Hallstatt is a picturesque village in Austria that lies along Lake Hallstatt’s western shore. It’s famous for its 16th-century Alpine houses that are now home to a wonderful variety of cafes and shops.
This small village is not only beautiful and incredibly scenic but is also known for its production of salt dating back to 800-450 BC. Until the 19th century, it was only possible to reach Hallstatt via boat, or narrow trails. But, as the demand for travel increased, so did the means of transport!
With weather that’s always fairly cold, you can imagine the winters being rather snowy. But this makes the lakeside town all the more romantic, and gives us all the more reason to visit!
Hallstatt is a popular day trip from Vienna and Salzburg, but it may be hard to hit all the main attractions in a single day. In our experience, an overnight stay is essential if you want to experience all the very best things to do in Hallstatt before you leave.
We spent 2 days in this quaint town, and absolutely fell in love with it! Here’s how to enjoy a winter trip to Hallstatt.
If you’re wondering what to do in Hallstatt, why not follow along with our favorite places to visit in Austria in winter.
ⓘ Note: Two of the best things to do in Hallstatt are closed in winter: the Ice Cave (late-October until May) & Salt Mine (late-November until early-April).
Day 1: Arrive in Hallstatt + walking tour
There are three ways to get to Hallstatt: by bus, train or rental car. But it's not quite that easy, because none of them go into the actual town of Hallstatt itself. Big Boy Travel has a good overview on getting to Hallstatt on public transportation here.
We arrived on a train from Salzburg, and then took the ferry Stefanie across the lake to Hallstatt. This journey is absolutely stunning! Expect picture-worthy views the entire way. For this reason, it’s best to have your camera on hand so you can immortalize those special moments.
Not counting the short ferry ride, it takes 2.5 hours to get to Hallstatt from Salzburg, or about 4 hours from Vienna by train. To make the most of your day, we suggest catching an early train. Plan to eat your midday meal in Hallstatt.
Check in to your hotel
We stayed at Heritage Hotel Hallstatt because of its convenient location and many positive reviews. Plus, it's in an old historical building, which offers a bit of local atmosphere.
Depending your budget or travel style, here are some links to book and research the hotels in Hallstatt:
Visit the Evangelical Church
First stop: the Evangelical Church. Okay, our first stop was supposed to be lunch, but we decided to stop in the church because we'd pass it on the way.
The Evangelical Church overlooks the lake and its steeple has been a centerpiece for photographers over the years. It’s a stone church that was built in 1863, and has made the area even more beautiful than it already is!
Enjoy lunch at Zum Salzbaron inside Gruner Baum Hotel
First stop: lunch at Restaurant “Zum Salzbaron,” which is located inside Seehotel Grüner Baum. The restaurant's lake terrace is popular in the summer.
Kaiserstüberl is a warmer option, located in the oldest section of the hotel. Guests can enjoy a meal or simply coffee and cake, and while it doesn't overlook the lake, it does offer nice views of Hallstatt's market square.
Walk around Hallstatt
Speaking of which, Market Square is arguably the most iconic place in Hallstatt. The square is surrounded by shops, restaurants, cafes and picturesque little houses and provides plenty of new places to explore.
Many events take place here, and there are often concerts and other social gatherings to enjoy. In fact, Hallstatt in winter is just as vibrant as any other time of year!
The centerpiece of the square is the Holy Trinity Statue, one of the few things that dates from before 1750. In that year, Hallstatt experienced a terrible fire. Most of the square was reduced to ash and rubble, four people died, and 35 houses burnt to the ground. After the disaster, the town came together to rebuild, and the statue has stood firm ever since.
We then chose to stroll the streets of Hallstatt, and explore a little further for ourselves, but if you prefer a more structured itinerary then taking a private Hallstatt tour might be a great option.
We took some time to explore the cute streets with their quaint houses and traditional shops. This is a great time to buy a few souvenirs, or simply do some window shopping.
ⓘ TIP: Wear comfortable shoes with good soles during this portion of the journey! The streets are anything but flat, there may be an icy patch, and you’re likely to encounter a few hills along the way.
Dinner at Seewirt Zauner Hotel Restaurant
After spending a good few hours exploring the square and surroundings, we were famished and in need of a great dinner. So we headed for dinner in a restaurant situated very conveniently in the square.
Most of the dishes at Seewirt Zauner are locally sourced. Think fish from Lake Hallstatt, organic meat from the region, game from surrounding forests and vegetables from regional producers. Keeping with the theme, they also offer a large selection of Austrian and international wines to round off the various dishes.
Naturally, we had to give it a try. It did not disappoint!
The restaurant provides lovely views over Market Square, and the delicious food that accompanies the view makes it a perfect pairing.
Nighttime shots in Hallstatt
Capturing a few nighttime shots seems like the perfect way to end off a day in Hallstatt. If your camera can handle it, the lights of the city cast a beautiful glow on the streets.
Day 2: Best photo spots in Hallstatt
After an exciting first day in Hallstatt, we were ready for our second day in this quaint lakeside village.
The second day in Hallstatt was all about finding the perfect photo opportunities, so if you’re following along with us, we advise waking up early to catch golden-hour lighting.
Although it is Austrian winter, the sun still rises fairly early. Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, and the sun rises at about 7:50 am in Hallstatt.
You can either venture out on your own photography mission or take a photo tour of Hallstatt.
Photos at the classic village viewpoint – Gosaumühlstraße 67, 4830 Hallstatt, Austria
The first photo stop we made was at the iconic viewpoint, where you’ll be able to take a classic postcard picture of the village. No matter what the Hallstatt, Austria weather is doing, this is a must-do.
This photo spot can get rather busy, so you may be joined with a whole host of other photographers looking for the perfect shot.
If this is your first early morning stop, you’ll be able to get a picture of the village while the lights are still twinkling in the village windows.
ⓘ TIP: Watch the sun. If it breaks through, it will set up a spectacular iconic photograph of Hallstatt.
Bonehouse (Charnel House or Beinhaus)
Hallstatt's buildings are squeezed onto a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the lake. As a result, there is very little space for a cemetery.
So what do they do with all the dead people? They bury them, but after a few years, they have to dig up the bones to make room for more. Visit the Bonehouse to see where all those bones are stored.
If you've visited other ossuaries, such as the one in Kutna Hora or Brno, this Bonehouse is different. Here, you’ll see an overwhelming collection of painted skulls. This is a tradition that’s been taking place in Austria for centuries, and continues to this day. I'd guess it's their way to give honor and respect to those who had to endure being disinterred.
Hallstatt City Viewpoint
If you head to the city center and look up, you’re sure to be in for a treat. A large portion of Halstatt’s charm lies in the little wooden houses that dot the mountain. The higher levels offer a great place to snap a few photos of the village.
Tour the Hallstatt Museum
The Hallstatt Museum has an unrivaled collection of discoveries from the local salt mine, and artifacts found in the stone age cemeteries. The museum is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it an even more important destination to visit.
In the museum, you’ll find a wonderful variety of artifacts, including an interesting collection of Roman remains. If you’re a lover of all things history, this little excursion will fascinate you beyond belief.
The incredible cultural history of the area is stored in this building, allowing you to learn a great deal about the history of the people who have stayed in Hallstatt over the years.
Visit the bus stop viewing area
Right as you leave the walking zone, exiting the city, you’ll see a bus stop. This is the perfect place to take a few photos of the sleepy village. This spot gives you great views of the town that are completely different from the previous stop.
There are often swans in the area which make a great added extra to the tranquility of the photo.
Have lunch at Cafe Polreich
After a busy morning chasing the perfect shot, we sure needed a refuel, and Cafe Polreich was the perfect place to do just that!
This is the most vibey local hangout in the area, and is where locals and tourists alike come for a good time. They have live music and a great selection of beverages (for a small town).
Their food is also absolutely delicious. If you make a stop by, be sure to try their blackened trout, you won’t be disappointed. The staff are friendly and can give you some great pointers in the right direction for wonderful places to take photos.
The restaurant itself provides lovely views of the town, so be sure to snap a few pics while you’re there.
Take a cable car above Hallstatt
Taking a cable car is a must-do experience during your winter vacation in Austria. The cable car makes three stops on its way up the mountain:
- Stop 1 is at a collection of shops
- Stop 2 is where you’ll find restaurants
- Stop 3 is where the hiking trails begin.
Even if you decide not to go for a hike, we recommend taking the cable car all the way to the top.
Enjoy views from the Skywalk
Hop off the cable car to walk the Skywalk, venturing out to the. new viewing platform that extends an impressive 360 meters above the ground, 12 meters out from the mountainside. If you’d like a photo of Hallstatt from above, this is where you’ll get your shot!
The platform comes to a point at the end, which makes it the perfect spot to take a selfie. There are often many other tourists on the platform, so you may have to wait your turn, but it’s well worth it! This is an activity you simply can’t miss during your time in Hallstatt, so be sure to add it to your Hallstatt itinerary.
Have coffee at the Rudolfsturm Restaurant
Rudolfsturm restaurant is another stop along the cable car route. It’s a great place to stop for coffee on the way down the mountain. It provides lovely views over the village, lake, and mountains, not to mention the hand-warming from the frigid hike.
We decided to stop for a coffee, as we already had dinner plans. However, if you’d like to have supper at this beautiful restaurant, they serve delicious meals.
We then made our way back down the mountain on the cable car. Time for supper.
Enjoy dinner at Brau Gasthof Restaurant
After a long day of touring Hallstatt, we were certainly ready for something a little special. Brau Gasthof restaurant is just that!
The restaurant overlooks the lake, making it the perfect place to enjoy sunset views while you dine. Expect a variety of European cuisine, and be sure to enjoy one of their delicious soup starters.
The restaurant also boasts their own in-house beer. It’s brewed on the property and is a great accompaniment to your meal. After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, fully satisfied with the wonderful 2 days we spent in Hallstatt. We need an early night because we want to be fresh for our onward bus.
What to pack for a Hallstatt winter trip
When visiting Hallstatt in winter, warmth should be your primary goal, especially if you’re going to be out and about in the snowy village. Make sure you pack wisely for your trip as you don’t want to miss out on activities because you didn't pack the correct clothing.
Here’s what you should be packing:
- Coat – Pack a coat that has a warm hood and is long enough to cover your legs partially. This will ensure you don’t have any skin exposed when you sit down.
- Fleece-lined leggings – These are perfect as they’re comfortable and warm at the same time. They give you ease of movement, but don’t compromise your warmth. With all the walking you’ll be doing, comfort is 100% necessary.
- Beanie – A beanie is essential for your Hallstatt trip as it keeps your head warm. Preferably get one that covers your ears as the cold air can hurt them.
- Gloves – Keeping your fingers warm is essential. Touchscreen gloves are the perfect solution to keep your hands cozy and still give you access to your phone and camera.
Wrapping up our Hallstatt in winter guide
Hallstatt is an incredible place. It’s great for those looking for beautiful views, wonderful scenery, and a quaint village atmosphere that makes you never want to leave.
Hallstatt is particularly beautiful in winter, as the houses are covered with a fresh layer of snow, which makes your stay extra cozy. Although the winters are cold, if you pack the right clothes, you’ll be able to stay warm and still have a grand time exploring this lovely area.
With so many wonderful things to do in Hallstatt, Austria, it’s easy to fill 2 days with a wonderful variety of activities that will give you memories to last a lifetime. The beautiful Hallstatt village is just waiting to be explored! If you’re continuing your trip through Austria, be sure to check out some of the best day trips in Vienna.