The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located just outside of one of my favorite cities in the world – Krakow, Poland. It was a working salt mine for over 700 years, and now is one of the top tourist attractions in the area. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site if you’re into that kind of thing. I loved the tour because over the years, miners carved incredible statues out of the rock salt, and other artists have contributed works as well. The tour is much more than just walking through old mine shafts, and I highly recommend visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine when in Krakow.
Touring the Wieliczka Salt Mine
The regular tours at Wieliczka last a couple of hours and involve a lot of walking and some stairs (though it’s possible to book accessible tours in advance). You only visit a fraction of the chambers in the mine – it would take days to explore the whole thing – but it includes the history of the work that was done there as well as info about the tools and machinery used. Foreign language tours are available, and it’s recommended to book them in advance on their website. With the current exchange rate, they cost about $25.
Our tour started off with a long climb down a series of stairs (at least we weren’t going up!) to enter the first part of the mine. We learned the legend about how the mine came to be there, and about the different methods that were used there.
The highlight of the tour is of course seeing the different sculptures made out of salt. The tradition was started by the miners themselves, but over the years professional artists have contributed work as well. Many of the sculptures commemorate visits from notable people.
There are also musical and light shows. You can listen to Chopin (a Polish composer) music in one of the rooms, which makes for a very unique experience. In another area, there’s a show with lights and trolls.
The highlight is St. Kinga’s chapel. It’s an underground chapel full of religious sculptures and etchings, along with chandeliers made out of salt.
There’s a particularly impressive carving of DaVinci’s The Last Supper that manages to capture an incredible amount of depth despite only being a few centimeters deep.
You’ll also find a statue of the beloved Polish Pope John Paul II carved out of – you guessed it – salt. Church services and even weddings can be conducted down here.
The chandeliers are particularly cool because they’re made out of the typical white table salt you’re used to seeing. Most of the rock salt in the mines is a greyish color that you wouldn’t necessarily guess was salt. To make the “crystals” for the chandeliers, the rock salt was dissolved and reformed so that it was white in color.
The best news is that at the end of your Wieliczka Salt Mine tour, you don’t have to climb back up all of those stairs. You get to ride up in an elevator.
Dining at the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Have you ever eaten a meal underground? You can here. There’s a decent sized quick-service style restaurant called the Miner’s Tavern at the end of the tour route that serves Polish food. We weren’t super hungry, but couldn’t pass up the novelty of it. I grabbed a golubki (cabbage leaves stuffed with a meaty mixture) and enjoyed the atmosphere.
There’s also a four-star restaurant associated with the mine, but we didn’t try that one. It’s above ground, and located close to the exit for the tourist route.
What to bring
You’ll want to have sturdy walking shoes for the tour. You’ll be descending lots of stairs and walking on uneven rock surfaces underground. Sandals, flip flops, flats, or dressy shoes won’t be your friend here.
It can get a bit chilly underground. The mine maintains a fairly consistent temperature year round, but it may be cool for some visitors. You’ll want to bring a light jacket or sweatshirt if you’re someone who is usually chilly.
Photos are allowed…if you purchase a permit in advance. At the time of this post’s writing it converts to about $3. I was the designated photographer for my group and snapped all of the pictures. Digital files are easy to distribute, and we shared all of our photos after the trip anyway.
Getting to the Wieliczka Salt Mines
We had a rental car, so we just drove. The mine is only 10 km southeast of the city center, so it’s a quick trip. It’s located off of the E40 route.
Trains are available to the area. Look for a route that has a stop at the Wieliczka Rynek Kopalnia. City buses also run nearby. Use the Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli stop.
Find more information on their official website here.
Have you ever visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
Don’t forget to save this article for later on Pinterest!
Check out these other Europe posts:
- 3-Day Paris Power Itinerary
- Should You Buy A Paris Museum Pass?
- Why Any History Buff Needs to Visit Arromanches-les-Bains