The Salzkammergut, also known as Austria’s Lake District, is a region located in the northeastern part of the country, known for its picturesque lakes, mountains, and charming towns. It stretches over two Austrian federal states, Upper Austria, Styria, and Salzburg. As a local from Salzburg, I view the Salzkammergut as the region spanning approximately 100 kilometers between Hallstatt and Salzburg, although this is a broad definition.
I recommend the Salzkammergut as the best day trip destination from Salzburg (besides Berchtesgaden in Bavaria). The region’s natural beauty and various activities make it a perfect getaway for those looking to escape the city and experience authentic Austria.
In this article, I will give you an in-depth overview of the lakes, places, and activities in the Salzkammergut and then tell you how I would spend three days in the Salzkammergut if you are visiting for the first time.
The Meaning of Salzkammergut
Why is the area called Salzkammergut? The history of the Salzkammergut region is tied to the history of salt mining in the area. Salt has been mined in the Salzkammergut region for centuries, and the mines played an important role in the economy and politics of the area. Why is the area called Salzkammergut?
During the Habsburg Empire, the Salzkammergut was controlled by the state, which had a monopoly on salt production. The area was considered the “Salt Chamber” (Salzkammer) of the empire. The mines were a source of revenue for the empire. The mines were guarded, but the Salzkammergut region generally became isolated from the rest of the empire, with controls in place to prevent salt smuggling out of the area. This isolation impacted the region’s economic and social development, as the locals depended on the mines for their livelihood.
In the 19th century, the salt mines in Salzkammergut were closed down, and the region experienced economic decline. However, in the 20th century, the Salzkammergut region began to develop as a tourist destination, with visitors coming to see the landscapes and take tours of the closed salt mines.
The 8 Best Lakes in the Salzkammergut
There are 76 lakes in the Salzkammergut, each with unique charm and character. We will now look at the most popular lakes in the region, including Wolfgangsee, Attersee, Mondsee, Fuschlsee, Hallstätter See, Traunsee, Gosauseen, and Altausseer See.
Let’s look at the lakes in an order in which you could do a circular route by car. The first lakes (1-3) are the most popular; lakes 4 and 5 are optional, and lakes 6, 7, and 8 would either complete the circle or be an alternative route.
If you are traveling by public transport, you can take one of the two routes. On a day trip, recommend the first route to Hallstatt. If you are staying in the Lake District overnight, possibly with a glimpse of Traunsee and Gmunden as outlined in the 3-day itinerary below.
1. Fuschlsee: Least Touristy
Let’s kick things off with a visit to the first stop, Lake Fuschlsee. There is little to see at Fuschlsee. You can admire the Red Bull HQ from the outside, and Schloss Fuschl, one of the best wellness hotels near Salzburg, comes with a hefty price tag, but don’t let that fool you.
Fuschlsee has its authentic charm and surprises. Take a leisurely 3-hour walk around the lake, swim in its crystal clear waters, hike Mount Elmaustein, or try your hand at water sports like sailing, stand-up paddling, windsurfing, and even scuba diving! Compared to other lakes in the Salzkammergut, Fuschlsee is the best spot for swimming, and it’s just a quick half-hour bus ride from Salzburg on bus 150. Most other lakes are private, and swimming areas charge an entrance fee, or swimming is not allowed altogether. At Fuschlsee, you will find plenty of free and not overly crowded swimming spots.
Fuschlsee is perfect for those seeking relaxation, while thrill-seekers will also love trying out all the different water sports available. It’s the perfect first stop on our Salzkammergut adventure.
2. Wolfgangsee Lake: Must-Visit
Continue only 15 more minutes by bus 150 from Fuschl to reach Lake Wolfgangsee. Wolfgangsee might be my all-time favorite lake in the Lake District because that’s where you find my all-time favorite activities in the Salzkammergut. While Fuschlsee is lovely to swim and hike around the lake, Sankt Gilgen, the first town you reach at Wolfgangsee, is where the actual Salzkammergut, with its cultural heritage and unique features, begins.
If you are up for an off-the-beaten-path adventure and have too much time, consider hiking from Fuschl to Sankt Gilgen. It’s not a spectacular hike but a relaxing, authentic, and off-the-beaten-path.
Wolfgangsee Lake is a stunning beauty in the Salzkammergut Lake District. It’s surrounded by mountains, like Schafbergmountain and the Zwölferhorn, lush green forests, and small villages like Sankt Gilgen and Sankt Wolfgang. The border between the state of Salzburg and the state of Upper Austria runs through Wolfgangsee, with Sankt Gilgen still in Salzburg and Sankt Wolfgang already in Upper Austria.
You can take a boat tour across or around the lake, hike one of the surrounding peaks, and enjoy breathtaking views across Wolfgangsee. If hiking is not your cup of tea, take the Cable Car to the top of Zwölferhorn or the cog railway to Schafberg mountain. If you are in for a leisurely walk with a short steep climb to the Falkenstein, you could walk along the shore from Sankt Gilgen to Sankt Wolfgang. There are plenty of beaches along the shoreline where you can stop for a picnic or relax in the sun.
3. Hallstätter See: Most Popular
Hallstättersee is a sight to behold, surrounded by towering mountains and rolling hills. Upon first sight, you might believe you are in Norway.
However, if you’re looking for a peaceful escape, there might be a better place for you than Hallstatt itself. Hallstatt on Hallstättersee is the most touristy place in Austria, famous for the over-tourism debate surrounding it, but the Lake Hallstatt area offers plenty off-the-beaten-path activities for nature lovers.
You might choose to hike Kalvarienberg mountain or embark on a 22-kilometer walk or a bike ride around the lake. You can also shorten that walk by only walking halfway around the lake to take a boat back to Hallstatt from Obertraun, Steeg, or the Hallstatt train station.
If you’re pondering a visit to Hallstatt, my recommendation is “yes”! There are other similar towns in the Salzkammergut. Hallstatt shines just a little brighter. It’s charming in its own special way. But, if you’re not the type to prioritize bucket list destinations, a trip to Wolfgangsee and a scenic boat ride from Sankt Gilgen to Sankt Wolfgang will give you just as good a taste of the beauty of the Lake District.
4. Gosauseen: Sidetrip from Hallstatt
Gosauseen is plural. The Gosau Lakes are three glacial lakes near Hallstatt. They might be the most beautiful lakes in the Salzkammergut area and some of the most beautiful in Austria. However, they are not on the way to Hallstatt. They are close to Hallstatt, and if you travel to Hallstatt by car and return to Salzburg via the alternative route through the Lammertal, as outlined in this article, a stop at the Gosauseen is a great idea.
To reach Gosauseen lake, you can drive or take bus 542 from Bad Ischl station (may require a transfer in Hallstatt). There is plenty of car parking where the walking path begins. For a more relaxed experience, stay overnight or drive to the lake. Take a 1-hour walk around the lake for scenic views of glaciers, clear water, peaks, and rock climbers. Hiking trails of various lengths and huts for food and drinks are available. The lake area is peaceful and ideal for nature lovers. September is a great time to hike both, the Vorderer Gosausee and Hinterer Gosausee lakes, for clear mountain reflections.
5. Altausseer See: Another Sidetrip from Hallstatt
From Hallstatt, you can also take a side trip to Altausseer See. Long, winding roads take you into the backcountry behind Hallstatt, where only a few tourists ever go. The breathtakingly beautiful lake stretches across an area of around 2m² and has a shoreline of 7 km, offering plenty to explore.
The Altausseer See is known for its crystal-clear waters, idyllic landscape, and tranquil atmosphere. Besides the Gosauseen mentioned above lakes, the road to Altausee is a one-way street. On the way from Hallstatt, you first pass Bad Aussee before you reach Altausee.
Altausee has the oldest salt mine in Austria, posing an alternative to the more touristy salt mine in Hallstatt. Otherwise, there is not much to do at Altauseer See except for taking in the tranquility and natural beauty or visiting the local spa, but if you have plenty of time to explore the Salzkammergut Lake District and are looking for a truly off-the-beaten-path experience, Altauseer See would fit your bucket list perfectly. I recommend Altausee only as a side trip from Hallstatt and only if you travel by car.
6. Traunsee: Scenic Detour
Traunsee is 50 kilometers north of Hallstättersee, with Bad Ischl being halfway between Hallstättersee and Traunsee. Coming from Salzburg, Bad Ischl is where you have to decide whether to head south to Hallstättersee or north to Traunsee. If I had to choose, I would always go for Hallstättersee. It’s simply more spectacular than Traunsee.
But I would still recommend visiting both if you have the time and are staying in the Salzkammergut overnight or have a car. On your way back to Salzburg, or if you’re moving on to Vienna, take a detour and visit Traunsee. Traunsee is the largest lake in Austria by volume and the second deepest after Lake Constanz.
As you make your way along Traunsee, you’ll first come across Ebensee and then Traunkirchen. But the real gem of this lake is Gmunden, located on the north end. If you’re visiting Traunsee, Gmunden is a must-visit. The scenery is breathtaking, and the vibe is charming.
7. Attersee: Largest Lake in Austria
Next on our list of lakes in the Salzkammergut is Lake Attersee. While Traunsee is the deepest lake in Austria and the largest by volume, Attersee is the largest by surface size. Situated between Mondsee and Traunsee, Attersee offers itself to continue your detour back to Salzburg or those looking for a relaxed lake getaway. With a 42 km shoreline and an impressive depth of up to 150m, it’s the perfect place for swimming, boating, fishing, and other water activities.
However, Lake Attersee lacks unique things to do, especially considering its size. Attersee is a popular destination for families. While it may not have many unique attractions compared to other things to do in the Salzkammergut, it offers opportunities for a peaceful and scenic vacation or to just drive along its lengthy shoreline.
8. Mondsee: Popular for the Sound of Music
Lake Mondsee is located next to Attersee and only 25 kilometers from Salzburg. When you venture into the Salzkammergut and don’t take the route via Fuschlsee, you end up at Mondsee. If you have a car and return via the route along Attersee, naturally, you will reach Mondsee next.
I recommend something other than Mondsee as a primary destination. As a primary destination, I recommend Wolfgangsee and/or venture further into the so-called “inner Salzkammergut” via Bad Ischl, but as a side trip and/or a detour, or if you love the Sound of Music, Mondsee is well worth visiting.
If you plan to move on to Attersee, you will pass by Mondsee. If you are traveling to Wolfgangsee by car, consider taking a detour to Mondsee because Sankt Gilgen, the first place you reach on Lake Wolfgangsee, is only 10 minutes from Mondsee by car. Mondsee is also included in every Sound of Music bus tour, and bus 140 will take you there in 45 minutes.
Towns in the Salzkammergut
Hundreds of cute little villages can be found in the Salzkammergut, but here are my top 9 picks. Most of the towns are at the lake. That’s why some of the names might sound familiar to you. Some of the towns’ names are similar or even the same as the name of the lake they are at.
1. Fuschl am See
Fuschl am See is a small town on lake Fuschlsee in the Salzkammergut and a wonderful setting for a visit to this region of Austria. The lake is supervised by a Renaissance castle and offers a ten-kilometer circuit. From Fuschl, you have a magnificent view of the turquoise waters and the Schober, one of the most picturesque mountains in the region. In Fuschl am See, you can find stores and services and stay in one of the many hotels or guesthouses, but there is nothing to see in Fuschl itself. Fuschl, however, is a great starting point for a walk around the lake or to look for a swimming spot.
In addition, you can do some water sports activities. Another plus is that you can see the famous Red Bull headquarters, located near the lake on the side of the road, before you reach Fuschl, but only from the outside. All in all, Fuschl am See is an excellent starting point to discover the beauties of the Salzkammergut. I wouldn’t recommend it if you only explore one place in the lake district, but I recommend it if you like hiking and swimming, have enough time to spend in Salzburg and its surroundings, and would like to see the less touristy side of the Lake District.
2. Sankt Gilgen
For many reasons, Sankt Gilgen is an amazing destination to start your exploration of the Salzkammergut region. The primary reason is that Sankt Gilgen is the entry point to the Salzkammergut because you can take bus 150 to Sankt Gilgen and take a boat across the lake to the more interesting town of Sankt Wolfgang. But Sankt Gilgen is also worth seeing.
Its Baroque core, international boarding school, lakeside promenade, and proximity to the famous town of St. Wolfgang make it a great place to explore. Plus, the ferry between Sankt Gilgen and Sankt Wolfgang provides travelers an exciting way to explore the area.
For an exciting activity in Sankt Gilgen itself, visitors can take the cable car to Zwölferhorn mountain and enjoy incredible views of the region. The Wolfgangsee Lake, greenish in color, is an unforgettable sight. For thrill-seekers, there is the opportunity to go paragliding from Zwölferhorn. The small downtown of St. Gilgen also offers a variety of shops, patisseries, restaurants, and cafes.
The birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s mother, Anna Maria Pertl, is also located here. Visitors can admire the frescoed wall and the statue and fountain of the famous composer’s mother. Finally, the Zwölferhorn mountain is perfect for skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking in the summer months. With the cable car running all year round, St. Gilgen is a great place to visit for any traveler.
If you want to know more about the things to do in Sankt Gilgen, be sure to read this article.
3. Sankt Wolfgang
St Wolfgang is a stunning town in the Salzkammergut region, Austria, offering a variety of stores, hotels, restaurants, cafes, and a cog railway ride, one of the best things to do in the Salzkammergut. In winter Sankt Wolfgang hosts a Christmas Market that is regarded as one of the best Christmas Markets in Austria.
Watch this video to get an idea of the Christmas Market in Sankt Wolfgang:
The picturesque cobblestone streets are lined with frescoes that give the town a special charm. One of the most famous buildings in St Wolfgang is the pilgrimage church, which houses the famous Pacher Altar. That’s the one must-see sight in Sankt Wolfgang.
For even more spectacular panoramic views over Lake Wolfgang, Lake Mondsee, and Lake Attersee, you can take the Schafbergbahn, considered the steepest rack railroad in Austria and has been in operation since 1893. Please read my article on Sankt Wolfgang to better understand the best things to do in Sankt Wolfgang.
As mentioned about Sankt Gilgen, you can take a boat between Sankt Wolfgang, Sankt Gilgen, and Strobl. The ship is, in fact, the best way to reach Sankt Wolfgang from Salzburg if you travel by public transport. It would be less expensive to change from bus 150 to bus 546 in Strobl, but it’s more convenient and much more fun to ride the 150 bus from Salzburg to Sankt Gilgen and take the boat across the lake to Sankt Wolfgang.
There is so much to do and see that St Wolfgang is a perfect place to spend a day or longer. If you are not planning to go to Hallstatt and are looking for the second-best place to visit in the Lake District, Sankt Wolfgang would be my recommendation.
4. Bad Ischl
Bad Ischl is a great town to visit for many reasons. Bad Ischl, for many reasons, is different from all the other places in the Lake District. The town is not located at a lake but is renowned as a cultural center and a spa town because the Habsburg Emperor chose Bad Ischl as his summer vacation destination in the 19th century. In Bad Ischl, you find impressive imperial architecture similar to the architecture in Vienna.
Bad Ischl is also home to a great deal of activity all year round. During the summer months, visitors can enjoy the open-air operettas. In the winter, the Christmas markets around the town create a festive atmosphere. For the more sportive, there are plenty of activities such as hiking, running, and biking.
The town is also home to the famous Zauner pastry, whose exquisite treats have been enjoyed by royals, such as Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Sissi. Another top attraction is the Kaiservilla, a majestic wedding gift from the Emperor’s mother, situated in the spa town. If you want to learn about all the activities available in Bad Ischl, read my article on things to do in Bad Ischl.
Bad Ischl is also conveniently located between all the major places in the lake district. Bus 150 takes you from Salzburg to the lake district, with its final destination in Bad Ischl. Bad Ischl has a train station serving destinations like Hallstatt and places further north like Gmunden, so Bad Ischl is the central transportation hub of the Salzkammergut.
Therefore, Bad Ischl is a great base to explore the area. Because Bad Ischl is a bigger town than most of the others, it also has less expensive accommodation options and even a hostel.
Hallstatt is one of the most photographed villages in the world and one of the most touristy towns in Austria, and that’s for a reason. This quaint mountain-side village is nestled between the stunning Hallstatt Lake and the majestic Dachstein Mountains, making it a lovely place to visit. Not only is Hallstatt picturesque, but it also has a long and rich history dating back to the Neolithic era. Evidence of the stilt houses of the Mondsee group culture has been found in the area, as well as proof of the Hallstatt culture, which was centered around the mining town of the same name.
The history of the area continued to evolve through the Roman and Germanic eras when salt was mined in the area being used for trading and culinary purposes. The area then came under the rule of the Austrian Babenbergs and the Habsburgs, leading to the transformation of the area into the Kammergut, the financial salt chamber of Vienna.
Today, Hallstatt is a car-free village, offering visitors a chance to explore the area in a unique way. One quirky sight is the “bone house” in St. Michaels Chapel, which is a testament to the lack of space in the area. Graves were recycled with skulls painted with ivy and oak leaves, and those of women were adorned with floral designs. Hallstatt has become increasingly popular with tourists, with about a million visitors a year. Its popularity is only set to grow! If Hallstatt is on your bucket list, go for it!
6. Bad Aussee
Bad Aussee, located in the heart of Austria’s Styrian region, is a hidden gem in the Salzkammergut region. While the famous town of Hallstatt often overshadows it, Bad Aussee is worth a visit for those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience. Bad Aussee is said to be the very center of Austria itself. A monument in the town center symbolizes that.
But even if Bad Aussee is regarded as the center of Austria, you would not visit it by accident. You would have to venture from Hallstatt further into Styria to get to Bad Aussee by chance. If you, for example, travel from Hallstatt to Graz, you would pass Bad Aussee, but you wouldn’t pass it otherwise. You would have to decide to visit Bad Aussee as a detour from Hallstatt.
The town, like many others, was built around salt mining, and you can still visit a salt mine there. Additionally, the word “Bad” in Bad Aussee is known as a spa and wellness town, and its beautiful spa is another reason to visit.
Furthermore, the Bad Aussee has some beautiful sights, such as the 15th-century Kammerhof and two churches from the 14th and 15th centuries. If you visit Bad Aussee and maybe even stay there overnight, make sure to see Altausee, which is even further off-the-beaten-path and only 10 minutes by car from Bad Aussee. It’s enough to stay in Altausee for half an hour to walk through the village and along the lake. You may have time to visit Grundlsee, which is also only 15 minutes away.
Located on the north shore of Lake Traunsee, the deepest lake in the region, the town has long been a favored destination of the Habsburg monarchy and still retains the majestic architecture of its past. It was less popular with them than Bad Ischl, but the imperial vibe is similar.
If you had to choose between Bad Ischl and Gmunden, I would 100% go for Bad Ischl, but if you have time and are looking for another place to visit in the Salzkammergut, Gmunden is well worth visiting. Gmunden is also a must-stop if you travel by car and take a detour along Traunsee on your way back to Salzburg or on your way from or to Vienna. Visitors of Gmunden can enjoy the lakeside promenade and browse the stalls of souvenir vendors or take in historical sites such as the Town Hall or Parish Church, which dates back to 1301.
Gmunden is also renowned for its pottery, with the Gmundner Keramik brand symbolizing Austrian table culture. Those interested in the region’s ceramics heritage can visit the Gmunden Ceramic shop, take a factory tour, or admire the ceramic fountain on Rinnholz Square. Schloss Ort, a 15th Century castle built on a tiny island, is a must-visit attraction and can be reached by walking across a 123-meter wooden bridge. Water sports, such as windsurfing and water skiing, are popular on Lake Traun, and the outdoor lido pool is suitable for all ages. Boats also sail around the lake and to Ebensee, where visitors can take a cable car to Feuerkogel year-round.
Mondsee, the town of the same name as the lake, is on many travelers’ itineraries because of the famous wedding church from the Sound of Music. The town is only 25 kilometers from Salzburg. I have fond memories of spending time in Mondsee during my teens, as my best friend moved there. However, I’ll be honest; it’s not my favorite lake in the Salzkammergut. Note that that’s just a personal preference. It doesn’t mean you won’t like it! The church in Mondsee is indeed stunning, and there are opportunities for biking, hiking, and water sports, like at many of the lakes in the Salzkammergut.
Lake Mondsee is one of the largest and warmest lakes in the region, making it popular for a range of water sports, including sailing, windsurfing, and more. The town features a market square, a scenic promenade, and a medieval monastery. Furthermore, the stunning yellow church, St. Michael, dating back to the 16th century, is featured in the wedding scenes of “The Sound of Music,” and entrance is free.
At Mondsee, visitors can enjoy a range of activities, such as spending the afternoon at the beach (Alpenseebad) with a diving tower and several slides or taking a walk along the Seepromenade with places to sit and relax. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes in Mondsee town, where travelers can sample traditional Austrian dishes and delicacies such as Apfelstrudel. With so much to do and see, Mondsee is the ideal location for a holiday in the Salzkammergut region of Austria.
The 8 Best Things to Do in the Salzkammergut
The things to do in the Salzkammergut Lake District I present to you are just a small selection of my favorite things and the most popular things to do in the Salzkammergut.
1. Kaiservilla Bad Ischl
As mentioned above, Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut is different from other places in the Lake District. While most places in the Salzkammergut are simple, Bad Ischl is not. Why is that? Because Bad Ischl was where Emperor Franz Joseph spent his summer. The Kaiservilla in Bad Ischl was the summer residence of the imperial family. During a 45-minute guided tour of the Villa, you’ll see the preserved chambers where Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph lived and made history.
The Villa is surrounded by the spacious Kaiserpark, perfect for a leisurely stroll, and home to the former tea house of Empress Elisabeth, the Marmorschlössl. You can roam freely in the park, but the Villa is only accessible on the guided tour. Unfortunately, taking pictures is prohibited inside the building.
But I would anyway recommend the tour. It’s fascinating to learn about the imperial family’s life and the events that took place here. It was initially a neoclassical building with classical columns, timpani, and an English-style park. In 1854, it was a wedding gift from Archduchess Sophie to her son, Emperor Franz Joseph, on the occasion of his marriage to Elisabeth, better known as Sissi. The Villa was not only a summer residence but also a stage for diplomatic maneuverings. On July 28, 1914, Emperor Franz Joseph signed the declaration of war against Serbia in his study at the Villa, which marked the start of WWI.
2. Take pictures of Hallstatt
Hallstatt is one of the most touristy places in Austria and one of the most photographed villages in the world, but let’s be real! Most people come here to take photos, and that’s okay! Trust me, I’ve been a tour guide in the area for years, and I’ve seen the magic it brings to people’s eyes.
To get the best shots, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds. Take a walk around the village and find unique angles, like the charming narrow alleys, the colorful houses, or the stunning view from the hilltop. And remember to capture the essence of Hallstatt, the beautiful lake that reflects the town. It’s all about finding the perfect light and framing. I’m always here to help, so if you need any tips, ask. Let’s capture the beauty of Hallstatt together!
But Hallstatt is about more than just taking pictures. The best things to do in Hallstatt include a visit to Dachstein Krippenstein by cable car, a visit to the oldest salt mine in the world, and a myriad of hikes.
3. Visit Dachstein Krippenstein
Dachstein Krippenstein is a natural gem and one of the best things to do in the Salzkammergut. Three cable cars take you up the mountain. This alpine wonderland is full of breathtaking scenery and exciting activities, making it a must-visit for anyone visiting the area. At least if you have enough time. I recommend Dachstein Krippenstein if you can spend a whole day on this Salzkammergut activity. Whether you’re a hiker or just looking for a fun day trip, there’s something for everyone.
Visiting the ice cave after the first cable car is a highlight. This natural formation is an ice cave year-round, making it a unique experience. Don’t miss the opportunity also to visit the Mammut Cave. After the second cable car, you reach the Five Fingers, one more must-see attraction, on foot in 15 minutes. Getting to Dachstein Krippenstein is easy, whether coming from Hallstatt or the nearby town of Obertraun. You can take the bus, drive to the cable car station, or even stay overnight in Obertraun, from where you could even reach the cable car station on foot.
One of my favorite things to do in the Salzkammergut is take the Schafbergbahn Cog Railway up to Mount Schafberg. This railway is not just any means of transportation; it’s a true work of art. The red and white cars zigzag up the mountain, and the journey is a piece of Austria’s rail history. The Schafbergbahn was built in 1892 and is still powered by steam. The price of the trip is high, but it’s worth it for the unique experience. Here is my detailed guide on the Schafbergbahn cog railway.
The Schafbergbahn only operates in the warmer months from April to November, with schedules subject to weather conditions. Check the Salzburg AG website to inform yourself about the current timetable! If you’re in the area around Christmas, check the schedule for their Advent rides and visit St Wolfgang’s, Christmas Market. A combined ticket for the boat on Lake Wolfgangsee and the Schafbergbahn is also available, making it convenient for those arriving by public transport from Salzburg.
5. The Sound of Music Wedding Church
One of the most popular things to do in the Salzkammergut is to visit the Basilica Church in Mondsee. I mentioned before that Mondsee is not my favorite place in the Lake District, but there is a reason the church is popular among tourists. When visiting the Sound of Music Wedding Church in Mondsee, you’re immediately reminded of a famous wedding scene from the Sound of Music movie.
Whether you are already an expert on the movie or want to learn about the timeless classic, here are 25 facts about the Sound of Music and a quiz to test your knowledge.
Mondsee and the church are only 25 kilometers from Salzburg and can be accessed by car or bus 140, but the Sound of Music bus tour also takes you there. The beautiful 15th-century building is the second-largest church in Upper Austria, with two towers extending 52 meters high. In 2005 Pope John Paul II upgraded this church to a basilica status after restoration.
Visiting Basilika St Michael can be fascinating as you are met with both beautiful and macabre sights. There are relics within, such as skeletons, tabernacles, and much more to explore.
6. Hike around Lake Gosausee
I recommend a walk around Gosauseen and the Cable Car at Gosauseen if you travel by car or stay in the Salzkammergut overnight. If you drive there, there’s plenty of parking for cars. To get to Gosauseen by public transport, all you have to do is hop on the 542 at the Bad Ischl station (maybe a change in Hallstatt), and in an hour, you’ll find yourself lakeside. You could make Hallstatt and Gosauseen on a day trip from Salzburg, but it’s not recommended since you would be in a hurry.
Once you’re at the lake, strap on your walking shoes and get ready for an hour-long circumnavigation of the lake. Trust me; the scenery is out of this world – glaciers, clear water, jagged peaks, and more. And you’ll also have the chance to watch rock climbers in action.
The first lake is called the Vorderer Gosausee, but halfway through your walk, you can take a trail to the Hinterer Gosausee, where there’s a great hut called Holzmeister Alm. The area is a hiker’s paradise with trails of all lengths and plenty of huts for food and drinks. And it’s one of the most peaceful places I know, perfect for those who want to enjoy the great outdoors. If you’re here on a clear day in September, take the chance to hike both the Vorderer and the Hinterer. The trails are easy and well-marked, with clear lakes for a stunning mountain reflection.
7. Outdoor Activities
As you can imagine, the lake district has countless outdoor activities. Too many to list all the great ones here but let me give you a few ideas. Let’s start with hiking, shall we? The Salzkammergut is a hiker’s paradise with so many popular trails to choose from. The best time is during the spring and summer, but autumn, while the weather is less stable, is the most gorgeous time of the year. My top picks are the Schafberg and Zwölferhorn mountains for a long but manageable hike and the Klettersteig (via ferrata) in Mondsee for thrill-seekers. The latter would be too scary for me.
Now let’s talk about water sports. The lake at Fuschl is the perfect spot for swimming, water sports, and even just a relaxing walk around the lake. And for those who love biking, you might want to cycle around Lake Mondsee. The best time for water sports and biking is naturally during the warmer months, from spring to fall.
And when winter rolls around, we have some ski and snowboarding opportunities in many of the places in the Salzkammergut, like on Dachstein mountain, in Bad Ischl, and Ebensee. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there are winter sports for everyone in the Salzkammergut.
Trust me; you won’t regret visiting Salzkammergut for any of these activities. Hope to see you out here soon!
8. Food & Drinks in the Salzkammergut
When it comes to traditional Austrian cuisine, the Salzkammergut region may not have any standout dishes or restaurants. Still, what it lacks in culinary variety, it more than makes up for with its sweet treats. That’s the case in most of Austria, thanks to Emperor Franz Joseph’s sweet tooth. Under his rule, only certain businesses were allowed to bake cakes and produce sweets for him, which resulted in some of the best dessert creations in the country. Since Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut was one of his favorite places to be, the pastry shops and cafes there became the best in their craft. Many are still around today, producing some of the most delicious sweets you’ll ever taste.
One must-visit spot is Zauner in Bad Ischl – it’s a true gem and serves up some of the best sweets you’ll ever taste. Zaunerstollen would be my recommendation. But don’t just take my word for it – try it yourself and see why so many locals and visitors rave about it.
How long to spend in Salzkammergut?
Most travelers visit the Salzkammergut on a day trip. That’s a great idea. It’s also a great idea to have a base in Salzburg and venture into the Salzkammergut several times. You could head to Bad Ischl and Hallstatt for a day without stopping at Wolfgangsee and come back for another day trip to take the boat across the lake from Sankt Gilgen to Sankt Wolfgang to take the Schafbergbahn cog railway or hike Mount Schafberg.
But there are many things to see and do in Austria. A single-day trip to the Salzkammergut will give you an idea of the area and is enough for most travelers. However, as you can guess from everything you have read, you wouldn’t get bored, even if you spend a week in the area. That’s especially true if you are into hiking.
In conclusion, a day trip is enough to get an idea of the Salzkammergut. If you want to stay longer, stay in the Salzkammergut overnight and explore more. Three days might be the ideal stay in the lake district. Take a look at the 3-day itinerary below if that’s what you are up to. First, let’s talk about moving around the Salzkammergut Lake District.
How do you get around the Salzkammergut?
The Salzkammergut region is well connected by buses. Trains are available but not on the main route when coming from Salzburg. When coming from Salzburg, you most likely take bus 150 in the direction of Bad Ischl. If you decide to go to Mondsee, you will take bus 140. 150 and 140 are the main bus lines in the Salzkammergut, with the 150 bus being more popular since that’s what takes people to Hallstatt.
Bad Ischl has a train station. If you are heading to Hallstatt, you decide in Bad Ischl if you continue by train or bus. The bus is more convenient since it doesn’t require a boat ride, but the boat ride is the reason I prefer the train to go to Hallstatt. To plan your trip to Hallstatt, you can check out this article on how to go to Hallstatt by public transport.
If you are coming from Vienna, you get to Hallstatt or Bad Ischl by train from Attnang Puchheim since that’s on the main Austrian train route between Salzburg and Vienna. Getting from Salzburg to Bad Ischl via Attnang Puchheim would be possible but is not recommended since the bus from Salzburg is much more scenic. Therefore, it’s generally better to take a trip from Salzburg to the Lake District instead of from Vienna.
Getting to Hallstatt from Salzburg by bus and train takes around 3 hours since Hallstatt is on the other side of the Lake District when coming from Salzburg, but the ride is worth it due to the beautiful scenery along the way.
Fuschl, on the other hand, is only 30 minutes by bus 150 from Salzburg, and Mondsee is also only 45 minutes away, but the further you venture into the Salzkammergut, the more stunning the scenery gets. If Hallstatt is too far and Fuschl or Mondsee are not attractive enough, Wolfgangsee and the town of Sankt Wolfgang might be the perfect place to visit. To get to Sankt Wolfgang, you either take bus 150 to Sankt Gilgen and cross the lake by boat or take bus 150 to Strobl and change to bus 546 to Sankt Wolfgang.
The town of Bad Ischl is a central hub. Bad Ischl is the last stop of bus 150. It also has a train station that not only serves trains to the Hallstatt train station (which is across the lake from the village because Hallstatt didn’t have enough space for a train station) but Bad Ischl is also connected by train to the Salzkammergut town of Gmunden in the north and to Attnang Puchheim. Attnang Puchheim, on the other hand, is on the most popular Austrian train route, the route between Salzburg and Vienna.
Other places in the Salzkammergut region, like Altaussee or Lake Gosau, may not be as easily accessible by public transport, but you can check the OBB website for train and bus schedules and plan accordingly.
Salzkammergut 3-Day Itinerary
Here is a 3-day Itinerary for the Salzkammergut. That’s how I would do it. Your preferences and, therefore, your plan may vary. For this Salzkammergut Itinerary, you would have to stay in the Salzkammergut for at least two nights. You can easily access the Salzkammergut from Salzburg by taking bus number 150. For this itinerary, we use public transport exclusively, but you can also follow the plan by car and have more flexibility for stops and activities.
Day 1: Salzburg – Sankt Wolfgang
- Take bus 150 to arrive in the Salzkammergut, in Sankt Gilgen, and take the boat across Lake Wolfgangsee to Sankt Wolfgang. Make sure to get a combined ticket for the boat and the Schafbergbahn cog railway. The same company operates them. Enjoy the beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding mountains!
- In Sankt Wolfgang, check into your accommodation and take a leisurely stroll along the lake promenade in St. Wolfgang. Admire the charming medieval architecture of the town! If you are visiting in December, there is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful Austrian Christmas market in Sankt Wolfgang. Read this article if you need more inspiration for things to do in Sankt Wolfgang!
- Take the Schafbergbahn cog railway to the top of the Schafberg mountain, and enjoy the panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The Schafbergbahn is one of the best things to do in the Salzkammergut Lake District. Here is a detailed review of the Schafbergbahn.
- Return to your accommodation in St. Wolfgang for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 2: Sankt Wolfgang – Hallstatt – Bad Ischl/Obertraun
- Take bus 546 from St. Wolfgang to Bad Ischl as early as possible. In Bad Ischl, right away, take the bus or the train to Hallstatt to arrive in Hallstatt before the crowds.
- In Hallstatt if you don’t visit any of the other salt mines around Salzburg, take a tour of the Hallstatt salt mines, the oldest salt mine in the world, and learn about the history of salt mining in the region.
- Take a leisurely stroll around Hallstatt, admire the town’s well-preserved architecture, and take tons of pictures.
- Take the public boat to the Hallstatt train station (located across the lake) or Obertraun (also situated across the lake).
OPTION 1: Return to Bad Ischl to stay there, explore Bad Ischl the same day, and visit the Kaiservilla, the Habsburg emperor’s Villa, the next day before moving on to Gmunden. This option is more relaxed and leaves more space to explore Bad Ischl and Gmunden on the third day.
OPTION 2: Stay in Obertraun. Obertraun is a great place to stay if you want to avoid paying Hallstatt prices but want to stay close to Hallstatt and visit Dachstein Krippenstein (which I recommend but takes the better part of a day) the next day.
Day 3: Bad Ischl/Obertraun – Gmunden – Salzburg
- OPTION 1: If you returned to Bad Ischl the day before, you have plenty of time to explore the town further and visit the Kaiservilla. The Kaiservilla and their guided tour of the interior of the Emperor’s residence is the most interesting historical thing to do in the Salzkammergut.
OPTION 2: Visit Dachstein Krippenstein by taking bus 543 from Obertraun. Take the first two cable cars and explore either the Mammut Cave or Ice Cave after the first cable car ride. Then, visit the five fingers viewpoint after the second cable car ride. Focus on these highlights to make the most of your trip, as many other activities are available. In the afternoon, head to Bad Ischl by taking bus 543 to Obertraun, followed by a train from Obertraun to Bad Ischl.
Read this article if you want more information on the visit to Dachstein Krippenstein.
- From Bad Ischl, take the train to Gmunden. Depending on the time you arrive there, you should take a leisurely stroll around Gmunden, visit Schloss Ort, admire the charming architecture of the town and have dinner.
- Take the train from Gmunden to Salzburg with a change in Attnang Puchheim. The train ride takes between one and two hours. Time your return accordingly.
This itinerary is a mere suggestion and can be customized to suit your tastes and schedule. Bad Ischl offers rich history and culture, so a visit is highly recommended. To maximize your experience, consider extending your stay in Bad Ischl and taking day trips to further explore the stunning Salzkammergut region. Feel free to personalize the itinerary to fit your interests.
Is there an organized Salzkammergut Tour?
It’s easy to reach and explore the Salzkammergut on your own, but if you are short on time or just don’t want to think about how to get to the Salzkammergut, there are organized tours like the ones by Panorama tours. These tours enable you to visit Hallstatt in the afternoon, which is impossible by public transport but be aware that you would have much more time to spend in Hallstatt if you take a whole day and travel by public transport. Activities like visiting the salt mines are impossible if you take an organized tour.
The Sound of Music tour by Panorama tours also includes a panoramic view from Lake Wolfgangsee and a visit to Mondsee, where the wedding church from the Sound of Music is located. For a tour with nothing to do with the Sound of Music but more with the lake district, you would choose the Lakes and Mountains tour with a visit to Sankt Wolfgang. If you are not into the movie, I recommend that.
Salzkammergut Hotels – Where to stay in the Salzkammergut?
Bad Ischl is, for example, a great base and a central location to further explore the Lake District, but moving from place to place can be a great idea since you could wake up to a different lake view every day. Staying in the Lake District, especially close to Hallstatt, gives you a great advantage. The advantage of getting there or being there before everyone else. Hallstatt is most beautiful in the very early morning when not even the locals are awake.