With the lock down in Austria getting more relaxed, we drove to Hallstatt today. This little town in the Salzkammergut area became big news last January as the mayor begged tourists to stay away. The town could no longer handle the influx of tourists. As the town is especially famous in China and South Korea, Hallstatt was suffering from overtourism and was looking at ways to stop tourists from coming.
A few months later things have changed. The many international tourists are gone. Not because of any measure put in place by local authorities or due to the mayor’s message finding its way to Beijing or Seoul. The reason is unfortunate and also not something the mayor wished for: COVID-19.
This afternoon we found a completely different Hallstatt. It was still busy, but that was because it was a Sunday. It isn’t overrun on a daily basis and is even quiet on most days. However we witnessed something interesting: the many Chinese and Korean tourists have been replaced by Austrian day trippers taking the opportunity to see what all the fuzz around Hallstatt is all about.
Hallstatt too fragile for overtourism
Although some restaurants have reopened, many remain closed. The boat service is operating, but the swan pedal boats lie still. Until the world returns to normal, Hallstatt will actually return to what normal used to look like before it was struck by mass tourism. It is a unique moment to visit this beautiful town. Just don’t come all at the same time. Hallstatt has proven to be too small and fragile to handle too many tourists at the same time.
Usefull Hallstatt links
- Official Hallstatt website (English)
- Official Austrian travel board website (multiple languages)
- Coronavirus tourist information by Austrian government
Austria was one of Europe’s first countries that implemented a very strict lock down while COVID-19 cases in the country were still relatively low. As a result, the number of cases stayed relatively low. Since half April, the lock down has been eased step by step. On May 14, bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen and hotels are scheduled to follow on May 29. Borders are currently closed but that is expected to change in June.