The spring before my husband and I got engaged, I saw a picture of Hallstatt, Austria for the first time online. We knew we were going to get married soon, and had started thinking about where we would go for our honeymoon. We knew we wanted to go somewhere special, and when I saw a picture of this Austrian village sandwiched beautifully between a lake and mountains, we immediately agreed that was the place.
We started researching and saving money. One of the top items on our to-do list was the opportunity to rent a small boat and take it out on Lake Hallstatt, and when we saw that the season for doing so ended on September 30th, we planned our wedding date in order to get to Hallstatt before boat rental season ended.
We got married September 26th and flew to Vienna the next day. We spent a night in Vienna before taking the train to Obertraun, a village located about 5 km from Hallstatt, on the other side of the lake. We checked into our bed and breakfast and borrowed bikes to ride to Hallstatt.
Pro-Tip: Here is a great place to find cheap flights to Austria.
The 25 minute bike ride was a stunning introduction to the Austrian “countryside” – crisp, cool weather and stunning landscapes. Lake Hallstatt is gorgeous, but nothing compared to rounding the corner and catching our first glimpses of Hallstatt. It truly looked just like a postcard. I’ve never seen such a picturesque place, so it’s no surprise that Hallstatt claims to be the most-photographed village in Austria.
We biked into the village and locked our bikes at the boat ramp, setting out to do what we’d planned our entire wedding and honeymoon dates around: take a boat ride on Lake Hallstatt on September 30th, the last day of the season. We spent the next hour in a small power boat, taking in the incredible views of a village we could hardly believe was real.
Once we got back to land, we were eager to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring. Hallstatt is small and extremely walkable, which is good news since guests aren’t allowed to drive in the village, which adds to the charm. Around every corner is another idyllic view, not to mention the surrounding lake and mountains. The Market Square is one of my favorite places in the village and is a great place to take a break, enjoy a snack, and ask yourself how you got so lucky to be in such a beautiful place.
There’s more to do than take a boat ride and just walk around as well. Take a funicular train up to the oldest working salt mines in the world and enjoy the views of the village and lake below from a platform 350 meters up. There are great hiking trails, and there are a few museums, including the Hallstatt Ossuary which is home to thousands of painted skulls and perfectly stacked human bones, and historic churches worth visiting as well. There are also plenty of great shops and cafes to pop in and out of as well. Be sure to head up from the main roads – there’s plenty to explore, and often fewer tourists, in the parts of the village a little higher up.
Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s absolutely deserving of that designation. Unfortunately, it’s not a well-kept secret – there were tons of tourists from around the world all over the small village. Another thing we were told by our bed and breakfast hosts, and found to be true ourselves, was that the food in Hallstatt is quite underwhelming. We found much better food near our bed and breakfast in Obertraun.
Exploring this idyllic village is good for the soul, and there’s a reason people come from around the world to experience it. Since Hallstatt is small, you don’t want to spend more than a few days in the area unless you really love just resting in the mountains. We found it to be the perfect place to spend a few days between Vienna and Salzburg (both of which are quickly and easily accessible from Hallstatt by train). If Hallstatt isn’t already on your travel bucket list, it definitely should be.