Salzkammergut Sightseeing & Travel Guide

The Gosausee is one of the many lakes in the Salzkammergut

The Salzkammergut is not a federal province, but an area shared between Salzburg and more so Upper Austria and Styria. It is famous for its scenery, picturesque villages and many lakes. It also has a very distinct culture, expressed in architecture, customs (including the traditional clothing) and cuisine.

Lake Fuschlsee in the Salzburg part of the Salzkammergut is typical for the region

It is among Austria′s top-tourist attractions and individual areas within the Salzkammergut are jointly a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Since the Bronze Age, salt was quarried in this region, making it wealthy ever since. Personally, I think that it is the most beautiful region in Austria, and if you keep clicking the advertisements on, this might be where I will retire soon.

In terms of sightseeing, the Salzkammergut offers a few big attractions, but the vast number of hills and lakes are best explored by hiking. Some hard-core people choose to cycle, apparently it is something like a personal "iron man" contest to have cycled the Salzkammergut. I prefer to walk and suggest you to get an appropriate hiking guide in case you want to do the same.

Salzkammergut: What to See beyond Salt

A fairly long, but very nicely done video on the Salzkammergut - it might take a while to load, but it is worth waiting for it.

Among the nice places is Bad Ischl. It was a spa town and the place where Emperor Franz Joseph went for summer vacations. He loved to go hunting and it is said that he did this with no bodyguards, saying "Die Ischler tun mir nix!" ("The Ischlians won′t do anything to me!"). In terms of safety, little has changed since then and you can stroll the historic town, go to one of the traditional Cafés (I recommend Zauner) or the Kaiservilla ("Imperial Villa"), Franz Joseph′s hunting lodge. This is where he signed the declaration of war on the Kingdom of Serbia in 1914, which triggered the First World War.

Emperor Franz Joseph I was conceived in Bad Ischl and spent almost every summer of his life in the Salzkammergut

The most ancient town in the Salzkammergut - if not all of Austria - is Hallstatt. An entire Bronze Age culture got its name from this town, which is not only pretty, but was also very rich for many centuries through the salt trade. You can tour the salt mines (Salzwelten) and should not miss out on the "Beinhaus".

Hallstatt was built on narrow land between a mountain and a lake, so there was little space for a cemetery. To get around that problem, the bones ("Beine" or "Gebeine" in Austrian German) were collected after some years in the ground and collected, partly decorated and kept in a designated building, a charnel house. This is where they still are.

Towns, Mountains & Lakes of the Salzkammergut

Nearby is the Dachstein, a mighty mountain that is famous for its Rieseneishöhle ice caves near Obertraun. They are up to 80 kilometres long and full of impressive ice formations, preserved through the constant temperatures - bring warm clothing. In the Styrian Ausseerland area (around Bad Aussee and Altaussee), you will find even more local patriotism and culture (don′t mention the sensitive issue of genetic diversity and inbreeding to a local).

The Salzkammergut is a great place for hiking and mountaineering

Altaussee is famous for distinct traditions, "Tracht" (traditional clothing), songs and - most notably - for the "Narzissenfest", the "Festival of the Dafodil" that takes place annually in early summer. Nearby, but already in Upper Austria, is the town of Bad Goisern. The National Park Kalkalpen is nearby, too.

Gmunden is another pretty town, famous for its ceramics with traditional decorations. The city hall ("Rathaus") of Gmunden has a Glockenspiel and there is a local museum that you might want to see. Schloss Weyer Castle and Schloss Orth occupy nice locations by the lake. Nearby towns are Traunkirchen, Ebensee and Altmünster. The village of Gosau and the two Gosau Lakes make a good day-trip destination. Not far from here you can visit the castle Schloss Scharnstein.

Western Salzkammergut & Activities

In the West of the Salzkammergut, you will find the lakes Wolfgangsee, Traunsee, Hallstätter See, Attersee, Mondsee, Irrsee, and - already in the province of Salzburg - the Fuschlsee with the village Fuschl. They all make good hiking terrain, but town-wise, most tourists focus on the Wolfgangsee region with the towns of St. Wolfgang, St. Gilgen and Strobl, as well as Mondsee. Nearby, the Schafbergbahn up the Schafberg mountain is a popular destination. Mondsee has a castle and an ancient church, which featured as the wedding church in "The Sound of Mucus…sorry, Music".

The parish Church of St. Wolfgang is also historic and a good demonstration of the wealth of the Salzkammergut. My favourite time to be there is September, which is when the crowds fade away and the colours of autumn are already coming out. This is also the main season for hiking. Summers are nice, too, especially combined with a stay in Salzburg. During the winter season, Mount Dachstein (Ramsau) and surroundings offer great skiing opportunities.

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Sightseeing in other Provinces

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Linz & Upper Austria - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Official website of the Local Tourism Council

Official Website of the Austrian Tourism Council