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Hallstatt-Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape

by Sabrina

What is Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut?

Hallstatt is a small, picturesque village, located right on Lake Hallstatt, in Austria’s Salzkammergut region. The village of Hallstatt has been the center of medieval salt mining production and trade for more than 4000 years. This makes it the oldest salt mine in the entire world.

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A view from lake level with the lake in the foreground and the village clustered picturesquely opposite, mountains to the left and behind the village.

The Dachstein-Salzkammergut area includes the lakes Wolfgangsee, Traunsee, Ebensee, and Hallstättersee and is also referred to as the Inner Salzkammergut. The region has become famous especially for its unspoiled mountain views, lovely bathing lakes, and spectacular caves, as well as interesting historical sites. The alpine landscape is part of the Eastern Alps and is known for huge mountains rising steeply from narrow valleys.

Why is Hallstatt-Dachstein/ Salzkammergut a UNESCO World Heritage site?

The town of Hallstatt and the alpine landscape around it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 for two reasons, according to UNESCO. One is that it is a beautiful natural landscape that has been shaped by human activity, particularly salt mining, since the Bronze Age. The second is that it is a unique environment where humans built prosperity based on salt, building an important production and trade area, yet a “largely untamed landscape” surrounds it.

UNESCO’s listing states:The landscape is exceptional as a complex of great scientific interest and immense natural power that has played a vital role in human history reflected in the impact of farmer-miners over millennia, in the way mining has transformed the interior of the mountain and through the artists and writers that conveyed its harmony and beauty.”

Text: Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape, Austria. Images: above, a view of the lake and the mountains surrounding it; below, a view of Hallstatt village on the shore of the lake.

What can you expect on a visit to Hallstatt and its vicinity?

There are many great things to do and to experience in Hallstatt. The most impressive part of the Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut site is the view from the “World Heritage Skywalk,” a large platform on Salzberg Mountain. You can reach it by taking a cable car, and from there you have an impressive view over the mountain range, including Dachstein Mountain as well as Hallstatt Lake and the village from above. Especially in winter, this view is even more dramatic, when snow carpets the mountains and the houses of the village.

The village itself is very scenic and is home to many historical sites as well, like the Hallstatt Museum. The Hallstatt Museum has a large collection of materials from early excavations. The Catholic church of Hallstatt and the Charnel House are equally impressive historical sites. The Charnel House displays a collection of over 600 painted skulls.

Take a short guided walking tour of Hallstatt with a photographer, or a guided sunrise hike up to see the view without the crowds!

There are many fabulous restaurants all over the area, as well as on top of the World Heritage Skywalk. You can experience traditional Austrian cuisine and try fish fresh from Lake Hallstatt.

Lastly, the Salzwelten salt mine and the adjoining museum will take you deep into the mountain to retrace the steps of the ancient salt miners. You can also slide down a miner’s slide and see the underground salt lake.

A row of typical Austrian buildings on an open plaza, with a forest-covered mountain rising behind them.

Is Hallstatt worth visiting?

In my opinion, the site is one of the most impressive sites to visit in Austria. However, the area is extremely touristy. Hallstatt-Dachstein is especially famous among Chinese visitors; they have even built a replica of it in China. Because the village is so small, it can get extremely crowded.

Overall, I still recommend visiting, because the view is simply unmatched and you can learn a lot about the history of the place in the museums, which are a bit less crowded than the town itself and the viewpoint.

It is probably best to put aside a day for your visit if you want to enjoy all Hallstatt has to offer. If you prefer only catching a quick glimpse of the majestic views, you can combine your visit with a trip to Salzburg or to other scenic lakes in the area of Salzkammergut, such as the Wolfgangsee and the Traunsee.

Take a day trip to Hallstatt from Vienna or Salzburg.

If you only want to see one of the attractions and spend not more than a few hours in town, I suggest the World Heritage Skywalk with cable cars. This is by far the most impressive attraction in town.

A view over Hallstatt lake after it has snowed on the mountains surrounding the lake.

What sorts of travelers would like Hallstatt?

I could not imagine anyone not enjoying the amazing views of this place. However, if you are afraid of bigger crowds of people or simply would like to avoid them, this might not be the right place for you.

Especially hikers, mountain lovers, and history-interested travelers will enjoy a visit despite the masses. Hallstatt is also extremely popular with a younger crowd, especially because it is heavily featured on Instagram as a place to be.

Even families will enjoy visiting Hallstatt. Most of the museums present the history of the area in a child-friendly and interactive way. All of the attractions offer discounts for families.

View of the section of Halstatt with two churches.

Tips for visiting Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut

The area is extremely popular, so visit in the morning or the evening to avoid crowds. However, most museums and cable cars only operate during the day, so it is hard to completely avoid crowds. You can also hike up to the viewpoint; on the way you will not encounter many other people, since most favor cable cars.

Especially in summer and in December the village is extremely crowded, so try to avoid visiting during peak season. If you wish to take a great picture without lots of people in it, showing up early in the morning is key.

Even when it’s crowded, you can avoid the worst of it by not walking the main road through the village. The village is long and narrow between the lake and the mountain and the main road is at its lowest part. Instead, choose the parallel road a bit uphill from the main road.

Because of the masses of tourists, the city council is going to limit the number of tour buses that can visit per day. Guests who are staying overnight will be favored in that regard, so booking a lovely hotel room in the town is a good tip, with the added bonus that you can see the town in the evening and early morning without the tourist crowds. People arriving by car or by train will not be affected by this change of rules for now.

In winter it can snow heavily in the region, so make sure to bring good winter shoes and warm clothes. In summer, I suggest good walking shoes if you are planning on checking out the World Heritage Skywalk. There are small hiking paths on top of the mountain to explore with the right outfit.

If you are afraid of heights, the Skywalk and the cable cars are not for you. The view is quite impressive, but can also be a bit frightening. Also, cable cars hold quite a lot of people, so it is not claustrophobia-friendly.

A visit to Hallstatt combines well with a visit to Salzburg. The drive takes less than an hour and Salzburg has many great things to offer. Popular attractions in Salzburg are the Mozart house and the Schloss Hohensalzburg.

If you are interested in Dachstein Mountain, you can drive up this mountain yourself. You’ll find an amazing viewing platform, an ice sculpture garden, and many other great attractions worth visiting. In winter, this glacier area is excellent for skiing.

Here is a list of tours that include Hallstatt.

Where is Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut?

Hallstatt is located in the Salzkammergut region, which is part of the state of Upper Austria. The closest city is Salzburg.

By car

You can easily reach Hallstatt from Salzburg by car in about an hour. Both Munich, Germany, and UNESCO sites Cesky Krumlov and Holosovice in Czechia are under three hours away by car.

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From Vienna, the drive takes three hours, which is not too bad. Since Hallstatt is located right on the border with other states, like Salzburg and Styria, you can easily travel from there as well.

There is paid parking in several lots outside the village of Hallstatt on the main road, so you can leave your car in one of them and walk down to the city center. It is a bit of a walk, taking roughly 10 minutes. If you have difficulty walking, the town runs shuttle buses between the parking lots and the village.

By train

Hallstatt can also easily be reached by trains operated by ÖBB, the Austrian national rail network.

The closest train station is Hallstatt Bahnhof and is located on the other side of the lake from the village. From there, you can take a ferry across, enjoying the view as you go. Alternatively, take the train to Obertraun-Dachsteinhöhlen station and a bus from there. Either way, make sure to switch trains in Attnang-Puchheim, if you come from Vienna or Salzburg.

It will take you around an hour and a half to travel from Salzburg by train and around three hours from Vienna.

For more information about Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut, its opening hours and admission fees, see its official website.

Text and photos provided by Sabrina of Shades of Summr. Sabrina is a Netherlands-based travel blogger and passionate content creator. Her blog Shades of Summr focuses on Slow and Luxury Travel experiences around the world.

Have you been to Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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