In the past years Hallstatt became the most popular day-trip destination from Salzburg. I want to mention right away that the lake district consists of many similar, beautiful places and that Hallstatt became crowded by the hype in recent years.
There are 750 people living in Hallstatt while an estimate of 900.000 people visit Hallstatt every year. In winter it is empty so in summer there could be 5000-10.000 people on an average day and Hallstatt old town is only one street.
If you are not up for the crowd have a look at alternative day trip destinations from Salzburg. I am not trying to keep you from going. If Hallstatt is on your list, do what you have to do! I only want you to know what to expect from your visit.
If it has to be Hallstatt, you will have a great experience nevertheless. Let me tell you how to get there and how to make the most out of your visit to Hallstatt.
How to go to Hallstatt by bus and train? The most common way
Take Bus 150 from the central train station. You could also get the 150 Bus from Mirabell square but in the busy season the bus often fills up at the train station and you would have to stand for 1,5 hours. You get the ticket for the round trip, including the train, from the bus driver.
In Bad Ischl you get off the bus at the train station, the final destination, and catch a train to Obertraun where the Hallstatt train station is located. It’s easy to find your way. The bus stops in front of the Bad Ischl station and you follow the crowd.
The train takes you to Hallstatt Bahnhof which is in Obertraun. From Obertraun you need to take a boat to the other side of the lake, to Hallstatt.
Sounds complicated but it’s very straight forward. It takes long but on the bus to Bad Ischl you cross the lake district. The lake district is fairytale land and you will enjoy the ride. The scenery you will be passing is beautiful all along.
The total cost is around €30,- for a return trip. Another option taking bus 542 and 543 exists but I never understood how that works and the bus and train connection always worked so I recommend that.
How to go to Hallstatt by Train? For Eurail pass Holders or Groups
If you are traveling with an Eurail pass, you go by train as you don’t have to pay. If you are a group of travelers the “Einfach Raus Ticket” group ticket is the cheapest way to go to Hallstatt.
That said I would always prefer the bus route if it’s not about saving money. On the bus you cross the whole lake district and the scenery alone is worth the ride.
With the “Einfach Raus Ticket” you can take all trains in Austria for 2 – 5 people for one day. The more people in your group the cheaper the transport gets. For 2 persons you pay €34,- and for 5 persons you pay €46,-. Meaning that if you are 5 people, you can go to Hallstatt for less than €10,- each instead of €30,- each.
Now what’s the downside? The downside is that these tickets during the week are only valid from 9am and only for the slow trains. This results in taking the train at 10:38 and arriving in Hallstatt at 13:24. You can stay in Hallstatt until 18:32 and return to Salzburg at 21:22. You will have enough time but you get back late.
If you want to take the train with an Einfach Raus Ticket and check the schedule visit the train companies website, change the language to English and in the search you change the filter options and tick the Einfach Raus checkbox to only get trains included in the ticket as a result.
As I said before, the bus route of the 150 bus is beautiful and the connection is convenient. So train would only be an option if you want to save money as a group or if you go free because of the Eurail pass. Otherwise always take the 150 bus and the train from Bad Ischl.
How to get to Hallstatt by rental car? The most convenient way
By far the best option for small groups would be a rental car. By car is not only faster, Hallstatt is only 80 kilometers away, but you can make a lot more out of your day trip. Hallstatt is on the other side of the lake district and the lake district is full of places almost as beautiful as Hallstatt. Furthermore, you can take a different route back to the city. Let me explain this to you.
Where to stop on the way to Hallstatt, if you travel by car?
Fuschlsee is the first lake you get to after a 20 kilometer drive. Fuschl am See, the town, is not a sightseeing place and stopping there is not a must. The lake would be nice for a 3 hour walk around but not, if you are on the way to Hallstatt. Before Fuschl, however, is the Red Bull Headquarter. Nothing to do there either but the Headquarter is worth noticing and you are flexible with a car so you might stop, take a picture and inspect.
Sankt Gilgen at the Wolfgangsee lake is your next stop. Park the car and take a 15-minute walk down to the lake. On the way is the Mozart house where Mozart’s grandfather and later also his sister lived. In Sankt Gilgen would be the harbour to cross the lake to Sankt Wolfgang by boat but you will go there by car. Sankt Wolfgang on the other side of the lake is only a short detour on your way to Hallstatt.
Sankt Wolfgang is a must, if you are around and flexible. Again park your car at the entrance of the village, at the big parking space on the right, and walk into town. My favourite thing about Sankt Wolfgang is the church but the village is also charming and worth exploring. In Sankt Wolfgang you find authentic Austrian souvenirs. The Schafbergbahn, the steepest steam train in the world, also starts in Sankt Wolfgang.
Bad Ischl is where the nobility, the artists and even the emporer of Austria-Hungary spent their summers. Bad Ischl is different from other places in the lake district because there is no lake. Bad Ischl has several museums like the emporers mansion for example. What I would recommend in Bad Ischl is going for a walk before getting lunch and then coffee and cake at the famous Coffee House “Konditorei Zauner”.
Where to park in Hallstatt
The next stop after Bad Ischl will be your final destination, Hallstatt. When you arrive in Hallstatt, signs will point you to the parking and displays show how many spots are left. The prices for parking are reasonable and the system is the same as everywhere else. When you enter you get a parking ticket and before you leave you have to pay at the machine by card or cash.
Gosautal on the way back to Salzburg
When going back to Salzburg by car I would recommend to take the alternative route through Gosau valley. Gosau valley is located south of the popular part of Salzkammergut that you crossed at the beginning of your journey. Gosau valley is secluded and surrounded by wild nature. Gosau is famous for hiking, for skiing and mountain related sports but its nature and authenticity remains unaffected from the visitors.
If it is not yet too late in the day you can stop along the drive to take in some magnificent nature. You can take a detour to Gosausee lake, stop in Abtenau or visit the fortress in Golling and even Bluntautal valley or stop in Hallein and take a stroll through its unique old town. Otherwise enjoy the beautiful views on the way back. Your journey was already long if you visited all the places I recommended.
Staying in Hallstatt over Night
If you are willing to pay, it is worth staying. If you stay in Hallstatt overnight in summer when the sunrises at 5am and sets at 10pm you will have a unique experience. Maybe you know from my photography articles that I am a fan of getting up early. Get up at 4am to explore Hallstatt. The place will be yours. The empty streets of Hallstatt in high season. The sunset when all the daytime visitors are already gone and the sunrise when no one arrived yet. Go for it!
If Hallstatt is on your bucket list, go for it! By Bus and Train is the most common way to go to Hallstatt. The Train only option is for Eurail pass holders or if you want to save money with the Einfach Raus group ticket. The most convenient way is a car because it gives you the flexibility to visit places on the way and take an alternative route back to Salzburg.