Ever since I laid eyes on the iconic image of Hallstatt, Austria I’ve wanted to visit this beautiful lakeside town. The image of the stately waterfront church with the Austrian Alps as a backdrop is breathtaking, and has made Hallstatt famous. When we planned our family trip to Austria, a visit to Hallstatt with kids was a must.
Whenever we travel to an iconic destination such as Hallstatt with kids, we like to avoid the crowds whenever possible. We decided to spend two days in Hallstatt, allowing us to get to town early to beat the tour buses. This strategy worked great for us, and if you have room in your Austrian family vacation, we recommend it to you as well.
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A 2 Day Itinerary for Hallstatt with Kids
With so much to do in Hallstatt with kids, it was difficult to decide on what activities to do. In the end, we really enjoyed our family trip to Hallstatt. Here’s what we did over two days in Hallstatt with kids.
Day 1 in Hallstatt with Children
Gosau Lakes Hike
The primary reason we took a family vacation to Austria was to enjoy some great kid-friendly hikes in the beautiful Austrian Alps. On our first day in Hallstatt with kids, we arrived midday after spending 5 days in Zell am See with kids. We wanted to spend a full day in Hallstatt with our kids, so we elected to spend our first afternoon on an easy family hike.
There’s a stunning mountain valley just southwest of Hallstatt with a series of three mountain lakes, called the Gosau Lakes. Within this valley, there’s a long, but easy, kid-friendly hike which ventures into the valley, visiting all three lakes. Judging by the amount of other families we saw while we hiked the Gosau Lakes Trail, this is a very popular kid-friendly hike near Hallstatt.
When we first arrived at Vorderer Gosausee (Front Gosau Lake), we couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity to Lake Louise – a famous mountain lake near our hometown in Banff, Canada. It’s a beautiful lake, with deep emerald water surrounded on all sides by towering, rocky mountains. Hohes Kreuz, the mountain at the far end of the lake, has a sprawling glacier on its upper slopes.
Leg 1: Vorderer Gosausee (Front Gosau Lake)
You can enjoy a family walk all the way around Vorderer Gosausee, but as we were walking all three lakes, we started with the trail along the north shore. The hiking trail is flat and wide, making it especially nice for a family hike, as everyone can walk side-by-side.
The views of the jagged peaks of Donnerkogel (2,050 m) across the water are especially impressive. There’s also a section of trail which goes through a partial tunnel, carved out of the solid rock cliff face, open to one side to the water.
The two sections of hiking trail between the Gosau Lakes are uphill, but manageable for nearly all skill levels. The dense, lush forest with a mossy carpet is captivating, as are the occasional waterfalls you pass along the way. One of the waterfalls, flowing into a small trailside lake, was one of the most beautiful waterfalls we’ve ever seen on a family hike.
In the forest sections, our kids had a ton of fun looking for tiny brown frogs crossing the hiking trail. We must have seen at least 30 frogs on our family hike at Gosau Lakes. We also enjoyed finding tiny wild strawberries and blueberries scattered the entire length of the hike.
Leg 2: Gosau Lakes 2 & 3
The 2nd Gosau Lake was either too far from the trail, or too low to be noteworthy. But the third lake, Hinterer Gosausee (Rear Gosau Lake) is also very beautiful. Surrounded on all sides by rocky Austrian Alps, the Rear Gosau Lake is worth hiking to. There’s a few huts at the far end of the lake where you can buy refreshments and the kids can use the toilet.
We walked the south side of the Front Gosau Lake on our way back to the trailhead. The scenery was still very nice, but in our opinion, not as good as the north side. There is a fun little spot where you can put your ear in a large metal cone to hear the sound of a waterfall up close. Our kids loved this!
Our full round-trip hiking distance was 12 km / 7.5 miles, but you can turn back at any time. A shorter option for a family hike is to circumnavigate the Front Gosau Lake, which is approximately a 4 km / 2.5 mile loop. If If you are looking for a fun and very scenic kid-friendly hike near Hallstatt, the Gosau Lakes Trail is an excellent choice!
Day 2 in Hallstatt with Kids
We arrived in Hallstatt at 8:30 AM on a Thursday morning in July. At the time we parked in the P2 parking lot, there were only 100 spots left. If your family holiday takes you to Hallstatt in summer, do yourself a favor and wake up early in order to get a coveted parking spot close to town.
Exploring the Town of Hallstatt
The P2 parking lot is south of the town of Hallstatt, so we enjoyed a nice lakeside walk along a promenade. Along the way we passed many beautiful traditional Austrian houses, decked out in beautiful flowers. We had fun looking at the ducks, swans and fish who call Hallstattsee (Lake Hallstatt) home.
After a few minutes of walking, we arrived in Hallstatt; what a charming village! We instantly loved the feel of the town of Hallstatt, with traditional buildings, beautiful flowers and plants, and many interesting shops and restaurants. Of course, seeing the Hallstatt church for the first time is a big thrill, even if it’s not from the famous Hallstatt viewpoint.
Walking through town early in the morning was a huge benefit as there were not many people around. It was a much different story when we returned in the early afternoon!
The Hallstatt Viewpoint for the Iconic Church Photo
I can clearly recall the first time I saw the iconic picture of the Hallstatt church. I remember telling Celine how much I wanted to go on a family trip to Austria to visit Hallstatt. Now, many years later, I was so excited that my bucket list wish was coming true.
To get the sought-after photo of the Hallstatt church, we continued walking a few minutes more. The viewpoint where you can get the famous Hallstatt picture is actually quite small; it’s just a pullout off the road.
The Hallstatt viewpoint didn’t disappoint – it was such a thrill to see the iconic image with my own eyes. Our kids didn’t know what the big deal was, but Celine and I knew this was something special.
When we arrived at the Hallstatt photo spot at 9 am it was nearly deserted. We didn’t return later in the day, but based on the crowds in town midday, the photo spot must have been overrun with tourists.
Tip: Try to arrive at the Hallstatt picture spot by 9 am as the hordes from the tour buses started to arrive at 9:30.
Our original plan for our full day in Hallstatt with kids was to see the famous viewpoint, then to go on a series of kid-friendly hikes around town. Our plan was to hike up Rudolph’s Tower (skipping the Hallstatt funicular), then hike to the end of the Echernatalweg Trail, following it back to the P2 parking lot.
Sadly, due to some ongoing helicopter work in the area, all three trails leading to Rudolph’s Tower were roped off (yup – we tried all three). It wasn’t all bad though, as the main Rudolph’s Tower trail led us to the Mullerstiege Viewpoint, which provided a new elevated vantage point to enjoy the beautiful town of Hallstatt, Austria.
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Not to be defeated by the Rudolph’s Tower trail closures, we decided to take the funicular up instead, thus letting us do most of our planned family hike. Nope – the funicular was closed as well due to the helicopter work. Sigh…
At least the Echernatalweg Trail was still open. The trailhead for the Echernatalweg hike is right next to the P2 parking lot. It begins along a paved road through the charming suburbs of Hallstatt, complete with fields of sheep, cows and even apple trees.
After 1 km / 0.6 miles, we passed a very photogenic ivy covered church. We could hear the Waldbach River in the distance as playful swallows danced through the air.
Before long, the Echernatalweg Trail meets up with the raging Waldbach River. The air becomes much cooler and you can see a mist rising from the surface of the water.
At the 2.5 km / 1.5 mile mark, we passed a very tall waterfall flowing off the towering cliff which has been our companion on the right for the entire family hike. As impressive as it was, it was soon to be put to shame by the star of the show.
We reached the final trail junction after 3.1 km / 1.9 miles. At this point it’s hard to tell if the Waldbach River is a river or a waterfall. It’s flowing downhill so powerfully, it’s quite a remarkable sight either way.
A short while later we reached the viewing platforms for the Waldbachstrub Wasserfall (Waldbachstrub Waterfall). Wow! Talk about an incredible and very impressive waterfall!
In fact, the Waldbachstrub Waterfall is about 6-7 waterfalls in a row, with the biggest raging violently through a deep, tight canyon on the left. The second biggest is a beautiful bridal veil waterfall on the right, with many smaller waterfalls in the middle.
We liked the lower viewing platform better as we got wet from the spray of the Waldbachstrub Waterfall – a nice treat on a warm summer day in Austria with kids!
We decided to make our family hike a loop and follow the Malerweg Trail back to the P2 parking lot. The Malerweg Trail is on the south side of the Waldbach River – it’s a nicer hiking trail than the Echernatalweg Trail on the north side of the river, but it skips the waterfall. We recommend hiking to the Waldbachstrub Waterfall as a loop, as we did, so you get the best of both kid-friendly hiking trails.
Hallstatt Cemetery / Hallstatt Charnel House
Our final activity for our day in Hallstatt with kids was to visit the Hallstatt Cemetery. You may think this sounds weird, but we’ve visited many iconic cemeteries with our kids around the world, and they always have a great time – our daughter especially.
The Hallstatt Cemetery is quite small, and is filled with many interesting graves. The tombstones are all fascinating and unique, with colorful beds of flowers over the small graves. The cemetery is up on the hill in Hallstatt, giving yet another good elevated viewpoint of the town below.
If you think your kids can handle the scary sight, the Hallstatt Charnel House is an interesting activity. When the Hallstatt Cemetery became too full, they began to exhume bodies to make room for new ones. They kept the large bones, and painted the skulls, commemorating the deceased. The painted skulls of Hallstatt and the piles of leg bones can be found inside the Hallstatt Charnel House. It’s small and only takes a minute to two to visit.
Other Things to do in Hallstatt with Kids
As you can see, we packed a ton of stuff into our two days in Hallstatt with kids. The following activities were on our list of things to do in Hallstatt with kids, but we simply didn’t have time for, but you may like on your family trip to Hallstatt, Austria.
Salt Mine / Funicular
The Hallstatt salt mine (Salzwelten Hallstatt) is one of the most heavily advertised attractions in all of Austria. We saw ads for it everywhere. Due to the area closure, we were unable to take the funicular ride up to the Hallstatt salt mine, but it sure looks like a lot of fun.
Rudolph’s Tower Hike
We were really disappointed to discover the Rudolph’s Tower hiking trail was closed during our family holiday to Hallstatt, Austria. This is a short, steep hike to an amazing viewpoint high above Lake Hallstatt.
Obertraun Ice Caves
If we would have had one more day in Hallstatt with kids, we would have visited the massive ice caves in Obertraun – a small village on the shores of Lake Hallstatt – just a few minutes away from the village of Hallstatt. There’s also some great cable car hiking in-and-around the ice caves.
Where to Stay in Hallstatt with Kids
To be honest, it didn’t take us long to realize that we weren’t going to be staying in the village of Hallstatt with our kids. We encourage you to look for yourself, but we found the family-friendly Hallstatt hotels to be very expensive, especially in the summer high season when we visited. Thankfully, we found an excellent, and more affordable, family-friendly hotel in a nearby village which worked great for our trip to Hallstatt with kids.
The town of Gosau is ideally located for overnight visitors to Hallstatt. It’s a short 15 minute drive from Gosau to the P2 parking lot in Hallstatt and just 10 minutes from the incredibly beautiful Gosau Lakes hiking trails.
We stayed in a Superior Quadruple Room at the COOEE Alpin Hotel Dachstein in Gosau. A perfect hotel room for families visiting Hallstatt with kids, we enjoyed a comfortable double bed, while our kids shared a bunk bed.
As with most resort towns in Austria, most of the chalets have been converted to Hallstatt vacation rentals, which are also a solid choice for families visiting Hallstatt with kids.
If you’d like to continue following along with our family holiday in Austria, our next stop after Hallstatt was a visit to Salzburg with with kids. We spent a few days in Salzburg before beginning our self-guided, family-friendly bike tour through Austria.
Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.
When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).