After Salzburg, we decided that we would continue to explore the beauty of the Austrian Alps for a few more days. One city that we really wanted to see was Hallstatt. It is a beautiful small town located on a lake with mountains towering in the background. When we saw the amazing pictures of Hallstatt we knew we had to see it for ourselves. Originally we had tried to book an AirBnB in the Hallstatt area, but nothing was available (or it was way out of budget). After failing to find appropriate accommodation and considering the size of the town and the fact it was off-season, we decided to make just make Hallstatt a day trip on our way from Salzburg to Innsbruck.
We checked out of our AirBnB and went to Salzburg’s train station very early in the morning. From there we got on a train and rode to Attnang-Puchheim in the dark hours before sunrise. At Attnang-Puchheim we had 15 minutes to get on a different train that would take us to Hallstatt. This was just enough time to find the storage lockers in the train station to put our backpacks in for the day. We still brought a day bag for Hallstatt, but we did not want to be carrying around all of our luggage for the day. At just a couple euros for 24 hour storage, the lockers were well worth it.
Our train ride to Hallstatt was like something out of a fairy tale. The tracks cut through the snowy Alps dotted by small villages on the way. This journey took place just after sunrise, which made the scenery even more unbelievable. It took us about 90 minutes to arrive at the Hallstatt station. However, our journey was not over yet. The train station was located on the opposite side of the lake from the town. Luckily, there was an offseason ferry running that got us across the lake in less than ten minutes.
Once we finally arrived in the town, we began walking around to explore the village on foot. The walk-through was amazing and looked just like the pictures we had seen. It only took us about 15 minutes to walk the entire length of the town. It was at this point that we realized we may have made a mistake of arriving at Hallstatt too early. Due to it being early morning on a Sunday during the offseason, almost everything was closed. We eventually found a gift shop near the salt mine that was open where we spent some time, if only so we could warm up for a few minutes.
We left the gift shop and walked back through the town again, stopping to take once-in-a-lifetime pictures along the way. There was a long stretch of the road in direct sunlight which felt very nice to walk on. By now a cafe was open where we stopped in for some coffee. It was then about time for lunch, so we made our way to the hotel near the ferry dock. As far as we could tell it had the only open restaurant. There, we were surprisingly able to enjoy a tasty meal that consisted of risotto and parsnip soup.
After lunch we made our way over the the Hallstatt museum. I wasn’t expecting much from the museum, but it turned out to be very interesting and we spent a few hours there learning about Hallstatt’s rich history. It is one of Austria’s oldest towns and has historically relied on the salt-mining industry. I was very surprised to learn that Celtic people even settled in Hallstatt for some time. I was very happy this museum was open given the season. It gave us something to do for a couple of hours and was well worth the price of admission for all of the information your received.
After we were done with the museum, more cafes, shops, and restaurants were open. We went to a small cafe/restaurant that overlooked the water and had a small mid-afternoon meal. Eating with amazing views of the lake and mountains was unbelievable. We then found a small restaurant/grocery store that also had tables with unbelievable views. We stopped there for a couple hours where Abbey had some coffee and I enjoyed a beer. It was then about time for dinner. We decided to go back to the hotel restaurant because of their location and vegetarian options. We were able to see the ferry dock from the window of the restaurant, so as soon as we saw our ferry arrive we payed and went to go board it.
The ferry took us back across the lake as the sun was setting. By the time we arrived on the opposite shore it was almost dark. We waited for the train in the bitter cold which eventually arrived and took us back to Attnang-Puchheim. We had just enough time to pick up our bags from the storage lockers and make our connection that took us to Innsbruck. We didn’t arrive in Innsbruck until around 11pm. Luckily our host was okay with us having a late check in. Here we rented out a private room instead of an entire place because we would only be staying for two nights. By the time we checked in we were more than ready to crash for the night after the long day we had just had.
The next day we woke up and got our early to make the most of our only full day in Innsbruck. We made the twenty minute walk into Old Town and stopped for coffee along the way. Once in Old Town we went to a stand that sold us “Innsbruck Cards.” These allowed us to get into many of the attractions for free. I went ahead and used my card to get to go to the top of the city tower. From the top I had a great view of the unexpectedly beautiful Old Town with the snowy mountains in the background. Abbey didn’t feel like climbing the tower so she waited for me in a nearby cafe. I didn’t stay on top of the tower long because of how cold it was (we were there during the polar vortex).
After finding Abbey in a cafe we left to go find some lunch. We decided on Indian food because it was so easy to make vegan. We then made our way over to the “Nordkette” which was a lift that took you to the top of a nearby mountain. This is where we were getting the most value out of our Innsbruck cards as a roundtrip ride to the top was about the same price as a 24hour Innsbruck card.
The ride to the top took place in three different segments. The first part was a small train whose tracks led to a base station that towered over Old Town. We then had to switch to a cable car which took us further up the mountain, but still not to the very top. Finally, there was another cable car that took us to the summit of the mountain. Once at the top we tried to walk around and see what the view was like, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see anything but a blanket of white in front of you.
We stopped in at the restaurant at the top where we each enjoyed a drink. It was still very cloudy when we finished our drinks, so we took the cable car down to the next station. We stayed at the next station for a while, but the view there was also nothing but clouds. After a while we went ahead and descended to the final cable car station and then got back on the train that took us to Old Town. Even though the view from the top was non-existent, the ride up was very fun and I am glad we experienced the “Nordkette”.
By the time we arrived at the bottom it was almost time for dinner. We found an amazing pizzeria where we split a delicious pizza. After dinner it was dark out, and the cold was just unbearable. So we decided that the best course of action would be to just head back to our AirBnB for the night. We had already maxed out our budget that day anyway. The next morning we checked out and caught a train that drew an end to our time in the Austrian Alps.
Hallstatt was pretty much just a whim. I was scrolling through Instagram, saw that “typical” picture of the cathedral across the lake, and immediately wanted to go. Rarely are pictures on Instagram as good as they are in real life (except ours, ours are perfect), but when we arrived at the dock to board the ferry, I was astounded. It truly was as beautiful as all the pictures I had seen.
Wandering around Hallstatt was a nice, relaxing day. As small as the streets were, I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summertime – at the peak of tourist season
Innsbruck was alright. Again, the views were pretty, but it wasn’t quite as cozy as Hallstatt. While organizing our traipse through the Austrian Alps, we strongly considered skiing. I was excited to try skiing for the first time, especially in the Alps. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t fit it into the budget. Maybe some day I’ll learn.
We’ll be back in the Alps this summer to do some hiking and I’m really looking forward to seeing how different the mountains appear without snow and with more green.