Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Famous Polish cultural object – the old mine in the city of Wieliczka. It is a cultural heritage of the country, which is more than 700 years old. Long corridors were built for centuries, branches led to the galleries and chambers. Seven levels under the ground are the result of the construction of the object, which was more than two hundred kilometers long.
The importance of the monument
Initially, the object was only a place of work for the miners. Later the extent of the construction changed the status of the mine – it became a cultural monument. Already in the 15th century privileged persons were taken there for excursions. The rich people of that time were surprised by the size of the mine, they noted its greatness. The descent was carried out within half an hour.
UNESCO put the Salt Caves in Krakow on the list of World Heritage Sites in 1978, as the greatest ancient site. It is the most amazing place in the whole of Poland. Tourists regularly visit it under the guidance of an experienced guide.
The cultural monument is permanently protected. It is an integral part of the history of the state, the object of numerous studies and archaeological discoveries.
A brief history of the salt mine in Wieliczka
A famous Frenchman in the 18th century said that the salt caves in Wieliczka near Krakow are no less magnificent than the Egyptian pyramids. Millions of visitors, crowned heads and celebrities such as Goethe were thoroughly enthralled as they visited the underground world of labyrinthine passages, giant caves, and underground lakes in the salt mine, as it is now often called. They also marveled at the ingenuity of the ancient miners in Wieliczka.
The Wieliczka salt mine is now practically on the southeastern outskirts of Krakow.
The construction of the mine took several centuries, starting in the 13th century. The salt mine was divided into levels, with the lowest layers being 198 m underground. It was one of the largest and most profitable industrial enterprises when table salt was the commercial equivalent of modern oil.
The ancient deposit was useful to people: two centuries ago the healing qualities of salt became known. Many diseases were treated with it. In wartime, the substance was used to treat wounded soldiers. Wounds sprinkled with salt were disinfected.
Salt lotions drew out inflammations and eliminated suppuration. There were no antibiotics at the time. The main use of the substance in medicine at that time was salt baths. Of course, salt was also used for food, but the food industry in those days did not yet exist: people ate only what they cooked, caught, obtained from livestock.
After the partition of Poland, the mine became accessible to tourists. During the Second World War, tourism was suspended, they tried to use the mine for the manufacture of weapons. These plans were never realized. In the postwar years, tourism began in the year. To this day, the mine in Wieliczka enjoys great popularity among tourists and residents of Poland.
Today it is regularly repaired, the authorities finance the restoration work, taking care of the preservation of cultural heritage. Sovereigns sale points are organized near the site and photography is allowed.
Description of the mine in Wieliczka
The sights of the site are the chambers and chapels built inside the mine. There are 20 of them in total, and a long corridor leads to each chamber.
Chamber of the astronomer Copernicus
An object built in honor of the five hundredth anniversary of his birth. Inside is a sculpture made as a tribute to the great astronomer.
St. King’s Chapel
The object is located at 101 m underground, its length – 54 meters, width – 15-18 meters, height – 10-12 meters. This is a favorite place of tourists. There, one can see the most beautiful chandelier made of salt crystals.
St. King’s Chapel is the main attraction of the mine.
Chamber of the King Casimir the Great.
Made in memory of the ruler who issued the law on the extraction of salt from this deposit. On such places you can learn the history of Poland.
The Trunk of Nicholas Danilovich.
An ancient structure, which was used to lift fossils to the surface. Today it is a cultural site, reminding people how the mine was operated centuries ago.
The beautiful sculptures, chapels and chambers are the living embodiment of the history of the Polish state. There you can touch history, see with your own eyes the works of great masters and hear a lot of informative information from the guide accompanying tourists on tours.
How to get to the salt mine from Krakow
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is about ten kilometers from the center of Krakow. You can easily reach it by car or cab. You can also take a commuter train at the central train station in Krakow, a bus or one of the many shuttles that run through the streets of the city.
Visitors to the salt mine should get off at the Wieliczka Kopalnia stop. Yellow buses operated by Mobilis run every 20 minutes.
The E-40 highway near Krakow serves as the gateway to the cultural site. There is transport from Krakow to Wieliczka, and cab drivers are always on duty near the bus departure point. The distance to Krakow is only 10 km.
A single ticket costs 30-45 Zl, but there are also group tickets for families which cost 120 Zl. With such a ticket 4 people can visit the site: two children and two adults. Children over 4 years old are allowed to visit the site.
The course of the tour
Since the mid-18th century, the Salt Caves in Krakow have been primarily an attraction. Today, visitors can walk underground in the old part of the salt mine and see the underground museum here.
Nine centuries of mining in Wieliczka resulted in a total of about 200 kilometers of passages and 2,040 caves of varying sizes. The tourist route begins at a depth of 64 meters, includes twenty caves and ends at a depth of 135 meters below the surface. There is the world’s largest museum dedicated to unique centuries-old mining equipment.
Thanks to the excellent acoustics in some of the caves of the salt mine in Krakow concerts are held. There is also a sanatorium for those who suffer from asthma and allergies and it is located 135 meters underground.
For tourists journey through the salt mines will last about two hours. During this time, it is proposed to visit all 20 chambers, walk through the long corridors, explore the monuments and sculptures, listen to the guide’s comments with the most accurate historical data.
Important: It is quite chilly in the mine, you should stock up on warm clothes. The temperature inside the facility is 14 ° C.
The tour takes place in groups of 35 people, no more. Different guides are provided. If necessary, will invite a guide who speaks a foreign language. Tour without a guide is not possible.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine
In Polish: adults PLN 87, children PLN 69, students and seniors PLN 77. In other languages: adults 119 PLN, children 99 PLN, student and student 109 PLN.
It is a good idea to check the opening hours on the official website before visiting. Opening hours may vary depending on the time of year and month.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of Poland’s most unusual sites and was added to the first UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978. The mine has been in operation for more than 700 years, and during that time more than 26 shafts have been hollowed out. The total length of underground corridors of the mine at the moment is about 245 km, and the depth of the lowest 9th level reaches 327 m. For comparison, the highest observation deck in Moscow City, Panorama 360, is located at a height of 374 meters. Tourists can visit only 1% of the total number of corridors and rooms, but it is enough for visitors to go away with enthusiasm and a mass of positive impressions.
There are now two main tourist routes for groups of people at the mine. It is not possible to get to the mine as an individual. All tourists are formed into a group and go on a tour with a guide and a guide-interpreter. Tours are conducted in Polish, English, German, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish. The mine has over 400 guides and 350 interpreters.
The route is suitable for all ages. The length is about 3 km, but during the route you have to go down 800 steps and 380 of them are waiting for you at the beginning of the route. The route takes about 3 hours, during which you will walk around a lot of cameras, including the chapel of St. Kingi. It is, according to most tourists, the most grandiose chamber on the whole route. The length of the hall – 54 m, width -17 m. Ceiling height – 10-12 m. Light-filled room is located at a depth of 110 meters underground. It was named after St. Kinga, Hungarian princess and queen of Poland, who according to legend showed us where the salt mine was. The chapel was created over a hundred years by various master miners. The church is active and every Sunday morning mass is held there. John Paul II himself said mass three times here. It often hosts weddings and concerts of classical and church music.
Everything in the chapel is made of salt: relief and sculptural compositions, and even grandiose chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There is also a salt copy of The Last Supper.
The whole route goes through 20 chambers, most of them are named after famous people who visited the Wieliczka Mine or contributed to its development. The guide will tell you about the life of the miners, who settled here as a family and did not go to the surface. Along the route there are wax figures designed to make the stories realistic. There are many sculptures carved out of salt in the chambers. In addition to the temple of St. Kinga, there are about 40 small chapels in the mines. There is also a chamber on the route with the salt lake, the depth of which reaches 9 meters. A few hours on the shore of the lake is equivalent to a week by the sea.
The miners’ route
Children under the age of 10 are not allowed on this route. And not just for fun. At the beginning of the route tourists are given protective helmets and overalls. The route is in the style of a quest, in which you feel like a miner. The path passes through unlit tunnels, where the source of light is only on your helmet. Along the way you’ll have to explore the mysterious and rugged chambers around the oldest surviving trunk of Regis, find the right path, and do mining jobs like measuring methane levels in the mine or salt deposits. This trail is just under two kilometers long and takes three hours to complete.
On the fifth level of the mine is an active sanatorium, which treats respiratory diseases, asthma, allergies and skin diseases.
Anyone can buy tickets for overnight stays in the Slovak Chamber, on level III of the mine for up to 3 days without medical certificates, and for up to 4 days after the examination. The ticket price includes meals in the underground restaurant and a guided tour in Polish.
If you want to spend the night in the Stables of the Eastern Mountains, you need to buy the Healthy Sleep tour. It is an overnight stay in what was once a real underground stable. You will spend the night in the chamber, the temperature of which, as in the entire cave, 13 – 14,5 ° C.
Salt Cooling Tower
Salt cooling tower is a structure on the surface. Here you can spend time enjoying the salubrious air, without tours and guides. Recommended time to spend in the cooling tower is about 30 minutes. A visit to the brine cooling tower allows you to cleanse your airways, relax and unwind. It is recommended especially for people with allergies, people living in big cities and people who have to stay in polluted air. Staying in cooling tower improves your health and causes a burst of energy and vitality.
The price of visiting the Wieliczka Mine depends on the chosen route and time. Tickets in Polish for the tourist and miner’s trails cost from 87.00 PLN for an adult, discounted tickets for children from 69.00 PLN, and from 77.00 PLN for students and senior citizens. Family tickets are also available, at 243.00 PLN. Tours in other languages cost 119.00 PLN for an adult, 99.00 PLN for children and 109.00 PLN for pensioners and students. Family admission for a guided tour with an interpreter costs 337.00 PLN. If you want to do both, it’s best to take an all-inclusive ticket, which includes a discount.
Tours in English and Polish are held daily every hour during business hours. On Russian-language tours at 11:45 and 13:45 must be booked in advance.
You can buy tickets in advance on the website of the Wieliczka mine, or at the ticket offices at the mine or in town. But you should remember that tours in other languages are scheduled 1-3 times a day. On such routes is better to book seats in advance.
A visit to the salt mine will cost 9 PLN and 6 PLN for benefits.
You can also buy tickets for the Wieliczka Salt Mine Resort on the mine’s official website. The cost of a stay depends on the number of days and the program you choose and the date of your stay. An average overnight stay in the mine costs from PLN 120, while a health day, including a 6-hour ambulatory stay for health improvement underground in the salt chamber under the supervision of a doctor, nurse and physiotherapist costs from PLN 140.
For a longer stay, you should carefully read the indications and contraindications for staying in the salt mines. Please contact the spa staff to clarify the possibility.
Do not forget that the temperature in the entire cave does not exceed 17°C at any time of the year. Take warm clothing and closed shoes.
On the territory of the mine has everything you need to make every visitor feel comfortable. There is an ATM and a currency exchange office. At the Grand Salle Hotel 4* you can stay if you plan a long stay. There is also a restaurant where you can have a delicious meal after hiking through the labyrinths.
Most areas are accessible to people with disabilities. Including visits to the cooling tower and part of the caves. There are toilets on the territory, two of them also on the hiking route, which is very convenient for its three-hour duration. On some levels of the caves there are also Wifi access points and cell phones. Under the ground you can eat at the “Miner’s tavern,” which offers inexpensive national Polish cuisine.
The history of salt mining in the mine
Salt mining on the Wieliczka area dates back to Neolithic times by simply evaporating salt water from springs. But by XII century, sources began to run out, and then people began to dig wells from which salt water was raised to the surface for evaporation. In the XIII century, during the excavation of another well, a block of salt was discovered. It was a sensational find, and by the end of the century the first shaft for mining salt was hollowed out.
Under Casimir III, salt mining was streamlined. At that time, the income from salt mining in Wieliczka, 10 km from Krakow, amounted to almost one third of the royal treasury. It was on that money, for example, the first Polish university, the Krakow Academy, was built. By the end of the XV century the mine had four shafts and one underground level. But already at that time the first tourists descended into the mine. One of them was Nicholas Copernicus. There is now a room in the mine, named after him and decorated with a salt statue of Copernicus to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the great astronomer’s descent into the mine.
At the time of the partition of Poland, the mine came under Austrian rule. Not only was the mine not closed down during this period, but it was also greatly improved. The new owners understood the potential of the mine and they invested a lot of money in it. The mechanical elevators, which were operated by hand, first by man and later by horse, were replaced by steam engines. Rails were built in the mines for the convenience of moving salt underground. A saltworks were erected on the surface. “Wieliczka was the largest production plant in Austria in those years.
The management of the mine very skillfully used the interest of tourists and organized the first tourist routes at the enterprise. Tourism became an important source of income for the mines. Various tourist innovations were introduced at the mines. In 1886 a part of the route could be done in a horse-drawn streetcar. Underground attractions, such as the “devil’s wheel” and boat rides on the underground salt lake, were in great demand. Guests were greeted with a live band and fireworks. If at the end of the XVIII century there were a few dozen tourists a month, by the beginning of the twentieth century there were more than a hundred per week.
In the period between the two wars, when the mine returned to Polish control, the mine corridors were visited by more than 120,000 people. At this time, various events began to take place in the mine: anniversaries, all sorts of conventions and gatherings. High-ranking officials and diplomats of all levels are invited here. During World War II and in the years after it salt production increased and reached its peak by the 70s. In 1964 the mining of rock salt ceased completely, and the development of the mine was directed towards the industrial production of boiled salt and towards the development of tourism in the mine and its preservation as a natural heritage site.
In 1992, water leaked into the mine. After that event a decision was made to stop commercial salt production in the mine, which was put into practice in 1996. They fix old corridors, prepare new tourist routes and keep an eye on the safety of the mine.
Entrance to the Wieliczka Salt Mine Museum on Google Maps
How to get there
You can get to the “Wieliczka” salt mine by public transport.
Suburban train leaves from Cracow Main Station. Get off the train at the Wieliczka – Market Square – Mine. From the station to the mine are signs. It will take a few minutes to follow them.
Bus #304 goes from the Main Railway Station stop (west) next to the Krakowska Gallery. Get off at the Wieliczka – Salt Mine stop and walk to the Danilowicz Station. If you’re going to Regis Trunk, get off at the Wieliczka – Rynok Square stop.
If you go by car from Krakow, you have to drive about 10 km to the southeast. The mine is located near the exit from the A4 motorway and near the Kraków-Wieliczka junction.
You can reach the place by cab, choosing one of the local services or using the Uber app.