Crystal waters beneath, Alps on top: Europe’s magical Hallstatt

One spring, my husband and I decided to book ourselves a romantic tour. As a result of our research, we decided on the Romantic Road in Germany – a picturesque 460-kilometer (290-mile) route in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, linking a number of dazzling towns and castles through the forests and mountains. So, in the spring season as we were en route to Germany we came upon Hallstatt. Hallstatt is not in Germany but is located close to the Romantic Road. We found Hallstatt to be so romantic and picturesque that we decided to add it to our route.

If you travel the towns on the Romantic Road, starting from Würzburg in the north to the southernmost town of Füssen, you can simply add just another four hours to your journey and reach Mozart’s city of Salzrebiliin and the brilliant Hallstatt.

Ducks enjoy the lake, in Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
Ducks enjoy the lake, in Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Hallstatt, which is about three hours from Munich and about one and a half hours from Salzburg, has been a very popular destination lately.

In fact, it has become such a popular and loved place that the Chinese made a copy of Hallstatt in their own country. I think this may be the only village in the world that has been cloned. I read that they made an exact replica of Hallstatt with an incredibly large investment near the city of Huizhou in Guangdong Province, China. I haven’t seen the one in China, but my advice to you is, don’t go for a copy while the original is still standing.

I don’t think that a copy of a village that already has a history of 7,000 years will ever reflect the truth. Although Hallstatt has such a deep-rooted history, I would never want to drown you in historical information and destroy the fairy tale atmosphere in this corner of paradise. Because Hallstatt deserves long descriptions and hundreds of embellishments. You can see the description of “fairy tale town” for Hallstatt in many places and I think Hallstatt is a place that perfectly fits that description. As I write these lines, I feel my heart pounding as my eyes take in these dreamy landscapes and I breathe the beautiful air of the Alps.

In fact, right now, I’m sitting on the shore of the lake, sipping my coffee in this dream landscape in the cold mountain air.

Of course, you should use your time in Hallstatt to find peace, to breathe the beautiful air of the Alps, to wake up in a fairy tale, but there are also a few things I would recommend you to see and do here apart from enjoying the tranquility.

World’s oldest salt mine

The world’s oldest salt mine is located in Hallstatt, called Salzwelten. To climb this mine, you can use the hiking trail that takes about an hour, or you can get up the hill via a funicular adventure in a short time.

Don’t be mistaken in thinking that this salt mine only has salt to offer. A pleasant trip will be waiting for you inside. You have to wear overalls like a miner when you enter the mine. You descend 300 meters (984 feet) underground during the trip into the mine, which takes approximately an hour and a half. In the mine, which you will visit partly by walking and partly by car, you slide down a certain section in accordance with the safety rules.

Don't forget to check out the salt products in the salt mine, in Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
Don’t forget to check out the salt products in the salt mine, in Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

You can also learn about the formation of salt and the history of the mine as you go around with the guides on this very entertaining mining tour. However, I should point out that the world’s oldest salt mine is closed between December and April. If you want to see this place, you need to plan your travel accordingly.

Skywalk, World Heritage View

One of the things you must do when you go up with the funicular is to watch the view from the observation point. This point, called the Skywalk, has also been named World Heritage Skywalk or World Heritage View because from here you can enjoy the breathtaking Alpine panorama of the UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut. Located at an altitude of 360 meters above the lake, the Skywalk consists of a triangular terrace. This point, which offers an endless panoramic view, allows you to see the fairy tale from a bird’s eye view.

Bone House

After such cute and fantastical details, I would like to briefly talk about the bone house that can be added to the list of things to see in Hallstatt. When they were running out of places to bury the dead due to the increasing population in the town, they built a bone house. In fact, it is said that such houses are a tradition coming from the past in the east of the Alps. The house, in which about 1,200 skulls are kept, is located at the entrance of Saint Michael’s Church, seen from the top of the village. You can add this house to your trip if you wish to see skulls painted in different colors featuring inscriptions and symbols with different meanings.

Boat tour on lake

Do not think of returning from the village without taking a boat tour on Lake Hallstatt, from which the name of the town originates. It was extraordinary to look at the fairy tale I was just in from a distance on a boat floating on the lake.

The funicular takes one along the Alps, in Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The funicular takes one along the Alps, in Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Streets of Hallstatt

You can finish a superficial visit to Hallstatt in almost a day, but it takes numerous days to truly enjoy it. It is almost impossible to get lost in the streets of Hallstatt, which has a small square with many streets leading to it. Therefore, I recommend you immerse yourself in this fairy tale by wandering from street to street.

There is a church, cafes and shops where you can buy souvenirs in the main square, that is, Hallstatt Market District. I can say that I left my own heart in this square, which is the center of the village. I can guarantee that you can take great photos in this square as well as the lake view. I think it is one of the most beautiful squares in the world. The rows of colorful houses around the square are so beautiful that one wants to believe they were drawn by an artist just a moment ago, or that they are made of colorful candies, making you want to take a bite.

After seeing this colorful, candy-filled square, go up the square and visit the place where the famous Hallstatt photos have been taken. You will probably encounter an incredible crowd and you can immortalize the faces you don’t know in the background while taking pictures in the landscape. Therefore, you may need to arrive at this point very early in the morning. At this point, you can capture great shots and the whole village is ready to offer you fairy tale images. I’m not the only one saying this: Hallstatt is one of the five most photographed places in the world according to National Geographic.

Although you think you are in a fairy tale in Hallstatt, you may feel hungry after a while. There are great restaurants by the lake. You can have a pleasant meal accompanied by a view. You can try duck or Viennese schnitzel.

That’s it for the to-do list in Hallstatt. Maybe you can add a few more places after a little more research, but this is definitely not a place to run around in a hurry. As I said, one day is enough to visit, but you decide how many days you will need to enjoy it when you get there. Because this village is such a fairy tale I do not know how many days it will take you to fully enjoy it.

Hallstatt did not just drag me into a fairy tale, it fascinated me. If you go to Hallstatt, the magical village of Europe, which I think will be beautiful in every season, don’t forget to say hi to the ducks in the lake and taste the snow that looks like whipped cream on the roofs of houses made of colorful candies.

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