The oldest industrial site in Europe and Poland’s most ancient salt mine, Bochnia, some 45km west of Tarnów, has been in continuous operation since 1248. Though less celebrated than the region’s Wieliczka mine, a recent influx of investment has made Bochnia more worthwhile than ever. Guided tours are obligatory and despite regular tour times in Polish, unfortunately English-language tours are only once a day at 15:00 (70/50zł), unless arranged in advance.
The pride of Bochnia is the new ‘Underground Multimedia Exposition,’ during which local tour guides are assisted in telling the mine’s story by ‘holoscreen’ characters of Polish kings, Genoese merchants and ghostly monks. Through state-of-the-art technology, guests experience the challenges miners faced underground and the development of mining techniques from the Middle Ages to the present day. The highlight for some, however, may be the short train ride at 212m underground. The 2.5-3 hour tour through various exhibition tunnels, geological chambers and chapels with magnificent sculptures concludes with 30 minutes in the Ważyn Chamber, whose therapeutic microclimate is used as a health and recreation centre, and which hosts a number of attractions including a 140m slide, sports field, children’s playground, discotheque, souvenir shop and the world’s deepest underground restaurant. The tour also includes a short train ride at 212m underground, and the additional option of taking a 120m-long boat ride through a flooded tunnel (12zł).
Getting to Bochnia from Tarnów takes about 45mins or less by car. Trains also run frequently, with a journey time of 35-55mins, and cost of 5-13zł. From Bochnia train station it's about a 20min walk to the entrance of the mine: turn right out of the station down ul. Solidarności, staying on this road the entire time as it turns into ul. Ofiar Katynia and ul. Pileckiego, before making a right onto ul. Campi at the mine. The mine entrance is also about 20mins on foot from the Bochnia market square, just off of which at ul. Solna 2 is the town's welcome centre where you can pick up maps and other info.