How to Experience the Austrian Countryside
If you’re planning a getaway to Austria, build your itinerary beyond the expected Vienna and Salzburg—Hallstatt is a stunning getaway in Upper Austria (Oberösterreich). Read on for ways to experience the beauty of Hallstatt and its surrounding area.
Hallstatt is a village located on Lake Hallstatt in the western, mountainous region of Salzkammergut. This photogenic part of Austria dates back centuries and is filled with 16th Century Alpine houses. Residents are almost outnumbered by tourists taking photos, enjoying cafes, shopping and visiting the oldest salt mines in the world. Over the last few years, Hallstatt has increased in popularity with the help of social media and continues to be a must-see while taking a weekend trip.
Make your first priority to visit the Salzwelten (salt mines), not only are they the oldest salt mines in the world, dating back 7,000 years, but you will also get a glimpse of the recently discovered, oldest wooden staircase in Europe. Visitors can glide down one of the world’s longest miners’ slides to a mystical salt lake or hear the story of the salt mummy known as the “Man in Salt”.
For more adventure, look for the Dachstein cable car locally known as Dachstein Krippenstein-Seilbahnen; the gondola will lead you up the nearly 10,000 ft. Dachstein Mountain. In the summer, visit the Dachstein ice caves (Riesen Eishöhle), make sure to bring a warm jacket no matter the time of year. It is known to be very chilly in the mines and caves.
Afterward, head up to the top of the mountain for unparalleled views and delicious bites in lodge-like restaurants or snap a photo for Instagram from the Hallstatt Skywalk “Welterblick”. One of my favorite restaurants was The Lodge, they have great comfort food, beer, and even card games to keep families entertained. Hikes are encouraged in the warmer seasons while the mountains are equally, if not more, popular for skiing in the winter months.
Experience the Neighborhood
Once you make your way back down to the village, make sure to walk through the neighborhood along the Hallstätter See and Seestrasse, where you will find plenty of tourists mingling with locals, shopping, and dining. The traditional homes are decorated with Austrian flare and florals and offer a very authentic ambiance. In addition to local takeaways such as salt and salt shakers, visitors can pick up authentic Upper Austria garb, dirndls (dresses), and lederhosen (folk wear).
After a long afternoon of shopping, another great stop is Bad Ischl, a spa town east of Hallstatt. The town has a lot of history, namely the Habsburger Emperor Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, spent many of his summers here.
Satisfy your Austrian Appetite
Save room for dessert from the famous cake shop, Konditorei Zauner. Enjoy a selection of cakes, coffee and grab a Zaunerstollen as a takeaway—the famous nougat and hazelnut cake dates back to 1905. In case of a larger appetite, drive over to nearby famed Frauenschuh in Mondsee, a memorable spot known for pastries and other dishes. Like a local, order the Eierschwammerl mit Knödel, which is not listed on the menu. The authentic dish is composed of chanterelles with bread dumplings and will definitely hit the spot.
With so much to explore, a trip to the Austrian countryside will leave you wanting to come back for more adventure, culture, and relaxation. Start planning your vacation today and experience Hallstatt for yourself!