The Salt Mine in Wieliczka near Kraków is a unique Polish landmark. The salt mine, one of the oldest in the world, was established in the 13th century and continued to operate until 2007. This world-class monument has been featured as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978 and is a top tourist attraction, visited annually by more than one million people from all over the world.
History of royal salt mines in Poland
Wieliczka is one of the world’s oldest rock salt mining sites with its history dating back to the 13th century. Established by the royal decree, the Wieliczka Salt Mine was the largest provider of table salt in the region. Wieliczka and Bochnia, which is another example of royal salt mines, were significant Poland’s mining sites.
Besides its salt production, Wieliczka is also known as one of the oldest salt treatment centres in Poland. Its saline baths have been operating from as early as 1289. First, barber-surgeons were employed to offer simple health treatments. The salt mine and baths provided help and assistance to the victims of accidents as well as the widows and orphans of miners in the past. King Casimir III the Great, one of the most prolific Polish monarchs, contributed largely to the development of the salt mine of Wieliczka, granting it many privileges and laws. He also founded a hospital near the ancient salt mine in 1363.
Wieliczka Salt Mine: natural and historical attraction of Poland
Gradually, The Salt Mine in Wieliczka has turned into one of the major tourist attractions in Poland and today, it illustrates the historic stages of the development of mining techniques in Europe since the Middle Ages. Traces of the oldest mining sites are well preserved and the overall shape of the Salt Mine presents relative authenticity. The underground chambers are decorated in a way to reflect the miners’ tradition and culture while the endless passages are creating a magnificent and mysterious labyrinth.
A vast part of the decorations of Wieliczka mine site is devotional. The Salt Mine is a testimony to socio-technical system that has been evolving around salt mining throughout centuries.
While Bochnia Salt Mine is also one of the oldest salt mines in Poland, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of a kind not only due to its over seven centuries of heritage but also because of the breathtaking interiors of many underground rooms. It is often referred to as “The Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland”. There are several chapels, each created with the greatest care. The most exquisite of all is St. Kinga’s Chapel. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is now an intricate maze, which consists of tunnels with a total length of over 300 kilometres, 3000 chambers and nine floors, the last of which is located at a depth of 327 metres.
St. Kinga’s Chapel
The most impressive of all underground chambers, St. Kinga’s Chapel is located 101 m underground. This 54 m long and almost 12 m high stunning chapel is completely carved in salt. Its beautiful interior was designed to resemble wooden walls typical for medieval churches decorated with bas-reliefs illustrating events from the New Testament. The floor is carved from a single block of salt, and several chandeliers that lit the chapel are made of salt crystals. Thanks to excellent acoustics, the chapel hosted many prestigious concerts.
The name of the chapel refers to St. Kinga, associated with the Wieliczka Salt Mine. There is a legend that when Kinga, a Hungarian princess was about to be married to Boleslaw V the Chaste, the Prince of Krakow, she asked her father to be taken to one of the Hungarian salt mines for a lump of salt, prize-worthy in Poland. There, she threw her engagement ring in one of the shafts. Upon arriving in Poland, Kinga asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock. They found a lump of salt that, when split in two, revealed the hidden princess’s ring. Kinga later became a saint patron of Polish salt miners.
Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour
Visits to the Wieliczka Salt Mine are organised in the form of guided tours. There are several options available to the tourists, however, it is important to make sure the one you are interested in will indeed be available at the time of your visit.
Tourist Route through royal salt mines of Wieliczka
A standard Tourist Route is nearly 3,5 km long and reaches the third level of the mine, which is 135 m deep. The starting point for this tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine is Paderewski Shaft and its end point is located at Regis Schaft. The overall number of stairs you will have to climb to see the salt mine sites is 800.
This organized tour will guide you through multiple corridors and rooms decorated with salt sculptures and statues, chapels including the must-see chapel of St. Kinga as well as underground saline lake. Next, the route goes through the tavern, which is also situated underground. The next step is Krakow Saltworks Museum.
The visit is always conducted in groups in the form of guided tours, while the time you will spend on the tour may vary between 2 and 3 hours. The temperature in this part of the mine is around 17ºC.
Breath-taking Miners’ Route
Miners’ Route is an option for adventurous visitors. It takes place in the oldest part of the Salt Mine, far off the hustle and bustle of the main route. Each visitor receives a helmet and necessary equipment and the organised tour takes you via horizontal passages and chambers to the places where the actual salt works are performed. The daily tours through Miners’ Route have a form of an expedition focused on the technical aspect of mining and led by a professional guide. Visitors discover secrets of salt mining and have a chance to perform some of the tasks of this demanding profession.
Even though Miners’ Route tour includes endless and countless raw passages in the rocks surrounded by the darkness, which definitely creates a specific vibe, the maximum depth you will be able to reach is actually smaller than the depth of Tourist Route as it is 101 kilometres. The overall length of the route is 1,9 kilometres. The standard time of this trip is 3 hours.
Note that Miners’ Route goes through a colder part of the mining site where the temperature can reach 14ºC. Consider this fact to prepare proper clothes for the trip.
Pilgrims’ Route is a testimony to piousness of the miners once working in Wieliczka. It features chapels and religious sculptures by which visitors can pray.
Pilgrims’ Route is a curious trip around the mine even for the people of other faiths. One of the many reasons the Wieliczka Salt Mine was inscribed as a significant natural and cultural place on the UNESCO list is the amount of treasures hidden in its labyrinth of tunnels and chambers lit by salt chandeliers. In fact, there are over 40 places of religious importance located underground.
Part of the route leads through the Krakow Saltworks Museum, while one of the most important attractions of the route, St Kinga’s Chapel is the place to admire the statue of Pope John Paul II made entirely from salt. This is the place where you can also participate in a mass.
Pilgrims’ Route lasts for nearly 2,5 hours and includes 800 stairs to climb.
Underground chapel on the Pilgrims’ Route
The Pilgrims’ Route is a testimony to piousness of the miners once working in Wieliczka. It features chapels and religious sculptures by which visitors can pray. Part of the route leads through the Krakow Saltworks Museum. Groups visiting with priests can have the privilege to celebrate a private mass in one of the chapels. The agenda of the Pilgrims’ Route includes a mass at the end of the visit, in the underground chapel dedicated to Pope John Paul II.
Which route will be the best for you?
Tourist Route will be an attractive option for everyone who would like to admire one of the oldest salt mines in the world in a relatively convenient manner, although you should still remember about 800 stairs you will have to take, which will require comfortable shoes and clothes to put on. If you decide to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine taking Tourist Route, you will be able to learn about the history of the place as well as the technology used by the mine that produced table salt in the past. This is not only a trip to the place where the mine is located but also to the largest mining heritage museum in Poland and unusual infrastructure created in the site of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Pilgrims’ Route is quite similar to Tourist Route, however, it is more focused on the Christian religion as a part of the culture of the generations of miners working in Wieliczka. This tour will give you a chance to feel religious connection while discovering beautiful places of religious worshiping.
Providing you are looking for a more immersive experience of exploring subterranean passages from the perspective of miners rather than tourists, your ticket to Wieliczka Salt Mine should include Miners’ Route.
Wieliczka Salt Mine from Krakow
Wieliczka is located only 10 km from Krakow. The two cities are very well connected.
The most convenient way of transportation is booking a private transfer transfer to Wieliczka from Krakow. Full-day tours that combine a visit to Wieliczka Salt Mine with The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum commemorating the Holocaust victims are also available. Such a guided tour from Krakow to the mine, salt monuments and the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps is a convenient way to explore the significant monuments of Poland during a day trip.
Some of the private transfer providers can take you from the place of your choice. For instance, you might prefer this option if you are going to stay in one of the Krakow hotels and would like to get your transportation from there. Such details should be discussed with a private transfer company. Pickup time will be provided depending on the individual arrangements.
A train departs from the Krakow Glowny station every half an hour. The ride takes approximately 20 minutes. The station “Wieliczka Rynek – Kopalnia” is located only a few minutes walk from the entrance to the Salt Mine.
Municipal bus number 304, departing in the vicinity of the shopping mall Galeria Krakowska (Kurniki Street), drives directly to the Salt Mine (bus stop “Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli”). Please note that you will need a bus ticket for the Zone I (I Strefa) and II Agglomeration (II Aglomeracja).
There are also many private buses that offer transport to the Salt Mine (direction Krakow-Wieliczka). They depart from the bus station near the Krakow Glowny.
Visit Wieliczka Salt Mine
You can book your Wieliczka Salt Mine tour for any day of the week. The routs are arranged from 07:30 am to 07:30 pm, however, the tours with an English-speaking guide are available between 09:00 am and 07:00 pm. For English-speaking groups, tours are organised every hour, while the tours for Polish-speaking groups are organised on demand.
Note, there are also guided tours in German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian.
|7:30 am – 7:30 pm
|9:00 am – 7:00 pm
Entrance fee (guide fee included):
1 September – 28 April; 4 May – 31 June
29 April – 3 May; 1 July – 31 August
|Children and youth
|294 PLN / 4 persons
|337 PLN / 4 persons
|294 PLN / 4 persons
|337 PLN / 4 persons
Salt Mine ticket prices: tours with an English-speaking guide
The price of a ticket can be reduced if you meet certain conditions.
Children below 4 years of age can enter the mine for free, while older children including primary and secondary school students will have to pay 99 PLN. In the case of school students, it is important to bring a school ID.
A standard ticket costs 119 PLN, while there is also a special family ticket. This one is offered to families with two children between 4 and 16 years of age and two adults.
Finally, individuals older than 65 years and university students younger than 26 years can get a 10 PLN discount and pay 109 PLN for their tickets.
Salt Mine ticket prices: tours with Polish-speaking guide
The same rules are applied to the individuals willing to explore Wieliczka Salt Mine with a Polish-speaking guide, however prices for the tours differ.
A standard ticket costs 87 PLN, while a family ticket costs 243 PLN. Children below 4 years also enter the mine for free, while older children and the youth have to pay 69 PLN for a ticket. Entrance fee for the adults older than 65 years and students below 26 years is 77 PLN.
- Minimum of 10, maximum of 35 persons in a group.
- Children up to 4 years old – free admission.
- Entrance fee includes a ticket to the Krakow Saltworks Museum.
- Minimum of 10, maximum of 20 persons in a group.
- Accessible only for persons of over 10 years old.
- Available only for organized groups of 5 or more persons.
- Children up to 4 years old – free admission.
If there are still some questions you would like to find answers to, this part will provide you with more useful information.
Are there health resorts in The Wieliczka Salt Mine?
As it has already been mentioned, even the sites and artifacts excavated from the 13th century are proving the salt lakes of the mine had already been used for medical treatment. The Wieliczka and Bochnia royal salt mines have been known for the therapeutic power of the unique underground microclimate.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine has its own health resort particularly popular among the visitors who suffer from asthma, allergic diseases, COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis as well as a range of recurrent nasal and throat conditions.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine Health Resort offers a variety of treatment programmes.
It is possible to purchase a daytime stay at the resort that includes exercises and medical assistance. There are also separate healthy sleep programmes for a night stay at the resort and full treatment programmes lasting up to 21 days.
How can you get to The Graduation Tower?
Even if you have already visited the mine, it is still worth spending some time at The Graduation Tower during your stay in the Krakow city. The Tower is located in St. Kinga’s Park which covers the surface of the mine. It can be easily spotted near the Danilowicz Shaft.
The Graduation Tower is a unique place where sprays of salt and water are released to the surface enriching the air and increasing its healing properties for many popular respiratory conditions.
You can visit the Graduation Tower without a guide at any moment between 09:00 am and 07:00 pm. Note that it is recommended to stay at the site for at least 30 minutes. It is also a good idea to make a series of visits to The Graduation Tower for a maximum effect.
While a standard ticket costs 9 PLN, you can also get a pass of 5 tickets for 30 PLN and get 10 tickets for 50 PLN, yet, remember to use them within 30 days after a purchase.
Children below 4 years of age can enter the tower for free. Discounts are available for older children, students below 26 years and adults above 65 years of age. The price for a single ticket in their case is 6 PLN while a pass for 5 tickets costs 20 PLN and a pass of 10 tickets is available for 30 PLN. A single-time family ticket costs 24 PLN.