Hallstatt, the "real" city of Frozen, victim of her success

The small Austrian village of Hallstatt is suffering the full force of the Frozen madness. This small town of 700 inhabitants sees more than 10,000 visitors every day. No more tranquility for this city classified among the "most unstable villages in the world".

Hallstatt, a postcard-looking village


Located in the Salzkammergut region in the Austrian Eastern Pre-Alps, Hallstatt is nestled near the large Hallstättersee lake. Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997 for its pastel-coloured houses and cultural landscape, this town is known to have housed an important Iron Age site dating from the 7th century BC.

But today’s 790 residents said goodbye to their tranquility in 2006 when Spring Waltz, a South Korean television series, was partly filmed in Hallstatt. It was the beginning of a massive influx of tourists to their homes.

From the Hallstatt replica in China…

This discovery by the South Korean series quickly made its way around Asia. Thousands of visitors from the mainland began to disembark. This madness was compounded when Minmetals Land, a subsidiary of China Minmetals Corporation, a Chinese mining company, decided to recreate a 1:1 scale replica of Hallstatt in Huizhou in Guangdong Province, 90 km north of Hong Kong in 2012.

From these two events, Asian tourists flocked en masse to reach more than one million by the year 2018. A record! But Hallstatt was not at its peak in terms of visitors. An animated film multiplied this phenomenon: Frozen.

… To Frozen

Although the artistic director of both films, Michael Giaimo, has always refrained from citing Hallstatt as inspiration for the town of Arendelle, the tourists didn’t really take note.

Preferring to talk about Bergen, Balestrand or Trondheim in Norway, the producers could not really stop the phenomenon in the Austrian city. The rumor is far too strong for that. Hallstatt would be the city that served as a model for the kingdom of Anna and Elsa.



The instagrammers are having a field day. Since the village and its surroundings are beautiful, why not go there to take pictures? These influencers are more and more numerous in the city. In winter as in summer, their pictures facing the mountains in the footsteps of Frozen are countless. Moreover, the hastag #Hallstatt explodes with almost 620,000 publications!

Hallstatt on the verge of a nervous breakdown

The 10,000 or so daily visitors were thus reinforced by a new wave after the second part of the saga came out, much to the displeasure of the mayor, Alexander Scheutz, and his constituents. Hallstatt’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

In The Times, the Chief Justice of Hallstatt confided his dismay: “Hallstatt is an important part of our cultural history, not a museum. We want to reduce the number of tourists by at least a third, but we have no way of stopping them.”

Add to this a fire in November 2019 that destroyed part of the shoreline, and the first building in the village began to fall apart. He then closed access roads and forbade drones from flying over his city. He insisted that the tourists stop coming. We can’t push them back to the city gates. That is obviously illegal. However, it would like to limit the number of buses to 20,000 per year. An unattainable wish?

While tourists can sometimes misbehave – some enter people’s homes to use their toilets – their purchases also contribute to the well-being of the city. This important financial windfall made it possible to finance cultural projects and the village schools in particular.

Norway, the other kingdom of Arendelle

If Hallstatt would not be the main inspiration for the kingdom of Arendelle, Norwegian places would more likely be. Discover these few magical places.

Akershus citadel, Olso, Norway

Citadel of Akershus, necropolis of the kings of Norway
Citadel of Akershus, necropolis of the kings of Norway

This castle inspired the designers of the Disney feature film. He served as a model for Anna and Elsa’s. Built in 1299 in the Norwegian capital, it was one of the royal residences from the 16th century after serving as a prison.

This Renaissance-style royal palace was home to the Vidkun Quisling offices during the Second World War. The minister-president collaborated with the Nazi occupier. Today, the crypt of his church contains the tombs of Norway’s last rulers.

Stiftsgården, Trondheim
Stiftsgården, Trondheim

Another royal residence, Stiftsgården in Trondheim (Munkegata 23, 7011 Trondheim, Norway), also inspired the production of the first part of the animated film.

St. Mary’s Church Olaf, Kong Beles veg 35, Balestrand, Norway

St. Olav, Balestrand
St. Olav, Balestrand

This Anglican church, built in 1897, was the setting for Elsa’s coronation scene. The exterior of the building resembles a stavkirke, a wooden church that was very common in the Middle Ages. Currently, there are less than a dozen of them left in the country. They were also used to design sets in Frozen.

The religious building also gave its name to the snowman character in the animated film.

If the two previous places have addresses that are easy to find, you can also follow in the footsteps of Anna and Elsa to other places that inspired the designers.

For example, in Norway, the small town of Fetsund, near the Glomma River or the Sognefjord, have been used for many sets. The Bryggen district of Bergen influenced the production for Ardendelle’s houses. The natural landscapes of Røros for the first opus or those of the black sand beach of Reynisfjara in Iceland – Elsa surfs the waves in the trailer – but also the sleeping volcano of Thrihnukagigur (Iceland) for the second part of the saga, allowed the spectator to travel to majestic places.

The Bryggen district in Bergen
The Bryggen district in Bergen

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By Damien Canteau

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Passionné par l'Histoire, les animés, les Arts et la bande dessinée en particulier, Damien est le rédacteur en chef du site spécialisé dans le 9e art, Comixtrip.

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