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The Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland

When we were planning our visit to Kraków we had two places on our must-visit list. One was the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum and the other was the Wieliczka Salt Mine. We had never visited a salt mine up until then and this particular salt mine in Poland with its UNESCO World Heritage Site status seemed like the best one to visit. The Wieliczka Salt Mine opened in the 13th century and was operational until 1996 when the excavation of salt was terminated at the mine. Today the mine is recognised as a popular Polish historic monument and is said to be visited by more than a million tourists every year.

A little research and we realised that in addition to hundreds of years of history this underground UNESCO Heritage site has beautiful salt sculptures, underground lakes and chambers/chapels. We were very intrigued and so our visit to Wieliczka was finalised. There are many tour operators in Kraków who run daily tours to the salt mine. However, we decided to do it on our own and reached Wieliczka using the public transport system.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Routes


All visits to the Wieliczka Salt Mine are conducted under the supervision of a guide. And there are three main routes at the mine - the tourist route, the miner's route and the pilgrims' route. The Miner's Route is an active expedition and requires more physical effort than the other two routes and begins at the Regis Shaft. This route allows you to discover and experience the inner workings of the mine. The Tourist Route starts at the Danilowicz Shaft and gives you an excellent overview of the history and the working of the mine along with visits to many of the chambers. The Pilgrims’ Route follows the Tourist Route; however, in this tour, a priest accompanies the group and may celebrate a Mass at the end of the tour. We opted for the Tourist Route.

The Tourist Route


All tours at the salt mine are guided tours (available in a number of languages). If you plan to take photographs then you need to purchase a photography permit along with your ticket. We were met by our English speaking guide at the entrance of the Danilowicz Shaft and our journey began. The Tourist Route involves around 800 steps, 350 of which are right in the beginning and take you down to a depth of 135 meters underground! This is the first level. The guide allocated to our group had good knowledge and shared a lot of interesting information about the mine and its history. There is a lot of walking involved but it was totally worth it. We walked through a number of corridors, climbed up and down many stairs and at each designated viewing area, the guide gave us information about the chamber, the life of the miners, the ancient mining machines etc. It was interesting.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Salt sculptures, lakes and awesome chapels


There are numerous salt sculptures all through the Tourist Route. The guide shared the story associated with each sculpture that we encountered on our way.

King Casimir the Great
The Wieliczka Salt Mine - King Casimir

An eighteenth-century treadmill in the Casimir the Great Chamber.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine

Rock-salt statue of Pope John Paul II
The Wieliczka Salt Mine - Pope John Paul II

Stanislaw Staszic Chamber – the highest accessible chamber for tourists excavation in the mine.
Wieliczka Salt Mine - Stanislaw Staszic Chamber

One of the underground lakes – it is so salty that not another pinch of salt will dissolve in it.
Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Chapel of St. Kinga


Undoubtedly the main draw for most people visiting the salt mines are the underground chambers. There are around 20 of them with the most beautiful and the most popular one being the Chapel of St. Kinga. Located 101 meters underground, this chamber which can accommodate up to 400 people is simply stunning. It was unlike anything we had seen before. Decorated with numerous salt sculptures and beautiful chandeliers (parts of which are made with salt crystals), the chamber is a testimony to the excellent work of the miner sculptors. This impressive underground chapel is reason enough to visit the salt mine, in my opinion. Even today, Christmas Eve masses and weekly services are held in this underground chapel.

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

Wieliczka Salt Mine - The Chapel of St Kinga

The Chapel of St. John (pictured below) is a smaller chamber that has a beautiful wooden interior.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

There are a few other interesting chambers - the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Chapel of St. John Paul II and the Chapel of St. Anthony. Do note that you may not see all the chambers due to them not being on the route you have chosen or due to the fact that they may be closed for maintenance. For e.g. the Miner's Route does not connect with the Chapel of St. Kinga and other chambers that you see on the Tourist Route.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Also, in the peak season, the mines can be a little crowded. However, when we visited in February it wasn't very busy and the crowd control was good meaning we got to see and take in the beauty of the chambers without any hassle.

At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a hot meal at the restaurant (not included in the ticket). Overall, it was a good tour. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is unique and if you have an interest in history and architecture then you might enjoy a visit to the mine.

Miners’ Tavern in the Budryk Chamber
Wieliczka Salt Mine

The way back up was easy compared to the descent as we did not have to climb up the 350 steps we initially descended down. There is a lift service to take visitors back up to the starting point. We were happy to see the lift! It is a short ride up but do note that 8-9 people go into the lift for each journey up. Maybe a bit claustrophobic for some but it is a very short-lived discomfort.

How to get to the mine


The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located around 10 kms away from Kraków and is well connected by different means of transport. You can get to the mine in one of the following ways:

By bus - Bus number 304 which departs from a bus stop near Galeria Krakowska is the easiest mode of public transport. Purchase a Zone I and II Agglomeration ticket which is valid on all public buses from Kraków to Wieliczka. You need to get off at the Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli bus stop which is very near the mine. On your return journey, you can board the same bus back to Kraków.

By minivan - A number of minivans depart from near the Main Railway Station in Kraków. These minivans stop at the Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli bus stop which is the same one as the regular bus stop.

By train - Frequent trains run from Dworzec Główny, the Main Railway Station in Kraków to the Wieliczka Rynek Kopalnia train station.

By car - The salt mine is less than half an hour by car from Krakow centre.

Good to know


Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine | Danilowicz Shaft, ul. Daniłowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Polska
Phone | +48122787302, +48122787366

- The temperature in the mines ranges between 14-16° C. So do carry warm clothes.
- There are toilet facilities along the Tourist Route.
- Wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved.
- Tours are available in English, German, Polish, French, Spanish and a few other languages.
- The mine is open every day except 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 November and 24-25 December.
- Ticket prices are 89 PLN/person for foreign language tours. For Polish language tours, the price was 59 PLN/person. These were the prices when we visited in February 2018. Please check the website for the latest prices, group discounts etc.
- Photography permit (if needed) is to be purchased along with the ticket.

21 comments:

  1. Wow! The salt mine looks a bit scary but I'd love to go.

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    1. It is a very well conducted tour and not to be missed when visiting Krakow.

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  2. Amazing experience - incredible structures - Definately on my list to see

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    1. Yes, an amazing experience and excellent craftsmanship. The chapels are more than 135 meters underground. It is fascinating.

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  3. I was born in Poland and remember coming here as a kid. Not much has change! What an awesome experience, I can't wait to revisit soon!

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    1. This was our first visit to a salt mine and we loved it. On our next trip to Poland, we plan to visit the Bochnia Salt Mine. Have heard that its very fascinating too.

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  4. It looks like such an amazing experience. All those beautiful sculptures and the chandeliers in the rooms are absolutely beautiful. Did you climb the tall staircases?

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    1. Yes, we did and it was beautiful. All the sculptures are made of salt and we couldn't but admire the lovely craftsmanship.

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  5. I'm actually going to Poland this summer and looking for things to do. This salt mine looks amazing! The salt Pop e is gorgeous! And I love the chandeliers as well. I've been to a salt mine in Germany, but I'd like to see this one too.

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    1. It is one of the popular and much visited salt mines in Poland. You could also check out the Bochnia Salt Mine - not as popular but it is the oldest salt mine in Poland.

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  6. I've never visited Poland and certainly never even heard of the salt mines. It looks like a really interesting place to visit though. The salt sculptures in the chambers are awesome! Your photo's have turned out great as well.

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    1. Thanks, Nicola. Yes, the salt sculptures are amazing.

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  7. While I've never been to Poland, my significant other has. She had managed to take time off a business visit to Krakow and tour the wieliczka mines, taking some awesome photos and making me insanely jealous in the process. Reading this post reminded me of that, just a little more than an year back. Nice photos btw.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Denny. It is a beautiful mine, our first visit and we enjoyed the experience.

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  8. if i could over come my fear of caves and being under ground this would be a fantastic place to visit :)

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    1. The first 350 steps might be bothersome - you just need to keep going down but once you each the first level, it should be fine. The walkways, chambers are well maintained and you don't realise you are at such a great depth underground.

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  9. Oh oh oh I've seen the Wieliczka Salt Mine and wanted to visit, so great to read your post and find out more about visiting! I had no idea it was actually designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site though! I think I'd take the Tourist Route as neither the more physically challenging or the religious option appeal to me personally. So glad you got the photography permit to share your experience, the photos are fabulous, especially of the tableaux with mannequins showing how the mine was worked. And the salt sculptures and chapel of St Kinga that I remember from the TV show - I think there's a real sense of scale in your photos.

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    1. Thank you for the lovely comment, Kavita. I am pleased that you liked the photographs. However, the real beauty and magic of the chapels fail to be properly captured in photos. They are spectacular in person.

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  10. I haven’t been to a salt mine before. Based on your experience and photos, it looks like it’s an interesting, quite eerie, and unique experience. I wouldn’t want to get lost or trapped there though. Haha The underground chambers and the Chapel of St. Kinga are incredible! The sculptures are also impressive.

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    1. Don't worry about getting lost :) You will not, as all tours are guided tours and one cannot wander off the route. There are around 3 kms of corridors and around 800 steps to climb of which 350 are at the very start of the tour and take you to a depth of 135 meters underground. It is an interesting place.

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  11. The interiors of the Salt mine looks very intrigue and the steps too! Beautifully pressued site, the chapel looks stunning with gorgeous chandalier's. Now since we have read about the Tourist's Route, we would love to opt for Miner's route ;)

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