Discover The Oldest Salt Mine In The World In This Beautiful European Village

Located in Central Europe, Austria is a small but mighty country. Avid skiers visit Austria for its winter sports, yet the country is also a gorgeous hiking destination, with fall being the best time of year to hike. Austria also happens to be littered with small towns straight out of a fairytale including Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Salzkammergut, an idyllic lake-filled region tucked into the mountains.

Hallstatt translates into "place of salt." This is entirely appropriate given that the town is home to Salzwelten Hallstatt, a 7,000-year-old salt mine, making it the oldest in the world. Salt mining at Salzwelten Hallstatt goes back to the Neolithic period and has allowed the town to flourish. While it only has a population of 700, it's a top-rated tourist destination, largely due to its spectacular lakeside scenery and tours of Salzwelten Hallstatt.

The journey to the salt mine starts with a five-minute ride on the Salzbergbahn funicular railway. The cable car can be found at Hallstatt's Valley Station. It takes tourists nearly 2,800 feet above sea level up the Hallstatt High Valley and to the mountainside where the mine is located.

Once there, a panorama lift will take you to a bridge. Here, you can check out the Hallstatt Skywalk, an imposing lookout platform that overlooks the city, before walking 15 minutes to the Knappenhaus entrance building. This is where the tour into Salzwelten Hallstatt begins.

What to expect on a visit to Salzwelten Hallstatt

Salzwelten Hallstatt can only be explored via a guided tour that costs 40 euros or around $42 (at the time of this publication). From the Knappenhaus entrance building, visitors will have to walk underground into the mountain. The tour traverses slightly more than a mile in the salt mine. It features a slide down into the mines and a look at the oldest staircase in Europe.  The staircase was found in the mine in 2002 and is estimated to be 3,400 years old.

The 90-minute tour ends with a train ride leading guests outside of the mine. On Tripadvisor, Salzwelten Hallstatt has a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. One reviewer from September 2023 wrote, "The tour itself is very well organized and shows lots of films, talks, and objects, our host was very informative and made it fun." However, before you plan a visit and tour to Salzwelten Hallstatt, there are some things to note.

The temperature inside the mine is always in the 40s or the 50s, so dress appropriately. Likewise, you will be provided protective clothing during the tour. While this is a family-friendly attraction, babies and children under 4 are prohibited from the tour. If you work up an appetite, consider dining at Rudolfsturm. This restaurant, offering classic Austrian dishes and glorious mountain views, is housed in a 13th-century medieval defense tower.