Salt has been mined in Hallstatt in Austria's Salzkammergut region for 5,000 years. The historical significance of the town and its picturesque appearance attract visitors from all over the world.
Hallstatt is located in the Austrian province of Upper Austria in the Salzkammergut region and has achieved worldwide fame due to its history. In the centre of Austria on the shores of Lake Hallstatt, the small town of less than 1,000 inhabitants nestles against the flanks of high mountains.
Together with the Inner Salzkammergut and the Dachstein, Hallstatt was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also named the pretty little town one of our top 10 sights in Austria.
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What is the best way to get to Hallstatt?
Hallstatt can easily be reached by car, but the most idyllic way to get there is by ferry. The landing stage is located on the opposite shore of Lake Hallstatt about 30 minutes' walk from the village of Obertraun. The picturesque view of Hallstatt can best be captured from the ferry.
Why is Hallstatt a World Heritage Site?
The oldest human traces in Hallstatt date back to the Neolithic period around 5000 BC. Even then, the rich salt deposits of the Salzkammergut region attracted people to this area.
Archaeological finds prove that salt was mined in Hallstatt as early as 3000 BC. At that time, this was still done with handmade picks made of wood and bronze, the remains of which can still be found inside the ancient galleries.
Salt was a sought-after raw material at the time. The white gold preserved food for a long time and was traded at high prices. The brisk salt trade brought Hallstatt great prosperity and enabled the emergence of an advanced civilisation. The period from about 800 to 400 BC is described in history books as the Hallstatt period, made the small community known worldwide and eventually made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Is salt still being mined in Hallstatt?
In modern times, in the 17th century, people switched from hacking out the salt stones to much more efficient so-called wet mining, in which the salt chamber was flooded and the brine, which was saturated with up to 27% salt, was transported away.
Via a 40-kilometre-long pipeline, the lye is led to neighbouring Ebensee, then evaporated and the pure salt remained. This method is still used today to extract one million tonnes of salt annually in the salt mines of Hallstatt, Bad Ischl and Altaussee.
Salzwelten - The white gold from the mountain
In the "Salzwelten" exhibition mine, the origin of the famous Hallstatt salt can be examined in more detail. Guided tours range from a short round through the tunnels to a four-hour expedition on millennia-old tracks.
Oldest wooden staircase in the world
The expedition through the Salzwelten once also led to the oldest known wooden staircase in the world. Until 2014, the 5,000-year-old staircase was in situ deep underground, but then it was moved to the Natural History Museum in Vienna for conservation reasons.
Longest wooden slide in the world
The end of every guided tour through the Salt Worlds is an unforgettable slide on the world's longest wooden slide, on which you can reach speeds of almost 30km/h. Back into daylight, a genuine mine dog, a small wooden train, transports miners back outside.
PICTURES: Salt Worlds in Hallstatt
Sights in Hallstatt
Hallstatt is a cute little place that can be explored on foot within half a day. It lies on a narrow strip of shore on Lake Hallstatt and is built into the mountain rising behind it and partly on stilts on the water.
The densely packed houses and narrow, steep alleys give Hallstatt a very special atmosphere. Hallstatt's "main street" leads past the market square and the Evangelical Church, visible from afar, and along the shore of Lake Hallstatt. It is lined with inviting cafés and souvenir shops where the ubiquitous Hallstatt salt can be purchased in all its variations.
The World Heritage Circuit
The so-called "World Heritage Circular Trail" branches off from the main road and leads visitors into the depths, or rather the heights, of Hallstatt. On small streets, over narrow stairways and steep alleys, you pass pretty houses and the rushing Mühlbach stream until you reach Hallstatt's Catholic church and its associated cemetery.
Between the little houses arranged like toys, magnificent views of Hallstatt, the lake and the surrounding mountains open up again and again.
Above the community on the Salzberg lies the world-famous Hallstatt burial ground, which was stumbled upon by chance during construction work. The master builder Johann Georg Ramsauer also happened to be interested in archaeology and immediately recognised what historical treasures had been unearthed here.
The subsequent extensive excavations revealed over 900 graves, the grave goods of which can be seen in the Hallstatt Museum. Hidden graves are still suspected under the forests and meadows of the Salzberg, but finding them is difficult and the necessary small change to systematically excavate the mountain is also lacking. So who knows what undiscovered treasures from the past still slumber deep in the earth.