The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Kraków. Ever since they were first visited in the 15th century, this place has continued to amaze tourists from all corners of the world. Would you like to be one of them?
1. Danilowicza Well
The tourist route to the Wieliczka Salt Mine begins at the Danilowicza Well after descending 64 metres down a steep, seemingly endless flight of wooden stairs.
Upon arrival at the starting point, the tour guide will begin to tell you about the origins and history of this unique and still active mine as you enter the bowels of the earth 135 metres deep through labyrinthine galleries that lead to spectacular salt chambers where you will see incredible sculptures and underground lakes.
2. Copernicus Chamber
One of the first chambers you will see during your visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines is the one dedicated to the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who was one of the first tourists to visit this place back in the 15th century.
Here you can see a salt sculpture dedicated to the famous scientist, author of the heliocentric theory, with which the miners paid tribute to him on the occasion of his 500th birthday.
3. Chapel of San Antonio
St. Anthony' s Chapel is one of the first chapels to be built and can be seen on the tourist route to the Wieliczka Salt Mines as it is located very close to the entrance.
It seems that the miners built underground chapels to celebrate morning masses to ask God for protection from the many dangers of their work.
Did you know that it is considered to be the oldest underground religious temple in the world? It dates from the 17th century and its style is baroque. However, some of the original elements and sculptures in the nave have faded or lost their clarity due to the natural process of salt dissolution known as leaching that affects this chamber. In addition, the entire Salt Mine complex is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. The most outstanding chambers
Santa Barbara Chamber
In Poland there is great respect for the mining profession and St. Barbara is the patron saint of miners, so a chamber dedicated to the saint could not be missing in the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
This is a very interesting camera to see what the workings of the mine were like. Here you can see the evolution of the salt transport method inside the mine.
The Burning Chamber is another room where we can also see what part of the work in the mine was like and the dangers it entailed. Here there are several figures of miners using long poles to try to explode the methane that accumulated on the roof of the excavations.
In the Janowice Chamber, several salt sculptures depict a passage from the legend of Princess Kinga (who later became the queen and saint of Poland) about the discovery of her engagement ring in the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
She is a very important figure in the country's history to whom the Chapel of St. Kinga was also dedicated, the most impressive of the entire tour.
Kazimierz or Casimir the Great Chamber
This chamber is dedicated to King Casimir the Great, one of the most important Polish kings who legislated on the administration of the Wieliczka Salt Mine and the improvement of the miners' working conditions.
In addition to a large bust in honour of the monarch, in this room you can see several machines that were used to transport salt as well as a horse-drawn waterwheel.
Pieskowa Skała Chamber
This is one of the chambers in the Wieliczka Salt Mine that will impress you the most during your visit. It is a huge 17th century hall with a long staircase connecting the first and second levels.
5. Cunegunda Well
This is one of the coolest places you will see during your tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Here you will find small figures of dwarfs illuminated with coloured lights, representing the different tasks of the miners in the mines (the crusher, the loader, the cartwright and the carpenter) and somewhat reminiscent of the cute characters from the fairy tale "Snow White".
In addition, in the Cunegunda Pit is where the phenomenon of salt crystallisation is best observed inside the mine, so there are a lot of curious rock formations such as stalagmites and stalactites surrounding the wishing lake. You will be amazed!
6. Chapel of St. Kinga
Having the opportunity to see the spectacular Chapel of St. Kinga with your own eyes is reason enough to descend more than 100 metres into the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
If the other chambers have surprised you, this one will exceed all your expectations. Its dimensions are astonishing and more than a chapel, this place reminds you of a cathedral.
It is a very special place that took almost 70 years to build, as the work was very laborious and was carried out by only three workers (the Markowski brothers and Antoni Wyrodek) who are buried here. Impressive, isn't it?
The Chapel of St. Kinga's is particularly striking for its beautiful salt decoration and the attention paid to the smallest detail. From the enormous chandeliers and the biblical reliefs that serve as altarpieces, to the statues dedicated to Saint Kinga, the Virgin of Lourdes or Pope John Paul II, among others. Not for nothing is it considered the "Sistine Chapel of salt".
7. Other chambers
The Michalowice Chamber is not as artistic as the previous chambers, as it has no decorations or sculptures, but it is impressive for its wooden scaffolding that rises to a height of 35 metres and where a chandelier even larger than the ones in the Chapel of St. Kinga hangs.
The most notable feature of this chamber is a salt sculpture of two miners. This site is often used as an exhibition and concert hall.
In the Weimar Chamber there is a sculpture of Goethe, another illustrious tourist who was very fond of speleology and visited the Wieliczka Salt Mines in the company of the Prince of Weimar, after whom the chamber is named.
In this chamber you will notice a unique and enchanting atmosphere. Perhaps it is the beautifully illuminated salt lake or the background music played by the composer Frédéric Chopin, who frequented the mines to treat his asthma.
Whatever the case, it is a magical place that has not gone unnoticed by many couples in love who take advantage of their visit to get engaged in the Weimar Chamber.
Stanisław Staszic Camera
The Stanisław Staszic Chamber, at a depth of 124 metres, is the largest room of the entire tour at 36 metres high and is dedicated to the famous Polish geologist. The souvenir shop is located here.
Today, this chamber has a restaurant and hosts large events such as weddings and business meetings, but in the past, some 20,000 tonnes of salt were extracted from this site.
Here the tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mines ends and the guide will lead the group back to the base of the Danilowicz Pit where a lift will take you up to the surface of the mines very quickly.
8. Other chapels
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Polish miners were very devout and within the Wieliczka Salt Mines they created about 40 places of worship where they could stop and pray during the day.
Chapel of San Juan
If you descend to the third level of the Wieliczka Salt Mines, at the deepest point of the route at 135 metres, you can visit St. John's Chapel. Don't forget to take your camera along the route to take the best photos of the Salt Mines.