Krakow: Wieliczka Salt Mine
Address: Daniłowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland
Nearest Station(s): Wieliczka
Open: 7:30am – 7:30pm in summer; 8am – 5pm in winter.
One filthily hungover morning in Krakow, I awoke with the feeling of dread that accompanies being forced to go sightseeing when all you want to do is fester in bed and eat pizza. Buildings are low on my tourist agenda, especially religious buildings, and today’s was an underground cathedral in a salt mine. I begged the girls to leave me behind with Jacky, our still-wildly intoxicated friend who had just attempted to attend the hostel breakfast in only a g-string, but they refused, dragging me downstairs and onto a bus. And I’m glad they did, because the salt mines were one of the most eerily beautiful things I’ve witnessed. They were also so cold that I couldn’t have vomited even if I’d wanted to. The mine ran from the 1100s all the way up until 1996, but the generations of workers didn’t just extract minerals: they left behind sculpted chambers and galleries decorated with bizarre statues and chapels, the highlight – to my surprise – being the cathedral, which is made entirely of salt. There are still a bunch of boring statues of miners, and at 3km and 3ooo steps it’s a bit of a workout, but although claustrophobia may not be everyone’s thing, it’s a fear genuinely worth overcoming. Queues can be massive, and of course the sneaky buggers will allow you to skip them if you join a tour, but as they run for three hours (two hours too long), you’re better off just getting up early to skip the lines. Bring a student card too if you want a discount. To get there from Krakow, just jump on a train from the main station Krakow Glowny to Wieliczka, which takes around 20 minutes.