 13th century and was used as living quarters of the mine manager until 1954. Today it is a restaurant.
There are two ways to get to the top of the mountain – walking or taking a cable car. On a day trip, I will suggest taking the Salzberg cable car. The bottom station is not even a 10-minute walk from the Hallstatt tourist information office.
Hallstatt Cable Car Prices — Roundtrip
|Children 4-15 years||€8|
|2 adults + 1 child||€34|
|Each additional child||€7|
When you exit the cable car, you can walk the remaining (short, but steep) distance to the Hallstatt skywalk or take the Panorama Lift to the top. Use of the lift is included in the cable car price. Have your camera ready when exiting the lift, because you will cross a little bridge spanning a deep gorge from where you will get a taste of the views awaiting you on the skywalk.
Standing on the Hallstatt skywalk is not for the fainthearted. It helps to look into the distance instead of straight down. Plus, if you’ve made it this far, you might as well go right to the front to take the compulsory picture.
Tip: Consider visiting the salt mine if you have an extra 2 hours to spare on your Hallstatt day trip. This is where it all started 7,000 years ago. The tour through the mine is fun, interactive and informative. The oldest wooden staircase in Europe, one of the more recent discoveries in the prehistoric section of the mine, has been incorporated into a Bronze Age Cinema 400 metres below ground.
2. The Hallstatt Market Square
From salt miners, fishermen and food merchants to 500,000 tourists per year – the market square is the heart of Hallstatt and witness to an unfathomable era of ancient and modern history.
Most of the colourful houses surrounding the Holy Trinity statue on the market square were built after a devastating fire in 1750. This is where the residents celebrate age-old traditions such as the annual Corpus Christi procession. If you are lucky, you will hear the Saline band perform.
Even if nothing officially is happening, there is something happening on the Hallstatt market square. Find lunch or something to drink in one of the cafés or restaurants, buy a souvenir to remind you of your visit, or watch your fellow tourists from a quiet spot on one of the benches while licking on an ice-cream.
3. Explore the Hallstatt waterfront
A highlight of a day trip to Hallstatt is a walk along the waterfront. The walk is compulsory if you want to get from the market square to the Salzberg cable car or vice versa. However, this is one compulsory walk you will even take voluntarily. Simply follow the signs to the tourist information centre (where you will turn away to the cable car station). Or you can continue a little bit further to Hallstatt Lahn, another ship docking station, from where you have another beautiful photo angle.
Keep your eyes open for the tightly stacked timber houses on the water’s edge. The architectural masterpieces were built for the former residents to have direct access to the lake.
The photo opportunities are endless, especially if you are lucky enough to find some swan close to the water’s edge. If you don’t see a real, live swan you may see some bigger ones with people in. These are popular pedal boats that are for rent together with a few other options.
4. The Hallstatt Bone House and Catholic Church
You simply must make time to walk to the Catholic church and adjacent St Michael’s chapel on your day trip from Salzburg to Hallstatt. It’s easy to find to the right of the market square (facing the mountain). The short five to ten-minute walk weaves between the homes of the locals and is well sign-posted.
Many people skip the parish church (dating to 1505) and head straight to the Gothic chapel. Why? Because of its unique, if somewhat gory, contents – the exhumed bones of more than 1,200 people, including over 600 painted skulls.
The reason for all the human bones isn’t a mass murder or some kind of plague but rather a lack of space in the cemetery around the church. To make room for the “new dead” the “old dead” were dug up and their bones moved to St Micheal’s from as early as the 1100s.
Flowers were originally painted on the exhumed skulls to symbolize wreaths. The paintings later became more elaborate when the names and dates of birth and death of the deceased were added. Check out this link for a 360° view of the bones inside the chapel.
An entrance fee of €1,50 to the bone house is charged. The opening hours are daily from 10:00 to 18:00 from May to October and 11:30 to 15:30 (closed Mondays and Thursdays) from November to April.
Where to eat and drink in Hallstatt
The Rudolfsturm Restaurant is an excellent spot for lunch after you’ve plucked up the courage to stand on the Hallstatt skywalk. And for a restaurant with a World Heritage view its prices compare well to that of the average Austrian restaurant.
We shared a typical Austrian Jausenplatte (snack plate) consisting of bread, cheeses, cold meats, hardboiled eggs, and bread spreads. It was more than enough for two. Other traditional Austrian dishes on the menu include schnitzel, knödel (dumplings) and Apfelstrudel (apple strudel).
The Braügasthof has been brewing and serving beer since 1504 when it first got its license from Emperor Maximilian I. Today, it is a small hotel with a guest garden/restaurant on the water’s edge opposite the road. You can’t miss it on the way between the market square and the tourist information centre. Try the fresh fish from the lake!
You can’t miss Café Derbl in the big yellow building on one corner of the market square. They literally serve everything – from cakes and pizza to schnitzel and salads. They also brew and serve their own craft beer called Hallstatt. Das Bier.
Practical Tips and Information for your Salzburg to Hallstatt day trip
- Keep your €0,50 coins for the public toilets in the historic centre. They are on your right on a little side street off the main pedestrian road just after the market square (direction tourist information office).
- There is a wi-fi hotspot on the market square.
- Make sure you have enough cash on you because many restaurants and shops don’t accept credit or debit cards. Alternatively, ask about card facilities before you order or buy.
- If you visit Hallstatt in June you may have the chance to witness one of the age-old traditions when the locals celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi or Fronleichnam on the Market Square and beautifully decorated boats on the lake.
Want to see more of Hallstatt and Dachstein? Click here to find a place to stay to continue your exploration the next day.
Map to get around Hallstatt
Read more: If you liked Hallstatt, you will also like Hall in Tirol, another beautiful Austrian town with a connection to salt.
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