ABOVE: Hallstatt on a foggy spring day.
Pretty villages in the
Salzkammergut may be a dime a dozen, but the Upper Austrian town of
Hallstatt isn't just any
village--it's a major Celtic archæological landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage
In a 1956 book titled Panorama of Austria, James Reynolds wrote:
Halstatt is set on piles in one of the Gosau lakes, the
Halstättersee. An intricate system of intersecting timber ramps, butresses
and ascending terraces like hanging gardens creates an air of mystery, the
eerie beauty of mirage, a village lost in the middle-mist of fable. The
mountain flanks rise sheer from the lake, leaving no room for a road.
Prehistoric remains found on this site have given the name
of the Hallstatt Culture to the Iron Age. Thousands of years before the birth
of Christ, the salt deposits in Hallstatt brought tribes across the mountains
to this improbably remote spot from points as far away as the Carpathian
Mountains in Romania. From that early time, until the close of the 19th
Century, the mines have been a bone of contention for "every helmeted dog
in Europe to snap at," as the 19th-century Count Rudolf of Habsburg is
supposed to have shouted to the Archbishop of Bern.
More recently, guidebook author and TV travel host
Steves wrote this description of Halstatt:
The minute it popped into view, I knew Hallstatt was my Alpine Oz. It’s just the right size (1,200 people), wonderfully remote, and almost traffic-free. A tiny ferry takes you from the nearest train station across the fjord-like lake and drops you off on the town’s storybook square.
Bullied onto its lakeside ledge by a selfish mountain, Hallstatt seems tinier than it is. Its pint-sized square is surrounded by ivy-covered guest houses and cobbled lanes. It’s a toy town. You can tour it on foot in about 10 minutes.
Things to see and do
The village itself may be Hallstatt's biggest attraction. Its
spectacular setting, at the foot of cliffs and facing the often mist-cloaked
Halstättersee, is right out of a picture postcard.
You'll also want to allow time to visit:
Museum Halstatt (formerly the Heimatmuseum), which covers 7,000 years of
history from the Stone Age through the present day.
Beinhaus or charnel house in the
graveyard of Halstatt's Catholic church. The ossuary contains bones, including
painted skulls, of the local dead whose graves were dug up after 10 or 15
years to make room for new clients until the custom died out (no pun
intended) in the late 20th Century.
Archaeological excavations in the basement of a local sports shop,
Dachstein Sport, which began when workers dug a hole for a new boiler room
in 1987. (The dig now covers 300 square meters, and admission is free.)
Salzwelten or "Salt Worlds." A funicular will whisk you up to an ancient
Salzwerk, or salt
mine, in a valley above the town. If you're energetic, you can hike up in an
hour or so, or you can take the funicular up to the mine and walk back down to
the village after the mine tour (available from May through September).
As long as you're in the neighborhood, visit nearby Obertraun
for a tour of the
Dachstein Ice Cave. Obertraun also has a beach, making it a good
place to stay if you're traveling with children.
For more attractions, see the links to Halstatt
||LEFT: A passenger
ferry shuttles passengers between Hallstatt and the small railroad
station across the lake.
How to reach Hallstatt
Trains stop at a small railway station on the
eastern side of the lake. (You can also get off at Obertraun if you're staying
there.) From the station, follow the path to the boat landing, where you'll find a waiting
that will transport you to the village for a small fee.
To plan a visit by rail, use the
of the Austrian Federal Railways.
You can also reach Halstatt by postal bus from Bad Ischl,
which is 12 km (7½ miles) . If you're driving, see the
This official (and bilingual) site is a comprehensive guide to "the most beautiful lakeside village in the
This independent tourism site has pages for hotels, hostels, campsites, restaurants,
attractions, package deals, and more.
Wikipedia's article has a handful of photos, plus links to related pages.
on the Greek Periphery?
Constanze Witt's doctoral dissertation discusses changes in Celtic art during
the Iron Age, "from late Halstatt to early La Tène."