From Krakow to Wieliczka Salt Mine: 4 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Joni Sweet and Diana Bocco
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Located just 16 kilometers outside Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that can be explored in just half a day. It is easy to get to from Krakow on tours or by bus, train, or car.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine | Photo Copyright: Joni Sweet

A working mine since the 13th century, Wieliczka produced salt continuously for hundreds of years, making it the oldest salt mine in Europe. It stopped industrial salt production in 1996 and reopened as a tourist attraction filled with magnificent salt sculptures.

It's made up of several chambers, passageways, and even underground lakes. St. Kinga's Chapel—dedicated to the patroness of Poland—is the mine's most stunning room. Located 101 meters underground and with a height of 11 meters, the underground salt cathedral—including the altars, chandelier, and bas-reliefs on the cavern walls—is made of salt. Miners carved it over the course of 67 years starting in 1896 to create a place to practice their faith while performing their dangerous work underground.

Whether you're planning on visitin the attraction on your own or joining a private or small group tour, here are the best ways to get from Krakow to Wieliczka.

1. From Krakow to Wieliczka by Tour

Carved stone church, Wieliczka Salt Mine
Carved stone church, Wieliczka Salt Mine

If you're looking to skip the line and get right into the underground world, a Wieliczka Salt Mine Guided Tour with Optional Transport is a great option. This half-day guided tour offers five daily departure times, including the option for an evening tour, and starts at a central point in the city. Here, you'll board an air-conditioned van for a 45-minute ride to the mine.

Before you enter, you'll get a quick intro from your guide about the history of the mine and the conditions to expect inside: a pleasant 17 to 18 degrees Celsius year-round and a microclimate that makes breathing inside a welcome relief for anybody suffering from allergies or breathing difficulties. (In fact, the salt microclimate is so good for the lungs, there's even an overnight health resort at the site that's designed for tourists with respiratory issues.)

Once you reach the cave, you will access the entrance without waiting in line and descend 64 meters down into the earth via stairs that never seem to end. From here, your tour guide will take you through galleries, tunnels, and chambers covered in stunning salt sculptures, shrines, and statues showcasing the history of the salt mine and mining traditions in Poland.

Along the way, you'll see mining equipment and displays explaining mining techniques from as far back as the Middle Ages.

Keep descending deep below the surface to find Erazm Baracz Chamber's salt lake, whose water is denser than the Dead Sea, followed by the breathtaking 36-meter-tall Stanislaw Staszic Chamber. This is where the world's first underground hot air balloon flight and underground bungee jump took place.

The Kraków Saltworks Museum and Karczma Górnicza restaurant await before you take on the last tunnel, at a depth of 125 meters deep into the earth. The cafeteria is a great spot to fill up on cheese and potato pierogies or sour rye soup before leaving the mines. The tour ends when you take the elevator back to the surface and jump into your van to return to Krakow's city center.

2. From Krakow to Wieliczka by Bus

Mineshaft in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Mineshaft in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

The easiest line connection between Krakow and the mines is bus 304, which you can catch near Galeria Krakowska in Old Town Krakow. The bus runs every 10 minutes on weekdays (less often before 6am and after 6pm) and three times per hour on weekends.

You will need a ticket that's valid for zones I and II for this bus—you can get your ticket from newsstands, from ticket machines available at many stops, or directly at the main Railway Station in Old Town. Tickets have to be validated once you get on the bus—just look for the machine once you're onboard.

After a 33-minute ride, you'll have to get off at the Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli stop and take Danilowicza street straight to the mine entrance. It's a nice, relaxed walk that only takes a couple of minutes.

Once at the mine, you can choose between two types of tours of Wieliczka: Tourist Route or Miners' Route. The Tourist Route is the best option for first-time visitors, as it takes you down 380 steps through the main chambers, three kilometers of winding corridors, the Krakow Saltworks Museum, and the most impressive subterranean lakes—where you'll see a light show played to the rhythm of Chopin's music. You'll also have a break near St. Kinga's Chapel, giving you the chance to take photos and appreciate the stunning space on your own.

The Miner's Route is a better option for return travelers or for those wanting a more in-depth look at the wonders of the mine and a chance to become novice miners themselves. On this three-hour tour, visitors can don a mining lamp and get a taste of miners' work, from checking methane concentration to handling equipment to digging for salt. Keep in mind that this tour doesn't include visits to major attractions at Wieliczka, so if you want to see St. Kinga's Chapel or the famous chambers, you're better off on the tourist route.

3. From Krakow to Wieliczka by Train

Underground lake in the salt mine of Wieliczka
Underground lake in the salt mine of Wieliczka

Trains cover the route between Krakow and Wieliczka faster than buses—just over 20 minutes instead of 33 minutes—but cost about the same amount. If you want to experience a different view out the window and try train travel in Poland, this is a great chance for a quick experience.

To make the trip, find the Koleje Malopolskie train line at the Krakow Main Railway Station. You need a train that stops at the Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia station, so check timetables to see if that particular station is a scheduled stop.

Trains leave every half an hour, and you don't need to reserve a ticket in advance—just get one at the window for the next available train. Keep in mind that these are simple local trains, without air-conditioning or special services on board.

Once you get off at the Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia station, you can walk directly to the mine's entrance. The 500-meter walk should not take more than 10 minutes and it's very straightforward. If you get lost, look for the street signs pointing the way.

4. From Krakow to Wieliczka by Car

Equipment in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Equipment in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

It's only about 15 kilometers between Krakow's city center and the Wieliczka Salt Mine if you take the route via Wieliczka. With regular traffic, that's just half an hour away, though traffic can be heavy in the mornings.

Another option is to take the road via II obwodnica, which is about four kilometers longer but often takes only a few minutes more because traffic conditions are better here during weekdays. If you're driving on the A4 motorway, make sure you exit at the Kraków Wieliczka junction.

Since you'll be driving through smaller roads as well as major highways, twists and turns can be confusing on both routes. Make sure you rent a car with a GPS (or use the GPS on your phone) to avoid getting lost and driving in circles. Once at the mines, look for the car park at the Graduation Tower on street Dembowskiego. Several other paid parking lots are also available around the Wieliczka Salt Mine, so you shouldn't have trouble finding somewhere to leave your car near the attraction.

Though the drive is short, having a rental car allows you to explore a different side of Poland. After visiting the mines, find a place to park and walk to the Wieliczka Upper Square to see some beautiful architecture, including the Przychocki Palace. Wieliczka itself is one of the oldest towns in Poland and makes a worthwhile place to wander medieval streets and duck into quaint restaurants for authentic local food.

In winter, you can also drive to Podstolice SKI, a small ski resort with about 1.3 kilometers of slopes available (mostly easy slopes but also some intermediate ones). Located just 30 minutes away from Krakow and even closer to Wieliczka, it offers spaces for both skiing and snowboarding, as well as some gentle slopes for snow tubing.

Tips for Visiting the Mines

  • Advanced reservations are required to tour the Wieliczka Salt Mine. You can buy tickets for your preferred time slot online ahead of your visit.
  • Dress appropriately. Temperatures inside the mine stay between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius depending on the area. Wearing layers can help you stay comfortable throughout your visit.
  • The Tourist Route includes more than 800 stairs, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes and are OK with climbing and descending staircases.
  • While the chambers are very large, some of the tunnels can feel a little claustrophobic. If you have severe issues with being underground or in confined spaces, this might not be an ideal place for you to visit.
  • Smoking, animals, and large bags or luggage are not allowed on the tour. There are secure lockers to leave your bags free of charge.
  • Baby carriages and wheelchairs are not suitable for large sections of the Tourist Route, as this includes lots of stairs. People with mobility issues should contact the visitor center in advance to ask about optional routes and what areas can still be visited (such as the graduation tower area outdoors and the museum).
  • There can be long lines for the lift that takes you back to the surface at the end of your tour. If you're trying to catch a bus or train at a specific time, plan accordingly and get to the elevator as soon as possible.