One Day in Hallstatt in Winter: The Ultimate Photo Travel Guide

Although the tourist season in Hallstatt is from April to October, there’s no wrong time to visit.

I’ve been to Hallstatt dozens of times, and most online content focuses on the high peak tourist seasons. You usually see images of houses with flowers, sun, and green grass, but in reality, Hallstatt has over 200 rainy or snowy days.

That lush green grass is so green because of all the water from snow and rain. We visited Hallstatt during Christmas when there was heavy snow, and the flowers on the windows were replaced by Christmas decorations.

I don’t want to sound cliché, but that place is indeed a fairy tale, even when there is bad weather. After all, the photos will speak for themselves.

I took over 20 pictures to show you what it’s like in Hallstatt in winter and how you could potentially spend your day here during Christmas time, whether you’re coming on a day trip from Salzburg or Vienna.

We arrived late in the evening, and the first thing we saw when we got off the car is the scene from the photos.

A colorful village, houses with Christmas decorations, a lake, and the Alps. It’s gloomy and cold, and the air is sharp and fresh.

I grab my phone to capture this because I think no one will believe that something like this actually exists.

We went to a hotel so we could get up early in the morning and make the most of the day, starting with an early morning walk through the village.

Walk Through the Village

The place is so small that it can be walked across in about ten minutes. Just a thousand residents.

We walk through Hallstatt, we’re not alone even though it’s winter. Houses are lined up one after another and above each other. Wooden roofs and lots of snow.

In these below, along the road, one after another, there are decorated shops with the most varied and quite expensive souvenirs.

But nothing tacky, everything looks fine. Somewhere in the middle of Hallstatt (after five minutes of walking), we sit in a lakeside restaurant for coffee and rest.

Swans swim along the shore. A boat or kayak passes by now and then. We continue on, coming to the center and the Christmas market, but we don’t stay long.

It’s still morning and not all the stalls are open yet, and some have just snow on them instead of goods. A few steps from the restaurant, a signpost shows the place where boats are rented. 

Boat Ride on the Lake

In front of a private house on the shore, equally covered with snow, washed laundry flutters on a line. A strange boy with long, shaggy hair slowly recites the rules he has said so many times before, about operating the boat.

It’s as if his mom and dad just woke him up and forced him to sit in front of the house, too bored to be more bored. We choose a boat that looks like the one from ’63, when James Bond rides with his lady in Venice. One hour, 20 euros.

We start the ride. We’re thrilled to be speeding in second gear to the other side of the lake, because we spotted a small castle from a distance.

Right behind the next rock is another town – Obertraun, but we don’t stop and circle around, then park somewhere in the middle of the lake and look towards Hallstatt.

From the water, everything looks even more magical. The lake is so clean that the mountains, clouds, and houses reflect in it.

After that hour-long boat ride, we continue our tour and return to the main square – Marktplatz, to the Christmas market, where some stalls are still not open.

There, stands a church from 1505, built in the late Gothic style, while its tower dates back to 1320. The church’s exterior is simple in architecture and very beautiful; without it, the panorama wouldn’t be complete.

On a hill above the square, there is another, smaller church and the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen, as morbid as that sounds. 

The graves are small, full of flowers, the crosses with little wooden roofs look like houses, every centimeter of space is carefully tended to, and everything is neat and tidy, just like the whole village. In a small chapel, there is an underground cemetery, with an ossuary from the 16th century – Beinhaus, containing about 1200 skulls. 

The thing is: the cemetery, like Hallstatt itself, is so small that there simply wasn’t enough space to bury all residents, so family members had to exhume their dead after ten years to bury other members in the same place. 

The skulls were left outside for a week to whiten in the sun and moon, then names, flowers, and death dates were painted on them. This practice dates back to the 1720s, and the youngest skull is from 1995, belonging to a woman who died in 1983.

You can enter the ossuary for 3 euros, but after a few seconds, I panicked and had to leave. Anyway, more than that is not necessary.

Hallstatt is most famous for its salt exploitation, and its name comes from the Celtic word ‘hal’, meaning salt. According to some claims, this is the oldest inhabited place, supposedly even older than Rome.

World Heritage Skywalk

The only way to reach the village used to be by water or a steep, narrow path, and today, although this is no longer the case, motor vehicles are banned from May to October, at certain times of the day. And of course, because of its beauty, it is under UNESCO protection. The salt mine and lookout point can be reached by cable car for 30 euros. 

We weren’t quite ready for such a financial expense, and we wanted to get closer to Hallstatt’s incredible nature, so we decided to walk to the lookout point.

Keep in mind that the path is very steep and almost 900m long. The expected time was about 50 minutes, but it stretched to about an hour and a half for us, as we rested on every bench. 

And at the top, a beautiful view. It was worth it. 

In the restaurant ‘Rudolfsturm’, we order sausages with cabbage, mustard, and wonderful bread, and a beer each. The mine was closed, only open from April to October. We return on foot again, but by a different path. This trail is completely wild and almost unmarked. We come to a waterfall. Along the way, we do NOT come across a single piece of paper, plastic bottle, or bag.

We’re back in the village, wandering here and there. On the street, there’s a group of people celebrating a wedding. Apart from the bride in her wedding dress, all the men and young boys are wearing short lederhosen with suspenders, green knee-high socks, shoes, and hats, while all the women and girls wear long skirts, white shirts, and vests.

Everyone is nice, sipping wine, and singing from time to time. We stop for their traditional apple strudel. It’s excellent, definitely order it. By that time of day, it’s already crowded, and all the restaurants are full, so we wait a bit longer for service. On the streets, there are mainly Austrians, Germans, and Asians. Asians are so fascinated with this town that they even made a replica of it in Guangdong province in China.

We spent the last hour at Hallstatt’s Christmas market. On the terrace of one of the houses across the street, which I would have thought were more for decoration than for living in, sits an older gentleman, reading the newspaper, not minding the snow. 

He’s probably used to it. His hair is gray, combed to the side. Shirt and jacket, handkerchief in the pocket. Next to him, in the small yard of the house, sits an older couple. They are drinking wine. Next to us, an old lady passes by, wrapped in a sweater and holding a cane in her hand. She’s heading towards them. 

They sit and laugh. She has a beautiful smile. From the third house in the row, another neighbor joins them, and they all chat. Laughter again. The gentleman from the terrace comes out with his wife, carrying a guitar bag, and stops by the neighbors. Everyone greets each other.

Why is this scene so incredible to me? I want to move here. I’ve been thinking for a while about leaving the city. I want to live here, breathe the fresh mountain air, eat cheese, drink wine, and tend cows in the Alps.

The day in Hallstatt passed quickly. Going back home and back to black. Despite this, I felt better than before leaving, because this one day recharged my batteries. If you go to this area, you can make a nice tour with visits to Graz and Salzburg in winter.