What to Know Before You Go
For literally hundreds of years, tourists have enjoyed the underground wonders of Wieliczka Salt Mine, and the easiest and most popular way to visit is via the traditional 'Tourist Route.' The Wieliczka Salt Mine Tourist Route takes you through 3.5km of the underground mine over the first 3 of its 9 levels, reaching a maximum depth of 135 metres below ground. The guided tour takes 2-3 hours, and comprises several of the biggest highlights of the underground realm, including a saline lake and the famous St. Kinga's Chapel. The route is designed to be accessible for people of all ages in average physical condition, but do bear in mind that it involves lots of walking, and over 800 stairs (most descending, but still). Wear comfortable shoes and dress so that you'll be comfortable over several hours in the steady year-round underground temperature of 17 degrees Centigrade.
Food and snacks, including a proper restaurant, is available 125 metres underground, which you will reach after about 2 hours. Toilets can be used in 2 places along the route. There is no cell phone service underground, however there is a designated area where wi-fi is available if necessary.
If you want to endear yourself to the guides, memorise the wonderful words Szczęść Boże (shtench boes-zyuh); this essential, unpronounceable bit of miner’s lingo effectively means ‘God be with you’ and substitutes for Dzień dobry (‘hello’) when underground.
The Wieliczka Tourist Route begins at the Daniłowicza Shaft, located just a short walk up ul. Daniłowicza from the Wieliczka train station. This is also the location of the ticket offices; toilets, luggage lockers, a restaurant and shop can also be found here.
Tickets, Tours & PricesTickets can be easily bought online through the multilingual Wieliczka Salt Mine website, which is the best way to see the tour times, languages and variety of tickets available. It also ensures you a place on a tour at the specified time, without the risk of having to wait. Visitors wishing to have a tour in any language other than Polish and English must buy an advance ticket online (if available), otherwise you'll be consigned to joining a Polish or English-language tour.
If you've arrived in Wieliczka without first purchasing tickets online or through an agency, buy your ticket from the ticket office adjacent to the Daniłowicza Shaft and check the outside display for the time of the next guided tour in your language. Tour times and frequencies vary throughout the year, but tours in Polish are generally offered several times per hour, tours in English are offered at least once per hour, while tours in Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, French, Spanish or German may only be offered once per day.
Ticket prices for Polish language tours are 86zł; 68zł for kids, seniors and students (with ID); free for kids under 4. Ticket prices for foreign language tours are 122zł; 102zł for kids, seniors and students (with ID); free for kids under 4. Family tickets - valid for 2 adults and 2 kids 4-16 - are also available for 254zł (Polish) or 366zł (foreign).
The Underground ExperienceYour tour begins in earnest by descending 320 wooden stairs to the first level 64m underground; don't worry, you won't have to climb them, but just descending will give your calves a work-out. Of nine levels, the tour only takes you to the first three (a max depth of 135m), with the 3.5km covered during the 3 hour tour (including both parts) comprising a mere 1% of this underground realm. While wandering the timber-reinforced tunnels you’ll gain insight from your guide into the history of the site, the techniques used to extract the salt and the lives of the men who worked there. There’s the opportunity to not only operate a medieval winch used for moving massive blocks of salt, but also to lick the walls (bring some tequila). The tour visits numerous ancient chambers and chapels in which almost everything around you is made from rock salt, including the tiled floors, chandeliers, sculptures and stringy stalactites that hang down.
The highlight of the tour is the magnificent 22,000m³ St. Kinga’s Chapel dating from the 17th century. Known for its amazing acoustics, the chapel features bas-relief wall carvings from the New Testament done by miners that display an astonishing amount of depth and realism. After passing a lake that holds more than 300g of salt per litre, and a hall high enough to fly a hot-air balloon in, the first part of the tour ends at the underground restaurant and souvenir stands, at which point you should be instructed on your two options: how to exit (option A) or where and when to join the second part of the tour (option B). If this option B is unmentioned or unclear, inform your guide that you also want to see the Underground Museum and ask them how to do so.
At your leisure you should be able to find your way past the restaurant and restrooms, beyond which you’ll find the queue for the tiny, nerve-wracking, high-speed lift that shoots you back up to the surface (option A), and separate area to the right for those that want to continue on to the Underground Museum (option B, which we heartily recommend). Your original guide should admit you into the museum exhibition which comprises an additional 16 chambers over 1.5kms packed full of artwork, artefacts and mining equipment which your guide will elaborate on. Perhaps the most fascinating and informative part of the Wieliczka experience, the highlights of these beautiful exhibits include two paintings by famous 19th century Polish artist Jan Matejko, and an entire room full of sparkling salt crystals. Upon completion your guide leads you back to the ancient lift which takes you above ground back to where you started.