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Salt Mine question

I'm going back and forth on visiting the salt mine outside of Krakow. It seems that visitors either think it a total and cheesy waste of time, or are totally enthralled. A friend of mine, who is Polish-American and visited as a child, recommended it, whereas her mother (who grew up in Poland) went, "ugh, I can't tell you how many school trips I endured there!" So, it seems a bit of a gamble. For me, the ability to take photos down there is what most appeals, but I've heard that the light reflects badly. For those who have done the tour, what were your impressions of the light? Also, are the tours regimented or can visitors do it at their own pace (and thus take their time with the photos)?

Thanks!
Caroline

Posted by
6171 posts

I think it's an amazing place (I'm Polish but never went there as a child that I can remember, only an adult). I don't know if I'd call a UNESCO site "cheesy" (is Venice cheesy?), they're designated as such for their cultural or historical value. You can see photos and videos online and decide for yourself since everyone can have a different opinion. I think any place that gets crowded with school groups can be annoying, but what can you do? Yes, you can get nice photos there if you're a decent photographer and have a good camera. I don't remember what the tour was like (you can't avoid it, I don't think) but I loved the site. Granted, I haven't been to any other salt mines, so I am not exactly "salt mined out" and cannot compare this mine to others (this is not true of caves, I've been to plenty of those).
https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/32

Posted by
4686 posts

I didn't think it was "cheesy" - parts of the tour were pretty cool, and some of the statues and things created out of salt down there, in those conditions, are pretty amazing.

But although I wouldn't call it a "waste of time," it IS time-consuming to see the cool stuff - there is a ton of walking in the mine. I think my tour was three hours, not to mention getting there and back. There isn't anywhere near three hours worth of worth things to see - a lot of it is just walking between places. So what I question is whether it is WORTH the time, for what you get out of it, if your time in Krakow itself is limited.

I also made the mistake (perhaps) of doing the salt mine tour the same day I visited Auschwitz, which involved a lot of walking as well. By the end of this long day, my feet were wiped out!

Posted by
50 posts

We had previously visited the salt mine outside of Salzburg, which I thought was a little cheesy. When going to Krakow I hesitated about visiting the salt mine there based on my other experience, but went anyway. So glad that we did, the experience and artwork was so much better in Krakow. In my opinion it is a must see. If you have a good quality camera your photos will be fine.

Posted by
5008 posts

What Andrew said. It depends on how much time you have and whether that is better spent somewhere above ground. It was interesting if you've never seen a salt mine, but there's so much else to see in Krakow and the area. I think they tried and move people along because things can get jammed up and the one elevator exit would be a problem if everyone lingered. You're deep down in a underground mine, so, yeah, the light is a problem. Close up of the carved objects might be OK, but not long room-sized shots. The flashes are too annoying to everyone else with dilated pupils. Just my opinion, based on one time visit.

Posted by
2235 posts

Well, Caroline, it is one of the most unique and memorable visits in all my many trips to Europe. Amazing, I would say. I never imagined that some of those things could be created, so beautifully, way below ground in a working mine. There are A LOT of steps into the ground. We went down, down, down narrow spiral stairways into the ground, walked around to visit some of the chambers, then down, down, down again to visit more. Spoiler alert: the guide asked our group if we were interested how many steps down we had taken, we said yes, and then she said, the answer is 802! Fortunately there was a small elevator to utilize in going back up to the top.

Posted by
1705 posts

I just did it last week. It was about 3 hours total, including a little waiting time for our tour. It is indeed LOTS of steps down.

I was meh on it. It surely was spectacular in places - the chapel, the large auditorium. But I think I would have liked it better had we been in and out in an hour.

Tours are led by guides at a reasonable pace. You get about 15 minutes to hang out at a couple of the best spots. I can't comment on the lighting. They do charge extra for photos and so I didn't take any.

Posted by
4686 posts

Valerie described my own experience pretty well. I visited in 2012 and don't remember buying the photo pass - probably did if it existed then, because I took lots of pictures. I did have a good DSLR camera that takes decent pictures in low light without a flash, so I used that.

Clearly, some people think the salt mine is amazing and other of us not so much - or would like it better if it didn't require such a big time commitment. Krakow is such a lovely town that it would be a shame not to explore more of it on a limited schedule vs. taking half a day for the salt mine, in my opinion. But if you have plenty of time and want to see the salt mine, I certainly would.

Posted by
204 posts

Thank you, everybody, for your thoughtful replies. I think I will play it by ear, depending on time and how I'm feeling

Caroline

Posted by
1447 posts

We just went this past Monday. We had a nice time, it was very interesting and the extra for the photo sticker was about $2 or so. Poland is very affordable, very. If you have enough time it is interesting and very well organized. Something different