In today’s installment of “Should I Visit This Tourist Attraction?” I go to the Salt Mines of Wieliczka so you don’t have to (unless you want to).
About twenty-five minutes outside of Kraków, Poland is a series of salt mines that are some of the oldest in the world. And until recently were still in use. It is said that miners, who worked from before sunrise until after sunset and never saw the sun, decided to start making carvings from the compound deep inside the earth. You might wonder why they just didn’t stop screwing around with chisels and go up top and catch some rays like I did, but this was never explained.
It has now been turned into a huge tourist bonanza called Wieliczka Salt Mine with over 1.2 million visitors a year taking tours in seven different languages. There is an underground restaurant and several – yes, more than one – gift shops underground. We were told by many that it was a must see. We didn’t question it. But to be a vigilant traveler and not simply a tour hound, perhaps you should. So ask yourself:
Juliana, do I NEED to visit the salt mines of Wieliczka?
Thanks for asking, but this, my friend, is something only you can determine. But luckily, in the interest of research, I’ve done some recon to help you decide.
Personally, I find that tourist attractions often have an inverse proportion of tourist vs. attraction, and not all are worthy of your precious time and money. I’m suggesting some careful consideration before you take the plunge down 442 feet below the surface, so I’ve created this handy quiz to help you out.
So let’s begin. Answer true or false:
1) Walking down thirty-eight flights of stairs in a close group of thirty-five tourists is not a problem for me. Plus I like to take staircase perspective photos.
2) No visit to a salt mine is complete without seeing mannequins with bad haircuts in medieval dress demonstrating various jobs.
3) Underground lakes are my jam.
4) I need more photos of me standing in front of kings carved in salt for my instagram feed.
5) I have a visual collection of Jesus sculptures and I need to add this one to my list. Besides, come on! Salt Jesus!
6) I’m not kidding, I must see them all…look! salt baby Jesus!
7) Sometimes I just need a salt lick. Especially one I’m not supposed to lick.
8) I’m okay with shuffling underground for three hours because the payoff is this beautiful ballroom replete with religious reliefs, salt-crystal chandeliers and a plethora of international tourists.
9) Boo! I love random unexplained dragons sizing me up.
10) I am not claustrophobic in any way, so I have no problem riding this elevator up from the depth of the mine for three entire minutes while smashed up against eight strangers.
To Tally Your Score…
If you answered false to at least 6, then go wander outside in the fresh air, grab yourself a pierogi and a żywiec and soak up that gorgeous main square.
If you answered true to at least 6 of these, then hooray! Book yourself a ticket for a day in the mines. But be aware from the moment we left Krakow until the moment we returned it took five entire hours and a little bit of our patience. You’re below ground essentially looking at the same things repeatedly, and if you have precious few days in Krakow, and you’re doing it at the cost of seeing a great, historical city.
One last caveat: The Polish believe that breathing salt air is therapeutic and that each hour breathed adds one week to your life. This is amazing if true, because it means that you CAN get those three hours back. So if you feel like you just lost three hours of your life, remember that you just gained three weeks. I mean, they’re on the backend, so no clue how useful that will be to you, but there you go.
And that concludes this episode of “Should I Visit This Tourist Attraction?” You now have a completely, 100% scientific* way to decide for yourself if you should go to the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland.
*not scientifically corroborated.
The Salt Mines of Wieliczka cost 79PLN, or about 21USD at time of writing. Times of tours vary by season, check the site for more information.