You’ve undoubtedly seen the stunning, fairytale photos of Hallstatt, Austria. Each winter I have this obsessive Christmas nostalgia that draws me to European fairytale towns and Christmas markets. Hallstatt was at the top of my list for beauty and quaintness. But my first questions was: is it worth visiting Hallstatt in winter? And secondly, is it worth an overnight stay in Hallstatt? After reading multiple travel blogs and travel forums, for me, it was a definitive yes. I was going to stay overnight in Hallstatt in the winter.
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A Winter Wonderland: Hallstatt Winter Pictures
If you’re even remotely taken by the Disney movie, Frozen (I’m a Disney nerd to the core), you will fall in love with Hallstatt. It is every bit the picture perfect village you see in the pictures. I’m getting giddy just thinking about it. I personally think Hallstatt is even more photogenic and beautiful in the winter. The pure white snow is stunningly draped over the old wooden houses and the mountains surrounding the glassy lake, icicles hang from the roofs, and the Christmas lights twinkle. It is simply magic. We went at the end of January, 2017 and although it was cold, it was nothing short of extraordinary.
Overnight or Day Trip?
This is an easy one. If you have the time, there is no question you should stay overnight. Sunset and sunrise is an opportunity for unique photos, walking around at night with the lights twinkling and the empty streets gives the feeling that you have Hallstatt all to yourself. And the view of the town and lake at dusk is unlike anything else. If you don’t have the time for an overnight trip, a day trip is better than nothing. But I can’t emphasize enough how much I loved going to bed and waking up here, especially at our hotel on the water.
Are Restaurants and Businesses Closed?
Some are, but we never felt like it was a ghost town or the zombie apocalypse. There were plenty of shops open, lots of little restaurants in the morning and a handful for dinner. And during the day, there are still some tourists wandering around, minus the sardine effect. We enjoyed dinner at a cute little romantic restaurant called Braugasthof am Hallstattersee.
Where to Stay in Hallstatt
This is an easy one too. The reviews say it all. Seehotel Grüner Baum is just that. The bomb. This is the best hotel in Hallstatt, and this post is totally not sponsored by them. I always tirelessly research the best hotels in a destination and choose one of the absolute best. Seehotel Grüner Baum is located in the best spot in town, right in the center of everything (in the historical square), on the water with the best views. The hotel has been graced with the presence of many historical figures as well as provided the set for several films. First documented in 1700, the hotel has a long history. The traditional interior is quirky and elegant and the rooms are luxurious. They have a stunning restaurant with lake views as well. CLICK HERE FOR BOOKING AT SEEHOTEL GRUNER BAUM.
Austrian Steam Rooms in Winter
Little did I realize what a big sauna culture Germany and Austria have prior to this trip. The steam rooms and saunas were the best surprise and treat, especially in the middle of a snowy January. I didn’t even think to look for a hotel that had them, but by chance I chose one in Hallstatt and in Munich. Jackpot! I brought really poorly insulated winter boots with me so my feet and toes were constantly freezing and going numb. Being able to hurry back to the steam room and warm myself up was seriously the best thing. The steam rooms in Seehotel Grüner Baum are amazing. There are showers and a relaxation area as well.
Things to do in Hallstatt in Winter
Unfortunately you do miss out on some things in Hallstatt by going in the winter, but I promise it’s still worth it and there is no shortage of things to do in Hallstatt in the winter. You won’t be able to rent a boat to cruise the lake or visit the Dachstein Ice Caves. But you do have access to the World Heritage Museum of Hallstatt, the 12th century Catholic church, the Bone House, and the Altaussee Salt Mine, which is the oldest salt mine in the world. This salt mine is about 20 minutes away from Hallstatt and is a different salt mine than the one actually in Hallstatt, which is closed during the winter. There are so many magical winter activities in Hallstatt that don’t require going far including skiing for both beginners and pros, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horse drawn carriage rides, and even dogsledding! And again, spas. For more details about winter hikes and activities, click HERE.
Getting to Hallstatt
Driving to Hallstatt
I really recommend driving to Hallstatt. It was a beautiful and rather easy drive, and much quicker than alternate methods. We rented a car from the Munich airport, drove to the Neuschwanstein Castle and stayed in Hohenschwangau for a night, then continued on to Hallstatt, then Salzburg, and back to Munich. Even though there was lots of snow, the roads were well maintained and clear of any snow. And once you get off the main roads, there was barely any traffic. When you drive to Hallstatt, you come through a tunnel and keep going until you just drive past the town on your left. You will see parking areas with signs. Park in the P1 carpark, pay at the kiosk, and take the shuttle into town which stops at the hotels. You can’t drive into the town. It costs about 12 Euros per day for parking, but the shuttle is very handy for luggage upon arrival and departure. Read this for more information on parking in Hallstatt.
Train to Hallstatt
Another option is taking the train, which arrives on the opposite side of the lake, and then the ferry boat across the lake, which is still in operation during the winter.
Bus to Hallstatt
There is a direct bus that runs from Salzburg to Hallstatt as well and goes straight into town, which makes it a little quicker than pairing train and ferry.
What to Pack for Winter in Hallstatt
Warmth is your primary goal. Trying to look cute is totally secondary. I’m emphasizing this because I may have gotten them backwards on my trip. I’m guilty of underestimating how cold it is to walk around in below freezing conditions for hours on end, especially with a windchill. It was so crisp and clear in January, many days I couldn’t feel my feet so we’d stop in a shop to get indoors and I’d literally have to take my shoes off and rub my feet to get feeling back to them. Don’t be miserable like me. Pack smart.
Whether you wear these under your pants or just by themselves with a sweater or dress, fleece-lined leggings are seriously a life saver. If I’d attempted to wear jeans with nothing underneath them, I might not be alive right now.
They take up almost no room in your bag and they will make a world of difference. Ears are so sensitive to the cold.
Everyone knows it’s warm. Especially when you pair it with those fleece-lined leggings.
This may seem obvious but the boots I thought would be warm left me almost losing toes. Warm socks don’t cut it when your shoes aren’t insulated. I ended up buying some boots towards the end of our trip that were so wonderfully warm and lined with wool, I was pissed I hadn’t bought them at the beginning. The brand is called Bär. They were more than I normally spend on shoes/boots, but I kid you not when I say I wear them almost every day at work during the appropriate season because they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned. They’ve held up perfectly and still look brand-new. I’m on my feet all day and I’ve tried a lot of shoes. I wish everyone had a pair of these. Next time I go to Europe, I’m finding a store and buying more.
My other favorite shoe brand on the planet is called Pikolinos. I’ve had two pairs of their flats and sandals, and they too are some of the most comfortable shoes I’v ever worn.
So in Conclusion…
If your question is whether or not you should visit Hallstatt in winter, the answer is a resounding YES! Hallstatt, Austria winters are pure magic.
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