We are not letting go and are flying on with the “Ready for Poland” series. Another weekend, more plans – this time the capital of Malopolska, Wieliczka and the nearest regions. Time was pressing us, as always, because unfortunately we only had a weekend to spare.
Welcome to the report, you will see what we managed to see in and around Krakow.
First thought – we must finally see the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The second thought – since Wieliczka, necessarily Krakow. A third thought – since Wieliczka and Krakow, why not see something else in Jura Krakowsko-Czestochowska? And just like that, the idea for another weekend in Poland was born :)
Table of contents
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine
is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More interestingly, it was included in the very beginning of the list (1978) and is often pointed out as one of the highlights because no slaves were used in its construction. The description of the mine itself is impressive, both in terms of depth (9 levels, the deepest of which reaches 327 meters underground), the length of the galleries (a total of about 300 km), or history (together with the Bochnia mine, these are the only mines in the world that have been in continuous operation since the Middle Ages).
We bought our tickets to Wieliczka online in advance (buy is a big word, because you still have to stand at the ticket office to pick up your tickets). But at least we chose a specific time – 8:45 a.m. (online you can choose only morning or afternoon hours). Of course, you need to be a while early to pick up your tickets.
At the beginning, before descending into the Mine, everyone is given a receiver with an earpiece to hear everything the guide has to say.
During the tour, we see the numerous chambers (each has its own name), water tanks and the Mine’s biggest attraction. the chapel of St. Kingi. It is a truly impressive site and unique in the world – it is the largest underground temple.
We were told that the tour lasts 3 hours, but in practice it is 1.5-2 h with a guide, and then free time downstairs, where there are additional attractions like a multimedia center, a cinema room, a restaurant, and finally the Cracow Saltworks Museum.
We recommend you especially the latter – also with a guide, because you can see real old machinery and equipment, miners’ costumes, different forms and types of salt, etc. According to many people, it is even more interesting than the earlier part of the mine, although less impressive.
The Mine itself has stores, restrooms and the aforementioned restaurant (or even two, if you count the coffee and tea kiosk along the way). You can of course also stock up on souvenirs, straight from the Mine :)
We wrote more about the Wieliczka mine itself in our more recent post here.
Parking in the center of Krakow? :)
After the Wieliczka Salt Mine, we headed to Krakow – even though it was a Saturday, the center was slightly jammed. We were interested in parking near the Wawel Castle, so as not to waste time walking, but $7 per hour is a slight exaggeration…. Especially since some 300 meters away you can park on the street and for free.
Once again, we were in a hurry because we had made a reservation for an hour. 1:45 pm, and tickets should be picked up half an hour earlier. In general, the Royal Castle of Wawel, you can visit for free, but some entrances are extra paid, and so, for example, the Cathedral is visited for free, but to see the Sigismund Bell you already have to pay.
The cathedral is quite cramped, but it is surprising the number of chapels, tombstones, and ornaments that managed to fit here (it is also surprising the number of tourists and tours in such a small area!). Beneath the cathedral is the grave of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski and former President Kaczynski and his wife.
First, we toured the Representative Royal Chambers – without a guide. Here one views the chambers on the ground and second floors, including the famous Parliamentary Hall and Senatorial Hall. The chambers contain numerous tapestries, paintings and furniture. The exhibits are described, but not individually but collectively on an orientation map of each room (good thing too!).
We then had a scheduled tour of the Royal Private Apartments – only possible with a guide. This was the most interesting part of the Wawel Castle tour. Ms. guide who showed us around, told about everything in great detail, with mega passion, which made it attractive for both adults and children, and everyone could learn something interesting.
Here we viewed numerous richly decorated rooms, a bedroom, a bathroom, as well as collections of paintings, porcelain or tapestries collected by successive rulers. Particularly noteworthy is a room in the tower, where all the walls are upholstered with curd leather. The downside is that the exhibits are not signed, so we completely trust what the guide says :)
Finally, we were scheduled to enter the Crown Treasury and the Armory. It was probably the most modest part, and certainly less attractive if one had seen the royal chambers and apartments before. There are valuable ornaments, gold and silver tableware, weapons, armor (the biggest attractions are the coronation sword Szczerbiec and the Sword of Sigismund I the Old).
For practical information: nowhere inside can you take pictures (!), and backpacks and larger bags should be left in the storage room.
Sightseeing in Krakow
We didn’t want to go back yet, and since it’s light for a long time in summer, we walked towards the Cloth Hall and the Old Market. The first thing that surprised us was the wild crowd of tourists, plenty of pubs, carriages, stalls with all kinds of goods. We knew that the tourist city, but so much so! Very positive surprise, especially since we really saw a lot of tourists from other countries :)
The market in Krakow is huge, you can’t cover it with your eyes, and on top of that, there is something interesting going on every bit.
We walked through the Cloth Hall and came out from the side of St. Mary’s Basilica, where the wedding was just going on :) You can enter the Basilica, but it is forbidden to visit (whatever that means).
From the Basilica we went down the street. Floriańska Street to Floriańska Gate and the Barbican.
Since we still couldn’t get enough, we took the direction of Kazimierz and followed the trail of synagogues.
Kazimierz itself made a very positive impression on us, but you should definitely have more time to just walk these streets, sit in one of the numerous pubs or eat something in one of the food trucks. Very atmospheric place, if we were to look for accommodation somewhere, it would be here :)
Returning, we walked around the Wawel Castle, waved to the Wawel Dragon and returned to the car :)
It was a day full of activities, very intense, but positive.
We are glad that there are so many attractive places to see in Poland and we can’t wait to see more :)
Of course, we also invite you to visit our gallery:
- Our advice on where to go on vacation in Poland?
- 13 castles of Lodz province – do you know them all?
- Lower Silesia – not only castles and palaces
- Lower Silesia: Książ Castle – you praise others, you do not know your own
- Malbork Castle
- Moszna Palace (not Moszna Castle):)
- Wieliczka Salt Mine: Solilandia, Mining Route or Tourist Route – which to choose?
- (Not only) Castles of Jura Krakowsko-Czestochowska