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One of the most unique experiences I had in Poland was escaping from the Krakow Salt Mines, also known as the oldest salt mine in the world.
If you want to experience the Krakow Salt Mines – I’d recommend experiencing them through this tour
I backpacked through Europe a couple years ago, and one of the most unique (and unsettling) experiences I had was exploring the Krakow, Poland Salt Mines.
Here is my take on the Medieval city and one of the most popular activities that most people add to their Krakow itinerary – its salt mines.
Krakow – the land of cobblestones, horse-drawn carriages, and post offices in old school buggies. Honestly, I hadn’t heard much about Krakow before visiting, but I found myself enamored by the relatively small and historical city.
My most notable story by far was exploring the salt mines in Krakow, Poland, the oldest in the world and in operation for over 700 years.
It was pretty amazing, discovering another city far beneath the earth, seven stories down to be exact. The first level was about 400 steps down, and we only made it to the 3rd story because that alone took 3 hours.
The Krakow salt mine is a massive testament to the strength of human intellect and what we’re capable of. I would not recommend going down there if you’re at all claustrophobic, however.
Once you get to the first level with a tour guide, it’s impossible to simply get out whenever you want. Part way through the tour, half of our group broke into a run to try and get to the elevators.
This was a big no-no in the salt mine, and being that I was in the group that didn’t know about the plan to escape the Krakow salt mines, we were constantly left with the blame for the rest of the tour.
If you’re claustrophobic, the Krakow Salt Mines are probably not a good idea.
Once our 3 hour tour was finished, it took another 45 minutes of waiting in lines for the two elevators that take you up to the top level in a swift 45 seconds.
The elevator was another experience in itself. They squeeze eight people in a small lift with hardly any room to breathe. The only thing protecting you from falling far below are shaky wooden planks that you can see in between when you’re going up.
I don’t think Poland is as big on safety requirements as the States. The lines themselves were a clear sign of that; hundreds of people crammed in a small tunnel waiting for the lift for almost an hour with no way to escape if there was an emergency.
I’m glad I survived to tell the tale.
After spending much longer underground than we originally planned, we went off to enjoy the rest of what we had planned for our Krakow itinerary for the day.
The city may not have a hundred famous sights as some other cities around Europe, but it has a charm about it that reminds me a lot of Florence, Italy, especially the main square with street art and performers everywhere.
Taking a taxi home that night looking out at the city of Krakow, our driver started randomly blasting Backstreet Boys with the windows rolled down…yeah, Krakow is pretty sweet.
Have you been to Krakow before? Would you explore the sketchy salt mines for yourself someday?
Other Recommended Tours in Krakow
Krakow City Tour via Electric Car
If you want to explore that highlights of what this medieval city has to offer, hop on this 3-hour tour.
Learn about Krakow’s culture, lifestyle, and history via an eco-friendly electric car with a knowledgable driver & audio guide. The tour includes a stop at Schindler’s Factory, as well as the most interesting and important spots around the city.
Krakow Cycling Tour
If you want to get some exercise in while exploring a beautiful cobblestone infused city, this is the perfect tour to go on. I’m personally a big fan of cycling tours in new cities to get my bearings and see a lot in a short amount of time.
The 4-hour tour has 25 stops, including Old Town, the former ghetto area, the Jewish quarter, sites from “Schindler’s List”, and much more.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum & Camp Day Trip from Krakow
As tragic and depressing as it is to tour two of the biggest death camps from the Holocaust, it’s also important to learn and visit the darker sites of history to make sure we never repeat the same mistakes and pay our respects to those we lost.
I’m a big proponent of Dark Tourism for this reason, and you would be amiss to visit Poland without making a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The tour lasts for 7-8 hours and includes transportation from and back to Krakow, and an English-speaking guide that will talk about the history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in more detail.
Practical Info for Krakow
Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $20 off your first booking)
Buy your Poland travel guide here