Hallstatt - Eat, Hike and Relax
Learn what to eat in Hallstatt, the most popular village in Austria
Today I want to talk to you about one of the most famous places in Europe. Even if you haven't heard about this super popular village in Austria called Hallstatt, chances are that you've seen pictures of it. Why? Because it is so loved by influencers, Instagram users, and tourists all over the world that it's actually impossible not to have stumbled upon one of the emblematic images with the lake and church. As a matter of fact, even when you get off the train in Vienna, you are greeted with a wall dedicated to Hallstatt.
But is it worth spending a weekend or a couple of days there? Well, it all depends on what you like to do with your spare time. If you just want to fight for the perfect picture spot and move on, then no. It's super crowded, kind of expensive, there are not too many eating venues, and you most probably will end up hating the experience. However, suppose you are actually interested in things to do in Hallstatt and understand its history, surroundings, and gastronomy, then yes. In that case, this lovely Austrian village is something to see once in a lifetime.
This being said, let me give you some Hallstatt tips that most probably will come in handy if you plan a holiday in the region. But before that, I want you to keep in mind that the town has less than 800 residents, but it's visited daily by more or less 10k people. So if you don't get a smile from the waiter or souvenir seller, don't judge. They are probably so tired that they don't even have energy for anything other than mechanical work.
So, first thing's first - how to get to Hallstatt? You can take the train (a trip from Vienna to Hallstatt is around 3 hours), bus or of course, by personal car. Yet, there are a couple of things that you should know before choosing your means of transportation:
- The train station is crazy small, and it's on the other side of the lake. This means that you will need to take a boat which costs around 3.5 euros/person.
- You are not allowed to get in within the city with a personal car, and the parking space is limited, especially if you don't book accommodation.
And this brings me to the next point - staying in Hallstatt, Austria. Since it's such a small village, there are not many options. Simply put, the number of Hallstatt hotels and pensions is limited, and you should not go there and hope to find an available room. Especially during the weekend. Thus, I strongly advise you to book in advance and choose a location that also serves breakfast as not many other choices are available. There is a bakery near the bus stop, some food trucks that are always crowded, a supermarket, and one or two coffee shops that we always found to be closed.
Now about the other meals of the day, I can tell you that Trip Advisor lists 7 restaurants in town, but not everything was opened to the general public during our stay. Even so, we managed to almost try them all and were able to get an idea.
So, what are the best restaurants in Hallstatt? Truth be told, I can only name one that really blew our mind, and that's part of the Seehotel Grüner Baum complex. Also known as Restaurant am See Hallstatt due to its location right on the lake's pontoon, this venue serves incredible food, local wine, and fabulous desserts.
Thanks to its lovely services and great food quality, we actually had dinner two times here.
We've tried their steak, some truffle spaetzle, trout, two types of soups, their apple strudel, and Esterházy torte. You know what? Everything was cooked to perfection.
So, yeah, this is the best place in town. However, you won't be able to find a table without a reservation, and you should not expect the food to be cheap.
The second restaurant I want to talk about is Gasthof Zauner. We tried it on our first evening in Hallstatt, and we were very thankful to find a table anywhere. I know that we should have researched the area better. But we didn't expect to find so few places to eat in such a popular destination. Anyway, about Gasthof Zauner, I can say for a fact that the service was fast and professional.
Their schnitzel was really tasty, the venison roulade a really nice surprise, and the hazelnut schnapps just perfect. Plus, they served us the most delicious salad dressing I've ever tasted.
Yet, there was something that bothered me very much. I simply can't understand why one would serve smoked salmon on a fish platter in Hallstatt when the region is abundant in local fish. But that's just me, and most probably, if I wouldn't have ordered that course, I would have been perfectly satisfied with the food.
Moving on, I need to tell you that just outside the port, there is a restaurant called Heritage. Is it worth it? Well, I have no idea. We tried to eat there several times. At first, they told us that we needed a reservation and the next day when we called to make one, they told us that they accept dinner bookings only for up until 6PM. Mindblowing. I mean who eats dinner at 5? Anyway, the terrace looks nice. Maybe you'll have better luck than us and will manage to try their food. If so, let us know what's the deal with the place.
Another restaurant that looked appealing but didn't get to try is called Rudolfsturm. The reason for that is very easy to understand. Restaurant Rudolfsturm is not very easily accessible. It's actually situated above Hallstatt, at approx 9km away. So, you can either drive, hike, or take the funicular train to reach it. And since the last train back to town departs at 6 PM, and since we didn't have a car, hiking on a full stomach after dinner was not an option. Therefore, we couldn't see if the food was as good as the view.
However, we did take the funicular to get to the salt mine, which I totally recommend. It's the oldest salt mine in the world, that goes all the way back to the Bronze Era. So it's a great opportunity to learn a few historical notions but also have a great time. Visiting the mine will include dressing up in a special suit, two slides, and a mine train ride.
But let's get back to food. During our three-day stay, we had just one Hallstatt lunch, and it was at BRAUGASTHOF am Hallstattersee.
The order came really fast, the food was good and the terrace lovely.
We actually tried to book another table for dinner there, but they don't accept reservations, and there was always a queue.
Now, the reason why we only had one lunch in Hallstatt is because during the day we were out hiking, trying to stay as far away as possible from the crowded streets.
If you are not much of a hiker but still want to see some breathtaking sceneries, I suggest you take a day trip to Dachstein Salzkammergut. There's a cable car that will take you to some wonderful caves.
After reaching the caves point, there is another cable car that will take you even higher up to a panorama point called Five Fingers. Almost anyone can take this tour and enjoy the view. And, yes, it's worth it. From Five Fingers, Hallstatt looks like a small dot near the lake.
Anyway, you can enjoy lunch with a view from there. There are two restaurants to choose from right where the cable car leaves you. We simply chose the one that had an available table. We ate some classic dishes such as käsespätzle and apple strudel. Simple but tasty and at normal Austrian prices.
So, yes, going for a walk and sightseeing at Dachstein Salzkammergut is worth it. Yet, it costs around 40 euros/person to get up. If you want to keep it low budget, you can always hike in the woods around Hallstatt. The Echern Valley is just behind the town, and you can enjoy for free the wonderful scenery that includes the Waldbachstrub Waterfall and the Gletschergartenweg (Glacier Garden).
It's not a hard mountain trail, but it's not a walk in the park either. Make sure you have proper shoes and some physical condition.
And, if hiking is simply not your thing, you can always take the train, bus or car and go to Bad Ischl and enjoy a relaxing day at their thermal baths.
Finally, you should know that getting after-dinner drinks is not very doable in Hallstatt. Everything closes very early. We only had one night's cap at Marktbeisl Zur Ruth, where we also ordered one pizza just so we could stay longer.
Was the pizza good? Let's just say that I had worse, and if you are hungry, it does its job. Also, since I had just one slice, it was a good snack to have along with a pint of beer.
This being said, let me answer one final question - what to eat in Hallstatt?
As you can see, there are not many restaurants to choose from, but that doesn't make this beautiful town not worth the while for food lovers. Just like in any part of Austria, the traditional menu should include a schnitzel, goulash, strudels, käsespätzle, and cakes. Furthermore, since you are right in the middle of nature, you should not leave without trying out some fish and game.
Before wrapping things up, I want to give you a few more tips.
- Hallstatt is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the reasons for that is represented by its beautiful 16th-century Alpine houses and alleyways. However, don't forget that many of these buildings are actually private homes. So don't go around scooping into people's personal space just so you can take a photo.
- You may need cash to pay at some venues as they don't accept credit cards everywhere.
- Hallstatt is the most beautiful after 9PM when all the day tourists have left, and you can actually see the streets and enjoy the silence.
- Don't go around mountain trails without the proper equipment.
- If you are looking for souvenirs, visit Schnaps & Holz. It's a crafting shop where you can find delicious natural schnapps, toys, soaps, and more. The owner is a very nice man, and the quality of the products is just right.
- Don't forget to buy some salt for your home-cooking.
Let me know if you are planning a visit to Hallstatt and still have questions. I would gladly help you with any information I might have.