History of the mine
The mine stretches deep down below the earth: 327 metres at its lowest point, and is 178 miles long (but don’t worry, you won’t walk that far!) It dates from as early as the 13th century, when salt was discovered and the first shafts were installed to extract it. Around then, salt was an extremely valuable resource because of its scarcity and how difficult it was to extract. Everyone loved the difference it made to their food, and there was big money in mining it. This gradually became a staple of every home’s cupboard, and the 1990s saw serious decline in the price of it. The mine ceased operations in 2007 and it was opened as an attraction and museum.
People of all ages have an excellent time in the mines, but you’ll need to be prepared to do some walking. On the Tourist Route, there are 800 steps to climb in total, and you can expect some physical exertion on the Miners’ Route. That said, the unique nature of the Wieliczka Salt Mine makes it well worth the excursion. The mine is suitable for wheelchair access, who can see certain areas of it. Book well in advance and ask about what wheelchair users can expect to experience on a visit.
Krakow Saltworks Museum
Now an ultra common, cheap-to-produce product, salt has had an interesting trajectory through history. Phrases like ‘being worth your salt’ and ‘salt of the Earth’ are reflective of its importance in our society. Indeed, it’s an essential ingredient in making just about any savoury meal taste better, even though most of us probably eat too much of it these days. Wieliczka Salt Mine was so important that in the 14th century the Saltworks Castle was built here, and you can visit it and the Krakow Saltworks Museum, included in your entry fee.