Editor’s Note: I’ve updated this post to reflect conditions in 2017. I’ve also compiled the most common questions from the comments below, answered them as best as I could, and published them in a post called How to Travel to Hallstatt – Most FAQs. Just click on this link to take you there. If you have a question on details of the journey – cost, connections, time needed, etc., chances are you’ll find them answered there.
Traveling to Hallstatt using public transportation is easy and enjoyable. I’ll start with two points of departure: Salzburg and Vienna. There are others of course, but unless you really try to avoid the ferry, called Stefanie, you’ll end up making the trip across the lake, anyhow. That in my opinion is the best part of the journey.
By Bus from Salzburg
Salzburg – Bad Ischl – Hallstatt (Train) Station – Hallstatt Markt
Your best bet is to travel to Hallstatt by way of Bad Ischl. In Bad Ischl you’ll have to transfer to a train. You then get off the train at Hallstatt Station and take a ferry across the lake. Your route will take you past some of the most scenic lakes of the Salzkammergut.
In Salzburg, the bus terminal is just outside of the doors of the main train station. The train station has been completely rebuilt in the last few years, but you’ll still find the bus to Bad Ischl near the far left corner of the square in front of the train station.
The square, if you care to know, is called Südtiroler Platz. Find Bus #150 to Bad Ischl. There is a bus about once every two hours, and there are also occasional Express Buses which don’t stop everywhere. You can also board the same bus, including the Express Bus, at the Mirabell Platz in Salzburg, but if you have a lot of luggage, it’s best to get on at the Südtiroler Platz. Buy your tickets from the bus driver. I believe he only takes cash.
It’s also now possible to buy tickets for almost the whole trip online. You still have to buy tickets for the ferry across the lake as you board the boat.
In Bad Ischl board a train to Hallstatt. The bus station is right in front of the train station. Don’t worry about finding the right platform – it’s all right in front of you and impossible to miss. But if you have time, you could spend a few interesting hours in Bad Ischl until you continue to Hallstatt.
Bad Ischl is a wonderful place. Its my idea of a perfectly walkable town. It’s easy to get around on foot, but difficult to negotiate with a car. Until the end of WWI Bad Ischl was the summer residence of the Emperor of Austria and his entourage. The Kaiser Villa and its estates are open to tourists, but visiting them and the town will take longer than a few hours. So if you can’t spend the time now, plan to come back another day. It’s well worth it.
Get off at the Hallstatt train station. The train station is actually not in Hallstatt, you’ll still have to make a trip across the lake on a ferry named Stefanie before you can set your foot in the old town. But crossing the lake on the Stefanie, especially on a morning when the sun hits Hallstatt, is perhaps the best part of the journey. Also, for most of its existence, just about the only way to get to Hallstatt was by water: you are following an old tradition.
Buy your tickets as you board the ferry. As I said earlier, they are not included in the price of the train tickets.
Returning to Salzburg is the reverse process.
By Train from Salzburg
Salzburg – Attnang-Puchheim – Hallstatt Station – Hallstatt Markt
This route is not nearly as wonderful as going by bus, but you do travel past the Traunsee in the Salzkammergut, and that lake and the landscape it sits in are marvels and worth a trip for their own sake.
Buy your ticket at Salzburg’s main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, and find your way to the right platform (the OEBB travel portal shows platform 6, but be sure to double check). The person at the ticket counter has all the information you need to find the right track and the right train. Typically the train to Attnang-Puchheim, the Railjet, leaves from track #6, but be careful, sudden changes do occur. Listen to announcements, and especially, watch the boards. The Railjet usually goes at least as far as Vienna, but don’t stay on, be sure to change trains in Attnang-Puchheim.
If you somehow miss that stop, as it happened to me once when I fell asleep one early morning, not all is lost: just a little time, and a little money. It’s easy to take a train back to Attnang from just about anywhere on the line.
In Attnang-Puchheim get on the train to Hallstatt, and get off at the Hallstatt train station. As I described above, you still have to take the ferry to Hallstatt, but that is one of the added attractions of traveling by public transportation.
Buy your ferry tickets on the ferry.
By Train From Vienna:
There are two possible routes to take, from two different train stations in Vienna. Regardless, you’ll still have to take the ferry across the lake from the Hallstatt train station. In all cases, buy your tickets in Vienna. Buy round trip tickets if you know you are coming back that way. Make sure you get current platform information from the reader board, the person at the ticket counter, or some other knowledgeable personal. Trains frequently arrive or depart on different platforms than published in train schedules.
a) Vienna Main-Train-Station (Wien-Hauptbahnhof) – Attnang-Puchheim – Hallstatt Station – Hallstatt Markt
b) Vienna-West-Train-Station (Wien-Westbahnhof)- Attnang Puchheim – Hallstatt Station – Hallstatt Markt
The Hauptbahnhof is Vienna’s main train station. The Westbahnhof is Vienna’s largest train station and it is the principal station for trains on the East-West rail lines.
Both stations have frequent departures for trains to Hallstatt. Make sure, however, that you catch a train that takes not much more than 3.5 hours to get to your destination, if time is one of your concerns. It seems to me the Westbahnhof has more departures of slow trains to Hallstatt with more transfers, so watch out.
You can also get to Hallstatt from Vienna by way of one other major route, via Stainach-Irdning. The Stainach-Irdning route takes you through the Ennstal, a lovely river valley in Austria. It takes longer and you may have more transfers on the way, but if you like train travel, this is a good way to go.
But if time is a factor in your travels, pick a connection via Attnang-Puchheim (see above).
At Hallstatt Station, get off the train, descend a short flight of stairs to the ferry and buy your tickets from the ferry man.
Traveling to Hallstatt is part the experience. That venerable old town draws its importance from all sorts of contexts, and the landscapes which surround it are one of them.
Editor’s Note: As I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve updated this post to reflect conditions in 2017. If after reading this post you still have questions, chances are I have already answered them in the comments, below. I’ve also compiled the most common questions and their answers, and published them in a post called How to Travel to Hallstatt – Most FAQs. Just click on this link to take you there.
I’m also opening these posts for questions, again, but with a simple captcha to keep robots and hackers on a leash.