There’s a reason Hallstatt, Austria, is one of the most visited places on Earth. A population of around 800 residents play host, often begrudgingly, to over 3 million visitors a year. From the photos, it’s easy to see why. Picturesque barely does it justice. Towering Alpine hills descend into the blue lake waters, with an adorable Austrian village nestled in between.
Is dealing with the crowds, limited parking, and traffic, really worth it? On a recent road trip with a friend, I decided to find out.
The first thing you should know is that while visiting the town isn’t technically limited, the number of tour buses and parking spaces are. So if you’re driving get there early or go on an off day/season. If you’re taking a bus, reserve your spot well in advance.
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It’s not surprising Hallstatt is popular, I mean, look at it! Absolutely stunning. What you might be curious about is why it’s so popular. Part of that is Instagram and TikTok, of course, but also because of the town’s visual similarity to the city in Frozen. Also, it was featured in a South Korean TV show. The latter was so popular in East Asia, China built a replica.
Getting there is fairly easy, following the curving 145 first along the Traunsee and then the Hallstätter See. Coming from the north, you’ll come across the first of the parking lots. It’s only a 10 minute walk to the center of town from here, and you’ll pass the most famous picture spot, so if it’s available I recommend it. During our visit it was full, so we continued on. Luckily, the line for the Parkplatz P2, near the center of town, wasn’t long. After about 10 minutes, we got a space.
There are more parking lots south of town. If you’re staying in town, there’s a lot with a shuttle bus. There are also signs that show the number of spaces available in each parking lot.
Regardless, you’re going to need to dodge huge tourist buses, which disgorge hundreds of people at a time, all day long. Fortunately, the village is putting a limit on these.
The first reveal of the village center couldn’t have been better had it been planned by Disney. Walking along the water on Seestraße (literally “Lake street”) and the buildings slowly start to grow, only to come around the corner to the main square. The iconic church is at one end, while beautiful Bavarian buildings ring a cobblestone marktplatz (“marketplace”).
You can explore the shops here, as well as climb the stairs for an overview from the other church. There are restaurants all over. My friend and I ate at Heritage Cafe & Bar Hallstatt, just beyond the village center. It was quite good, and had a great view of the lake.
The famous photo spot is a little farther up the lake, on the way to that first parking lot. People live in the houses here, and there are signs everywhere reminding you of it. During my visit everyone was quiet and respectful, taking lots of photos of the town as the sun dipped behind the mountains.
There’s another, less common, photo spot in the opposite direction. A small island out in the lake offers a great view back at the town, with the mountain as a backdrop.
Is it worth it?
Yes, with a bit of a caveat. I’d be wary of visiting in August, or on the weekends in the summer. It can be wall-to-wall people. It’s also very small, so a “day trip” here is pretty excessive. Once you wander around and get lots of photos, there’s not much else to do.
It’s also worth considering that there are lots of gorgeous towns in the Austrian Alps, many of them beside glacial lakes. If you’re not specifically looking to get that Hallstatt photo, you can get a similar experience in a less crowded, and likely cheaper, village nearby. My friend and I stayed in Grundlsee, which overlooks a lake that shares its name, and the view was incredible.
For more info about Hallstatt, check out the town’s website, which also has more details about parking.