The little town of Hallstatt in Upper Austria, located in a region called “Salzkammergut” is a real tourist magnet. Interestingly enough especially for the Chinese. In fact they love it so much that they decided to just copy it.
Granted, I do understand why tourists think that Hallstatt is simply beautiful. The little village with about 744 inhabitants spreads around a lake called Hallstätter See. The village’s history began around 4.000 years ago when the first settlers arrived. They were attracted by the rich salt mines in the area. Close to Hallstatt, in Hallein, you can visit the oldest salt mine in the world (Salt Mine Hallein) for example. The salt mines provided jobs for a lot of people and gave them a regular income. The miners built their houses around the lake. So now the salt mines are no longer operating, but Hallstatt is still prospering. Today it’s the tourists who bring the money, people also work in the towns around Hallstatt.
1991 UNESCO declared Hallstatt being a World Heritage Site; which I totally understand. The serene landscape, the idyllic mountains surrounding the village, the century old houses and the tranquil lake combined with little shops and cafés are so romantic! You’ll wish to be there with somebody you really love.
Why it’s especially Chinese tourists you meet there I can’t tell for sure. Maybe I’ve been there only when Chinese people were on holidays or something like that, but honestly: Every time I went to Hallstatt, it was crowded with Chineses. I don’t mind that, it just makes me wonder why. They love the little village so much, they decided to get their own Hallstatt in China. 2011 a company started construction work in Guangdong, a year later the Chinese version of Hallstatt opened as a living area for the rich. Construction cost 900 millions USD and the original’s major wasn’t even informed until building in China was almost done. The Chinese version is true to scale but mirrored. But nothing compares to the original; visits from Chinese tourists doubled after the Guangdong-Hallstatt’s construction was completed.
Things to do
So if you come there as a tourist, what’s there to do? First of all, take a stroll through the village and admire the little houses, of which some are a few hundred years old. If you want to know more about the history of Hallstatt, you can also take a guided tour. The cool thing is that you can do that whenever you want in on your own. Because you can either lend an iPod with the audio files at the tourism office (for a fee of 5 Euros and a deposit of 50 Euros) or you download them to your phone via the website of Hallstatt for free.
Also make sure to take one of those legendary pictures of Hallstatt. You can reach one of Europe’s most famous photospots by walking a few meters from the market place down to the lake.
If you have time, make sure to visit the World Heritage Museum which is located directly in the center of Hallstatt. You can learn everything about the village and it’s surroundings here, the technical background of salt mining and the life back in the day. The museum is open the whole year around, from January to March and from December to January it is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The entrance fee is 10 Euros for adults and 8 Euros for kids.
Creepy, but loved by tourists, is the old “Beinhaus” which translates to boneyard. You can find here 1.200 skulls, sorted by families and partly painted, dating back to the 12th century. Make sure to also glimpse into the catholic church next to it.
A lot of “Wow!”-moments grants the 60 minutes walk called “Panoramaweg” which lets you see the UNESCO World Heritage Site from above. It starts right behind the graveyard of the catholic church; it is a nice little walk, also for those who are not real hikers but more of the strolling kind of people.
I recommend visiting Hallstatt either during the spring time, in summer or when it’s covered in snow.