Hallstatt, Austria: Touring the Historic Salt Mines of Hallstatt
Updated: Jan 13, 2021
Summary. Hallstatt is a tiny lake-side town in the mountains of Austria. Easily accessible by train from Salzburg, this day trip ended up being our favorite day of our 15-day Central Europe vacation. Hallstatt is also known for its ancient salt mines which are available for tours. Nothing in this town in inexpensive but it is well-worth the expense. Walking approximately 2 km into the salt mine tunnels, you will be taken to the salt mine train which will whisk you through more, fairly narrow tunnels. One highlight for the kids especially is a slide within the mine that takes you from one point to the next as part of the tour. ~24 Euros per adult; 12 Euros per child. Combo funicular/salt mine tickets are also available. See also our other blog on Hallstatt for more activities while you enjoy this City.
Getting there. Once in the town of Hallstatt, you can travel by foot to the town's funicular. If you're not to keen on that idea (hello heights), there's also a trail to access the salt mines by foot. As the trail is straight up, it may take you upwards of 2 hours to get there but you can nonetheless, avoid the funicular. We ended up purchasing one-way tickets (10 Euro each), and hiked down the mountain following the tour.
Views from the Top. The funicular drops you off high above Lake Hallstatt. Take the time to walk over to the Skywalk, which is part of this town's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Walking on a bridge over the edge of the cliff, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the lake, mountains, and town below. From there, it is a relatively short walk up to the salt mines.
Salt Mines. Hallstatt's world famous salt mines are a fun adventure, especially for kids. Known as the oldest salt mine in Europe, the still-working mine requires visitors to wear protective clothing which is provided by the mine, After the tour guide provides a brief history of the mine, visitors are walked down further into the mine through tunnels. About half-way through the tour, visitors travel down two separate slides, one longer than the other. The slides were built to transport miners from section to section within the mine (fun!). Next, the tour brings you to an open salt mine and subterranean lake with a theatre, where a video provided further history of the mine. The salt is visible on the cave walls. The tour ends with a speedy ride on a miner's train through more narrow tunnels- another kid-friendly delight.
Hike Back to Town Below: After the salt mines we enjoyed our sack lunch on the trail outside the mines before heading down the trail back to town below. The trail is well-marked and of course a little steep in places since it takes you down a fairly significant mountain. The walk will take roughly an hour to complete and will let you out exactly where you need to be to shop, use the bathroom ("Water closet"), and if you'd like, lunch on the water.
Finally, a disclaimer. The writer of this blog did not, in fact, visit the salt mines. My husband and two kids did, however. You see, venturing 2km into the mountain and out through small tunnels really does not work with those suffering from claustrophobia. So the photos and description here are taken from accounts by the rest of the That's How We Travel family. If you similarly shy away from enclosed spaces, I recommend allowing others in your party to take the salt mine tour and instead enjoy a hike behind the entrance of the salt mine. The trails are well-marked and forested. Obviously take precaution when considering a solo hike, but for me it was just perfect. It also didn't hurt to have a little alone time after several days with the family (ha ha).