A visit to the salt mine is a must, but beware that you will be climbing approx 800 stairs and be walking about 3 km in tunnels. Do not despair, I have a very bad knee and have done this three times already. Just take your time, the guides are really good and make sure that everyone stays with the group. From Krakow you can get here by yellow bus no 304 at the cost of 4zl which you can buy on the bus. Make sure that you validate your ticket! The entrance to the mine cost 75zl which include a guide.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Wieliczka Salt Mine / Kopalnia Soli Wieliczka
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a must to visit when you are in the neighbourhood (Kraków).
Prepare yourself for a 3 km underground walk, many steps to derscens and visiting about 30 caves, including the famous Saint Kinga’s Chapel.
This mine really deserves its place at the UNESCO's World Heritage list.
Admission fee: PLN 65.00 (adult); including foreign language guide
Permission for taking photos or filming: PLN 10
-April 1 to October 31: Daily: 7.30AM - 7.30PM
-November 1 to March 31: 8AM - 5PM
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
THE HOLY CROSS CHAPEL
Located at Upper Level II and 91.0 metres underground, the HOLY CROSS CHAPEL was created to dedicate the saving of the mine from a catastrophic leak in the mid 19th century.
The altar is located in a niche surrounded by a wooden structure and topped with an arc. In the center of the altar is placed a wooden baroque sculpture of Christ Crucified.
Also in the Chapel can be found salt figures of monks and the 17th century figure of Our Lady Victorious.
The deepest VT meeting in the world ever?
Near the end of the tour you will find yourself in the Stanislaw Staszic Chamber , the highest of those accessible to tourists. You can a pay small extra fee to ascend in a lift to get a better impression of the height – 36 metres. There are a few souvenir stalls in this chamber, where among other things you can buy postcards and stamps, and have them sent with a post-mark from the mine Mind you, the one I sent has yet to arrive over two weeks later, so don’t use this for any urgent messages ;-)
In the Witold Budryk Chamber is a restaurant and bar, where we bought drinks and snacks and settled at some of the tables for a well-earned rest after the long walk through the mine. Is this the deepest VT meeting in the world ever? At 123.1 metres underground, I think it just might be.
And those urgent messages? For these, there is even Wi-Fi and a good mobile phone signal here!
Mining for salt
Wieliczka is the only mining site in the world functioning continuously since the Middle Ages. Commercial mining was only discontinued in 1996 due to low salt prices and regular flooding of the mine. As you tour the mine you will learn quite a lot about how the salt was mined over the centuries. There are various models and replicas of equipment, and in a couple of places the actual winches, pulleys and other mechanisms remain. Your guide will demonstrate how these worked – and maybe get you to do some of the demonstration too (see photo 3)! You will also see channels that carried water out of the mine and get tantalising glimpses down less developed passageways that must look just as they did when the last miners put down their tools only a decade and a half ago.
Elsewhere life-size models of horses show how these animals used to work here, and we were told that they would spend all of their live in the mine, in specially-built stables, because the effort and time needed to bring them to the surface was so great. Less convincing than the horses though are the dummy mine-workers, foremen etc that you will see along the route, although they too play their part in bringing to life the story of salt-mining here. Without them it would be perhaps too easy to see this as a museum or even art gallery rather than the industrial setting it so recently was.
Saint Kinga’s Chapel
This is truly an amazing sight, and for me (and I imagine most visitors) was the highlight of the tour. A huge chapel (over 50 metres long and 15 metres wide), carved out of salt over 100 metres beneath the surface of the earth! It has been a place of worship since 1896, and over the more than 100 years that has passed since its construction has been ornamented by dedicated miners who taught themselves the art of carving in salt. There are altars, wall friezes and statues wherever you look, and even the crystals of the chandeliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance.
Among the many carvings and statues to look out for are:
~ wall carvings showing scenes from the life of Christ, such as the Nativity, the flight into Egypt (photo 2), the Wedding at Cana, the Last Supper (photo 3) and Doubting Thomas
~ statues of Christ, the Madonna and various saints, including St. Kinga and St Joseph
~ a recent (1999) statue of Pope John Paul II, created in 1999
~ a side altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart and with a niche containing the relics of St Kinga
Our guide told us that the chapel is still used for regular Sunday worship. Those attending don’t have to buy a tour ticket as they come directly to the chapel, but they do have to pay a small fee for use of the lifts. A mass here must be a wonderful experience.
The chambers on the tourist route
A number of chambers along the tourist route hold statues depicting various scenes from Polish history, mythology or fantasy. The oldest sculptures were carved out of rock salt by miners, but the more recent figures were created by artists. The natural colours of the rock salt are various shades grey, so the carvings resemble rough granite rather than the white or crystalline look that you might expect – and that certainly I expected.
Notable chambers include:
~ the Mikolaj Kopernik Chamber, dedicated to the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who was one of the first tourists to visit the mine – see photo 3
~ the 17th century Baroque Saint Anthony’s Chapel, the oldest fully preserved chapel in the mine, with salt statues of the crucified Christ, the Madonna with Child and Saint Anthony
~ the Janowice Chamber, where life-sized salt statues recreate the legend of the Hungarian Princess Kinga who married the Polish Prince Boleslaus the Chaste. The legend tells how she received as dowry one of the salt mines in the Marmaros region, and cast her engagement ring into the mine. The ring miraculously travelled to Wieliczka together with the salt deposits, and was found in the first block of white gold dug in Wieliczka. (main photo)
~ the Spalone Chamber, where statues depict a scene from earlier days of mining, when experienced miners would use torches on long poles to burn out any methane gas that might have accumulated close to the ceiling (photo 2)
~ the Kunegunda Gallery, with a model of a Neolithic village (5500-3500 BC), based on archaeological discoveries in the Wieliczka area, which among other things shows the Neolithic inhabitants producing salt
~ the Kunegunda Shaft Bottom, with a group of salt statue dwarves
~ the Holy Cross Chapel, created as an offering for the mine’s escape from a catastrophic leak in the mid 19th century
~ Saint Kinga’s Chapel – see separate tip below
I must admit that after St Kinga’s Chapel my attention wandered, both because everything else that we saw was an anticlimax, and because I was tiring by then after a longer walk than I’d been accustomed to (following a fracture the previous November). However, the chambers with lakes made a big impression on me, such as the Erazm Baracz Chamber and the Weimar Chamber. We entered the latter in pitch darkness and were treated to eerie music and lighting effects. The Michalowice Chamber is also very remarkable in its scale, although renovation work meant that we weren’t able to descend to its floor.
Visiting the mine
There is a designated “tourist route” through the mine, which is 3.5 kilometres in length yet covers less than 1% of the total passages here. You start by descending the Danilowicz Shaft via a 378-step staircase to a depth of 64 metres, and with further descents along the route end your visit 135 metres below the earth’s surface. Once down in the mine the walk is not difficult but you do need to be prepared to walk the full distance as it’s a one-way journey. A separate, shorter route is accessible for wheelchair users.
The mine is open 7.30am - 7.30pm from April to October, and 8.00am - 5.00pm from November to March. There are guided tours available in Polish, English, German, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish. We had a discounted group ticket but the usual price of a tour is 50 PLN for Polish language, 65 PLN for the foreign language options, with discounts available for children and students, and family tickets also. You should note that it isn’t possible to visit the mine independently; you must go on a tour. If you want to take photos you have to buy an additional ticket for 10 PLN (confusingly sold at a different ticket booth).
Visitors are asked to obey certain rules in the interest of safety. Smoking and using any sources of open fire is naturally strictly forbidden and the use of electric torches is not allowed either (nor necessary). You have to stay with your guide and with your group. And dress appropriately – comfortable flat walking shoes and a warm top. The temperature in the Mine, though constant, is low (14 degrees Centigrade or. 57.2 Fahrenheit).
CHAPEL OF SAINT KINGA
The largest among the underground chapels in the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the CHAPEL OF SAINT KINGA is actually a sizable subterranean church carved in rock salt and embellished with salt sculpture and bas-reliefs.
The Chapel has been a place of worship since 1896. Its ornamentation has been created over a period of more than a 100 years.
When I first glimpsed the Chapel (photo #1) , I was struck with awe at its vastness and beauty. The first thing noticeable are the beautiful chandeliers (photo #5) , made up of rock salt crystals. The focus of the chapel is the wonderful altar (photo #2). To the left is the replica of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" (photo #4) carved in a wall of rock salt.
There is also a wonderful carving of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (photo #3).
The newest addition to the chapel is the salt statue of Pope John Paul II.
An excellent website for the Salt Mine:
WIELICZKA SALT MINE
Sunday May 30, 2010 - VT Group Tour to Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Historic WIELICZKA SALT MINE, located 10 km from the centre of Krakow, is the only mine in the world where mining has been continuous since the Middle Ages. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site September 9, 1978. Every year the salt mine (we called it a Gold Mine) attracts millions of tourists from around the world.
Constructed on nine levels, these excavations stretch for 300 kilometres and reach a depth of 327 metres. To enter the first chamber, visitors have to descend the stairs (380 steps in all) at Level I which is 64 metres below ground level.
The walk through the Salt Mine takes about three hours. As you walk, you will see magnificent formations such as chapels cut in the salt (Chapel of St. Kinga situated 101 metres under the ground), underground lakes and hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites. You will see on display, the tools used by the miners when they worked underground and the many sculptures made of salt.
A vast underground city, the Salt Mine also contains a restaurant and souvenir shops. The underground chambers also serve as venues for organizing conferences, banquets, parties, concerts and even weddings.
Going back up to the surface (135 metres) you use a special express lift up the Danilowicz Shaft from Level 3. Seven people were crammed in there at once. Remember, thousands of tourists visit every day and there is only one way up. In just minutes, we were up to the surface - amazing!
Prices: Regular 65 zl
Reduced 51 zl
photo/video permit 10 zl
ST KINGA'S CHAPEL
St kinga’s chapel is amazing, not only is it a very large room [length 54m, width 18m, height 12m] it is beautifully decorated with statues and wall sculptors all made from salt, even the chandeliers and the floor are made from salt. Amongst the wall, carvings are the last supper and the miracle at Cana in Galilee. Some of the statues, all carved from salt, are Pope John Paul II, Our Lady of Lourdes and St Kinga. The chapel was founded in 1896.
WIELICZKA SALT MINES
The salt mines at Wieliczka are amazing. The mine was started 700 years ago and is still being mines today. 2km of the underground network is open to the public, but this is only 3% of the total mine. The mine has corridors 250km in length. These chambers reach a depth of 327m and have a stable temperature of between 55-57 centigrade. The public sections go down 135m. To go down the mine you have to go down 440 steps then walk through the tunnels of the mine with your guide. Going back up is easy as there is a miners lift.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Mostly everyone visit Wieliczka because of it's famous salt mine.
In 1978 Wieliczka salt mine was inscribed to UNESCO World heritage list. The citation form UNESCO site: "The historic Salt Mine in Wieliczka is the only place up the World where mining has been continous from the Middle ages. Constructed on mine levels, these excavations (longitudinal, traverses, chambers, lakes as well as the small and major shafts) strech for 300 kilometers and reach a depth of 327 meters. They illustrate the stages of the development of mining technology over time".
Ticket to salt mine:
In Polish language - 44 Zloty for adults, 30 zloty for students, so on.
In foreign languages (english, german, so on) - 65 Zloty for adults, 55 - for students.
The Wieliczka place is not only the place of salt mine, but also a beautiful small city to walk around.
The places to visit here are nice small parks, a few old churches, some historical buildings (city wall and few towers left). The historical centre of Wieliczka is just nearby salt mine building.
When the tour through the mine ends, you have the option of visiting the Mining Musem (someone had told me that it is the biggest mining museum in the world...). I had had more information about mining than I ever wanted to know, so I chose to take the elevator and leave the mine.
And there´s Krakow waiting for you when you come back...!!!
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