The Most Romantic Places In The Salzkammergut (Including Hallstatt)
Updated in July 2020
The Salzkammergut is one of Austria’s most impressive and diverse regions which offers mesmerizing lakes, stunning mountains, and idyllic landscapes. When you arrive in the Salzkammergut you will immediately feel like in the movie ‘The Sound Of Music’. (Almost all scenes were filmed in the Salzkammergut.)
However, many tourists visit only one of the numerous attractions when in the region. While Hallstatt is becoming more and more popular there are so many other beautiful places not noticed among most tourists.
Spread among the states Upper Austria, Salzburg, and Styria this region is perfectly accessible for day trips from Salzburg or other capital cities like Linz or even Vienna. So when in Austria make sure to spend a couple of days in this mesmerizing region and explore the most beautiful lakes and must-see towns in the Salzkammergut!
At a glance:
The 5 Most Romantic Towns In The Salzkammergut
Gmunden is located on the north shore of Lake Traunsee, the deepest lake in the Salzkammergut. During the Habsburg monarchy, the nobility used to spend the summer months in their residences in Gmunden which is why you still see plenty of beautiful mansions in and around the town.
Since 1492 the town is also known for ‘Gmundner Keramik’ (a pottery brand) which symbolizes Austrian table culture. You find Gmundner pottery in every grandparent’s kitchen cabinet in Austria. ;)
Schloss Ort (castle Ort) is the most popular place in Gmunden and is located on a small island on lake Traunsee with another complex situated on land. The castle is one of the oldest buildings in the Salzkammergut and well known in Austria thanks to an Austrian TV series from the ’90s called ‘Schlosshotel Orth’ (Castle Hotel Orth). Today it hosts a restaurant, a small shop and due to the spectacular location, it is a famous site for weddings.
Situated east of Salzburg at the shores of Lake Wolfgangsee St. Wolfgang is the perfect starting point for exploring the surrounding mountains and to spend your vacation at the lake. There are plenty of beaches and areas which offer direct access to the lake and most hotels in St. Wolfgang have a private area for their guests if you choose to stay in St. Wolfgang.
Lake Wolfgangsee is especially known for sailing, surfing and boat trips with the traditional paddle steamers. So we suggest starting your day with an adventurous day on the lake and enjoying the sunrise from the deck of one of the 6 paddle steamers.
For the hikers among you, the Schafberg and the Zwoelferalm are the closest mountains and are accessible with the cogwheel railway or the cable car – so you can take the easy way up, we did too. ;) Another possibility is to enjoy the beautiful lake view on a circular track around lake Wolfgangsee.
In winter you can enjoy the magical Advent atmosphere in St. Wolfgang as well as the towns St. Gilgen and Strobl which are both located on lake Wolfgangsee and accessible by the paddle steamer. And of course, you can go skiing in the surrounding ski regions. For more information on the 3 skiing areas, the Postalm, the 12er Horn, and Dachstein West, please check the Wolfgangsee Salzkammergut Website.
The town Mondsee called after lake Mondsee – or the other way around – is situated on the warmest lake in the Salzkammergut and if you have seen ‘The Sound of Music’ you will immediately recognize some buildings like the basilica Mondsee. Even if you don’t know the film (most Austrians don’t) you will fall in love with the beautiful buildings and the town square.
Besides the idyllic scenery of mountains, lakes, and picturesque nature Mondsee is also famous for its 6000-year-old history of pile dwellings. The so-called ‘Mondseekultur’ is the cultural era during which those findings must have been built. Today they can be found in lake Mondsee, during a dive or in the museum next to the famous basilica.
After learning more about the history of Mondsee you should explore some of the 150km of hiking trails or enjoy the region on a bike. If you want to do water sports lake Mondsee is popular for sailing, water skiing, windsurfing, and diving.
Bad Ischl is a spa town and besides being the cultural center of the Salzkammergut it is known among people who are looking for rest and relaxation. 1656 the name Salzkammergut was mentioned for the first time for the region around the town. Due to the salt mining, the area was from great economic value under Habsburg’s rule.
Bad Ischl is a paradise for those seeking untouched nature and tranquility. The town offers amazing events all year long. From operettas in summer to Christmas markets in Advent. Even the sportive find plenty of activities like hiking, running or biking around Bad Ischl.
Don’t forget to get some pastries at the famous Zauner pastry which is situated right on the Esplanade or in the city center. Even Emperor Franz Josef I. and Empress Sissi couldn’t resist the famous “Cremeschnitte” (also Berni’s favorite) or “Salzburger Nockerl”.
One of the most popular sights is of course Hallstatt. The town is part of the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage since 1997. Situated on the Hallstätter See it offers stunning views and sits right next to the tremendous Dachstein mountains.
If you are interested in finding out the secret to Hallstatt’s wealth which is lying deep beneath the surface head to the world’s oldest salt mine.
To get a different perspective of Hallstatt head to the viewing platform ‘Hallstatt Skywalk’ which offers a stunning view over the town and the Dachstein region in 360 meters height. Thanks to the mountain railway, the elevator, and the panoramic bridge the platform is easy to access. ;)
The Hallstatt High Valley offers different exhibitions and everything you need to know about salt mining. Check the ‘Salz Welten‘ website to learn more about the Hallstatt Skywalk, the High Valley, or the Salt Mines.
The Impressive Dachstein Mountains
The Dachstein Mountains are an alpine mountain group including the Dachstein Massif (2995 meters above sea level), the Grimming (2351 m above sea level), and the Sarstein (1975 m above sea level).
The Dachstein Massif
With an elevation of 2995 meters, the Dachstein Massif is the second-highest in the Northern Limestone Alps. It is situated at the border of Upper Austria and Styria and parts of the mountain are also in the state of Salzburg which explains why the Dachstein is also referred to as the ‘three-state mountain’. The massif covers an area of around 20×30 km and seen from the North is dominated by glaciers.
It is famous for its huge cave systems including some of the largest ones in Austria and the summit a popular goal among climbers.
East of the Dachstein Massif the Grimming forms one of the foothills of the Dachstein Massif. From Mai to October hikers are conquering the mountain which dominates the landscape of the region.
Another foothill of the Dachstein forms the Sarstein which is situated between lake Hallstättersee, Altausee and Grundlsee. The summits belonging to the Sarstein are the ‘High’ and ‘Lower’ Sarstein (1877 m), the Schwarzkogel (1800 m), the Gröbkogel (1724 m) and the Feuerkogel (1704 m). From June to October, this mountain attracts many professional hikers.
For one of the best panoramic views over lake Hallstättersee and the Salzkammergut head to the Krippenstein. On 2100 m above sea level this mountain houses the famous Dachstein caves and spectacular viewing platforms.
The Caves on Schönbergalm
During the summer season, the Krippenstein cable cars, situated in Obertraun, are running from April to October and take you directly to the Schönbergalm where you reach the Giant Ice Cave which promises a unique experience of nature with its ice formations in all shapes and sizes. For more information see the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave website. Another impressive cave is the Mammut Cave one of the largest karst caves in the world. A guided tour leads you through 1 km of the gigantic cave. You find the entrance as well on the Schönbergalm.
Panoramic Views on Mount Krippenstein
If you are looking for exceptional panorama views continue upwards with another cable car until you reach the second section Mount Krippenstein where you find different viewing platforms and hiking trails. The most popular platform is the 5fingers viewing point which is not for the faint-hearted. The platform reaches out over an almost 400m drop and offers spectacular views over lake Hallstättersee. You reach the 5fingers after a 20-30 minutes walk and will pass two additional sights on your way. The World Heritage View which offers a panoramic view of the mighty Dachstein glacier. The second one is called the World Heritage Spiral which offers a 360-degree panoramic view and is made for sunbathing and relaxing.
Another option at Mount Krippenstein is to take the Heilbronner Circular Trail which is an easy hike with plenty of things to see and takes about 3 hours in total. After the hike, we recommend trying some of the delicious Austrian dishes in the restaurant of the Lodge Krippenstein.
The last section of the Krippenstein cable car is the Gjaid which is the starting point for adventurous hikes.
The winter season starts mid-December until the end of March. Popular activities besides skiing and snowboarding are snow-shoeing tours, cross-country skiing, or winter hikes. Please find detailed information about the winter tickets here.
When To Visit The Salzkammergut
Summer, autumn, winter, or spring? You might be asking yourself which one is the perfect season and probably think summer is the time to go. To be honest, all 4 seasons offer amazing highlights and special characteristics of the Salzkammergut.
Salzkammergut in Summer
For lake lovers, the summer season is definitely one of the best to explore a few of the total 76 lakes. They appear in different shapes and sizes and all have their specialties. No matter if you want to relax in the warm grass and enjoy a refreshing swim in the lake or if you are an adrenaline junkie looking for different kinds of water sports the lakes in the Salzkammergut fulfill your every desire.
If you want to know which lake best fits your desires, check our article about the 8 Most Scenic Austrian Lakes – free of charge. ;)
Summer is also a nice season for bike tours, easy hiking trips, or to cool off in one of the famous Dachstein caves.
Salzkammergut in Autumn
Autumn transforms the Salzkammergut and brings vivid colors to the region. The crystal clear lakes may now be too cold to go swimming or do other water activities but it doesn’t make them any less attractive. With the morning mist still above the water, you will experience beautiful morning strolls along the shore while breathing the freshest mountain air.
It’s the season for hiking and recharging after the busy summer months. Nature lovers have discovered autumn’s beauty long-since. The air is crisp clear, the sun still provides a few warm weeks and the forests are shining in their brightest colors.
When you visit the Salzkammergut during autumn you can also indulge in the most delicious dishes the region has to offer. In the plenty of restaurants, alpine huts, and taverns you will find specialties like roast meat with ‘Sauerkraut‘ and dumplings to ‘Kaiserschmarrn‘ with sweet stewed plums.
Another special event in autumn is the transhumance when the farmers celebrate the end of a good summer by guiding the cattle down into the valley. We experienced this event close to lake Wolfgangsee and were stunned by the huge amount of visitors besides all the beautiful headgear the cows were wearing.
Salzkammergut in Winter
When the air is freezing among the lakes and a magical atmosphere spreads along the Salzkammergut the most enchanting season has started. The beginning of the winter season is the Advent with romantic sceneries and the famous Austrian ‘Christkindlmärkte’ (Christmas markets).
The scent of punch and incense is in the air and you hear Christmas songs along the streets. It’s the perfect time for a romantic getaway to spend Christmas in Austria at Lake Wolfgang.
Winter in the Salzkammergut is of course THE season for all winter sports fans. You can go cross-country skiing or snowboarding, tobogganing, ice skating or snowshoeing. The options are almost endless as well as the routes.
It doesn’t matter if you are a sophisticated skier or standing on a snowboard for the first time, in the Salzkammergut you will definitely find the right slopes for your skills and on top, you can enjoy the scenic surroundings while sliding down the snowy slopes.
Ski Regions in the Salzkammergut are spread along 300 km ski slopes and 8 different areas:
- Postalm – ski region of the locals
- Dachstein West – the biggest ski region in Upper Austria
- Feuerkogel – for family fun on the slopes
- Gaissau Hintersee – all kind of slopes & snow guarantee
- Kasberg – also perfect for families
- Dachstein Krippenstein – great for off-piste skiing fans
- Loser – offering the longest ski slopes
- Tauplitz – the region with snow guarantee
For information about the ski regions (prices and opening hours) please visit the Salzkammergut Website (unfortunately the English version is not working at the moment).
Salzkammergut in Spring
When the last snow is melting and the sense of the first flowers is in the air it’s the perfect time to start exploring the first lakes, bike, or hiking routes in the Salzkammergut. Be one of the early tourists and enjoy the mountain landscape and natures highlights during spring.
Where to Stay In The Salzkammergut
During our time in the Salzkammergut, we stayed at lake Wolfgangsee in the family-owned Gasthaus Wiesenhof. Situated in Abersee in a central location opposite of St. Wolfgang and surrounded by nature the hotel is not far from the beautiful towns of lake Wolfgangsee.
The owners Pepi and Theresa started to run the hotel in 1998. Pepi is a passionate cook and indulges their guests with a great mix of traditional cuisine with a modern twist. 80% of the ingredients are locally produced or even come from their own supplies. Like the fresh breakfast eggs from one of their chickens.
Theresa is responsible for the organization of the hotel and the restaurant and an expert on everything hiking. Accordingly, she gladly advises you on the best hiking routes for your skills and gives authentic tips on the region. As a nature lover, she started a hiking community called ‘Wanderdamen‘ (hiking ladies) with 8 other passionate women from lake Wolfgangsee. Above all, they pursue the purpose of the community while sharing their favorite hiking routes with like-minded nature lovers.
The Gasthaus Wiesenhof is perfect for couples, friends, or families alike. During summer it’s the perfect starting point for hiking, bike tours (they also offer bikes) or to enjoy the water quality of lake Wolfgangsee. In the winter season, you don’t have far to the Postalm – the skiing region of the locals, which guarantees an enjoyable winter experience in Austria.
We absolutely loved our stay and will be back again for sure! :)
Additional offers: a sauna, infrared cabin, dogs allowed
Prices start at 44€ per person.
See the current prices and offers.