"Wieliczka" Salt Mine

Daniłowicza 10, Wieliczka

Every year about a million tourists from all over the world visit the famous Wieliczka Salt mine to admire the historical chambers hewn from the living rock salt, as well as salt sculptures, brine lakes, and underground chapels.

A legend assigns the discovery of salt in Wieliczka to Kinga, wife of Kraków monarch Boleslaus the Modest (Bolesław Wstydliwy). They say that the Hungarian princess received a salt mine as a dowry while still based in her homeland. Leaving Hungary, she dropped her engagement ring into its pit. When she arrived in Poland, she had her servants dig a shaft, and they retrieved the ring in the first lump of salt that was mined from there.

In fact, salt had been already been mined in Wieliczka between 3500 and 2500 BC. The 13th century marked the most vibrant development of the mine. By the Middle Ages, it was already providing not only a plentiful source of income, but also a tourist attraction. The list of visitors opens with the astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, while later guests included Fryderyk Chopin and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Currently, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, one of the world’s few mining sites in continuous operation since the Middle Ages, is visited by around a million tourists a year. The historical chambers lying at depths ranging from 64 m to 135 m (210 to 444 ft) connected by about 2 km (1.2 mi) of passageways allow us to marvel at natural decorations: stalactites and stalagmites, salt figures and brine lakes, as well as post-exploitation pits, former mining devices, and subterranean chapels, including the most famous one: that of St Kinga. In 1978, the Wieliczka mine was inscribed on the original list of UNESCO World Heritage.