This is the second post of my Austrian road trip, containing details from my day trip to Hallstatt and Vienna! If you want to read about Salzburg and Innsbruck, check out part 1 here!
Day trip to Hallstatt
If you don’t know much about this place, Hallstatt is a very small, picturesque village located only 1 hour away from Salzburg. It is popular for its unique natural beauty. The village itself sits next to a lake, “guardian of the Hallstättersee lake”, and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is also considered to be one of the oldest inhabited settlements in Europe. It is so small that you can literally walk from one side to another in just half an hour. As a result, a visit for a day gives you more than enough time to explore it! My friends and I have been dreaming of visiting this place for so long, and so getting the chance to visit it felt like a dream came true!
The drive to Hallstatt from Salzburg is very easy and extremely beautiful. Mostly because you can cross through the Salzkammergut Lake District, where you will come across many small traditional villages and gorgeous lakes! My personal favourite was the Wolfgangsee lake.
Regarding parking in Hallstatt, there are 3 car parks located a few minutes at the outskirts of the village. I found P2 to be the most convenient. The cost is approx 8€ for the whole day.
P.S If you dont have a car there are many tour operators in Salzburg that organise day trips to Hallstatt!
Top of Hallstatt
Upon arrival to the village, the first thing I did was catch the funicular railway to reach the Top of Hallstatt Viewpoint! The platform/viewpoint hovers 350 meters above the roofs of Hallstatt and offers unique panoramic views over Lake Hallstatt and the impressive mountain scenery. The tickets are about £16/pp and are definitely worth it! The view is breathtaking.
From there you can also go to the salt mine & ice caves! I do not really enjoy being in confined spaces so I decided to skip this part!
Although the location of Hallstatt is stunning, I found that the actual atmosphere of the village was not what I expected. Maybe it was the weather or just the mood of that day. But, whilst strolling around, I felt a very cold, unwelcoming vibe. I remember thinking to myself that I was glad that I did not have to stay there for the night!
However, the market square, the Catholic Parish Church, Michael’s Chapel, and Church of Christ, are some of the highlights of the village!
I also discovered that Hallstatt produces its own beer, which I actually enjoyed very much! Definitely give it a try!
Finally, my last destination was Vienna. A city with rich history, culture, art, and architecture! On every corner you will find a landmark, an art gallery, or something beautiful to catch your attention. In order to learn more about the history of the city, I definitely recommend booking one of the free walking tours here. To move around the city, the easiest way is to catch the underground or use (my favourite) lime scooters!
Kunst Museum Wien
One of the first things I visited in Vienna was the Kunst Museum. It’s unique and colourful architectural design catches your attention from afar, as by itself is considered to be a great piece of art. It is home to a range of photography and other artistic exhibitions! The building itself reminded me of Gaudi’s skeleton house in Barcelona.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the symbol of Vienna and one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria. It is located in the heart of the historic city centre, so if you find yourself nearby you should definitely go inside. I was mostly impressed with its exterior architecture but also with its heavily decorated, complex, and baroque interior! Exactly outside the cathedral you will also find one of the most popular christmas markets in the city!
Austrian National Library, State Hall
By far, my absolute favourite highlight of Vienna was visiting the Austrian National Library; one of the most beautiful library halls in the world! It is also considered to be the biggest Baroque library in Europe! It might have been my love for books and libraries, but this place literally mesmerised me.
The state hall of the library is almost 80m long and 20m high and is crowned by a dome magnificently decorated with frescoes (a painting technique where artists paint directly on the wall) by the court painter Daniel Gran. In the library you will find exhibited more than 200,000 volumes! During my visit there was also an exhibition referring to Mozart’s life. Ticket costs around 13€.
If you look at any travel guide about Vienna, you will notice that they all mention the popular Cafe Central; Vienna’s most famous coffee house. It is said that there you will find the best cake in the world! Established in 1876, this coffeehouse became popular as some of the greatest poets, philosophers and – it has to be said – storytellers the world has ever seen, used to visit it to enjoy its coffee, cigars, and cake.
It is so popular that usually there is a queue outside (as you can see in my photo below). I personally am not one of these people that have the patience to stay in line. However, given the reputation of this place I had to try it! Forty minutes later, I managed to get in. The interior of the cafe is definitely impressive; very old fashioned and baroque. There is also a pianist playing classical music. I tried a traditional apple strudel with custard and a classical chocolate cake… I have to admit, that they did not live up to my expectations and the cake was definitely not the best in the world!
State Opera Vienna
Vienna is one of Europe’s classical music capitals, having been home to Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Strauss, and Beethoven. It is also home to the Vienna State Opera, which is considered one of the most important opera houses in the world. In particular, it is the house with the largest repertoire. The interior of the building itself is incredibly impressive and comes with a lot of history. You can even get a guided tour focusing only on this landmark! If you have the opportunity, I would definitely recommend booking tickets to watch a ballet or an opera. You can get last minute standing tickets for as little as 6€! I was lucky enough and managed to get seated tickets to watch the ballet “Le Corsaire”; an amazing experience that I will remember for a long time!
Gustav Klimnt Exhibition
A prominent art piece during my childhood was “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimnt, as my auntie would have it in her house. Every time I’d visit her I’d catch myself looking at this painting, getting lost. It always made me feel nostalgic about something. It may be that it showcases love in its most tender form..just a kiss. This sole piece of art made me really curious about its creator; Gustav. Subsequently, I could not miss visiting one of the exhibitions for Klimnt, located in the heart of Vienna! If you enjoy art, you should definitely go and learn more about Gustav Klimnt’s life and work!
One of the most beautiful markets that I have ever visited is the Wiener Christkindmarkt, located in from on Rathausplatz; the square in front of the town hall and opposite the Burgtheater. The atmosphere of this market is just magical and so you should grab your loved one (or your friends) and stroll around! Maybe even ice-skate! This is a unique experience you only get to do in Vienna!
“The 150 sales booths at the traditional Christmas Market offer Christmas gifts, Christmas tree decorations, handicrafts, culinary treats, confectionery and warming drinks. The trees in City Hall park and along the Ringstrasse boulevard radiate a festive glow. A special attraction for couples in love is the tree of hearts. Visitors can skate over a 3,000 m² ice rink and along numerous paths through the park. The Children’s World offers a carousel, a reindeer train and wonderful light installations in the park.“
And so, this concluded my Christmas trip! Overall it was great. Austria is undoubtedly a beautiful country and if it hasn’t been on your list, you should consider it. Specifically during the festive season! I hope that you found this post helpful and it has inspired you to plan your own roadtrip!
Finally, one thing I learnt from this trip was that sometimes social media (i.e. Instagram) can increase your expectations of places so much, that when you get to the actual place you feel somewhat disappointed. I caught myself (specifically when in Hallstatt) thinking that maybe if I hadn’t looked this place as much online, I would have probably appreciate it more. Of course this is hard in our era, but it is definitely something to think about. It was a reminder that “The best way to avoid disappointment is to not have any expectations.”
Until next time…