15 Best Sights in Salzkammergut, Austria

Dachstein Ice Caves

Fodor's choice

This is one of the most impressive sights of the eastern Alps—vast ice caverns, many of which are hundreds of years old and aglitter with ice stalactites and stalagmites, illuminated by an eerie light. The most famous sights are the Rieseneishöhle (Giant Ice Cave) and the Mammuthöhle (Mammoth Cave), but there are other caves and assorted frozen waterfalls in the area. The cave entrance is at about 6,500 feet, accessed via cable car and a hike (or you can hike all the way), but still well below the 9,750-foot Dachstein peak farther south. If you visit in August, you can enjoy the Friday Ice Sounds concert series under the Parsifal Dome of the Dachstein cave. Tickets for these special shows include a cave tour and buffet dinner at the Erlebnisrestaurant Schönbergalm.

Be sure to wear warm, weatherproof clothing and good shoes; inside the caves it is very cold, and outside the slopes can be swept by chilling winds. Start before 2 pm to see both caves.

34 Winkl, Hallstatt, Upper Austria, A-4831, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: Giant Ice and Mammoth Cave €37.50 each; combined ticket €44.00; cable car €33 round-trip; Ice Sounds concert €75, Mammoth Cave: late May–late Oct., daily 10:15–2:30. Giant Ice Cave: May–Oct. 15, daily 9:20–4, Closed Nov.–Apr.


This unique, hand-shaped observation platform features 5 "fingers" stretching out 400 meters above the spectacular views of Lake Hallstatt, Hallstatt, and the Inner Salzkammergut below. One of the platforms is made entirely from glass (not for the fain hearted) and another enables visitors to gain their own personal view of the Hallstatt World Heritage site through a large picture frame. The walk to 5fingers can be easily completed in about 20 minutes from the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car.

Archaeological Excavation

A unexpected peek into the Celtic past is offered at the DachsteinSport Janu shop. A decade ago, its intention to put a new heating system in the cellar unexpectedly turned into a historical excavation when workmen found the remains of a Celtic dwelling, now on view to visitors.

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In Bad Ischl the quickest way to travel back in time to the gilded 1880s is to head for the mammoth Kaiservilla, the imperial-yellow (signifying wealth and power) residence, which looks rather like a miniature Schönbrunn: its ground plan forms an "E" to honor the empress Elisabeth. Archduke Markus Salvator von Habsburg-Lothringen, great-grandson of Franz Josef, still lives here, but you can tour parts of the building to see the ornate reception rooms and the surprisingly modest residential quarters (through which sometimes even the archduke guides visitors with what can only be described as a very courtly kind of humor). It was at this villa that the emperor signed the declaration of war against Serbia, which officially marked the start of World War I. The villa is filled with Hapsburg and family mementos, none more moving than the cushion, on display in the chapel, on which the head of Empress Elisabeth rested after she was stabbed by an Italian assassin in 1898.

Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, A-4820, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: €15.40; grounds only €5.20, Closed Nov., Thurs.–Tues. in Jan.–Mar., and weekdays in Dec.


The Hallstatt market square, now a pedestrian area, is bordered by colorful 16th-century houses and this 16th-century Gothic church, which is picturesquely situated near the lake. Within, you'll find a beautiful winged altar, which opens to reveal nine 15th-century paintings. The Karner (charnel house) beside the church is a rather morbid but regularly visited spot. Because there was little space to bury the dead over the centuries in Hallstatt, the custom developed of digging up the bodies after 12 or 15 years, piling the bones in the sun, and painting the skulls. Ivy and oak-leaf wreaths were used for the men, alpine flowers for the women, and names, dates, and often the cause of death were inscribed. The myriad bones and skulls are now on view in the charnel house, also known as the "Beinhaus" (bone house), which has a stunning setting overlooking the lake. Each year at the end of May the summer season kicks off with the Fronleichnahm (Corpus Christi) procession, which concludes with hundreds of boats out on the lake.

Kirchenweg 40, Hallstatt, Upper Austria, A-4830, Austria

Museum der Stadt Bad Ischl

Fascinating is the only word to describe this museum, which occupies the circa 1880 Hotel Austria—the favored summer address for Archduke Franz Karl and his wife Sophie (from 1834 on). More momentously, the young Franz Josef got engaged to his beloved Elisabeth here in 1853. After taking in the gardens (with their Brahms monument), explore the various exhibits, which deal with the region's salt, royal, and folk histories. Note the display of national folk costumes, which the emperor wore while hunting. From December until the beginning of February, the museum shows off its famous Kalss Krippe, an enormous mechanical Christmas crèche. Dating from 1838, it has about 300 figures. The townsfolk of Ischl, in fact, are famous for their Christmas "cribs," and you can see many of them in tours of private houses opened for visits on select dates in January.

Esplanade 10, Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, A-4820, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: €5.50; special exhibits, €3.10; combined ticket to the museum and Lehár Villa, €9.50, Closed Mon., Tues., Nov., and Mon.–Thurs. in Jan.–Mar.

Museum Hallstatt

Go back 7,000 years and discover the orgins of Hallstatt and its salt mines at this museum. The exhibits include holographic representations, video animations, and a 3-D journey through time.

Seestrasse 56, Hallstatt, Upper Austria, A-4830, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: €10, Closed Mon. and Tues. in Nov.–Mar., May–Sept., daily 10–6; Apr. and Oct., daily 10–4; Nov.–Mar. Wed.–Sun. 11–3

Photo Museum (Marmorschlössl Bad Ischl)

Don't overlook the small but elegant "marble palace" built near the Kaiservilla for Empress Elisabeth, who used it as a teahouse; this now houses a photography museum. The permanent collection offers an interesting overview of the history of analog photography, with a nice tribute to the empress. The marriage between Franz Josef and Elisabeth was not an especially happy one; a number of houses bearing women's names in Bad Ischl are said to have been quietly given by the emperor to his various lady friends (Villa Schratt was given to Katharina Schratt, the emperor's nearly official mistress). You'll first need to purchase a ticket to the museum or park to visit.

Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, A-4820, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: Museum and Kaiserpark €7.20, Closed Nov.–Apr.


Salt has been mined in this area for at least 4,500 years, and the Hallstatt mines of the Salzberg Mountain are the oldest in the world. These "show mines" are in the Salzbergtal valley, accessed either by paths from the village cemetery or, much more conveniently, via a funicular railway that leaves from the southern end of the village. From the railway a 10-minute walk takes you to a small-scale miner's train (tall people, beware), which heads deep into the mountain. Inside, you can famously slide down the wooden chutes once used by the miners all the way down to an artificial subterranean lake, once used to dissolve the rock salt. At the entrance to the mines you'll find an Iron Age cemetery and a restaurant.

Buy a "Salzerlebnis" (Salt Adventure) combination ticket from the ÖBB (Austrian Railway) that offers an all-inclusive value fare for travel to and from Hallstatt as well as the salt mine tour.

Salzbergstrasse 21, Hallstatt, Upper Austria, A-4830, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: Funicular €10 one way, €18 round-trip; mine and tour €24; combination ticket for cable car and salt mines €34, No children under 4 yrs, Closed Jan., Late Apr.–end Aug., daily 9:30–4:30; Sept. and Oct., daily 9:30–3


From the end of April to mid-October, the historic steam train trip from St. Wolfgang to the 5,800-foot peak of the Schafberg offers a great chance to survey the surrounding countryside from what is acclaimed as the "belvedere of the Salzkammergut lakes." The mountain is also a hiker's paradise—take advantage of one-way train tickets for a less strenuous afternoon. Pause for refreshments at one of two inns on the peak. On a clear day you can almost see forever, or at least as far as the Lattengebirge mountain range west of Salzburg. Crowds waiting for trains are likely, so start out early to get a seat by a window for the best view; call the ticket office to reserve a spot at your preferred departure time.

Schifffahrt Boat Trips

The same company that ferries train passengers across the lake to Hallstatt also runs three other vessels offering summer boat tours around the lake via Obertraun to the south (50 minutes) or Obersee to the north (80 minutes). You can also link boat trips with hiking along the shore between pick-up points.

Am Hof 126, Hallstatt, Upper Austria, A-4820, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: South lake trip: €8 one way, €12 round-trip; North lake trip: €8--€9 one way, €15 round-trip; full-day unlimited-ride pass, €22; bikes, €5, No south trip early Oct.–May; no north trip early Oct.–mid-July, May–Sept. South lake trip: daily at 11, 1, 2, and 3 and 4:10; north trip: daily at 10:30, 1:30, and 3:30 (weather permitting)

Stadtpfarrkirche St. Nikolaus

In the center of town, St. Nikolaus Parish Church graces Ferdinand-Auböck-Platz. It dates back to the Middle Ages, but was enlarged to its present size during Maria Theresa's time in the 1750s. The decoration inside is in the typically gloomy style of Franz Josef's era (note the emperor's family portrayed to the left above the high altar). Anton Bruckner used to play on the old church organ.

Kirchengasse 2, Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, A-4820, Austria

Villa Lehár

A steady stream of composers followed the aristocracy and the court to Bad Ischl. Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms (who composed his famous Lullaby here as well as many of his late works), Johann Strauss the Younger, Carl Michael Ziehrer, Oscar Straus, and Anton Webern all spent summers here, but it was the Hungarian-born Franz Lehár, composer of The Merry Widow, who left the most lasting musical impression, the Lehár Festival. Named in his honor, it is Bad Ischl's summer operetta festival, which always includes at least one Lehár work. With the royalties he received from his operettas, he was able to settle into the sumptuous Villa Lehár, where he lived from 1912 until his death in 1948. Now a museum, it contains a number of the composer's fin-de-siècle period salons, which can be viewed only on guided tours.

Lehárkai 8, Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, A-4820, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: €5.80; combined ticket to Villa and Bad Ischl Museum €9.50, Closed Mon., Tues., and Oct.–Apr.

Wallfahrtskirche St. Wolfgang

You shouldn't miss seeing Michael Pacher's great altarpiece in the 15th-century Wallfahrtskirche, one of the finest examples of late-Gothic woodcarving to be found anywhere. This 36-foot masterpiece took 10 years (1471–81) to complete. The paintings and carvings on this winged altar were used as an Armenbibel (a Bible for the poor)—illustrations for those who couldn't read or write. You're in luck if you're at the church on a sunny day, when sunlight off the nearby lake dances on the ceiling in brilliant reflections through the stained-glass windows. Visit the Wolfgangsee Tourist Office website for a list of frequent concerts in the sanctuary and Pfarramt (rectory).

Markt, St. Wolfgang, Upper Austria, A-5360, Austria
sights Details
Rate Includes: May–Sept., daily 9–5; Oct.–Apr., daily 10–4; altar closed to view during Lent