After spending 48 hours exploring Salzburg, we hired a rental car and took a lovely drive along Austria’s Romantic Road visiting three gorgeous little towns, St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang and Hallstatt. Years ago, pre-blog days we had driven as a family down the Romantic Road in Germany but what I didn’t realise was that there was a Romantic Road in Austria as well, running from Salzburg to Vienna.
Our first stop was the pretty little town of St. Gilgen which sits perfectly beside Lake Wolfgangsee; it was a beautiful bright morning on the day we popped in for a hot chocolate…and it’s a very easy drive from Salzburg.
^^Those trees look like they’re dusted in icing sugar!
We wandered around the Christmas market and looked at the pretty decorations for sale…
…the buildings were rather delightful as well.
We popped into a cosy cafe for a hot chocolate and something sweet…
…the cafe was like a little time warp of beautiful tins and photos clinging to the wall. We watched the world go buy and I made the decision to buy the gorgeous candles that they were selling.
St Gilgen is a beautiful spot to just amble away some time…and it has an interesting history as well. If it was a tad warmer we would have ventured out onto the lake…it was rather nippley and I was about to poke someones eye out! You can take a boat trip on the lake that stops off at various other towns and villages nearby.
After wandering back to the car and removing about three layers of clothing, we headed off in the direction of St. Wolfgang which is the main town in the area. Once again the drive is pretty straight forward, the roads are clear and easy to drive but parking was a slight problem…possibly due to the Christmas Market.
St. Wolfgang was again all decorated for the festive period, so we had a look around the stalls which were starting to become a bit repetitious unfortunately. The St. Wolfgang Christmas market seems to be more focussed on food though.
We checked out the nativity…which was pretty nifty….I always like a guest that brings a sheep with them so we can whip up a mean shepherds pie…
…they are always welcome in my house…
…unfortunately he brings a lot of friends with him!
We had looked at taking the little cog train up the mountain but it was rather freezing cold; below 5 degrees so rather nippley to say the least again…and there was a sauna screaming our names like a banshee.
The sun sets rather early so we decided to head to our hotel in the mountains for the night which came with a rather lovely sauna…the rooms were rather basic along with the rest of the hotel however this view….
…was bloody amazing!
Waking up early the following morning we headed off in the direction of Hallstatt…having to wait for a passing train…
…which passed at the right time as I wanted to jump out of the car to take this photo!
We made a few stops along the way as the scenery was all just too pretty at times…
…as I keep saying…it was like we were stuck inside a snow globe!
Arriving very early in Hallstatt, we had a wander around before the Christmas market started and even visiting before 10am it was still rather busy.
Hallstatt is insta-famous (I hate that term…can we please go back to saying photogenic!) and unfortunately it feels that way with the signs saying no drones and please don’t take photos of our house…obviously some tourists have ruined it in the past for anybody new visiting the town.
While some folks have made fortunes from instagram; the dark side of instagram is the lack of privacy for homeowners (one instagram influencer recently had a photo standing on the doorstep of a house in Hallstatt which clearly has a sign saying no photographs…just because you’re an influencer doesn’t mean you can enter someone’s private property…when one idiot does this…another ten idiots follow…grrr!), no longer having a little piece of your own world to enjoy and often spots like this become a bit soulless.
The town is stunning, please don’t get me wrong however I’ve seen so many photos that on visiting it just felt a bit soulless. Hallstatt is often dubbed the prettiest place in all of Austria…is it pretty but prettiest of them all…who knows!
We wandered around…losing feeling of our fingers as it was minus 11 degrees and started to look forward to popping into the warmth of the car.
Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I think in time, the town will hit the endangered listing due to mass tourism. If you do plan to visit, get there early to nab a car park and have a wander around. Unfortunately some spots don’t live up to our beautiful expectations when you do visit.
G had found a lovely little rest stop which looked across the crystal clear water to Hallstatt…I much preferred this view…just us with some birds enjoying the joy.
I really adored St Gilgen and would be happily return (it was a spot that we randomly chose to visit on the day!)…Hallstatt was interesting to visit, pretty yes but very soulless and not somewhere I would visit again in a hurry.
We’ve visited Austria a few times now and I would happily return as it’s a very underrated country in Europe…Vienna makes a wonderful city break destination at any time of the year (my gluten free guide to Vienna as well if you travel just to eat cake!) and Salzburg and surrounding villages are a great little area to visit for the Christmas markets.
Travel Tips for Austria’s Romantic Road
- Hiring a car at Salzburg Airport is rather easy; the pick up points are a quick walk across from arrivals. I booked via Expedia to get the best deal however I went through the topcashback.com website first and got myself 12% cashback on my Expedia booking…it’s totally worth using the topcashback website when travelling.
- Driving around Salzburg is pretty straight forward and there isn’t a huge amount of traffic to contend with but would recommend taking a sat nav or hiring a car that has one built in.
- Driving along Austria’s Romantic Road is once again a lovely experience; the roads are clear and wide. Parking can be difficult at times in smaller villages and towns especially during weekends when popular with day trippers.
- If you are hiring a car in Germany and intend to visit Austria then make sure you buy a tax sticker from a service station in Germany before crossing the border in Austria. If caught it is an instant fine of over 100 euros that they make you pay on the spot…they accept credit card!
- Fuel is a lot cheaper in Austria than Germany
- If you fancy driving along Austria’s Romantic Road then check out the Official Austria tourism page for more information and also the Romantic Road website.
- There is a beautiful set of “romantic” hotels to stay at and are recommended through the Romantic Road website and everyone looks gorgeous!
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