The Wieliczka Salt Mine ushers you into a fascinating underground world, nothing like what’s seen on the surface. Today, the mine, just minutes from downtown Krakow, is one of Poland’s richest heritage sites. A place to connect with art, take a tour, and breathe in the fresh air, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is even home to a spa, chapel, and underground hotel accommodations. With just 10 kilometers separating the heritage site from downtown, it’s easy to get to the mine, both by highway and public transportation. Throughout the mine, the all-natural salt is various shades of gray, looking more like granite than table salt.
For thousands of years, people have harnessed the salt from the massive deposit left underground. In the 12th century, work began in the mine, which continued until the 1990s. In the time in between the mine’s opening and today, countless people have explored the underground labyrinth in southern Poland. Even as Poland changed rulers and history unfolded above ground, mining continued beneath the surface. People came to explore the mine, which eventually grew into a museum as much as a working mine. Because of its importance, the Wieliczka Salt Mine was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1978. Since then, even more visitor experiences have been added, underground concerts started up, and more art instillations were completed.
Structures & Works of Art
Structures & Works of Art
You might be surprised how much is under the surface; this is no mere mine shaft like you’d find in the movies. Underground, the mine is home to a museum, chapel, large chambers to host concerts, and a spa where wellness treatments incorporate the local bounty. Hotel accommodations are above ground and located in two subterranean chambers, the Slowacki Chamber and Eastern Mountains Chamber. The works of art are sprinkled throughout the mine’s public areas and include a statue of Pope John Paul II made of salt and the Last Supper re-created out of Polish salt. Murals and photography exhibitions also showcase the mine’s cultural side.
Touring Wieliczka Salt Mine
Touring Wieliczka Salt Mine Image: byungkyupark (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
Whether you’re staying overnight or just taking a quick tour, you’ll need to make reservations or purchase tickets, which are available online. The things to do in the mine include guided tours, with narration available in Polish, German, and English. For those who want to do more than just take the overview tour, they can book the miner’s route tours. These in-depth experiences require a hard hat and cover more of the mine. A pilgrim’s tour is also available that includes a visit to the Chapel of St. Kinga. The priest who accompanies the group can lead Mass at the end of the tour. Kids’ tours and mystery also bring visitors through the mine.