If you have the time, a day trip to Wieliczka Salt Mine is a must-see! It has a well-known reputation and UNESCO status.
How to get there:
The salt mines are located outside Krakow, in a town called Wieliczka. You could take the 304 bus from Galeria Krakowska or hop on a train from Dworzec Glowny.
Different Tours Available:
There are a number of different tours at the mines. The two main tours are the Tourist Route and the Miner’s Route which take considerably longer. You would not be allowed to roam free by yourself – you must go with a tour guide. I suggest you either book a tour in advance of just know what time your language’s tour happens before you set off. The official website can be found here, which has details of tour times and the different types of tours. Which every tour you decide to take, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing.
The Salt Mines:
The tour will start above ground where you will be led down what seems like a never-ending winding staircase. The guide will then go through the sculptures that have been carved by the miners. Everything you see is salt and the tour will discuss in depth how the salt was mined in the past and the process of it being commercialized. It was amazing learning about the salt mines and how the miners began to dig out the mine in the 13th century until 1996 when salt excavation stopped. It was amazing walking through the passageways (300km of passageways have been carved out in total).
The two main statues worth noting is this one of King Casimir the Great who ruled in the 14th Century. He was the king who began the regulation of the salt mines as it was a huge source of income during his reign – a third of the state treasury income! Another one is the statue depicting the legend of St. Pinga. Legend has it that this Hungarian princess married a Polish King, which is the reason why salt is in Poland. She threw her engagement ring in the salt mines (some say she simply lost it). After the wedding, she ordered someone to dig a well in the hope of uncovering her ring. The miner (depicted below) uncovered her ring which had been carried to Poland by salt deposits.
You will also pass an underground lake – which was interesting.
Finally, you will reach the main attraction of the tour – St. Kinga’s Chapel with the Last Supper carved on the wall. As mining was such dangerous jobs – devout Catholic miners still need a place to pray. Even the chandelier is made of salt!