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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).

Read on…

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.

Salt mines of Wielicka

Walking down 380 steps. Maybe don’t look down until about 10 minutes in.

 

2) No visit to a salt mine is complete without seeing mannequins with bad haircuts in medieval dress demonstrating various jobs.

Wielicka Salt Mine

We’re too busy carving sculptures in these here salt mines to go up to the surface and see the sun, okay?

 

3) Underground lakes are my jam.

Inside the Wielicka Salt Mines

Water? Under the earth? How is this possible? I’m totally blown away, brah!

 

4) I need more photos of me standing in front of kings carved in salt for my instagram feed.

Salt King at the Wielicka Salt Mine

You’ve seen me in front of a lot of things… but not an oversized bust of a king made entirely of salt, so…heyyyyo!

 

5) I have a visual collection of Jesus sculptures and I need to add this one to my list. Besides, come on! Salt Jesus!

Salt Jesus at the Wielicka Salt Mine

Yes, this is entirely made of salt. No, I have no idea how they got the different colors. That kind of drill-down information was not provided on this tour.

 

6) I’m not kidding, I must see them all…look! salt baby Jesus!

Wielicka Salt Mine - Poland

Little baby Jesus and the family heading into Bethlehem. Pan-Rump-pa-pa-rump.

 

7) Sometimes I just need a salt lick. Especially one I’m not supposed to lick.

Salty Wielicka Salt Mine of Poland

So salty!

 

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.

Underground salty ballroom the Wielicka Salt Mines

The underground salty ballroom available for banquets and weddings. Probably.

 

9) Boo! I love random unexplained dragons sizing me up.

Underground Wielicka Salt Mines

Shrek here was peeking out behind a corner that only a keen few of us noticed. And for no apparent reason. Kinda like that damn puppet sticker at Trader Joe’s that they tell kids to look for.

 

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.

Wielicka salt mines elevator

I am not kidding when I tell you that you will be flattened between eight other tourists that you never wanted to get to know that well. And it’s three minutes. Three really long minutes. You can’t even hold your breath that long, can you?

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.

Do I need to visit the Wielicka salt mine?

How I felt after being underground for three solid hours looking at salt.

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.

More information:

  •  Do

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.

 

 

 

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Things to do near Krakow | Visit Poland | Salt Mines Wieliczka | Travel Quiz | Travel Poland

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About the Author

Hi. I’m Juliana Dever and according to science I have some sort of "exploration" gene. Embracing this compulsion, I spend a lot of time hurtling around the planet in metal tubes experiencing other cultures and writing humorous essays about it. Enjoy.

20 Comments

  1. Patty Doerr / May 26, 2015 at 3:16 pm /Reply

    I, too, had the same exact experience a few years ago – after being begrudgingly dragged there by travel buddy. And also hope I gained back the hours lost by breathing the salt air!

    • Patty Doerr / May 26, 2015 at 4:02 pm /Reply

      P.S. Did your tour guide make you feel like you were at Disney World?!?

  2. Jan Jentz / May 26, 2015 at 3:31 pm /Reply

    A very interesting place to visit. I fear that the benefit of breathing the salt air; may be pre-empted on my death by stairs.

    • Juliana Dever / June 6, 2015 at 6:01 am /Reply

      Well the good news is that the steps are all downstairs and then you take an elevator up. I mean, you’re squeezed up against total strangers from around the world, but doesn’t that just make the whole world feel smaller?

  3. Kelli / May 26, 2015 at 7:44 pm /Reply

    It’s a great place to go when it’s December and 7 degrees F outside. There were hardly any tourists there too. It was a great break from the cold.

    • Juliana Dever / June 6, 2015 at 6:02 am /Reply

      I bet in winter it’s nicer to visit, it’s probably not nearly as crowded.

  4. Linda / May 26, 2015 at 8:43 pm /Reply

    Omg, I love to read this. 1 hour of this tour was enough. Glad I had great people with me.

    • Juliana Dever / June 6, 2015 at 6:02 am /Reply

      Ha! Yes, friends make all of the difference. 🙂

  5. Britta / May 27, 2015 at 8:13 am /Reply

    All the scientific proof I need is one look at your face. 😉 I know that look.

  6. Francesca / May 27, 2015 at 11:45 am /Reply

    Great post Juliana!!
    I’ve been there last December and saying I was disappointed it’s an understatement 😉
    You totally caught my mood at the end of the tour!
    Love your sarcasm
    Keep rocking

    • Juliana Dever / June 6, 2015 at 6:04 am /Reply

      Thanks Francesca. It’s not without it’s interest, but I think it’s a bit overlong and built up way too much to be touristy. I thought this quiz would be a great way for everyone to sort out whether they should visit.

  7. Leslie / May 28, 2015 at 11:20 am /Reply

    Great read. I felt like I was there in the saltiness with you.

    • Juliana Dever / June 6, 2015 at 6:05 am /Reply

      Thanks Leslie! Sorry I can’t share some of that extra salty life with you…

  8. Rachel / June 9, 2015 at 2:39 pm /Reply

    I took this quiz and I have to say it is WAY BETTER than half the Buzzfeed quizzes I have taken, except for “Which Dawson’s Creek Character are you?”
    According to the quiz, I really want to go! Now I am thinking about having my wedding in the salty banquet hall. Dirty Martinis for EVERYONE!

    • Juliana Dever / June 11, 2015 at 9:26 pm /Reply

      Thanks Rachel – I expect an invite to this wedding. And several dirty martinis.

  9. Brisinger / July 5, 2015 at 4:49 pm /Reply

    I’ve been to this place & have good memories of it. I don’t remember the tour being 3 hours though. And I’m sure that the fact I was in a group of 32 friends made a huge difference. We had fun singing as a group in several of those spots. The acoustics in that chapel/hall were amazing. The elevator back to the top is legendary. I would not want to do that part with a bunch of strangers.

  10. Magda / September 25, 2015 at 10:59 pm /Reply

    Wow this is a great post! Thank you Juliana!I’m Polish and I’ve never been there yet but after reading your blog and seeing all these picture I would love to go there 😉 Thanks for encouragement!?

    • Juliana Dever / September 28, 2015 at 9:24 am /Reply

      I’m happy that you’re excited to go there Magda! It’s fascinating for sure. 🙂

  11. Beata Brandt / May 15, 2016 at 4:05 pm /Reply

    You’re doing a great job with these posts. I’m Polish, with family in Poland. When I visit, I don’t get to see other parts of the country. Now I know. I appreciate your effort to spell the Polish names correctly. I saw one little boo boo. It’s Kraków with an ó.

    If you ever go to Berlin, Poznań is about 3 hours away via train. I love how the city has rebuilt after the fall of communism. Plus, there are castles you can tour too.

    Keep up the good work

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