Visting Wieliczka salt mine in Cracow? Tips, info, tickets + photos
One of the oldest salt mines in the world is located in Poland, near Cracow: the Wieliczka salt mine. After descending no less than 800 stairs you will arrive at the 327 meter deep mine where an interesting history took place. For a long time the Polish salt mines were very important for the whole country and nowadays they are open to the public as a beautiful tourist attraction. The salt mine is considered one of the seven wonders of Poland and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1978.
Dive into the life of Polish miners and visit the Wieliczka salt mine with my tips! Book your tickets or tour online.
Organized tour to the salt mine
1.1. The first salt
The first salt was mined around 3,500 B.C. through the evaporation of various water sources. However, it was not until the twelfth century that salt was officially mined by evaporation in metal pans after the Benedictine monastery had received permission to do so. After the springs dried up in the thirteenth century, people dug into the ground whereby rock salt was discovered. In 1290 the town of Wieliczka was founded by Prince Przemysl II and the construction of mine shafts began. In the next century the mine shafts were further excavated.
1.2. New mine shafts
In the sixteenth century, 3 new mine shafts were carved and built. It was around this period that the heyday began, which lasted until the middle of the seventeenth century. Also in the seventeenth century another 5 new mine shafts were built. At this moment about 30,000 tons of salt could be extracted from the mines with the help of about 2,000 miners.
1.3. The salt mines among the Austrians
In 1724 the production of evaporated salt ceased and a few decades later, in 1772, the Austrian army invaded Poland. The Old Polish salt mines were closed and the mines were only reopened under the Wieliczka salt works. With the Austrians in power the mining of salt continued, new machines were installed, new shafts were built and in 1838 even salt baths were opened in the mines. In 1876 the production of salt ceased temporarily and between 1881 and 1893 the Austrians actively sought new salt deposits.
1.4.The gun factory
In 1918 the salt mines were given to the Polish Ministry of Industry and Trade. Salt mining continued in the same way until the Second World War, but in the Second World War the Germans saw the mine as an important strategic location. They opened a gun factory and thousands of Jews were transported to Wieliczka to work in the factory. Nevertheless, the production of the weapons never started because of the approaching Soviet army who conquered Wieliczka on 21 January 1944. A few days later the mine was reopened and they tried to rebuild the mine. Eventually, in 1964, the excavation of rock salt was stopped and only evaporated salt was produced.
1.5. The Cracow Salt Museum
In 1966, the Krakow Salt Work Museum opened in the mine shafts and 10 years later the salt mine was included in the National Register of Historical Monuments. 2 years later, in 1978, the mine was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Finally, in 1996, the work in the mines was halted due to the floods that occurred earlier in that decade and because of the reduced salt prices. A year later, a tourist route was set up and a Wellness Centre opened in the mines.
Visiting the salt mine
The Wieliczka salt mine contains over 287 kilometers of mine shafts and reaches up to 327 meters underground in some places. Of all the mine shafts only a small part can be visited with 3 different routes: the tourist route, the miners route and the pilgrims route.
2.1. The tourist route
The Tourist Route is about 3 kilometers long and will take you about 135 meters underground. You will have to descend 350 steps. The route starts at the Danilowicz shaft and takes you to 20 different rooms, including one of the salt lakes which is accompanied by a light show and the music of Chopin.
You will also get to see the chapel of Saint Kinga, the patron saint of salt miners. This chapel measures no less than 465 square meters and contains various statues, altars and chandeliers carved out of the salt. The end of the route takes you to the Krakow Salt Work Museum which shows the history of salt mining in about a kilometer and a half. This is exhibited by using the instruments and tools used by the miners over the years. Afterwords, the tourist lift will take you back upstairs.
2.2.The Miners' Road
The Miners' Route will let you get into the miners' shoes for a while. The guide gives you a task together with work clothes and tools before you enter the oldest mine shaft, the Regis. In the mine, you'll work on carving salt and transporting and processing the products to learn more about the lives of the miners. This route is actively set up and you will have to get physically involved during the tour which takes about 3 hours. You will take the miners lift to the first level at a depth of 57 meters and return from the second level at a depth of 101 meters.
2.3.The Pilgrim's Route
On the Pilgrim's Route, a priest takes you along the religious parts of the mines in about 2.5 hours and shows you the religions of different generations of miners. You'll pass by the chapel of St Anthony, which contains very special statues of saints carved out of salt but faded away over the years. You will also pass a carved version of 'The Last Supper' by Leonardo Da Vinci and a statue made of salt by Pope John Paul II, who originally came from Poland. In addition, this route takes you along part of the Tourist Route and you will also pass the Chapel of St. Kinga with the Pilgrim's Route. Along, you will go to the chapel of St. John, which is known for its wooden interior. The route ends in the Cracow SaltWorks Museum.
2.4. Other functions
In addition to the rooms that can be visited with the various routes, other rooms in the mines are also rented out for conferences, concerts and other events.
Opening hours salt mines
The Wieliczka salt mine is open all year round, except on 1 January, 1 November and 24 and 25 December. Opening hours vary throughout the year, depending on the period or certain public holidays. So be sure to check out all the hours and information below before your visit:
- The salt mine is open from 1 April to 31 October between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- From 2 November to 31 March you can visit the salt mine between 08:00 and 17:00.
- Between 26 December and 4 June the mine is open between 08:00 and 18:00, but on 31 December the mine closes at 16:00.
- On Easter Sunday the mine is open from 08:00 to 17:00 and on Holy Saturday in April from 07:30 to 17:00.
- English language tours depart every thirty minutes between 09:00 and 17:00 and between April and October there are also tours at 08:30 and between 17:00 and 19:00.
- Please note: the closing times indicated here are the times when the ticket offices are closed. This means that the last group only enters the mines then. So if you go on a tour at 7:30 pm, you will only come out of the mines 3 hours later.
How to book your ticket?
- Tickets can be bought at the mine, at the Krakow office on ul. Wislna 12a or book online.
- A regular ticket costs a little more for foreign visitors compared to anyone with a Polish passport.
- Children between 4 and 16 years old and students up to 26 years old get a discount and pay even less if they have a Polish passport.
- Ticket prices vary depending on the season (high or low season)
- Children up to 4 years of age are always free of charge.
- It is also possible to book a combination tour of the tourist route and the miners' route. The same discounts and free entrance for children up to 4 years old are also apply here.
How to skip the queues?
Because the mine can only be visited with a guided tour there are only a limited number of tickets available for the different times. It is therefore advisable to purchase your tickets online or at the office in Krakow in advance so that you can be sure of a place during the guided tour on the desired day and time. Losing hours of time in the queue will not happen to you.
Route directions to Wieliczka
6.1. With public transport
From Cracow's main train station take the blue-orange Koleje Malopolskie train to Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia station. The train goes once every half hour and takes about 20 minutes from Cracow to Wieliczka. From the station it is less than a 10 minutes walk to the salt mine.
It is also possible to take bus 304 to the stop Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli. You have to walk another 5 minutes. This bus leaves every 20 minutes and takes just over half an hour to get to the salt mine.
6.2. By car
Wieliczka is about 16 kilometers from Cracow and is easily reached by car. There are 2 parking spaces on Dembowskiego street and one on Danilowicza street.
- To be able to take pictures you need to buy a special permit for 10 PLN (about €2,30).
- There are several toilets in the mines.
- Bring your own drinks and food.
- The routes take about 3 hours.
- The temperature is between 14°C and 16°C. Therefore bring warm clothing or wear extra layers. Attention! Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered for the holy places in the mines.
- Wear good shoes that you can walk in. There are many steps in the mines and the routes are long.
- A visit to the salt mines is always accompanied by a guide, so you can't go exploring on your own.
- Book your tickets online, so you don't have to queue up and you can go inside instantly.
Sneak peek: Watch along on this mini tour
In this video you will be taken on a mini tour through the Wieliczka salt mine. To prepare your visit, take a look under the ground and learn even more thanks to the interesting anecdotes and history of the guide.
See even more in the surroundings of Wieliczka
Save money with the Krakow City Card
Do you want to see a lot and save money on your city trip to Krakow? Consider buying the Krakow City Card. With this card you can take an unlimited number of tram and bus rides, as well as access to 40 museums.
Elderly people over 70 and children under 4 years drive for free anyway, and there are discounts for students under 26 with an ISIC (International Student Identity Card). Buy your Krakow City Card online.
Where to stay in Cracow?
Would you like a budget or luxury stay in Cracow, there is are many possibilities regarding hotels. An overview + prices here.
A Hotel? We stayed at INX Design Hotel (4*), in the trendy, old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz with AIRCO and free WiFi. Delicious breakfast with local products, neat rooms and friendly staff! They will be happy to help you plan out your day. More info and prices.
An apartment? Then be sure to book Aparthotel Stare Miasto in the historic centre of Cracow, just 120 meters from the Grand Place. More info and prices.
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