It is said that the Wieliczka Salt Mine is visited 3 times: the first time on a school trip, the second time during adulthood and the third time in retirement. We have been in three years 3 times, and not at all to retire yet! Because Wieliczka is more than just passing through the Tourist Route. These include attractions for children, the Mining Route for adults, the Museum underground, and many other interesting places in Wieliczka itself, such as the graduation tower and the Zupny Castle.
You could say that there is something nice for everyone. Just visiting the mine via the Tourist Route is quite an adventure, and yet there is also the Mining Route or the family “Discovering Solilandia.” In addition, there are several places of interest in the area, which can easily be reached on foot. Therefore, we should not consider Wieliczka as a half-day trip from Krakow. We did so the first time and needed to return here to fully explore other places so often overlooked.
In this post, we’ve gathered a little information for you about the mine itself, the various routes, and places to see in the area. We also added a lot of practical information at the end.
Table of contents
About the Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Poland. Anyway, it is noteworthy that more than 60% of tourists are foreign.
The mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was inscribed on the list at the very beginning, in 1978. Hundreds of kilometers of galleries, 9 levels, the deepest of which reaches 327 meters underground, extraordinary history (together with the Bochnia mine, these were the only mines in the world that were in continuous operation from the Middle Ages to the second half of the 20th century) as well as the miner’s work ethos make this place unique in the world and we are not surprised by its popularity.
Did you know that nowadays salt is no longer extracted from mines? However, this does not mean that salt is no longer produced here ;-) Well, it is, as a side effect of the disposal of salted water in the mine. And did you know that in its heyday, the income from the salt mined here accounted for as much as 1/3 of the state’s income! Or that the last horse (Baśka) worked at the bottom until 2002?
These are just a few of the many interesting facts you will learn on the routes below. Each is a guided walking tour, and the role of the guide is not only to get you from point A to point B, but above all to tell you as much as possible about the place.
Solilandia – family route
Let’s start with the family route. It is similar to the Tourist Route, also
Here you will see the most important chambers, but here the whole thing is shrouded in the history of the mysterious land of Soliland and its inhabitants.
We purposely write that this is not a children’s tour, because caregivers also participate in the exploration of Solilandia, and the content conveyed by the tour guides is not infantile – it will interest both young and old. It is not just a fairy tale journey full of puzzles, but above all an educational excursion into the depths of the earth. The youngest learn the name of each place, how the miners worked, learn about the history of the mine.
Kids are given tasks, they have to follow directions, they meet various characters along the way, and at the end there is a surprise – a meeting with… Well, let it remain a surprise ;-)
The route is 2.5 kilometers long and takes about 2 hours. This is quite a lot for small children, especially since you have to walk the entire route together with the group. The recommended age is 5, but in our opinion 4-year-olds will also already have fun with such a route.
Tickets cannot be purchased online, but it is essential to make advance reservations for the “Solilandia Family” tour. For more details, visit the mine’s website.
This is the most popular route in the mine. As already mentioned, it follows largely the same sidewalks as the family route, but it is dedicated more to adult visitors. Here you will not experience the company of various creatures and monsters, puzzles or games. However, the guides will stand on their heads to make crossing the route an unforgettable adventure. And we must add here that a lot depends on the people giving the tours, because they are the ones who are down there with you, passing on information about the mine and trying to draw you into the interesting underground world.
At the beginning, before descending into the mine, everyone gets a receiver with an earpiece that allows you to hear everything the guide has to say – however, we recommend staying close to the guide so that you don’t lose the signal in the underground passages.
The tour begins with a descent down a staircase deep down, and from the descent itself your head may spin :) Ultimately, we descend to 135 m, but it is not a one-time descent. After climbing some 70 meters, we walk through flat tunnels, watching scenes of the work and life of miners at these depths along the way.
There are prepared mock-ups, reconstructions of equipment, described mechanisms of operation, etc. The guide tells the story of the miner’s work, the equipment and animals used to extract and transport salt, with special features showing how the mine was handled in its early days.
In addition, the tour takes a look at 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.
On the walls are numerous bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the New Testament (such as the Last Supper). Of course, the hall is finished and decorated with the raw material mined here.
The tour lasts about 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, about which more below.
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 :)
A regular ticket in Polish costs from PLN 64 to PLN 69, depending on the season. There are also discounted tickets, of course, and family tickets if you are traveling with two children. A guided tour in a foreign language costs $89 per person. Children under 4 years of age enter for free.
The Mining Route is a completely different dimension of entertainment. Here one descends in smaller groups to walkways not accessible on the Tourist Route. Here you can see, for example, a chamber with an obelisk, a rescue chamber, collapsed ceilings, and on top of that you can feel like a real miner :)
Each participant receives a suit, helmet, headlamp, canister and sets off along the dark, empty sidewalks. And this is perhaps the most differentiating feature of the Mining Route from the Tourist Route, that here we move along typical mining sidewalks, without lighting, over mud. Not like on the Tourist Route, where it is always dry and the floor at times is almost polished to a shine :)
It is also worth mentioning that the Mining Route, unlike the above routes, which start at the Danilovich Shaft, begins at the Regis Shaft.
Additional attractions include walking in total darkness, listening to crackling wood, or measuring the air and collapsing sidewalks. At the end, participants can take a piece of chipped salt with them and receive a certificate.
To this day, we can’t get out of admiration that so few people choose to go down the Mining Route. Especially since the ticket for this part is not relatively expensive. The Mining Route is a wonderful experience and supplement, showing the Wieliczka Mine in a completely different light than after taking the Tourist Route. The Tourist Route is a gem of sorts, the history of our heritage, which is included in the first UNESCO list for a reason. The Mining Route, however, is a real experience of a mine where, walking through muddy corridors in complete darkness, you can taste and learn what real work in a mine is all about.
Contraindications? Children over the age of 10 can take the route, but only if accompanied by an adult guardian. It is essential to wear comfortable and waterproof shoes, the kind that can quietly get you dirty.
The tour on this route takes about 3 hours. Do not be late, because the group (maximum 20 people) will not wait for you :) Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue.
On the Mining Route we were guided by Mr. Marek with the Pony, thank you very much and greetings! :)
Cracow Saltworks Museum
The Cracow Saltworks Museum is located in two places – in the mine, at a depth of 135 meters, and in the Saltworks Castle in the center of Wieliczka (we write about the latter a few paragraphs below).
It is also worth mentioning here that after passing through the restaurant part, and before going down to the museum, you can take a look at the multimedia part, where, in addition to many touch screens with information and interesting facts about the mine in Wieliczka, you can watch a 3d film with special glasses showing the history of this place. It is worth seeing it before going down to the museum.
Each time, we have the impression that few people look into the Museum at the mine. While the Tourist Route is often full of groups, one catching up with the other, the museum is definitely quieter, more relaxed and quieter.
What will we see in this museum? Most impressive are the huge wooden structures and machinery that supported salt extraction (such as the bucket wheel and horse-drawn steering wheels). Here you will see chapels, vehicles, salt sculptures, paintings,…
Here we will also learn about the history of the mine and salt mining, learn more about the city, gain knowledge about the miner’s work (their clothing, tasks, equipment, etc.). We’ll also see, among other things, how miners used to go down, at a time when health and safety wasn’t yet an issue…. ;-)
Salt brine graduation tower in Wieliczka
In addition, there is a 7,500-square-meter salt brine graduation tower on site on the mine grounds. It is a graduation tower connected to an observation tower, where you can climb to the top, walk around the graduation tower, and then climb even higher to the 22-meter tower.
Note that the number of people who can go up is limited. The tower itself can only be entered by 10 people at a time, and there are special gates in front of the stairs that only let you in when someone comes out.
There is also a special platform built here, so you can get close to the graduation tower, but you have to be careful, because everything is later in the salt :)
Tickets to the graduation tower are purchased at the entrance, the price is $9, concessionary $6, and children under the age of 4 enter for free.
Wieliczka Saltworks Castle
As we mentioned, the castle houses the second part of the Cracow Saltworks Museum.
The castle is worth a visit not only for its museum exhibitions. Recently, the courtyard of the castle has been opened to the public for free, and only the section with exhibitions is paid for. As a result, anyone can see the remains of the giant kitchen for free, climb the tower, or go underground to see the oldest mining shaft in Poland.
In the paid section we can see a collection of salt shakers and an archaeological exhibition. Seriously, we didn’t expect that salt shakers could be so beautiful! :) Visiting various museums, you can see crockery and even salt shakers, but as a rule, they are an addition to the exhibition, which is often not paid attention to, and yet in the old days they testified to social status! During meals, a salt shaker was placed next to the most important people.
In two halls we can see an impressive collection of salt shakers, not only from Poland. Here we can find, for example, porcelain from Meissen, or light as a feather from Tiffany. You will also find some that you may remember from the homes of your grandmothers and grandfathers :)
On level -1 there is an archaeological exhibition, with a model and a presentation of the castle’s history.
Some practical tips before going to Wieliczka:
- Tickets to the mine can be purchased online which we strongly recommend in order not to wait too long at the site.
- The mine has a constant temperature of about 17-18 degrees. So it’s worth taking some warmer sweatshirt with you. There are many stairs to climb on the Tourist Route, so comfortable footwear is advisable. On the Mining Route there are not so many stairs (but there are some, too), for this is definitely where waterproof shoes will come in handy.
- At the end of the Tourist Route and the Family Route – “Discovering Soliland.” – there is a restaurant where you can have a meal for pretty decent money. There’s nothing like dining 125 meters underground! In addition, we highly recommend jumping for lunch or dinner at the restaurant located in the Grand Sal Hotel. Denmark will surprise you not only with their taste but also with their very serving, decorations and aesthetics!
- The Grand Sal Hotel is also recommended for overnight stays. Located on the mine site, the rooms are quiet, spacious, and guests can use the sauna.
Wieliczka with child
How practical is a trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine with a child?
- Forget the mine cart. There are a lot of stairs to climb, so only a sling/stroller for non-walking children comes into play. Let’s not kid ourselves, even the family route is 2.5 kilometers long and about 2 hours of walking, which can be tiring for tiny children – for them, too, it’s a good idea to have a baby carrier or get ready to be carried in your arms.
- With a stroller, it’s also impossible to climb to the top of the brine graduation tower, or to the museum in the Zupny Castle.
- Along the way, there are only two places to use toilets on the Tourist Route and the family-run Solilandia. It is worth remembering to empty the bladders before the start.
- There is an open, cool playground at the mine site :)
- Remember, in order to participate in the “Discovering Solilandia” family tour, it is essential to make an advance reservation!
Did you know that the Wieliczka mine can be seen in several ways? Have you heard of Solilandia or the Mining Route? We necessarily recommend you all 3 routes, with Soliland, of course, only if you have children ;)
During the visit, we also learned how many functions the mine now fulfills: parties, important events, concerts are held here, you can organize your child’s birthday party, spend time in the underground spa or ask the one of your heart’s choice to marry you ;)
Wieliczka Salt Mine is changing all the time! Some walkways and chambers are closed, others are made available. Believe us, even if you were a few years ago, now many places may surprise you….
We also recommend a photo gallery of our visit to Wieliczka:
Zobacz galerię wszystkich zdjęć z kopalni >>>
Are you looking for other travel inspiration in Poland? We also recommend our other entries:
- 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):)
- Krakow, Wawel Castle and Wieliczka in one day? It can be done! :)
- (Not only) Castles of Jura Krakowsko-Czestochowska
The entry was created in cooperation with the Wieliczka Salt Mine.