The Austrian village of Hallstatt is on a lake and clings to the base of a mountain. It is one street wide. Hallstatt squeezes into the narrow space between the lake and the mountain. Since ancient times, people have lived in and mined salt in Hallstatt. A creepy and fascinating collection of town people’s skulls is in the Catholic church. World Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks says the fairy tale village of Hallstatt, Austria is a great Salzburg day trip.
The village of Hallstatt, Austria is at the base of a mountain and faces a lake. Even though we visited in foggy weather, we loved our Salzburg day trip to this fairy tale town, just one street wide.
Village of Hallstatt from Above
Before we explored the town, my husband and I wanted to look at the village and lake from above. We took a funicular to the top of the mountain. We enjoyed the view as we zipped up the steep mountain slope. Although some hikers climbed up the steep mountain, that path was for travelers hardier than my husband and me. Or with better hiking shoes.
At the top of the funicular, we walked onto a V-shaped platform that jutted into the air. At first, I was disappointed because the platform was crowded with tourists. It felt like a “must do” selfie spot in Austria. We waited a few minutes to pose on the corner of the platform that stuck out precariously from the mountain. Stepping out on the ledge, I immediately felt how high we were above the lake. Even though I’m not scared of heights, my feet tingled as we stood on the elevated platform. Moments later, I was happy to relinquish my spot to the next selfie-taker.
Gorgeous Setting of the Village of Hallstatt, Austria
We visited the village of Hallstatt, Austria for its gorgeous setting on the lake, at the foot of the mountain. What an improbable place! It’s a narrow strip of a village, with mostly footpaths. A few footpaths are nearly vertical. They lead to houses built right into the mountain.
But we were surprised to discover the beauty of the houses and small gardens in Hallstatt. Half-timber houses that are hundreds of years old surround the main square. Flowering plants cover many of the houses. We enjoyed stopping at one of the cafes lining the square to people-watch.
Creepy Bone House in the Village of Hallstatt, Austria
We were surprised by the beauty of the flowers and grave markers in the small graveyard in Hallstatt. When we climbed a few stone step to visit it, we were rewarded with a gorgeous vista of the village and the lake. I am glad we visited the graveyard because that’s how we discovered the Bone House. Inside a small stone cave is a creepy and fascinating collection of actual villagers’ skulls. Villagers have neatly piled hundreds of skulls of the village’s dead. Other villagers have painted the skulls with flowers, the person’s name, and death date. Beneath the skulls are neat piles of human bones. Guides gave us different and confusing explanations for this mysterious tradition, which apparently started in the mid-1700’s.
Ancient History of the Village of Hallstatt, Austria
Despite the improbable setting, people have lived in Hallstatt for thousands of years. People settled Hallstatt as early as 5500 B.C. They started mining salt in in prehistoric times. It has been a Celtic and Roman town. We saw Roman ruins at the funicular base.
Hallstatt and Salzburg are both named for salt. The salt mine remains open for tours. While we enjoyed our visit to a salt mine in Krakow, Poland, we only had a few hours in Hallstatt, which we visited as a Salzburg day trip. So we skipped the salt mine and opted to focus on enjoying the view.
Rain and Fog in Hallstatt
Although we visited on a foggy, rainy day, we still appreciated the beauty of the view of Hallstatt. Actually, walking on the mountain side shrouded in rain and fog felt like walking inside a Chinese scroll painting.
Village of Hallstatt, Austria, a Popular Salzburg Day Trip
Currently, this fairy tale town is massively popular with tourists worldwide. In particular, Chinese and Korean tourists flock to Hallstatt, usually as a Salzburg day trip. Maybe they are drawn to its pristine natural beauty and sparkling clean water, as their own countries wrestle with environmental challenges of the modern age?
File this fact under strange tidbits we learn while traveling. In China, the village of Hallstatt, Austria is so popular, real estate developers actually built a life size reproduction of its main square.
Logistics of a Salzburg Day Trip to Hallstatt
Although we did not have a car in Salzburg, it was easy to book a half-day excursion to Hallstatt. First, the bus driver picked us up in the Old Town of Salzburg. Then, he drove the twisting mountain roads while I drank in the scenery. He dropped us off again about 5 ½ hours later, an easy Salzburg day trip. While the driver navigated the narrow roads, our guide filled us in on Hallstatt history.
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