An idyllic day in the heavenly town of Hallstatt

So what if Austria’s prettiest town is no secret…

We’ve all either squirmed, shivered or scowled when faced with appalling discrepancies between what we expected and what we found at a dream destination. But sometimes, the story is not gory. Sometimes, the reality outshines the dream. This is that story. Of Hallstatt, a 7000-year old alpine village-town hidden between a serene lake and forested mountain peaks. Where less than 1000 residents live the classic Austrian life in their charming wooden abodes with flower-draped balconies. Blemish-free breathtaking beauty. Exaggeration? Even thinking of that word should be a sin here!

So if you’re 2-4 hours away in the vicinity, don’t you dare skip the glorious opportunity of swooning through the unadulterated utopia that is the Austrian countryside. And if you’re based in neighbouring Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, like us, pick CK Shuttle for a dependable and divine ride.

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The drop-off at the Central Square Marktplatz is something of a sensory explosion. But even the incessant movement of the crowds can’t mar the beauty of this tiny paradise. Quintessential alpine houses embellish the shores of a fjord-like lake valley carved by glaciers and surrounded by mountain peaks rising from the placid waters. Your mind and eyes curiously devour the scene while your footsteps unwittingly follow the human stream along the only main street on the tiny plot of land sandwiched between the steep mountains and the shoreline.

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A photo opportunity at every step of the narrow cobbled streets. A curly haired cherub poised on a pot at an entrance. Pastel colored Baroque buildings adorned with elaborately painted facades. Lovingly preserved timber homes with dark tiled roofs and pretty flower-tub windows. The majestic church steeple of the Lutheran Church peeking through the houses, its grey stone facade making a muted statement against the vivid blue of the clear sky. A lazy wheelbarrow doubling up as a herb planter. A ruby red rose trellis brightening up a peach wall. Little back alleys leading to hidden treasures. 

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A flight of rough stone steps pull you magnetically towards the 800-year old cemetery next to the Catholic Parish of the Assumption Church at a higher level of the town. Wander among the graves adorned with colourful flower beds and unusual birdhouse-shaped tombstones. Wonderful views too. Apparently, the graves are re-occupied after 10 years and the remains of the previous occupant are moved to the ‘Bone House’ in the nearby St. Michael’s Chapel as part of a second funeral. Decorative inscriptions label over 1200 skulls stored here….possibly the largest collection of skulls you may have encountered.

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Surprise! Hallstatt is no longer Austria’s best kept secret. Roughly 600,000 people visit each year. Restaurants are limited and the queues are unbelievable, even at little takeaway stalls, but you will grab a bite somewhere if you have the persistence and the intention. But don’t the touristy element bother you. Fresh grilled fish, authentic apple strudel plus gorgeous views from a lakeside café equals triple whammy! The food is not free, but the visual therapy is. Learn to look through the people. Focus. Immerse.

Stop by the local shops selling salt products and take back a pinch of rich salt history of this UNESCO World Heritage site, which dates back thousands of years. Reflect on the name (Hall=salt, Statt=place) of the oldest still-inhabited village in all of Europe, which even has a period in history named after it (the Hallstatt period lasted from 800-400 BC). If you have a couple of hours in hand, exploring the salt mines is a worthwhile option. If not, indulge with eye-candy. 

The best way to experience the alluring of this alpine village? Escape the hustle-bustle. Choose from 40 different hiking trails of the spectacular Salzkammergut Lake District. Gloat at the world heritage views from the incredible viewing platform of the Hallstatt Skywalk. 12 meters (39 feet) away from the mountainside and 360 meters (1,181 feet) over the town, and pretend to be a drone.

Or follow my league and opt for a boat cruise. Once you start to skim lightly over the tranquil surface of the lake, the townscape slips into the distance and you know why Hallstatt is Hallstatt. Inspite of the crowds. Despite the crowds. The lake is the star here. With its quiet grace, it defines the persona of the entire valley. You wonder how it would appear under the shroud of thick fog or blurred by the ripples of rain on a grey evening. But today, the heavens are smiling down on you, so rejoice with the riot of colors. Brilliant blue sky, emerald waters and gold-ochre-rust speckled hills that seem to rise from the lake. Surrounded by the shadows cast by Salzberg, Mount Plassen and Dachstein, the second largest mountain of Austria, you drift along…tracing the reflections mirrored over the the glassy waters and feeling the crisp mountain air seep into your lungs. An eternal moment in time. Pure as Hallstatt.

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Old-fashioned, flat bottomed fishing boats glide. A couple of swans make ripples.  Boat houses stand on sturdy pilings. Children play on grassy lawns and parents take lazy strolls outside their blissful lakeside homes. The iconic Castle Grub, a 74-acre property built during the Middle Ages and renovated in the 19th century by an ambassador to the Russian Czar appears to float. It would make an apt location for a Agatha Christie murder mystery. Soundless, except for the soft whirr of the boat and the clicking of the cameras. Nothing can disturb the peace. Life is beautiful. This planet is beautiful. Or have you died and gone to heaven?

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Back on the shore, loiter as long as you can before you hit reality again. Because a few hours are not enough for this pretty piece of paradise. Venture into undiscovered corners. Slip in and out of quaint streets. Gaze at the lake from different angles. Again. And again till you feel the image is burnt onto your brain forever. The swarm of day trippers thins away slowly. So, as you wait for your shuttle, set your sights on the silhouette of the adorable town dominated by the church spire. Watch unblinkingly as it changes complexion with the falling dusk and the twinkling lights dancing over the lake grow brighter by the minute.

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Literally, all shutters are down by 7 pm, even the supermarket and the cafes pack up. The shuttle is delayed and takes another hour. The chill in the air pushes you to take refuge in a bank’s ATM area…at least its warm inside. When you finally drive off in the shuttle, the only movement that remains behind you is the soft rustling of the leaves and the gentle ruffling on the waves. Quietude has been restored to Hallstatt. At least till tomorrow.


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An idyllic day in the heavenly town of Hallstatt

77 thoughts on “An idyllic day in the heavenly town of Hallstatt

  1. This town seriously looks and sounds amazing, definitely my kind of town! Your pictures are absolutely stunning and perfect! I am not going to add this to my bucket list.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This village looks just perfect. I love all the contrasts in your photos. If I get the opportunity to visit (and I truly hope I will), I’d pick the Fall season. Thank you for sharing this. Another place to add to my bucket list 😀

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  3. I love how you gush over Hallstatt! It reminds me of how I felt in Romania, especially the part about trying to burn images into your memory! I’ve always wanted to visit Hallstatt and I love the option enjoying some of the hiking trails. It seems like a great way to take in the village views but also escape some of the crowds.

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  4. Hallstatt looks like an alpine village from my dreams. I love your alliteration with unadulterated utopia too. What a beautiful series of words. I wonder how many people a year take that water slide into the lake? It looks beautiful, but a tad bit chilly.

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  5. Wow! I want to go here now. It’s so colorful and the architecture is adorable. I also love that there are hiking trails to get great views of the village.

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  6. Are these pictures even real! – They’re what travel dreams are made of! Definitely one to put on my travel list, such an amazing experience. I’ve learned the hard way not to expect to much of a destination and it will outshine your initial thoughts of the place! Also, I love your writing style!

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  7. Landscapes are fantastic. I usually have quite active holidays, but that looks like a place I would stay to relax after that. Never thought Austria is so pretty.

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  8. Hi Punita,
    What a beautiful post. It seems to be impossible to take a bad photo of Hallstat, and even the photos were terrible, your words transported me there. Sometimes a destination really does live up to (or surpasses) the hype. Crowds or no crowds, I can’t wait to visit this gorgeous village!

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  9. That is such a gorgeous village. Looks like the kind of place you would see on puzzles, but wonder if it actually exists. I’d love to visit someday. So far I’ve only been to Vienna, which was beautiful, but seem to pale in comparison to this place. Plus, I love the more nature and small village side of things, rather than the big city. Oh, I just have to get back into Central Europe again!

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  10. Hallstatt is on my list – I’m hoping I can make it there in 2018. It looks so picturesque! Not only is the town itself so beautiful, but it sits in the most magical place. I had no idea that Hallstatt meant salt place. That’s really interesting! It’s making me sad that I skipped it to visit Salzburg.

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  11. As a lover of small towns, Hallstatt is on my list. It looks like such a beautiful town. I’d love to take a boat ride, see the boneyard, and just enjoy the view. I think I’d opt to stay overnight so I had a little more time crowd-free.

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  12. I’ve never heard of Hallstatt before, but need to visit immediately! It’s such a cute town and I love how few people live there. That’s interesting it has a salt history and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love the way you have written about this place. So much that I’m so sold and pin in down in my to go places before 2020. It’s very interesting to know that this place is added as a period in history. Great info and great pics.

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  14. This is the town I’d like to stay in for at least a week. I liked your description of the scenery as being soundless save for the occasional passing boat and the camera clicks. I have a lot of thoughts, so silence makes me hear them more.

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  15. This is such a beautiful Austrian cliché! It’s 7000 years old? Wow! Since it’s – as you write – close to Cesky Krumlow, I might go there when I visit: I absolutely want to see Krumlow because Egon Schiele lived there and there are paintings of house rows that are gorgeous, hence not as known as his portraits.

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  16. Never heard and never been of course! But amazing, stunning place! I love all the green!! Since I am living in a desert, I miss so much the green landscape and I was living in Italy before, so very close to Austria but never never heard!

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  17. Unfortunately, I have only been to Austria for one day! ONE DAY! I really need to go back there and spend a couple of weeks exploring. I recently met an Austrian woman who lives in the north and she showed me pictures and I fell in love! Hallstatt looks like such a magical little place ❤

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  18. The one place I still haven’t checked up in Austria yet and its next on my list. Would love to check out the town for a day and then go hiking from here into the mountains. 🙂

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  19. I’ve been there last year and I loved it. Although I explored the streets of this gorgeous picturesque village for only a couple of hours, I completely fell in love with it. Certainly. Hallstatt is becoming more and more popular but that is something inevitable, I guess…Love your photos!

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  20. Wow Hallstatt looks so magical! To be honest I went to Austria ones to a city where we were skiing and I didn’t really considered it as a place I would go back even tho it’s very beautiful! But now when I discover this wonderful town I really wanna go back! It so colorful and suranded by stunning views! Thank you for sharing it!

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  21. You had me smiling at ‘pretend to be a drone’ line. LOL. 🙂 Seriously though, Hallstatt looks really lovely! I’m sure looking at it from above is incredible! Such a charming place to visit with all the beautiful houses and gorgeous landscape! Your photos are also incredible! You’ve definitely captured some great shots!

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  22. I’d never heard of Hallstatt, but what a place with so much history! Your writing is beautiful and completely transported me away to that pristine lake – I could almost hear the water lapping and the sound of swans. It sounds like the perfect place to wander and explore, I would love to spend a day getting lost there. It’s a shame it closes up at night, as I can imagine having something to eat on a warm summer’s evening, with the town all lit up would be absolutely beautiful.

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  23. You’re so right, there are some places that have been built up as dream destinations or you’ve built them up in your own mind and once you see it for yourself you wish you never had – And then there are the exceptions, the ones that are even more amazing than you imagined and Hallsatt looks like just that. I’ve seen so many amazing pictures of this town and I really do need to visit it. In a way it kind of reminds me of Queenstown in New Zealand just because of it being a gorgeous town on the lake with incredible views. I do love the shapes of the buildings, the church like you say peeking through them – So picturesque

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  24. Hallstatt indeed looks like a dream come true.Waking up in this beautiful place would be like waking up in a dream. Most of the places that we hear about and are being raved about many times fall short of expectations. There are very few places that meet or go beyond what we have imagined, really happy to know that Halstatt exceeds expectations.

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  25. This place is so fairy tale like. Love the quaint cottages, the lake, the flowers around the greenery. So perfect! It is a town to discover by walking around – so that you can spot that lovely street art and wall art. And 40 hiking trails – that is something. Spoilt for choice I say! Well covered in the post.

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  26. This place is straight from a fairytale. Its bee many years since I last visited and it was such a quiet place, but it sounds like, despite the influx of tourists you mentioned, it has lost none of its charm. I never visited the ‘Bone House’ though, think that would be a bit gruesome for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. We were in Hallstatt last September. The weather was terrible and it was raining all the time. We could have enjoyed more of the place if we were only given a day with a sun.Nevertheless Hallstatt is really beautiful. Will definitely go back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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