You are in the middle of your euro travel planning and you know you want to visit the quaint village of Hallstatt while in Austria, but you run into a dilemma – are you going for a day or are you staying overnight? Is it worth spending a precious night in the city, or is a day trip from Salzburg or Vienna enough? In this post, I’ll cover what to expect in Hallstatt and give you my recommendation.
As a backdrop for those of you who may not know Hallstatt, it’s a small town in the middle of Austria, southeast of Salzburg and west of Vienna. The city is in the middle of the country and lies on the shores of the Hallstatter See Lake. By the 19th century, the city ran the salt mines that ran its economy, but as the mines ran out the city had shifted to tourism (although the mines can still be visited). From the mid-2000s, the city was featured on several prominent TV shows, which led to a boom in tour groups putting Hallstatt on their itinerary. Today more than 10,000 tourists visit the small town every day.
The entire city is almost 60 square kilometers and has buildings on various slopes that reflect the mountain landscapes that are flanked on all sides. You can be briskly from one end to the other in literally less than an hour, and quickly window shopping for the collection of small shops and vendors that cater to tourists. There are a few restaurants and hotels / inns on the banks, but the choice is frankly limited.
Why do people flock to this place? On the one hand, there is this iconic shot of the city with its church towers along the calm lake water, surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks. Unsurprisingly, this view of the city has earned the unofficial title of “The World’s Most Instagram-Like City” and the admiration of millions of travelers around the world. But that fame naturally leads to crowds. The iconic photo shoot location has numerous signs that kindly ask visitors to respect the area’s residents. This is still difficult when there are more than 100 people in line to get the perfect shot. It inevitably means having others in your photo feeling rushed and the sad realization that this beautiful city has become a cheap tourist attraction.
Back to the original dilemma: I think an overnight stay in Hallstatt is the superior option. FirstDespite the small range of accommodations, there are some great hotels like Seehotel Gruner BaumWe lived here. We liked this hotel because 1) it was close to the ferry you take to get into town (assuming you took the train and not a tour bus), 2) it has well-appointed rooms (with saunas!) absolutely breathtaking unobstructed views of the lake and mountains; and 3) it is home to one of the few full-service restaurants that are open all day. The hotel was a bit short of outlets, but that’s pretty common in Europe and we usually travel with them this handy adapter that solves the problem for us.
SecondThe best photo opportunity is when the crowd is not there, which is very early in the morning (before 7am) and in the evening (after 3pm and 4am). However, since all tours arrive at noon and leave after a couple of hours, you don’t get a chance to get decent photos, especially in other picturesque (but not so popular) parts of town (see below).
lastAnd perhaps most importantly, staying overnight allows you to see the city in its pure form rather than a commercial entity – which I believe creates a magical experience that will stay in your memory forever, not just on your Instagram -Feed.
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