Hallstatt, Austria has been on my bucket list for years and I was jumping for joy when we finally made it here. In our original around-the-world itinerary this little town was a staple (along with Brugges, Belgium and Colmar, France). Hallstatt is the cutest little European gem where city meets nature, all wrapped up into one place. We visited in the warm end of Spring, but mark my words! - I'll be back for winter. This town is straight out of a snow globe.
Hallstatt is very small and no cars can drive through. You have to park just outside of town where a shuttle will pick you up and drive you in (or you can walk, it's only 15 minutes). Even though it is small, there is so much you can do. Two days is the bare minimum.
Stay Somewhere With A View
First and foremost, you must stay somewhere with a view. We scored on finding a newly renovated B&B run by a local called Hallstatt Hideaway. Her home has been in her family for generations in the heart of Hallstatt. Everything was brand new with fresh wood floors. Of course, the best part was the incredible view from the room. We had a hard time leaving our room waking up to that.
Hike Everywhere And Anywhere
Nothing opens early in Hallstatt so you we just skipped breakfast each morning. This was no problem for me because I jumped out of bed ready to explore the sights anyways. Just stock up on some fruit beforehand if you need a little something in the morning.
There are so many hiking trails around that are really easy to find. One of the best parts are the many cable cars on the mountains as well. I love hiking up a mountain and taking these back down because it is so much better for your knees.
We just walked up stairs on the hill behind our B&B and came across several trails. They are well shaded with trees and have incredible views of the crater lake. The view from the top of the mountain was pretty insane too.
Lunch On The Water
I'm going to be honest, none of the food in Hallstatt is that great. It is especially hard for vegans and vegetarians. If you do eat seafood, like me, there are some decent seafood options with locally caught trout from the lake. I lived on garden salads and trout while I was here which was totally fine because the beauty of Hallstatt was all I cared about (and it was just 2 days).
The produce is very fresh too so I enjoyed all the salads. Gastof Simony on the water is a cute restaurant/biergarten that has good enough salads and seafood. We ate here both days for lunch and I would recommend it as a light option in a very heavy-food oriented place. Expect to see a lot of deep-fried wiener schnitzel and veal on menus otherwise. Ahh...
Stroll Through The Town
The architecture and painstakingly cute chalets in Hallstatt are what make this town so charming. Each building looks like something Disneyland created but are still inhabited by locals that have lived there for generations. Yes, there are many many tourists but this is one of the few places that can get away with it because it is so breathtaking.
Dinner At Gastof Zauner
This hotel restaurant is just a few steps from Hallstatt Hideaway (everything is just a few steps from there actually) with some of the better food in the area. Instead of a lake view you get the cute surrounding buildings on a romantic terrace. I actually loved my salad and the wine was excellent. Don't bother with the beer - it isn't worth it in my opinion. I did have a little bite of their ridiculous homemade strudel though :)
Paddle board Or Row Boat
The subtle energy of Hallstatt made me itching to get outside immediately every morning. It always feels good to start the day with a little exercise and in Hallstatt there are so many great options! I loathe gyms and stationary machines where all you want is to be distracted from what you are doing or outside.
We should be present and aware when we exercise because it is one of the best ways to get in touch with your body. I love yoga and any activity out in nature so much for this reason: I feel fully alert and alive. We took advantage of all the activities Hallstatt had to offer by either hiking or taking a paddle board on the lake (or both). It was such a nice change from all the big cities we've been visiting.
The crater lake is so serene and still; it is perfect for paddle boarding. Not many boats cruise through the lake and the few that do are tiny. I would recommend going early in the morning but nothing opens until 11 or so for boat/board rentals. One option if you are an early riser would be to hike first.
Take The Cable Car To Five Fingers
Five Fingers is the highest look out point over Hallstatt with a see-thru, 5-pronged ledge accessible by cable car. The cable car is a bit pricey and the walk from the top of the car to Five Fingers is approximately 20 minutes but, rest assured, it's worth it.
Paraglide Over The Crater Lake
Also at the highest point of Hallstatt near Five Fingers is a paragliding company. I regrettably didn't do this because it was so costly - about 165 Euro a person - but wish I did. I could see paragliders from our hotel room cruising down over the lake and it looked glorious. If you have some extra money to spend I highly recommend this.
Dinner And Drinks In Obertraun
Your paraglide (or cable car back down Five Fingers) will end in Obertraun, the town directly across the lake from Hallstatt. Spend the evening exploring the town and have dinner at Gastof Hollwirt. The restaurants on this side are leaps and bounds better than those in Hallstatt and somehow even more romantic.