Locals in this picturesque European town are protesting against overtourism

The town of Hallstatt in Austria is home to only 700 people but can be swamped by up to 10,000 visitors per day

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
Hallstatt, Austria
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Austrian town of Hallstatt is a historic, sleepy village perched on the western shore of Lake Hallstatt. It’s a designated Unesco World Heritage Site brimming with Alpine charm, accessible by train from Vienna and Salzberg – and it was recently ranked the sixth prettiest village in the world.

Traditionally a salt mining town, the sixteenth-century buildings and dramatic surrounding vistas make for an incredible setting, which allegedly inspired the town of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen. There’s even a replica of the town and its famous spire in China.

No wonder, then, that the place is a total tourist magnet. Hallstatt has become one of the most over-touristed places in Europe, with up to 10,000 visitors a day crowding the village, which is home to only 700 people. And while the continuous flow of visitors does help to support the local economy, Hallstatt locals understandably feel that the numbers are becoming a bit too much. 

Earlier this year, the Mayor of Hallstatt Alexander Scheutz had two fences put up to obstruct the town’s most popular viewpoints in a bid to deter visitors. According to Scheutz, the measure was a temporary installment to highlight the problem, but he intends to build a permanent barrier. 

When speaking to the New Zealand Herald, he said ‘Nobody can handle the masses. Hallstatt is too small for the many people who come.’

On Sunday (August 27), around 100 villagers protested against overtourism in Hallstatt, blocking the tunnel that allows people to access the town. 

This isn’t the first time this year tourist hotspots in Europe have taken action against overcrowding. In April, Portofino in Italy began fining people who lingered too long in photogenic areas prone to congestion. 

Though it doesn’t sound like Hallstatt is launching fines any time soon, other controls could include caps on the numbers of cars and coaches, plus a cut-off time for entering the village at 5pm. However, the local government says that limits on vehicle numbers are frequently reached already. 

Did you see that this ancient site on the Med is being transformed for tourists, and locals aren’t happy?

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