At the small alpine lake Hallstätte just south of Salzburg in Austria, lies Hallstatt surrounded by dark forests and high mountain peaks. Hallstatt is like a small village taken straight out of a fairy tale and every little corner is a postcard view. For my part, it almost felt like I had been here before, as I am greeted daily by pictures from this idyll in my Instagram feed. But Hallstatt was one such place that actually lived up to expectations, despite the amount of tourists.
Hallstatt in Austria is unexpectedly one of Europe's oldest cities, with roots dating back 7000 years. The reason for the interest in the area is the salt mine, which thanks to all the trade with the outside world made the village flourish. Here in the salt mine in the mountain above the village, you find not only salt, but also the remains of the miners who toiled here in the dark for millennia. Here is Europe's oldest preserved staircase, but well-preserved bodies have also been found embedded in the salt layers.
Although the mine is historic, it is still very much alive and even today, sea salt is dug out of the rock. For a salt fan like me, it is also a really good salt. The kind of salt that you like to put on the table when the fine guests come over for dinner. Fortunately, there are several shops in the village that sell the salt and where you can buy a block of salt home with you.
The salt mine
The Salt Mine (Hallstatt Salt World) is located 1000 meters above the city and is, in my eyes, the coolest attraction in Hallstatt. Book a trip into the cave and wander into the underground cold. Dressed in overalls (against the cold and dirt), you learn all about the mine's history and get the chance to ride between the various mines in the same way that the miners themselves have done for many years - on the long, steep wooden slides. It might sound a bit odd, but riding these slides is at least as much fun as Flumeride at Liseberg!
The longest slide we rode was 64 meters, entirely made of wood and we got up to speed! Well worth the admission just to ride these monsters in the dark! The way out of the mine takes place with the help of an old mining train. Hold on to your hat and duck well, there's not much room to play between the walls and the train! The bottom line of mine is that the whole family loved it! There really was something for everyone – a little history, a little train and a little thrill.
You book the guided tours in the salt mine online and to get up to the mine you can either ride a very steep funicular (one that is pulled by a cable and is so steep that it tickles your stomach) or go up on a hiking trail (takes about 45 minutes). We rode the roller coaster.
When you go up with the cable car to the salt mine, you will also be able to visit Hallstatt's Skywalk, a metal tongue where from the top you can get a really nice view of the lake and the village below you. Try to find a table at the restaurant up here at the top, it's good for the soul to have a coffee here with this adorable view.
Hallstatt and the cemetery
Hallstatt village is small enough that you can comfortably walk around it in 1,5 hours. Eat an ice cream by the edge of the lake, rent a swan boat and glide out over the dark water, look out over the multitude of flamboyant pelagons in the square or visit the morbid burial chamber with hundreds of hand-painted skulls by the church.
The story behind the painted skulls is very unique. When the cemetery became full many years ago, they simply had the old graves dug up and the remaining bones placed in a small house on the side of the cemetery. However, relatives were allowed to paint the skulls first, so that it would be possible to find the relative again in the crypt. However, this odd tradition was discontinued in the 1960s.
How to get to Hallstatt?
Hallstatt is located in Austria, southeast of Salzburg on Lake Hallstätter. We took the car and drove here in the morning and found a parking space quite easily just outside the village. In the afternoon, however, the parking lot was quite full.
If you come here by train, the train station is on the other side of the lake, but there is a boat that takes you quickly across to Hallstatt.
There are also day trips from Salzburg, but if you want to visit both the mine and the village, you need enough time.
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Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.