Is it Worth Visiting Wieliczka Salt Mines?
Given its proximity to Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mines are the ideal destination for an excursion outside the Polish city. Here are the reasons why!
Going to the Wieliczka Salt Mines is an essential plan to do during a vacation in Poland, but if you have not yet decided or do not know why they cause such a stir among travelers, I suggest you take note of these 10 reasons why it is worth visiting them from Krakow.
And if your curiosity is piqued, don't forget to get your tickets to this emblematic salt monument, you'll be amazed when you see it in person!
1. It is the second most visited attraction in Poland
The Wieliczka Salt Mines are one of the most famous tourist attractions in Krakow, in fact it is the second most visited in the whole country after the Main Market Square in the Old Town of Krakow.
Since the salt mines were first visited in the 15th century, this place has not ceased to amaze tourists of different generations. Some of the most illustrious visitors who had the opportunity to explore them in their time were the astronomer Nicolas Copernicus, the composer Frédéric Chopin or the writer Goethe.
With a depth of more than 100 meters, the Wieliczka Salt Mines are home to unusual places - everything is carved out of blocks of salt! Prayer chapels, chambers, sculptures, reliefs... you can even see amazing rock formations such as stalagmites or stalactites and even a beautiful illuminated subway lake.
If you want to see a small preview of what awaits you on the visit, do not miss the post What to see in the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Ah! And remember to take your camera battery well charged to take the best pictures of the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
2. One of the oldest salt mines in Europe
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the oldest salt mines in the world still in operation, producing table salt since the 13th century.
They were once known as Magnum Sal (Great Salt) and played an important role in the Polish economy as the main salt mine in the country. They belonged to King Casimir the Great but are now owned by the State.
However, the oldest salt mines in Poland are the Bochnia Salt Mines, which date back to the 12th century and are located in the southeast of the country. Like the Wieliczka Salt Mines, they are also declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and can be visited although they are a little smaller and less popular than those of Krakow, which stand out especially for their artistic dimension.
3. It is the deepest visitable salt mine in Poland
The tourist route through the Wieliczka Salt Mines runs more than 100 meters deep through 3.5 kilometers of labyrinthine galleries, shafts and chambers with subway lakes, although the maximum depth of the monument is 327 meters.
In total there are more than 2,000 chambers spread over 9 levels but only 1% of the total surface of the mines is visited.
The tourist itinerary to the Wieliczka Salt Mines begins after descending 64 meters deep down steep wooden stairs that seem not to end, in the Danilowicza Well specifically.
Upon arrival at the starting point, the guide will begin to tell you about the origins and history of this peculiar mine while the group enters it through labyrinthine galleries up to 135 meters deep. Along the way you will see impressive chapels and chambers excavated in salt as well as spectacular sculptures, rock formations and subway lakes.
4. Touring them with a guided tour will make your experience even better
While organizing your trip to Krakow, you've probably seen a lot of mind-blowing images of the interior of the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Who could imagine that under the earth's surface there was such a place full of galleries, chambers, lakes, chapels, statues and legends?
It makes you want to grab a flashlight and a hat to go into the depths of the mine and explore them at your leisure like Indiana Jones. However, given the characteristics of the Wieliczka Salt Mines and for conservation and safety reasons, you will always be accompanied by a professional guide during the tour of the monument.
Although this may sound a bit of a spoilsport for those travelers who expected to be able to tour the salt mines on their own, in reality, a guided tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mines has its positive side: the guides know many curiosities and stories about the mines that will leave you speechless. The experience will be even more fun if possible!
In addition, it is worth remembering that the tourist route through the Wieliczka Salt Mines takes place in what is often called a "salt labyrinth", so walking through the depths of the earth with a guide who knows the way back and knows both safety and first aid always gives greater peace of mind if you start to feel claustrophobic in a more enclosed section, don't you think?
5. The Wieliczka Salt Mines are very close to Krakow and getting tickets is a breeze
This emblematic monument is located just 14 kilometers from Krakow, so it is an essential place to visit during a trip to the Polish city. To get there there are several transportation options which I tell you in the post How to get to the Wieliczka Salt Mines from Krakow.
Regarding the tickets, you can buy them there at the ticket offices for the tours in Polish and English but if you want to do this tour in a different language (Spanish, German, Italian, Russian or French) you will have to buy them online and with some anticipation because the tours in other languages are reduced but very popular.
Another option is to book your place on an organized tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mines from Krakow to simplify the whole management of finding transportation, buying tickets or the service of a guide. In these tours everything is already thought out so you don't have to worry about anything, just enjoy!
6. You can combine visits to Wieliczka Salt Mines and Auschwitz
Being two of the most popular attractions in Poland, there are options that combine the guided tour in the same day to both sites, so you can get the most out of your trip to Krakow if you are going to spend little time in the city.
In this case, the package usually costs around 100 euros and includes skip-the-line tickets to both attractions, the two guided tours as well as the transfer to and from the city, the Salt Mines and Auschwitz, saving you time and money!
If you want to know more details about this visit, do not miss the post Excursions to Auschwithz and Wieliczka Salt Mines from Krakow.
7. You can see them in one morning and continue your tour of Krakow afterward
Another reason to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines is that the tour of the salt mines takes about two hours (although it can be extended to 3 hours if you include a visit to the subway exhibition at the Krakow Salt Mine Museum).
The tour is very exciting, after all you don't always have the chance to enter a real active mine as peculiar and artistic as the Polish one. During the tour you have a great time going through the different subway galleries and although the activity takes place in the bowels of the Earth, it doesn't take too long. On the contrary, you will see amazing things and you will want to stay a little longer!
Considering the length of the visit, if you would like to add this experience to your vacation in Krakow my advice is to go early in the morning to the Wieliczka Salt Mines. This will give you the rest of the day to make other interesting plans in Krakow.
In this sense, know the opening hours of the monument in the post Wieliczka Salt Mines opening hours to better plan your visit and remember to take a look at the article What to see and what to do in Krakow to discover other fantastic places in this magnificent city.
8. You will visit Santa Kinga, which is considered the "Sistine Chapel of salt"
Just to have the opportunity to admire with your own eyes the extraordinary Chapel of St. Kinga is worth the trip from Krakow and descend to a depth of more than 100 m. It is a fascinating place where you will feel a unique atmosphere as soon as you enter! Not for nothing is it considered the "Sistine Chapel of salt".
Inside the Wieliczka Salt Mines the miners created about 40 places of worship to pray during the day, but the Chapel of St. Kinga will exceed all your expectations. In my opinion it is the jewel of this beautiful monument.
It took almost 70 years to complete its construction, as the work was very laborious, and it is striking how much effort was put into its decoration down to the smallest detail.
From the biblical reliefs that serve as altarpieces and the huge chandeliers to the salt statues in honor of Santa Kinga, the Virgin of Lourdes or Pope John Paul II, among others.
9. It is a very familiar excursion
At first glance it may not seem so, because it is not a visit that takes place outdoors, but the Wieliczka Salt Mines is a very cool tour to do with children. In fact, kids of any age can participate, although if you go with a baby it is more practical to take a baby carrier than a stroller, because once the visit begins there is no place to leave it and also during the tour you will find many steps.
The entrance until 4 years old is free and children will have a great time walking through the subway galleries and discovering everything that these mines house: from tools used by the miners in their daily work to legends and subway lakes. In the post Visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines with children you will find more information to visit this monument with your family.
10. Nearly 2 million people a year can't be wrong
The fact that in 1978 the Wieliczka Salt Mines were chosen by UNESCO as one of the first World Heritage Sites in the world is no coincidence. Nor that they are one of the most visited tourist attractions in Poland (no less than almost 2 million visitors a year), which is a sign that it is a truly amazing monument that you have to see on your route through Krakow without fail.
When you get there you will see that everything you heard about them is real. I don't know anyone who has ever regretted escaping here and taking time out of their trip to Krakow - everyone is delighted!