Hallstatt by Bike: The Best Things to Do in Hallstatt

Hallstatt is one of those places that I have always wanted to visit, but had never really made any plans to go there. This summer, whilst driving to Romania to attend my best friend’s wedding, due to a GPS error I found that I was travelling along the Romantic Road of Austria, across the Alps, instead of the motorway. All of a sudden, I spotted a road sign pointing to “Hallstatt – 5km”. Now, I really fell in love with how beautiful this road was – without a doubt it is the most stunning road I have ever driven on. I decided that on my return trip back to England, I would go back and spend a few days in one of the villages I had passed through, which was dotted alongside one of the lakes. I really wanted to spend some time in St. Gilgen and also visit Hallstatt, because it was close.

I was surprised to learn that there are so many things to do in Hallstatt, and one day is probably not long enough, especially as I wanted to do some hiking as well. I looked for nearby hotels, but unfortunately the prices were way above my budget. I couldn’t afford to spend £300 per night on a room in Hallstatt. Searching around, I found Landhotel Agathawirt, a hotel located around 15km away from Hallstatt, in the quiet village of St. Agatha. Built in the same style as the Austrian Alpine Hotels, with wooden balconies decorated with flowers, this hotel offered a spa with a sauna and a covered outdoor pool, breakfast included, and an on-site traditional restaurant for £70 a night. Moreover, bike rental at this hotel was free of charge.

How to get to Hallstatt

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I highly recommend not to drive to Hallstatt. It is a very small village with three parking spots which can get full quite early during the high season. As Hallstatt is a very popular destination in Austria, it is prone to overcrowding.

Driving into Hallstatt is not allowed, even if you are staying at one of the hotels in the village. Also, parking in the official car parks is very expensive, with one hour starting at 4 euros. The best way to get to Hallstatt, if you are touring Austria by car, is to leave it at your hotel and take public transport. Or you can do as I did and cycle there! More about cycling to Hallstatt below.

From Vienna:

Getting to Hallstatt from Vienna takes around three and a half hours, both by car and by train. If you take the train, you need to change at Attnang-Puchheim, then take the local Rex train to Hallstatt.

If you prefer, you can take a guided tour from Vienna, which includes private transport and no changes. Click here for more details.  

From Salzburg:

Getting to Hallstatt from Salzburg is the same as from Vienna, so you need to reach Attnang-Puchheim, then change to the local Rex train.

The train station in Hallstatt is on the other side of the lake, so you will need to cross on the ferry.  It is good to know that the boat coordinates with the arrival and departures of the train. A ticket from the train station to Hallstatt costs 3 euros per person. 

If you prefer, you can take a guided tour from Salzburg, which includes private transport. Click here for more details.

Hallstatt by Bike

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Austria is an extremely cycle friendly country. There is a bike trail that circles the Eastern part of Hallstätter See. Part of the 184km long Salzkammergut Cycle Way, the path is almost exclusively for bikes and pedestrians, crossing only a few roads where there is traffic.

I started my bike trip to Hallstatt at my hotel in St Agatha, where I got my bike from. The hotel has an entire room filled with high quality bikes and I was really excited to do this trip on a Merida, as I have never ridden one of them before. The hotel receptionist handed me the bike and helmet, then showed me where to go to start the trail. He also showed me the path on the map, and told me that there were two options: either to cycle up to the ferry and then cross over, or go around the lake, which was double the distance. I chose the first option.

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The path started fairy flat, through the forest and then alongside the lake. It was so beautiful and peaceful riding through that stunning scenery. I passed by small wooden houses decorated with colourful flowers, I crossed tiny bridges over fast rivers, and I stopped many times to take pictures. As I advanced on my 8 kilometres ride to the ferry, the mountains in front seemed higher and higher. The last part of the trail was the hardest, as the path turned sharply to the left, then to the right before starting to climb off road along the side of the mountain.  Looking through the forest I started to see the first glimpses of Hallstatt on the other side of the lake. And oh, how beautiful it was, even if it looked so tiny from such a long distance. Just before getting to the station, I had to cross this long, suspended passageway built over the water. That was quite impressive!

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I soon reached the ferry and hopped on with my bike. I could have left the bike at the station, but I chose to take it with me as the lock wasn’t the best in the world. I paid a supplement to take the bike with me on the boat, the return ticket being just under 11 euros.

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There are plenty of places to leave the bike whilst you explore Hallstatt. At first, I left it in the harbour, but later on I headed towards the funicular, so I took it with me and locked it at the base. That was a great idea as after I visited the salt mine, the heavens opened and it poured with rain. Cycling back in it to the ferry was so much faster than walking.

The Best Things to Do in Hallstatt

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Hallstatt is a small village with only 778 residents, but with plenty of things to do. You can easily spend the entire day here just strolling along the streets, admiring the colourful houses decorated with the cutest flower displays. The village is also home to the oldest salt mine in the world, which is a must to see in Hallstatt, especially because the visit is quite entertaining and includes two underground slides.

Stroll Around the Village

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Is Hallstatt busy? Yes! Is Hallstatt expensive? No doubt about that! Is Hallstatt worth visiting? A massive YES!

If you have followed my blog for a while, you will know that I don’t like crowds and I avoid visiting touristy places, especially in high season. Hallstatt however, even if it is extremely touristy, is absolutely gorgeous! I don’t regret at all coming here. Those gorgeous photos of Hallstatt that you have seen online are real. I don’t know how any filters can make this village more beautiful than it already is.

There are quite a few things that make Hallstatt so charming: its location, on the shore of Hallstätter See, the picturesque 16th century Alpine architecture and the cheerful colours of the houses, the narrow streets and passageways, the tall mountains literally rising from behind the buildings, the waterfalls flowing down from the versants, and so much more.

The best way to take in the beauty of Hallstatt is by walking without an aim, by letting your feet take you left or right, up or down, back and forth. I spent at least two hours just strolling along the village, taking photos and just taking my time to live in the moment. There is an option to explore the village with a professional photographer, who will show you the most iconic places and take pictures of you. For more details, click here.

Find the Iconic Viewpoint of Hallstatt

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It won’t take long to find that iconic viewpoint of Hallstatt, from where most of the photos of the village are taken from. Funnily enough, this place is actually called “The postcard angle of Hallstatt”. The view from here is incredible, and this is way the village is one of the most popular Austrian touristic destinations. 

This viewpoint is very busy and if you visit during peak times, you will have to wait your turn to take that picturesque photo of Hallstatt.

Visit the Bone House and the Cemetery

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Whilst the 19th century Evangelical Church of Hallstatt is pretty much the iconic monument of the village, you must also visit the Catholic Parish Church. Here you will find a gorgeous cemetery that looks more like a garden with a view, rather than a final resting place. 

The chapel next to the church is home to a small ossuary, which is quite unique in the world because the skulls are painted with flowers, wreaths, crosses, names, and dates. Whilst it sounds unusual, this actually used to be an ancient practice in the Alpine Mountain villages. Because the cemeteries in the villages are small, when they ran out of space the bodies would be exhumated and moved into the ossuary. The skulls would be painted for identification purposes. Unfortunately, most of the chapels were destroyed and only a few remain, the one in Hallstatt being one of the best preserved.

Check Out the Market Square

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The Market Square of Hallstatt is so pretty. There is nothing much to do here other than sit down on a bench, take a break, listen to the water flowing in the fountain situated in the centre of the square, and just enjoy the views. There are a few shops and cafes around the square, should you fancy doing a bit of shopping or having a break long enough to enjoy an Aperol Spritz and a slice of apple strudel. 

Take a Boat Ride on the Lake

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For a different view of Hallstatt, take a boat trip around Hallstatt Lake. You can either rent a boat and sail yourself, or join a tour on the scenic touristic cruiser.

There are several types of boats that you can rent from Hallstatt: an electric one (300W or 500W), a rowing boat, or a pedal boat in the shape of a swan. You can also rent SUPs, if you want a different experience. The prices for boat rentals are between 10-22 euros per hour, depending on which one you go for. An electric boat can hold up to four passengers and it’s very easy to drive. The boat rental office is on the promenade, between the Market Square and the Funicular. You can’t miss it as you will see the big swan boats anchored outside. 

The scenic boat goes from Hallstatt to Obertraun, on a 50-minute/each way relaxing cruise. The return trip costs 12 euros.

Take the Funicular Up the Mountain

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The funicular is located a 15-20 minute walk from the Hallstatt harbour. To get up the mountain you can either take the funicular or hike, depending how much time you have and what type of experience you are looking for. You can also take the funicular up and hike down.

I have to let you know that the price for the funicular is steep – 36 euros! It includes a return trip and a guided visit to the Salzwelten Mine.  Expect to spend around 3 hours at the top. 

The trip up the mountain lasts only a few minutes and it’s quite spectacular as towards the top, the line is almost vertical. As someone who is afraid of heights, I did feel my heart beating faster and faster just before we reached the top.

Take In the Breath-Taking Views from The Welterbeblick World Heritage Skywalk

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The Hallstatt Skywalk is a platform suspended at 350 meters above the village. It’s triangle in shape and offers incredible views over Hallstatt and the Dachstein Salzkammergut area. I was lucky to be able to admire the view before I made my way up to the mine as on my return, the heavy rain clouds covered the entire landscape. 

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Near the skywalk is Rudolf’s Tower, a medieval defence structure dating from the 13th century, which is now an Alpine restaurant. I would have loved to have a nice traditional Austrian dinner here, as I did in St. Gilgen the previous day, but the rain was so heavy that I decided the best idea would be to cycle to my hotel before the sun set, and eat there. 

Walk the Trail of the Burial Field of Hallstatt

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The mountains of Hallstatt were inhabited since at least 7,000 years ago, by prehistoric man. Over 4,000 were buried in the Alpine field outside the mine between 1,000 and 500 BC. In 1846, the back then master miner of the Salzwelten Mine, Johann Georg Ramsauer, discovered the first grave and, since then the archaeological expeditions have never stopped. The first discoveries can be seen at the Natural History of Vienna, but their story can be read as you walk from the funicular up to the mine.

Halfway through there is a tiny one room museum with two graves: one from an ordinary burial and one from a cremation. Most people just pass by it without entering, and that is a shame because it is fascinating to learn about the habits of our ancestors. 

Visit Hallstatt Salt Mine – The World’s Oldest Salt Mine

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I have never visited a mine before, so I had no idea what to expect. If you want to visit the 7000 year old Salzwelten Mine you can either book a ticket online which comes with a fast-track line for the funicular for a fixed time, or buy it on the spot when you arrive in Hallstatt – but you will have to join the queue. I visited in August and to my surprise the queue wasn’t that bad, only half an hour or so.

The tours to the mine run every half an hour, and are on the first come, first served bases. They are guided in both Austrian and in English. Firstly, my group was led to a room where we were given protective clothes to wear over our own. The mine also has plenty of lockers to leave backpacks or purses in. As it’s a salt mine, it is not recommended to bring anything in as it will get dirty.

The visit to the Salzwelten Mine is fascinating. The tour takes around 90 minutes and it’s extremely interactive. There are videos, holograms, multimedia stories, projections on water, two fun slides and a wooden miner’s train that leads the group out of the mine through an extremely narrow tunnel.

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The slides are a lot of fun! They connect two different levels inside the mine and act as a shortcut. Why climb down the stairs when you can slide down in a fracture of the time? The longest slide is 64 meters long, which makes it the longest underground slide in the world. At the end there are a few cameras that take photos and record your speed as you go down the slide. You can buy the photo at the end of the tour before exiting, for 6 euros.

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The salt mine is also home to the oldest staircase in Europe. The holographic movie showing how it was built and used, somewhere around 2800 years ago, is simply mind blowing. As it finishes, the lights turn on, the screen goes up and the original staircase is just there, in front of the audience.  

Buy Some Salt

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After I visited the salt mine, I stopped at the shop at the bottom of the funicular to buy some salt. Because let’s face it, how many times do you have the chance to buy salt from a high-altitude Alpine mine? I bought several types of salt: a simple one for general use, one with garlic and one with herbs. If you want to but salt but don’t have three hours to spare to visit the mine, there are quite a few shops in town that only sell salt and things made with salt, such as natural cosmetic products, tea candle holders, bath salts, sprays, and oils.

Dachstein Caves & Hikes

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If you have an extra day in Hallstatt, I highly recommend going up Dachstein. There are plenty of things to do up the mountain that will take up a good part of the day. You want to enjoy the trip and not rush around.

First of all, to reach Dachstein you have to take the cable car. There are three segments of this cable car, one stopping at the caves, one at the 5 Fingers Viewing Platform and the last one going to the top, to the glacier. The last gondola is quite a ride, as it is completely made out of glass, goes 1000 meters in 6 minutes and has an open-air balcony on top for adventurous guests.

Here you will also find Austria’s highest suspension bridge, hanging over 400 meters of emptiness, a stairway to nothingness which leads to a suspended glass platform big enough for 2 people, and an ice palace inside the Dachstein Glacier.

Where to Stay Around Hallstatt

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I highly recommend the family run, historic landmark hotel I stayed at, Landhotel Agathawirt. It has private parking, traditional rooms, a spa and a good restaurant. The hotel is located in the middle of nature and has a large garden with fruit trees and mountain views. The staff were so nice and treated me like family. I stayed here for two days, by myself, and they always checked on me when I saw them around. I enjoyed the spa so much, especially as the pool was covered.  I could relax and rest my legs with a little swim after cycling to Hallstatt and back. The restaurant was also great, with fast service and good food. They also made me a delicious kaiserschmarrn (traditional Austrian scrambled pancake with plums jam) for dessert. I paid £140 for two nights, which I thought was a fantastic price for the middle of August.

You can read other reviews on Tripadvisor, or check the latest rates directly on Booking.com by clicking here.

For other options in Hallstatt, check out the suggestions of my trusted partner, Booking.com below:

Booking.com

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18 thoughts on “Hallstatt by Bike: The Best Things to Do in Hallstatt

  1. Melissa Miller says:

    WOW. Hallstatt is definitely going on my list. The pictures alone sold me. Mountains are my favorite and this place looks full of them.

  2. jolayne says:

    We arrived in Hallstatt one afternoon just as it started to pour. We took refuge in a patio cafe and watched as all of the tourists poured out of the city. Once the rain stopped, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was awesome.

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