Just outside of Krakow, hiding beneath the surface, is one of the largest salt mines in the world. The Wieliczka Salt Mine, situated right underneath the town of Wielickza, contains a total of over 300 kilometers paths and goes 350 meters into the ground. Today hardly any salt is extracted and the salt mine is foremost an unforgettable place that draw visitors from around the world.
History of the Wieliczka salt mine
The history of the salt mine in Wieliczka goes back to the Middle Ages. When salt was of great value, especially in places far away from the sea. The nearby town of Krakow in particular benefited from this ‘white gold’ from Wieliczka. The impressive space that opened up under the ground also provided one of the earliest forms of tourism. As early as the 15th century, wealthy people came to see the amazing underground world for themselves.
Wieliczka Salt Mine and UNESCO
The Wieliczka salt mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors you can choose between different routes that will show you all about working in the mine over the centuries. Also the underground lakes and impressive works of art made of salt are well covered in the tours. The most notable one is a complete underground cathedral, solely made of salt. There are several routes to follow. The ‘tourist route’ is the only one that covers all major attractions and is thus recommended for first time visitors. Because the air under the ground very clean and healthy, there’s also several spa-resorts in the mine.
Visit the Salt Mine
You always visit the salt mine with a guide. You can go to the salt mine by yourself and join a group or you can pre-book a tour. An organised tour through www.getyourguide.com. costs you around € 40 (£ 34) per person. For this price you’ll get picked up at a central location in Krakow and skip the cue at the Wieliczka salt mine. An English speaking tour guide will show you around the mines. The tour takes at least two hours, minus transportation.
Do you have your own transportation to the salt mines? In that case it’s still a good idea to purchase your tickets in advance. You can buy skip-the-line tickets online. Especially during the high season the mines attract a lot of crowds and the groups with a guide that speaks your favourite language fill up quickly. The Wieliczka salt mine has an office in Krakow, where you could also buy the tickets. There are several English tours per day.
Travel to the Wieliczka salt mine
The salt mines are located in Wielickza, about 20 minutes outside of Krakow. You can easily get to the salt mine with your own car or one of the (mini) buses departing from the Kraków Central Railway Station. A minibus ticket costs less than 5 złoty, so does the normal bus 304. A pre-booked taxi costs around € 29 ((£ 25)).
Wielickza Salt Mine information
When you take your own (rental) car, drive until the parking lot from the mine itself. That’s at the very end of the road. Feel free to ignore the people along the road in Wieliczka in orange or yellow vests that designate you a parking space. They do not belong to the Wieliczka salt mine, but operate commercial parking lots. Although the price will be approximately the same, you will have to walk a bit to reach the salt mines. Parking costs are +/- 15 zloty.
Good to know
A tour in the Wieliczka salt mine lasts about 2 hours in which you walk about 3.5 kilometers. The paths are all passable, but occasionally there are some stairs to be conquered. Below ground, the temperature is a steady 16 degrees year round. So remind yourself to pack an extra jacket on a hot summer day. You need an extra ticket to take pictures, this costs around 10 złoty. Halfway through the tour, at the Cathedral, you get another option to purchase this photo-ticket. At the end of the tour is a small museum about the mines. Most people skip this, but do check it out if you have the time, as it is interesting and already included in the price.
Tip! Auschwitz and Wieliczka salt mine
Do you have plans to visit both the concentration camp and the salt mine during your visit to Krakow? If you want to do this in one day, your only option (time wise) is a combo ticket. In that case you’ll pay around € 80 (£ 71) for both visits. This is including transport, guides, tickets and Polish lunch in a restaurant.
– How to visit Auschwitz museum
– This is how you travel from Katowice Airport to Krakow
– This is how you travel from Krakow Airport to the city centre
Pictures by Rafał Stachurski, with permission from Kopalnia Soli Wieliczka
Last update 5th januari 2020