The Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland
Our half day trip from Krakow was in fact, one of the highlights for this trip in this region on this occasion, the stunning Wieliczka Salt Mines. I knew that whenever I would visit Krakow for a first time, it would have to include the salt mines, and it was well worth it every minute. You do never expect it until you see it by your own eyes. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s old and it’s something unique. One of the man-made wonders of the world hence why it was one of the very first 12 privileged candidates to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site on the very first UNESCO list when this organisation was created back in 1978.
Exploitation of salt at this mine goes back to the 13th century and had been in operation producing table salt continuously until 2007. Although nowadays the production is much smaller, it is one of the world’s oldest salt mines still in operation. With a maximum depth of around 320 meters and an astonishing 280 kilometres of tunnels, what you are able to visit today is “just” little over 2 km, hundreds of salt sculptures ranging from many centuries old to more modern ones, a lake, the “cathedral”, original ancient wooden tools (perfectly conserved as salt preserves wood very good almost intact) and many tunnels and galleries. Small wells, shafts, rail tracks and carriages; you will enjoy every bit of it.
As a great point to have in mind is that being so near to Krakow there is no excuse for you not to come and visit. A restaurant and snack bar is also located at the end of the tour and before you take the lift up, but don’t expect a big or cheap choice. Hold your hunger until you are out as in the village where you will find great and local places at cheap prices.
For more information about Wieliczka Salt Mine check Wikipedia site. Poland’s currency is the Złoty (PLN). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
- How to get there
The fastest and easiest way to get there is by taking the commuter train from Krakow Central Station (Kraków Główny) to Wieliczka Rynek Kop, literally meaning Wieliczka Salt Mine. Once you arrive at the station, simply follow the signs. The mine is not far from the station. You can also come by bus the same way although this will take longer than the train. Please consult the timetable for the trains as it might be the case you miss one and have to wait a long time while you could then take a bus instead.
If coming from Katowice, this is quite a similar way however longer. Train and buses connect both Katowice and Krakow very frequently, then just follow the same instructions as give before if coming from Krakow. However, from Katowice you can get on an organised tour. This will be more expensive than doing it on your own but will save you loads of time if this is what you are short of.
- Entrance costs
It costs 54 PLN for the normal entrance to see the salt mine and 68 PLN per person if you want to have also included a longer extra visit to the areas which include the original wooden tools and more tunnels (pretty much worth it, trust me). An extra 10 PLN ticket is required which allows you to take photos. Note that by the time we went no one checked us for picture tickets (which we even did not purchase).
- How to visit the site
The opening times stand as April to October from 07.30 am until 19.30 pm and November to March from 08.00 am until 17.00 pm. You will be visiting the site as part of a group tour. No one can visit the site on their own; and either you could take part of a tour in Polish or in English, being the later every hour more or less. The tour lasts little over 1 hour, longer if you purchase the extended visit.
Although the small town of Wieliczka does have some hotels and apartments, it is very unusual for a tourist to stay overnight around here, but instead, they stay in nearby Krakow. This is merely a half a day excursion from Krakow and I would not recommend you either to stay here as you will end up with nothing to do not even places to go for nice food and enjoy. Therefore here I list you the information about Krakow:
Being the most visited city in Poland due to its history and strategic location serving as a base for numerous excursions, the amount of properties is countless; but it does not mean a good deal unfortunately. Prices are year-round high, likewise this entire region of Poland. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
On the other hand, if you prefer not to stay in a hotel and save at leash half the overall cost, you can check from hundreds of apartments for rent through the Polish site noce.pl. It’s a service equal to airb&b but with larger choice. We used this service in our stay back in December 2009 and were at a huge apartment with three enormous bedrooms for the three of us. Not even 2 minutes away from Florian Gate, therefore super convenient walking distance to everywhere in the city. From the booking confirmation I do still have the name, it was Apartment Agava IV. Try to find it if still available for renting through this service; the owner was also really nice.
In our recent most recent visit, we did not stay overnight in Krakow, but near our Katowice’s base. Our choice was the Boutique Hotels Bytom, in ul. Konstytucji 91, 41905 Bytom. A 3* property (more to the category of a 4*), medium size with fantastic reviews. This is translated in excellent service from everyone we interacted, very kind and friendly, a fantastic quiet and comfortable room, very clean and well cared, and a tasty and consistent breakfast. It comes definitely highly recommended by us.