With just about everything, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when it comes to our favourite places, personal experiences add an extra dimension.
But whatever filter you apply, it’s hard to go passed Hallstatt in Austria as among the most beautiful villages in the world if not, the grand champion.
Leaping straight from the pages of a fairytale, this ancient land in the Austrian alps, settled in the first millennium, is truly jaw-dropping.
There’s certainly a case for Vernazza in Italy’s Cinque Terre and Reine in Norway, Bibury in The Cotswolds or Murren in Switzerland, and countless others to claim ‘world’s most beautiful’ status, but Hallstatt really is something else.
So much so, in the ultimate demonstration of ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, international developers decided Hallstatt was so perfect, they replicated the entire village in the city of Huizhou in southern China!
Hallstatt is the jewel of the UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut.
The easiest way to get there is via train from Salzburg. You’ll change at Attnang-Puchheim for the connection to Hallstatt Station where you disembark to purchase a ferry ticket to cross the lake to the village.
Once you’re there, you will find a thriving community that has managed to maintain the village’s regional charm which could so easily have succumbed to an overload of kitsch given its global appeal.
The villagers celebrate their traditions in an understated way for visitors with, for example, ferry rides on the lake in ancient wooden boats (you can also hire small electric boats to explore but book ahead), evening music and dance performances by the Hallstatt Trachtenverein d’Hirlatzer (children’s group) in the village square (summer months), rent and ‘dress up’ in traditional Austrian costume (Dirndl) or purchase artisan jewellery at the “Markt” pier.
Hallstatt also has a curious quirk about it with one of its most visited ‘attractions’ being its graveyard that dates back to the Iron Age.
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For centuries, locals of Hallstatt opted for a celebration of eternal life by having their bones painted and displayed in the local chapel. The 1200 skulls in the Hallstatt Charnel House sit alongside the world’s oldest salt mine that was the reason behind this area being settled.
The views from the old mine are spectacular looking over the village and across the lake to the alps from a viewing platform perched 350 metres above ground.
To make the most of your visit to this enchanting place, make sure to join one of the many guided tours and hikes on offer. And remember, it is a popular destination so plan ahead particularly if you intend to stay.
For more information: www.hallstatt.net/home-en-US