This post has been a long time coming. I just haven’t gotten around to writing it until now, mainly due to the laptop which had been storing my photos breaking, but a miraculous recovery of my photos combined with the excitement of preparing for our big trip has had me reminiscing back on our city break in Kraków.
Visiting the Wieliczka salt mines was a big highlight of our trip to Kraków and I would definitely put it down as something you need to do if you’re travelling in the city.
You can easily book a tour to the salt mines either through a booking company like Viator before your arrive, or through your accommodation once you get to Kraków. It only takes approximately 30 minutes to get there via your tour bus. We booked this tour prior to arriving in Kraków, and the staff at our guesthouse kindly called the company to confirm our pick-up time the day before the trip. Booking this way of course means that you will be exploring the salt mines as part of a group. Once you arrive, you’ll be taken to queue up at your designated entrance with your own headset to wait for your tour to commence.
You can, of course, make your own way to the salt mines either by driving or using public transport, and buy your ticket at reception there rather than booking a tour before you arrive. This way you will still be exploring as part of a group with a tour guide, so no need to worry about missing out on any interesting facts about the mines! The Wieliczka salt mines’ dedicated website advises that these groups normally consist of 35 people.
The most popular route to exploring the salt mines is the tourist route which is the one we had booked. However, you can also take the miner’s route, a more adventurous route where you’re given the chance to dress head to toe in miner gear to really get into the spirit of things. The descent into the mines is approximately 135 metres (443 feet!) which obviously means trekking down a hell of a lot of stairs. 800 steps in total throughout your visit, to be exact, 350 of them being your initial descent into the mines. For this reason, I would definitely recommend bringing your comfiest walking shoes. Don’t worry though – on your way back up you’ll be taking the lift! Phew.
Your visit will take around 3 hours, and it is recommended to bring warm clothing with you as it can get pretty chilly down there.
The salt mines are spectacular – the chambers and the sculptures and figures within them are all chiselled from rock salt. The Wieliczka salt mines are both a historic and spiritual staple in Poland’s culture, and they feature on the UNESCO world culture and natural heritage list. Another recommendation: bring a decent camera. Some of the chambers are very dark and trust me – you are going to want to take pictures. Before entering the Chapel of St. Kinga – probably the most beautiful area within the salt mines – you will have to pay a small fee to take photographs, which is definitely worth it.
The Chapel of St. Kinga is one of many chambers within the mine – and it is absolutely breathtaking. Here, you’ll see carvings of famous Christian bible characters and scenes, like a rock salt edition of the painting of the Last Supper and Jesus on the crucifix. Neither Shaun or I are religious, but we were both in awe by the beauty of St. Kinga’s chapel and the talent it must have taken to create these amazing sculptures. Weddings and other special events can still take place here today, which is totally unsurprising due to the truly magical atmosphere in this chapel.
On your way down to St. Kinga, you make your way through more caverns and chambers where there are many more awesome sculptures to see of historic Polish figures and even a display of the seven dwarfs! Our tour guide was super knowledgeable and told us lots about each part of the mines we stopped at while exploring.
Amazingly, the salt mines aren’t just an attraction in the way of exploring the mines themselves – there is also an underground health resort! The air in the mines is supposed to do wonderful things for your skin and respiration due to the salty microclimate, so you can opt to visit one of their treatment chambers deep underneath the ground. You can even choose to sleep over in one of these health chambers for a real relaxation experience! I wasn’t aware of this until we were already in the mines on our tour, so this might be a super chilled out option for something to do if I ever return to Kraków.
Visiting the Wieliczka salt mines was such a great experience which gave a real sense of adventure and discovery, despite the fact that it welcomes around one million tourists each year. I’d definitely urge you to make it a priority on your Kraków to do list – you will not regret it!