Hallstatt, packed with Austrians

Hallstatt, a picturesque town in the Austrian Alps, has long been a prime example of overtourism: In pre-pandemic times, the town of 780 received as many as 10,000 visitors per day. Local officials had begun putting in place new measures to combat the worst effects of the crowds—and then the pandemic hit, emptying out tourist spots across the world.

Back in June, on my way home from a vacation at nearby Attersee (which is beautiful), I went to Hallstatt to see how things were recovering after the pandemic-related restrictions were lifted. Like many, I’d seen the idyllic photos of Hallstatt and had long wanted to see it in person—but was always turned off by the idea of fighting massive crowds there.

It seems many Austrians had the same idea I did: When we were there, on a hot Saturday afternoon, the town was pretty packed. Unlike in normal times, however, most of my fellow visitors were Austrians: Instead of a mix of many languages in the streets, we mostly heard (Austrian-accented) German.

This is not the only tourist spot in Europe experiencing an influx of tourists from nearby: With the specter of a second wave hanging over reopening in many countries and the fast-changing dynamics of the pandemic, many seem to be opting to rediscover their own respective countries instead of venturing further afield this year. Austria’s government is even explicitly running a slogan aimed at its citizens and residents: “A good summer is waiting for you: Discover your own country.”

I wrote about my Hallstatt experience for POLITICO Europe, which you can read here. And last month, I also described the tricky return to almost normal life in Austria for ICWA, available here.