Austria’s train connections aren’t just great for city-to-city travel. Remote regions like the beloved Salzkammergut (Lake District) can be conveniently explored with the country’s fast and efficient regional trains operated by the ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways). Here is a quick guide to seeing the Salzkammergut by train.
The Salzkammergut is known for its stunning beauty. Rolling hills and rugged mountain cliffs surround crystal clear lakes, with storybook villages and farmhouses lining the shores and valleys. Sunny days bring sweeping views of bright daffodil fields and cows grazing on lush meadows. The occasional rainy spell or patch of morning fog on the lakes lend the area a wonderful mystical quality. Start exploring and you’ll discover 5,000 years of history, including the world’s oldest salt mines and other highlights of this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage region. And of course the region is a culinary paradise, from freshly caught lake fish to local cheeses.
Where to start? From Vienna or Salzburg, head for Gmunden (transfer once in Attnang-Puchheim), a small town on lake Traunsee in Upper Austria. The Traunsee is a beloved swimming lake and sailing paradise, while Gmunden is famed for its pottery tradition – it’s the home of Gmundner Keramik – and starting point of many beautiful hikes in the region.
From there, take one of the many daily regional trains to Bad Ischl (roughly 45 minutes), once the favorite summer retreat of the Imperial Court under Emperor Franz Joseph. The spa town still retains much of the flair of that era, and there’s plenty to see: the Imperial Villa (Kaiservilla), for instance, and one of Austria’s most famous coffeehouses (Zauner), plus numerous locations honoring Austria’s operetta tradition and composers such as Franz Lehar.
Saving the most picturesque location for last, head on to the famous village of Hallstatt, just another 20-30 minutes by train. You’ll love it the minute you step off the train and board a small boat, to be ferried across Lake Hallstatt to the actual village. The views from the boat are some of the most photographed in Austria. Be sure to take a few selfies, with the town’s colorful houses in the background, nestled between the lake and the steep cliff-face rising behind it. Whether you make Hallstatt your base for a hiking vacation or choose to press on to Salzburg, you’ll find the perfect train connection for your trip at www.oebb.at.