Hallstatt is a fairy-tale-like town sprinkled with pastel-colored houses and winding cobblestone streets surrounded by the striking Northern Limestone Alps. The natural beauty and picturesque and enchanting views attract visitors to the tiny town year after year. Situated as it is in central Austria, Hallstatt makes a great base for exploring the area. It’s conveniently located near the popular tourist destination of Salzburg, and it is within driving distance of major European cities like Munich and Vienna.
The quaint village was the inspiration for Arendelle in the Disney film – Frozen, situated on Lake Hallstatt’s western shore in the mountainous region of Salzkammergut, is home to fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, an ancient salt mine, and unparalleled views of the Austrian Alps. Also known as “the Pearl of Austria”, Hallstatt is truly spectacular, due to its “guardian of the Hallstättersee lake” status and the beautiful mountains surrounding it.
Winter brings stunning views of snow-capped mountains, while fall offers changing colors and crisp yet comfortable temperatures. In the spring, the town comes to life and the region’s local flora is in full bloom, and summer offers warm temperatures ideal for swimming and boating.
The region of Salzkammergut has been around since prehistoric times, and the area’s salt mines were in use as early as the second millennium B.C. Salzkammergut, which includes Hallstatt, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. According to UNESCO, the salt mine “formed the basis of the area’s prosperity up to the middle of the 20th century, a prosperity that is reflected in the fine architecture of the town of Hallstatt.”
The market square also known as Hallstatt Markt Plat of the UNESCO World Heritage town is definitely one of the nicest places in Hallstatt. Each year guests, from around the world, meet at the historic square, surrounded by picturesque little houses. In the center of the square stands the mighty Holy Trinity statue, which after 6 years after erection experienced one of the Hallstatt’s greatest disasters. In 1750, four people died in a devastating events in Hallstatt history when a fire started from the “Keferbäcks” house and caused 35 houses in town center went up in flames.
Each year, the market square is a venue for many events. In Spring the square is a station of traditional Hallstatt Corpus Christi procession, which in good weather is then continued on the lake. In summer there are many concerts from the Saline band, cultural evenings, and the large Hallstatt children’s party at the end of July. It becomes particularly romantic during Advent: the Hallstatt Christmas Market, on the 8th December, enchants both young and old visitors from around the world, with its pre-Christmas festive ambiance.
Fun things to explore in Hallstatt includes a visit to the Beinhaus or Bone house at the yard of St. Michael’s Chapel. Due to Hallstatt is only a small village, there was not enough burial space. The church decided to make more space by removing the old graves and putting the skulls at the new place, the Beinhaus. Starting from 1720’s to 1995, the Beinhaus contains the skulls of 1200 former residents of Hallstatt. The skull was decorated with floral decoration and also included the person’s name, dates of birth and death. It might not have similar feeling or history like the Catacombes de Paris, but you shouldn’t skip this place because the location of the Beinhaus and the grave view is quite staggering as it facing the beautiful lake.
Hallstatt is full of pastel-colored houses and picturesque streets ideal for getting lost in. You can wander through the small village for hours on end, taking in the sounds and smells of the shops and bakeries and watching life unfold in this tiny Austrian village. You also can watch some of the town’s most beloved residents are the swans who have made their home in and around Lake Hallstatt while enjoying a cup of coffee at one of the cafe in Hallstatt. The celebrated birds were imported in the late 19th century by Empress Elisabeth of Austria and her husband, Emperor Franz Josef I, who once owned a summer resort in Hallstatt.
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