Anybody who had been to New York City would have wanted to visit Empire State Building. After queuing for ages to get to the observation deck on top of the tower, the splendour of the city’s skyline is spread before your eyes. Except…
- You can’t see Empire State Building; and
- The view is available from many other skyscrapers in the city.
Here in lies the paradox of visiting a dream destination: If you visit it, you can’t see it, and it is all the more disappointing especially if you are there to see it.
People who know Hallstatt recognises it by the classic village views, which has to be seen from the edge or from the water. No one really wants to go there to walk the streets (hidden between the streets in between the building you see on postcards), or to eat over there.
Most importantly, it gets ridiculously expensive to stay there.
Heritage Hotel in Hallstatt, for example, costs over SGD 300 a night in winter,, which is a lull season. I can’t imagine how much it will set me back if I visit it in summer!
Therefore, after doing a thorough research of Hallstatt and its surrounding region, I decided that it would be best to stay in Obertraun, which is a 15-minute shuttle bus distance from Hallstatt on the other side of the lake.
Here are some practical reasons for staying in Obertraun to visit Hallstatt:
- Closest town from Hallstatt, as compared to Bad Ischl (as recommended by many travel sites)
- In summer, you can take a ferry straight from Obertraun
- At all times of the year, you can take a shuttle bus to Hallstatt
- It’s so much cheaper to stay in Obertraun
If you have already done much research about Hallstatt, you would have known that you have a few minutes, after alighting the train at Hallstatt station, to reach the ferry that will bring you to Hallstatt across the lake.
Staying in Obertraun means staying on the train, and alight one stop later, and you have all the time in the world to find your accommodation.
However, there are still some unique features of Obertraun that I love.
Most of the accommodation available is on the lakefront, which means that there is a high chance you get to have a splendid view of the lake from your hotel. Even then, the lakeside is a short stroll from anywhere in the town centre (Note: The whole town is actually set in the valley of a distributary to the lake, so there are parts of the town that is actually far from the lake itself).
Even if you are not by the lakeside, the idea of being surrounded by the alps can also send chills down the spine.
At night, Obertraun, being less populated and tourist-y, has less light pollution, and hence, offers a better (I won’t say Hallstatt does not have a great night view, since overall, the region is far from light pollution from large cities) night view.
In fact, I witnessed a shooting star on one of the mornings!
For a tropical city-dweller like me, Obertraun offered a very unique experience. It is a small town like Hallstatt, and yet it does not have the glamour (colourful buildings and cobblestone streets) and hustle and bustle.
When I strolled down the streets of Obertraun, the sense of serenity overwhelmed me. Residents smiled and greeted me when we walked past each other. The buildings were spaced wide apart, mainly because each house has an attached field for their cattle to graze.
There were little paths from the road for one to take; one can just walk along the railway, since the train only comes once every half an hour or so. I could sing as I walked. I could gaze at the stars or marvel at the grandeur of nature.
All without breaking a sweat.
If you are one who enjoys a break from the city’s rush, then Obertraun would be an ideal add-on for your getaway to Hallstatt.
Sleeping in Obertraun
N and I chose a hotel called Hotel Haus Am See, which literally meant “Hotel by the Lake”. I hate to disclose the fact that I stayed in this hotel, because if I were to revisit Hallstatt, I would want to stay here again, and I don’t want to be denied a room just because it is overcrowded!
The hotel sits directly on the lakefront, and the town’s jetty is just in front of the hotel. In other words, in summer, you can take your breakfast and immediately jump onto the next ferry, cutting down the walking and waiting time like when you choose to take the shuttle bus.
The rooms facing the lake all have balconies, meant one could just sit there, sipping hot chocolate and soak in the view.
With such a great view, the rooms are actually secondary concerns.
In terms of space, there isn’t much to say. One could open up 2 large suitcases and still have sufficient space to move around the room, but N and I preferred to keep them for better maneuvering.
The room is also traditional; the wardrobes were not built-in, but are traditional wardrobes that had also filmsy partitions (I had to activate my scientific mind to balance my stuff so that the board won’t tip over lol). The dressing table is the traditional woodeen kind, and had 2 chairs by the side, which was also where we sat down to have dinner bought from the nearest supermarket.
The bathroom was spacious, and had a bath tub (combined with the shower). The only downside is that the sink had little space for me, especially as I had to have sufficient space for my contact lens case.
Piling On The Calories
Breakfast was included in the price, and it was in the café / restaurant on the ground floor. Do not expect a wide variety of food; just the typical toast, hard boiled eggs, ham, yogurt and cereals. The owner would make coffee for everyone, and mind you, it was good quality coffee!
If you are looking at dining in the hotel, then it would be a disappointment, as the café was only opened for breakfast. However, there is a pizza place just a few steps away from the hotel that offered decent pizza and bratwurst.
As the town was not brightly lit at night, one can easily miss the pizzeria with its conspicuous entrance. However, once you step in to through the door, you will be met with a warm, cosy setting (complete with a bar and a one-lane bowling alley!).
We were sat in a booth at an annex of the restaurant, and we each ordered a main and a drink. I ordered a Bavarian Soda (or something like that; I could not remember) and well, I must say I had a unique dining experience that day lol
That being said, the food was much better than that of the café we had at Hallstatt. And as it was not crowded, N and I stayed around for a while to relax and let our minds take a break from the day of fun and rushing around.
Meeting Everyday Needs
The nearest supermarket was actually a 5 – 10 minute walk from the train station, which itself is a 5 minute walk from the hotel. This was one of the negatives we had, as, frequent readers would have known, we liked to top up our stock with bottles of mineral water, and carrying 6 bottles of 1.5L of mineral water for 15 minutes was not a joke!
The supermarket was a real supermarket (not some make shift store) that offered a lot of stuff. However, since we were not allowed to cook in our hotel rooms, the most we could get was dried food. When we first arrived at Obertraun, it was already after sunset, and we didn’t want to spend time in the dark, at an unfamiliar place, to search for an eating place (as mentioned, the pizzeria was the only eating place opened to public, especially as it was near Christmas). So we only managed to get some cereals and chips from the supermarket for our 1st night at Obertraun.
Obertraun Train Station
This does not really gel with theme of the article, but I thought I must give the train station its air time, because we spent a lot of time over there.
I had been to many train stations across Europe, but they were mainly stations in big cities. It was the first time that I visited a train station so small, one could have much fun over there.
Granted, Hallstatt station was smaller (with just 1 small cabin), we spent more time at Obertrain station because it was on the way to wherever we want to go (take shuttle, to the supermarket, or just to wait for the train).
As mentioned, there was the freedom to walk on or beside the train tracks because it was such a deserted location. We were also early for our train back to Munich, because we really didn’t want to miss our train and connecting trains. So we actually had half an hour or more to explore the waiting area, ticketing area and then took pictures on the tracks.
There were seats in the ticketing area, which was indoor, so if you could not take the cold, you can choose to wait in there instead, though it would be more fun to be outside taking photos or just to sit by the tracks and take in the view beyond the tracks.
There are toilets also, so it would really be OK to reach the station early for the train. Or, when you are coming in, the last toilet you would be on would be on the train from Salzburg and that meant over 1 hour without the bathroom. So that meant you would really be hunting for the toilet after you alight the train, and would be glad that there is one right at the station 🙂
Obertraun is the place for one to stay, when planning for a visit to Hallstatt. And since the journey from Salzburg to Hallstatt is long (even longer, if you are coming in from Munich), then do not plan to arrive and leave on consecutive days.
Leave a full day for exploring Hallstatt, and for the remaining time, Obertraun is a good place to chill, explore and immerse yourself in a surreal environment of peace.
How to Get There
I bought our train tickets off the website: https://www.trainline.eu/, which offered a one-stop solution for tickets that are run by various entities and across EU borders. A typical route runs like this:
-> Attnang Puccheim
-> Hallstatt (if you are staying in Hallstatt itself, alight at Hallstatt and take the ferry that’s synced with the arrival timing of the trains)
-> Obertraun (just 1 stop after Hallstatt, Obertraun offers a cheaper, quieter alternative to staying at and visiting Hallstatt)
I will recommend sparing those extra bucks to get the First Class tickets for the comfort and ease of mind. At the very least, get reserved seats, especially if you are travelling in a group!
Buy bread and finger food for the long journey ahead, especially as there might not be sufficient time for lunch at train stations. Pack a bottle of plain water too. The toilets in the First Class cabins are well-maintained. Do note, however, the Attnang-Puccheim to Hallstatt leg of train do not have toilets onboard.
If you are staying in Hallstatt itself, the train and ferry timings are synced, so there is no worry that you would miss either. Just don’t spend too much time taking photos!
Read my other blog post if you want to know how to best make use of your time in Hallstatt!
Like My Review
If you find the tips helpful in deciding whether to visit this destination, or what to do when you come here, do go to Tripadvisor, search for “Zenov” and like my review.
Or, if you are planning for a trip to Bavaria this coming winter, follow my blog, as I will post more about my adventures in Bavaria, and tips on getting the best out of your vacation!