Wieliczka Salt Mine - History and Facts | History Hit

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland

Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, the oldest of its type in Europe was worked for over 900 years and is a magical underground labyrinthine world of passages, lakes, tunnels, chapels, caverns and sculptures.

Peta Stamper

20 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Wieliczka Salt Mine

Just to the southeast of Kraków in Poland, the Wieliczka Salt Mine was described in the 18th century by a travelling Frenchman as ‘no less magnificent than the Egyptian pyramids’.

This eerily beautiful labyrinthine subterranean world of passages, vast caverns, underground lakes, chapels and crystalline sculptures was in continuous use for over 900 years until mining was halted in 1996 due to falling prices and slow but eventually inevitable flooding.

Wieliczka Salt Mine history

The salt mine was once one of the world’s biggest and most profitable (when salt mining was the medieval equivalent of oil mining today). Wieliczka Salt Mine is the oldest of its type in Europe and boasts a staggering almost 300 kilometres of tunnels spreading over nine levels with the deepest at 327 metres. Additionally, there are 2,000 interconnected chambers ranging from 64 metres to 135 metres deep.

Wieliczka Salt Mine today

More than a million people come to Wieliczka Salt Mine every year. The highlight (amongst many) of the Wieliczka Salt Mine is the Chapel of St. Kinga (Kaplica Św Kingi). At 54 metres by 18 metres, the chapel is big by any standards but remember this is deep underground.

The altar, spectacular chandeliers, sculptures, bas-reliefs, intricately detailed carvings and everything else you can see is made of salt – astonishing. Yet even more staggering is that it took just two brothers over 30 years and the removal of 20,000 tonnes of rock salt to complete it.

Due to safety concerns surrounding the 900-year old tunnels, only around 4 kilometres are open during your guided tour but that’s more than enough to see at one of Poland’s most famous tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Getting to Wieliczka Salt Mine

Located in the city centre, Wieliczka Salt Mine is easily found just off the 94 motorway exiting onto Krakowska and Edwarda Dembowskiego road. Otherwise, buses 224, J1 and S1 stop just outside the main entrance to the mine complex.

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