Hallstatt is a 1000x adorable town that has become insanely popular with tourists for being so. The village climbs right out of crystal-clear Lake Hallstatt, cozied up to the mountain it sits beneath. Wooden boat houses line docks over the water. A lakefront promenade has lovely views of the quaint old village, and snow-capped mountains overhead. Swans will likely swim up to say hello and ask for a snack as you stroll along. While Hallstatt may be the reason you visit the Salzkammergut region in Austria, Hallstatt itself is the size of a postage stamp. You’re going to need a few nearby activities to round out your trip. I have you covered. Read on for three activities that everyone in the family enjoyed near Hallstatt, Austria.
But first, a few things to be aware of in planning your trip and setting your expectations. The more we travel, the more I realize the importance of being a mindful tourist. Hallstatt is the definition of overtourism. Before I came home and looked up some statistics, I could tell. Its population of under 1000 citizens, hosts up to 10,000 visitors per day during peak season. There is no way a town of that size can sustain so many day-trippers and remain unaffected.
There’s only one road in and out of Hallstatt, try not to show up with everyone else at noon in July, get stuck in traffic, and battle for unobstructed photos. I’ve observed that no matter where we travel, if we arrive anywhere before 10am, we beat the masses. The only exception being the Vatican at 0930, and even still, it got much worse. Anyway. We were in Hallstatt in mid-January and had no problem parking in the early afternoon on a Saturday and walking around without much of a crowd.
Lucky for you if you’re there in the off-season, it’s the Alps, and the off-season is a winter paradise. So, when you are in search of other activities to round out your trip, here are three things we enjoyed on our weekend in the Salzkammergut.
Take a hike on the Character and Legend Trail in Bad Goisern
This was such a great hike. Perfect for the kids, thrilling for adults. An easy trail, that begins in the forest, and ends beneath a towering wall of granite (or whatever rock makes up the Alps, I didn’t fact check but you can if this is important to you) with breathtaking valley views. You will love it for the incredible scenery. The kids will love the whimsical sculptures dotting the trail (beware a ferocious dragon in the cave!). If epic views, and public art aren’t enough to entertain you, legends written in German, and English are posted throughout. The trail is flat, and easy to walk. You’ll go through two tunnels blasted in the rocks on the side of the mountain along the way. It is not far, or as far as you want to make it, as other trails connect to continue. We did a round-trip in one exact hour with our 6, 4 and 1 year-old.
How to get there: Park at Rathlucken Hütte (simply put that in to Google maps), located on the mountain above Bad Goisern. You will see the trailhead into the forest. It is well marked.
What to bring: Normal walking shoes are fine, and your camera! Snacks, and water if you never leave home without them, but if the Rathlucken Hutte is open, stop there for a bite and a drink after your hike. It was closed for a short winter break when we were there, so check its hours, but the food looks delicious on their Google reviews and a mountain hut has never, ever let us down.
Play in the snow at Dachstein ski area.
There’s so much to do beyond skiing at the Dachstein ski area! Caves, snowshoeing, hiking, climbing, majestic views, and I hear there’s even a petting zoo in the summer months! If you aren’t into any of that, there are multiple dining options. Before you go, be sure to check their website for details on your excursion of choice. Have fun choosing your own adventure!
Our visit here was spontaneous, so we kept it simple and had a great time. We played in the deep snow to the side of the trails, at the third gondola station. The wind was blocked on the backside of the mountain, and the winter sun warm on our shoulders. We popped into the restaurant at the middle gondola stop for a few snacks, beers, and hot chocolate. Looking out the windows felt like we were floating above the clouds. After lunch we went on a short hike up to the Welterbespirale viewing platform. The panoramic of the mountains, lakes and valley below was incredible. But also really cold, and windy! There were a few other points of interest (Five Fingers lookout, and the Dachstein Shark) we could have walked to from there, but we opted to sled down on our snowpants to quickly get out of the wind.
How to get there: Dachstein Krippenstein is where you’ll park, and take the gondola. It is located about 11 minutes from Hallstatt, around the south side of the lake. Take the Dachsteinbahn up the mountain.
What to bring: This will be season, and activity dependent. We had packed our snow pants, hats, mittens, and all that, so we could spontaneously throw on our gear in the parking lot and head up the mountain. I noticed a family with a pull-sled for their toddler, which I thought was a good idea. We used our hiking baby carrier. The caves are cool year-round. Don’t forget your sense of adventure. And a camera.
Go for a swim at EurothermenResort Bad Ischl
If the idea of a thermal spa sounds like an intimidating place to bring children, let me assure you that the EurothermenResort in Bad Ischl is for everyone. We were not the only parents there with multiple kids, and an infant. We had the best time with our three children, ages 6, 4 and 1 year. The resort celebrates the region’s salt mines with five saltwater thermal pools for playing, relaxing, and charging your health. They are heated to a delightful 34 degrees Celcius (that’s about 93F). The pool deck is warmly, and gently lit with salt rock light panels. It is a place that invites both play, and relaxation.
Indoors there are three pools. A large pool, lined on one side with underwater lounge chairs, and two massage fountains. A big jacuzzi for bubbles. Plus, a toddler pool for children under age 4 with itty bitty slides, and water no more than a foot deep. Outdoors there are two pools. A big circular pool and everyone’s favorite, the lazy river! The river goes through a cavern lined with smooth salt rock tiles, and under a wooden hut, with side pools to pull over, and relax.
The outdoor pools are entered from the warm pool deck inside. Then you slip under the covered doorway into fresh alpine air, with snow-covered mountains overhead. The warm water immersion, mixed with fresh, cold air entering your lungs is delicious. Swimming outdoors on a near-freezing January day was a special treat.
You can purchase a ticket in advance on their website, or at reception. You could even stay at the on-site hotel if you want. We opted for a four-hour entry. There’s a restaurant adjacent to the pool area. Swimsuits are welcome, robes and footwear are requested to be worn. The food was very good.
How to get there: By car, park in the lot and bring your ticket in with you to have validated/paid with your pool fee. If you’re getting around by public transit, the Bad Ischl bahnhof is across the street. Simply walk over.
What to bring: Your swim essentials, sandals for the pool deck, and a robe for inside the restaurant. Towels are available to rent, if needed, but at $7/towel, we felt it a better deal to use our own. Infant floating rafts are available on the pool deck for you to use, but bring your own floatation devices for your older non-swimmers.
If it had been summer, we would have loved to swim in the crystal water at the park at the far-south end of Hallstatt (search “spielplatz” on Google maps). It had a diving board over the lake, and a slide going right into the inviting water. On the other hand, in summer we would be contending with 10,000 other visitors for space. I’m glad we went in mid-January. We did, of course, play at the playground located there.
I hope this helps you plan your trip to the Hallstatt area in Austria! Pass it along to your favorite travel partners. Find more photos and insight on instagram @exploremore.co
See ya out there.