Being so close to Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a.k.a the Krakow Salt Mine (probably because that’s easier to say and remember), makes for a great side trip from the city. It’s one of the world’s oldest salt mines – established in the 13th century and was still in operation until 2007. At one point in the salt mine’s history, it produced one-third of Poland’s income.
The only way to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine is on a guided tour. The two-hour tour will take you through old mining chambers, by a saline lake and to many chapels, including the awe-inspiring St Kinga’s Chapel, the world’s largest underground chapel. More on that one later!
The Wieliczka Salt Mine Tourist Route
The Wieliczka Salt Mine tourist route starts at the Danilowicz Shaft. At the entrance to the mine, everyone is given a headphone, so you can easily hear the tour guide. It’s then a walk down 380 steps to level 1, which is located 64 metres underground.
So vast is the mine, that you’ll only see about 1 % of the salt mine, so don’t go wandering off, you might never find your way back home!
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is 300 metres deep, with nine levels, and over 100 miles of tunnels. Over the eight centuries that the salt mine has been in existence, miners have carved figures out of salt, and chapels, so they would have somewhere to pray. There are over twenty chapels within the salt mine.
The Sielec Chamber
Inside the Sielec chamber, you’ll find replicas of mining tools and machines that were used for salt extraction in the past.
The Spalone Chamber
In the Spalone Chamber, the dangers of mining are revealed. Methane gas explosions were a great danger for those working in the mine. Experienced miners, known as the Penitents, would wear wet clothes and carry torches on long poles, then crawl along the floor and burn out the colourless gas accumulating under the chamber ceiling. Don’t think I’d want that job!
St. Kinga’s Chapel – The World’s Largest Underground Church
The highlight of the Wieliczka Salt Mine is the St. Kinga’s Chapel. The chapel, the world’s largest underground church, is carved entirely out of salt – even the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the chandeliers, the sculptures, everything, and it took 67 years to create. It was built 100 metres underground, between 1896 to 1964. The chapel is 54 metres long, 12 metres high and 18 metres wide. It’s possible to hire the venue for weddings! It does look more like a ballroom than a chapel. Apparently, the acoustics are amazing.
Who Was St Kinga?
St Kinga is the patron saint of salt miners.
Kinga was a Hungarian princess, the daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary, a 13th-century king. She married a handsome young Polish prince called Boleslaw. When her father asked what she would like as a wedding present, she said she didn’t want gold nor jewels (what’s wrong with this girl?), she wanted salt as that would help the people.
So her father gave her the Marmaros Salt Mine, Hungary’s most prosperous mine. On her way to her new life in Poland, she stopped to pray by the mine. Then to the shock of all those around her, threw her engagement ring into the pit!!
She asked some of the Hungarian miners to follow her to Poland, and when she arrived in Krakow, she asked them to look for salt. When they started digging, guess what they found? Yes, that’s right – her engagement ring!
And that’s how salt came to Poland and how Kinga became the patron saint of salt miners.
The End Of The Tour
After two hours, you arrive at a toilet spot, a small restaurant, and a souvenir shop where you can buy salt! You can now leave the guide and visit the saltworks museum, eat, use the toilet, or simply follow the signs to the exit. At this part of the tour, you are now on level 3 and 135 metres below the surface.
The return to the surface is via a mine lift. It’s tiny, very rickety, and a bit claustrophobic. It only takes nine people at a time, so there will most likely be a bit of a queue. But it moves quite quickly- the line and the lift.
What Is The Temperature In The Wieliczka Salt Mine?
The underground temperature is around 17–18°C. So, a great place to cool off in the summer months or to warm up in the winter months. It is best to dress in layers and wear comfortable walking shoes.
How Long Is The Tour At Wieliczka Salt Mine?
The tour through the Wieliczka Salt Mine takes around two hours. At the end of the visit, you can visit the underground exhibition of the Krakow Saltworks Museum. Allow at least an extra hour if you intend to visit the museum.
Do I Really Need To Have A Guide?
Yes, to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine, you need to join one of the tours. The underground corridors are around 245 kilometres long, so it’s vital to be led through the maze of shafts with a guide. It’s also possible to join a tour that includes transfers from Krakow. Some tours also include a visit to nearby Auschwitz.
How Large Are The Tour Groups?
The maximum number of people on each guided tour is 40.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine tour is suitable for people of all ages, and you don’t need to be particularly fit, but do bear in mind that there are more than 800 steps to climb and around 3.5kms to walk.
Are There Places To Eat In The Wieliczka Salt Mine?
Yes, the end of the tour finishes in a souvenir shop (what a surprise!), and there’s a restaurant. Located 125 metres underground, the restaurant serves Polish cuisine and hot and cold drinks. Prices seemed quite reasonable, but we didn’t eat there. After two hours underground, we were ready to come back up to the surface.
Opening Hours For The Wieliczka Salt Mine?
The tourist route is open from 08:00 am to 05:00 pm every day. The English-speaking tours depart every half hour starting from 09:00 am.
For tours in other languages, check here https://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/individual-tourist/.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Wieliczka Salt Mine
Adult ticket 93 PLN (approx $24 / €21)
Over 65 84 PLN
Child (ages 4-16) 73PLN
Children up to 4 years of age – Free
Family ticket – Two adults plus two children (ages 4-16) – 259 PL
Where To Buy Your Ticket For The Wieliczka Salt Mine
You can buy tickets online to visit the mine or at the Sales Office in Krakow, Wiślna 12a or at the ticket office in the Daniłowicz Shaft, Daniłowicza 10, Wieliczka.
We bought our tickets on the day at the ticket office at the mine. We had to wait an hour for our tour, but there’s a lovely coffee shop right by the entrance, and not only does it serve delicious hot chocolate, but it also has nice, clean toilets – always a bonus! Probably during the summer months and school holidays, it would be worth pre-booking tickets to avoid waiting too long.
How To Get To Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine is roughly ten kilometres southeast from Krakow.
By suburban train
Take the train from Krakow Główny station and disembark at the Wieliczka Rynek Kopalnia station. From the station to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, it’s just a few minutes walk.
By bus line 304
Catch the bus from the Dworzec Główny Zachód stop near Galeria Krakowska Shopping Mall. Disembark at the Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli stop. When you purchase your bus ticket, make sure it includes zones I and II.
As there were four of us traveling together, it worked out just as cheap to grab an Uber from Krakow’s city centre. Cost in an Uber, roughly PLN 30.
Join a tour from Krakow
Would We Recommend Visiting The Wieliczka Salt Mine?
We enjoyed our visit to the mine. It was a little more disneyfied than we had expected, but it’s worth it just to see the fantastic underground salt church.
Have you ever visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine? What did you think? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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