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When spending a few days in Krakow during our Christmas in Poland a few years back, we were sure to prioritise a visit to Wieliczka Salt Mine on the list of must see attractions in Poland during our stay. Simon had been there before as a child, but it was the first time for myself and his younger brothers.
We only had 3 days in Krakow, which is not a lot of time to spend in a city as beautiful as Krakow, but with so many wonderful cities in Poland, it can be a hard choice. Our time in Krakow was before heading to Zakopane for our first white Christmas in Zakopane.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was a stand out attraction during our time in Krakow, and it is one that you need to add to your things to do in Krakow list! Find out our best tips for making the most of your visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
A WIELICZKA SALT MINE VISITORS GUIDE
Wieliczka Salt Mine History
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was built back in the 13th century, continuing table salt production right up until 2007, making it one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines. Commercial mining was discontinued back in 1996 though, due to poor profits with low salt prices and the impact of the mine flooding.
It also has a significant wartime past, with parts of the mine used during WWII by German occupants for war planning and related activities. During this time in the 1940s, several thousand Jewish prisoners were transported to Wieliczka from forced labour camps to work in the Krakow salt mines. It was during this time that the entire Jewish population of the Wieliczka community, which were half the cities overall population (around 4000 people) were exterminated. So incredibly sad! Learn more about the Wieliczka Salt Mine WW2 history and the salt mines entire timeline here.
Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of Poland’s National Historic Monuments, and was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list back in 1978. Due to its lengthy history, dating back through the ages, the Krakow salt mine is one of Poland’s most popular tourist attractions. And for good reason!
Inside The Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour
Wieliczka Salt Mines Krakow is massive. It has a depth of 337 metres and more than 287 kilometres long. It is difficult to even comprehend the size until you visit, and even then a salt mine tour only takes in a small fraction of the mine’s area.
During the Wieliczka tour, you only see 2% of the mines total passages. A crazy thought as it is quite a lengthy tour, passing so many different passage entrances along the way. It also makes you wonder how easy it would be to get lost, so if you are visiting with children, make sure they do not wander off.
Within the mine are many attractions carved from rock salt. This includes statues and sculptures, depicting various scenes and icons, but even more impressive is the fact that it also contains four chapels carved from the rock salt by miners.
The sculptures within the Polish salt mine have been created both by historic and contemporary artists. Although nothing is quite as impressive as the Chapel of St Kinga, which needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. More on that soon!
Wieliczka Salt Mine is also the venue for many significant events in Poland, including concerts and functions held within the mine. It is also possible to get married in the Chapel of St Kinga, but trust me, you would want to forfeit the huge puffy wedding dress because there are a lot of stairs before you get there.
Our Krakow Salt Mine Visit
We visited Wieliczka Salt Mines at night, as a combined Auschwitz and salt mine tour. Being an underground attraction, natural light isn’t something that you have anyway, so night tours are just as viable as day tours to the salt mines in Poland. Plus it gets dark super early in Europe in Winter, when we were visiting, so daylight is gone pretty soon in the afternoon anyway!
When you first arrive, the important safety instructions are given, along with the welcome from your tour guide. Each guest is provided a hard hat as an extra precaution, which from memory I think was only required at the start of the tour. Everyone then takes an industrial elevator ride down the first shaft, where the first massive set of stairs awaits you.
During this particular European trip, I was experiencing some mysterious leg and ankle swelling, possibly from the excessive amount of walking we had just done in Paris and Germany. My body also was not accustomed to the extreme cold weather. Whatever the reason, there was a lot of pain going on in my knee especially. However I was not missing out on this experience so I just plodded along… or should I say, hobbled along!
So trust me when I say the hundreds of stairs on this tour are best taken when in good physical condition. You will also want some quality walking shoes to give you some extra comfort too!
The tour guide leads you through various chambers and tunnels, explaining their significance, the mine’s history and pointing out the different salt sculptures along the way. There are winding staircases through the different chambers, made of wood or stone, and thankfully they mostly have arm rails to give some extra balance. The best thing about doing the night tour is it was much less busy than I anticipate it would have been during the day.
It is amazing to consider everywhere you turn there are creations made mostly from salt. And yes, we joked about licking the walls. The result of travelling with teenage boys (Simon’s younger brothers). Don’t worry… we didn’t! But I imagine plenty of people have.
Chapel of St Kinga
By far the stand out from the salt mine Krakow was the mammoth Chapel of St Kinga. Words cannot describe how impressed and overwhelmed you feel first setting your eyes on this enormous area. There is so much detail, from the salt sculpted chandeliers to the traditional chapel style decor, all underground, within the heart of the Poland salt mines.
The Chapel is a popular venue for concerts, and they demonstrate the acoustics during the tour by playing music and setting off a bit of a light show. Just WOW! The large cavern creates a unique acoustic experience and it would be incredible to attend a special event within the chapel area.
Our Wieliczka salt mine photos do not do this place justice, and the fact that we were pretty lousy travel photographers back then! Thankfully things have come a long way in a few short years with our camera skills. We hope!
I won’t lie. A part of me wishes I got married in St Kinga Chapel… vows renewal maybe? But then I also feel that way about the Łazienki Palace on the Isle in Warsaw. Seriously, Poland has all the stand outs! You could have some of the most scenic and memorable nuptials in this underrated European gem!
At the end of the Wieliczka Salt Mine tour, your guide takes you to the underground tavern, a perfect place for a Polish beer and a meal. We were absolutely starving by this point in the day, after our epic tour around Auschwitz-Birkenau earlier in the day, then our gazillion steps through the salt mines Poland.
The Wieliczka restaurant is another mammoth building, considering it is all underground. Very impressive. It is also a popular venue for special events and dining occasions.
We had a very late dinner of traditional Polish food and enjoyed some drinks and a browse in the gift shop before our tour came to a complete end and it was time to head back to our accommodation in Krakow.
Is Wieliczka Salt Mine Suitable For Kids?
The short answer – Yes. While younger kids may struggle a little with the stairs, they are most welcome to visit the mine and participate in the tour. You may end up having to carry them for part of it if they are quite young, due to tired legs.
Strollers are near impossible to use inside the mine due to the number of stairs, so if travelling with very young children or babies, a baby carrier would be the best option. This also means you will be hands free and able to use the guide rails better yourself, as some of the stairways are somewhat steep.
Older kids will likely enjoy seeing all the sculptures and exhibits as well as climbing all the stairs. Why do kids love stairs? It’s a thing!
There is also a child specific program available during the mine visit, which perfect for family travel.
Wieliczka Salt Mine How to Get There
Wieliczka Salt Mine is located in Wieliczka, in southern poland, within the greater Krakow metropolitan area. If you are wondering how to get to salt mines Krakow easily, there are quite a few options available, either directly from Krakow to Wieliczka or options from elsewhere in Poland.
There are train and bus services travelling between Krakow and Wieliczka at regular intervals throughout the day. Alternatively you can take a cab, minivan or private transport, or consider a guided bus tour such as the one we did, incorporating other Krakow attractions.
Tours are conducted on a daily basis, with several different tour types to choose from. We did the Tourist Route, which is the most popular, however there is also the Miners’ Route and the Pilgrims Route, each targeting different interests and taking you through some different areas of the mine.
Our Wieliczka tour took approximately 3 hours and requires a reasonable level of fitness, however there is a wheelchair alternative that needs to be booked in advance.
It is also quite cold within the saltmines, as you can expect for a place that doesn’t get sunlight. That was fine for us being that it was winter and we were rugged up anyway. If you are visiting in the summer season, be sure to bring a warm jacket as you venture below the ground.
Wieliczka Salt Mine Opening Hours
The times shown below are for the Tourist Route option. The opening hours differ for the other types of tours, so you can check exact times on the website here.
Between April and October, the mine is open from 7:30AM until 7:30PM, with the exception of Easter Sunday. During November to March, Wieliczka salt mine opening times change to 8AM to 5PM, with the exception of 1 November, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day.
The closing times are the time when the final ticket sales are made and when the final groups of the day enter the mine, which means evening tours could run until quite late at night if you are one of the last groups of the day. This is something to be mindful of if you are visiting with children, as you may want to kick off your tour a few hours earlier to avoid very tired little people at night.
Wieliczka Salt Mine Entrance Fee
There are several different tour options available for visiting Wieliczka salt mines, with differing entrance fees. For the Tourist Route, the Pilgrim Route and the Miner’s Route, current tour pricing as of March 2019 is as follows:
- 89zl per adult
- 69zl for concessions with valid student card
- 249zl for a family of four
Children under the age of 4 are given free entry. There are discounts available for organised groups of 10%. This needs to be arranged prior to your visit. There is also reduced entrance fees for Polish residents.
A separate ticket is required to visit the Graduation tour, and this is currently priced at 9zl per adult.
Wieliczka Salt Mine offers accommodation both above and below ground. The underground accommodation is believed to have health benefits due to the purity of the air underground, and ensuring a highly restful sleep.
There is also a health resort offering professional medical services and treatments, especially focused around respiratory issues and asthma. They also treat a range of other conditions as well as simply providing a restful place for rejuvenation.
You can find more information about Wieliczka Salt Mine and the related facilities on their website.
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