Hallstatt is a small town nestled in the Austrian Salzkammergut mountains on the banks of lake Hallstatt and is UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the first time we saw the pictures of this fairytale town until we visited it, it’s hard to believe that this picturesque town is real. When we decided to visit Austria at the beginning of December, we were determined to build our itinerary so that we could spend a few days in Hallstatt. The two nights we spent here made us fall in love with this quaint dreamy town. This travel guide will cover all there is to know about visiting Hallstatt in early December.
WHERE IS HALLSTATT
Hallstatt is a little town located between Salzburg and Graz, in the Salzkammergut Lake District of Austria. The closest cities are Munich and Vienna. Here are driving distances and times from popular spots:
- Munich: 207 km, 3 hours
- Zadar: 300 km, 3 hours 45 minutes
- Salzburg: 75 km, 1 hour 30 minutes
There are many ways to get to Hallstatt. You have public buses, trains, boats or you can drive yourself there. It all depends on where you are coming from. If you plan to arrive at Hallstatt by train, you would need to take a boat to cross the lake to reach the main town. The trains and boats are timed perfectly to reduce any wait time between arriving at the station and getting on a boat to cross. The Bus station for Hallstatt is at one edge of the town and on the opposite end from the ferry point.
Quick Tip : Consider planning your journey, depending on whether you intend to spend the night in Hallstatt. Choose between the option of getting here by Bus or Train based on your hotel’s location, so you do not have to walk too much.
Though in our humble opinion, your best option for getting to Hallstatt would be by car. The drive there is something you cannot describe. We drove there from Salzburg, and the drive took us a little over 2 hours with pitstops along the way. Since only locals can drive in the town, you will need to park your car at one of the parking lots available and explore the town on foot.
1) Walkthrough the town.
We spent two nights and three days in Hallstatt in early December and had our days fully occupied. We definitely did not want to leave. One of the best ways to spend your time in Hallstatt is to pick up your camera and walk around the town; every few meters, you will find a different beautiful scene. You can rent a boat and go out on the water or spend your time in a cafe by the lake watching the swans swimming around.
Quick Tip : Try and stay overnight as this will not only give you more time to explore but will also give you time with the town with hardly any tourists as most people come to Hallstatt on day trips
2) Hallstatt Salt Mine
If you spend more than just a day here, which is definitely advisable, you should visit the salt mines. We did not think it would be worthwhile, but after advice from a few other tourists and locals we met there, we decided to visit it on our last day. It’s a different experience. The salt mine is in one of the mountains surrounding Hallstatt accessible via a cable car, which is around a 5-minute walk from the main bus station.
3) Rudolph’s Tower & Skywalk
Even if you do not wish to visit the salt mines, take the cable car up the mountain. The skywalk offers a 360-degree view of Lake Hallstatt, the town, and the surrounding mountains. There is also a cozy restaurant at the tower, which is a perfect spot for a quick lunch, beer, or Gluweihn, depending on the season you visit. You can also hike up to Rudolph’s tower, which we did not as it was Winter, and most trails were closed.
4) The Hallstatt Market Square
The Hallstatt market square is also something to see with the beautiful Austrian houses surrounding you. It’s hard to miss as it is located in the center of the town and no matter where you arrive from, you will not miss it. There are a few restaurants and cafes here where you can sit and do some people watching. This is also the location of the Hallstatt Christmas market and the Krampus Run. The Krampus run is a tradition in the Bavarian region. You can read more about it on our post on Christmas markets in Europe. Though we need to mention that the Krampus run was one of the best days we spent in Hallstatt.
Quick Tip : Have Early mornings. This is our go-to rule for any place we visit. Early mornings are the best time to enjoy small towns, especially with no one around, seeing the locals start off their day and getting access to the best view without being crowded.
5) Enjoying the Local Cuisine
Austrian cuisine is easily available in Hallstatt. Though you should also try Reinanke (whitefish) caught out of the lake and Saibling (Lake Trout), which is a bit cheaper. Just stroll around the lake and pick any restaurant you like, most of them would offer a good view of the lake. If a lake view is not very important, another restaurant we would suggest is the Seewirt Zauner Restaurant, its located on the first floor of the hotel and serves up some pretty good meals. If you are looking for a quick snack, you should also try Cafe Bäckerei Konditorei Maislinger, which is closer to the Bus station and has some really nice confectionery items.
Please be mindful that some of the sites are closed due to the winter conditions. We could not visit the Five Fingers Lookout or take the many hiking trails that Hallstatt has to offer. Though visiting in Winter does have its perks: fewer crowds, Christmas markets, and the beautiful weather just before it gets too cold.
We would recommend booking at least one day with a hotel on the lakeshore. They can be quite expensive, but if you book them well in advance, you can find them at better rates. Also ensure that you book your hotel well in advance, as there are a few hotels here which sell out quickly. Also, Try and plan your trips in a way that you avoid Peak times. Early May before Summer or Early December before the winter peak kicks in.
The two best hotels with a Lake view in Hallstatt in our opinion would be:
- Seehotel Grüner Baum
- Heritage Hotel Hallstatt
The hotel top of our list with Market View
- Hotel Seewirt Zauner
Quick Tip : Hallstatt can be more expensive compared to other Austrian towns, so plan your budget accordingly. Try to avoid highly commercial areas.
Overall, Hallstatt is a town you cannot “not” visit when in Austria. No matter what season you are in or how little time. Hope this Blog motivates you to plan a trip there quick. Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments below.
Do you think we missed anything? Got any questions? Let us know in the comments below …