Not far from the Swedish capital of Stockholm, there is a vast underground world waiting to be explored.
Located in the Swedish town of Sala, the Sala Silver Mine was once called Sweden’s Treasure Chest because of the vast amount of silver mined here. First dug in the 1500s, the mine operated for 400 years and was one of the most significant silver mines in the whole world.
These days, the mine is less an industrial site and more a major tourist attraction. The deep caves and galleries of the mine are fascinating places to explore and learn more about the rich history of the area.
The mine is also home to the world’s deepest hotel room. There is also a suspension bridge and High Wire Track that lets you explore this historic area from above as well as below.
The mine is even home to an underground concert hall, and along with the underground suite, there is also a ground-level hostel you can stay in. The area around the mine is just as fascinating to explore, with mountain bike and hiking trails and several fascinating attractions nearby.
You can explore the mine itself on a variety of different tours. The 60-meter tour lasts for one hour and is suitable for everyone above ten years old. As the name implies, it will take you 60 meters below the surface to explore the galleries where Swedish kings mined the silver to make their coins. You’ll learn more about the lives of the miners who worked here and why the mine was so important to the Swedish monarchy.
If you want to go deeper, the 155-meter tour will take you down in an elevator to see an underground lake and the Crown Princess Victoria concert hall. There is also a heated dining room down here, and you can even have lunch far below the surface of the earth. This level of the mine was mainly dug out in the 18th and 19th centuries, so you’ll learn about the history of the mine during this period of industrialization.
Because it uses an elevator, this is a good tour for those who can’t handle a lot of steps. Bear in mind, though, that this level of the mine is quite cold, with a temperature of around 2°C all year round. Like the 60-meter tour, the 155-meter tour lasts for one hour.
Finally, the Great Mine Tour offers a more comprehensive exploration of this fascinating place. Over the course of three hours, this tour will take you through both the 60-meter and 155-meter levels of the mine, so you’ll get a complete picture of the long history of this site. You’ll see the stunning concert hall, the Echo Chamber, the underground lake, and the galleries where the miners used to work.
There are tons of great reasons to make the journey from Stockholm to the Sala Silver Mine. Whether you want to take a day trip or make it the centerpiece of a longer exploration of this region of Sweden, you won’t struggle to find things to do here.
The Dark Secrets of Sala Silver Mine
The history of this mine is complex and not a pleasant tale. The mine existed to make the Swedish monarchy rich, and when it was first opened in the 16th century, workers’ rights were basically nonexistent.
Without the advantages of modern machinery, miners had to carve out the galleries with picks and shovels or else use a technique called fire-setting, which required starting fires underground and then quickly putting them out with cold water to fracture the rock. As you can imagine, this was a very dangerous task.
Mining remains a dangerous job today, but it was much more dangerous when Sala first opened. In fact, the conditions at the mine were so harsh that the Swedish monarchy used prisoners of war to dig out the mine.
Men captured during Sweden’s conflicts with Russia, Poland, and Denmark were put to work in the mines, working long hours of physical labor with no regard for their safety. In fact, working in the mines was supposed to be a punishment for the prisoners. And if the overseers were considered to be too lenient on the prisoners, they themselves could be put to death.
It wasn’t just prisoners who worked the mines. In the preindustrial age, horses and mules were the only sources of nonhuman power, and hundreds of them were used to build mines. The sole purpose of these animals was to work, and once they were lowered into the mine shafts, they rarely came out. These poor animals lived brutal lives of heavy labor and only saw the sunshine once or twice each year.
During the 17th century, several massive collapses killed many miners. As a result, the operators of the mine brought in engineers to improve the techniques used inside the mine. This is what allowed the deeper 155-meter area of the mine to be opened. And although conditions improved for workers, they were still a long way from being anything close to the working conditions we enjoy today.
The cemetery in the nearby village of Salberget is a testimony to the danger involved in working at the mine. From 2004 to 2011, 102 skeletons were excavated from graves here. Many of the skeletons showed signs of trauma and injuries, and one was found with an iron collar around his neck – most likely a forced laborer in the mine.
Walking through this picturesque village today, it seems hard to believe that the dark caverns underground contain such horrifying secrets. With the sun shining and the birds singing, this part of Sweden seems like a place where nothing wrong could ever happen. But all you need to do is step into the deep underground tunnels to encounter a different world.
The World’s Deepest Underground Luxury Suite
Fortunately, the mine today is more about tourism than its forced labor and cruelty. In fact, what was once an awful prison has become a luxurious place to stay.
Located 155 meters underground, this is recognized as the deepest hotel suite in the world. The suite is located in a chamber that was hollowed out during the silver mining process. There is a luxurious double bed and silver furnishings, and you’ll be greeted with a bottle of champagne chilled to the perfect temperature.
This is not some dank and dripping cave. The walls may be solid rock, but the brick floor is nicely leveled, and there are luxurious leather armchairs and even a chandelier in this underground chamber. Although this level of the mine stays at only 2°C all year round, the hotel room occupies a pocket of warm air, which means it stays at 18°C, making for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Of course, there are no windows down here. And no cell phone service, either. For that reason, there is an intercom so you can reach the staff 24 hours a day if you need anything.
The world’s deepest hotel room may not be the right choice for those who suffer from claustrophobia. But if you want to get away from it all, it’s hard to imagine a better place for that. The mine is pitch black and utterly silent at night, so you won’t need to worry about noisy neighbors. There’s no TV, Wi-Fi, or radio down here, so make sure you’re staying with someone you like to spend time with — or bring a good book.
The quiet in this hotel room is almost unnerving, but if you love the silence, you’ll love staying here. It’s so quiet this deep underground that you’ll almost be able to hear your own heart beating.
A stay in this unique hotel room doesn’t come cheap. It costs around US$600 to spend the night here, though that does include a food basket for the night and breakfast in the morning. Still, if you have the money, this truly unique experience may be worth it.
Alternatively, if you prefer to stay above ground or don’t have the budget to sleep in this underground luxury suite, you can stay at the Hostel Marketenteriet. This building dates back to the early 20th century when it was built as a barrack for miners, but it was never actually used for that purpose. Now, the rooms are decorated with period furniture to make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time, but you’ll be staying in more luxury than the miners did.
The hostel offers 33 beds in 15 rooms, and three of those rooms have double beds. Toilets and showers are shared, with ten toilets spread across three floors. Wi-Fi is free, but there’s no breakfast. Instead, you’ll find a kitchenette on the first floor with a microwave oven, a fridge, and a water boiler. Pets are allowed in certain rooms, so you can visit with your furry friend.
Yes, it’s basic accommodation, but the prices reflect that. For example, a single room starts at only around US$50, and a double room costs only US$80.
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Tips for Visiting the Mine
Plan ahead: Sala Silver Mine is a popular tourist destination, so it’s a good idea to book your tour in advance to ensure availability. This is especially true if you want to take a tour in English, as these often sell out quickly.
Dress appropriately: The mine is located underground, so it can be chilly and damp. Make sure to wear warm clothing and comfortable shoes. This is probably not the place for those Louboutin stilettos, no matter how much you want to show them off.
Be prepared to walk: The tour involves a lot of walking, so make sure you’re able to handle it. For example, the 60 m tour requires climbing 370 steps, so if that’s a problem for you, the 155 m tour might be a better choice since it uses an elevator.
Located 20 km from the silver mine, Gardsjo Algpark is a nature park where you can meet the King of the Forest — the majestic moose. The moose roam freely over 25 hectares of woodland, and you’ll be taken on a wagon pulled by a tractor to find the moose and observe them in their natural habitat.
The tour takes about an hour, and the host, Leffe, will tell you more about these impressive animals which he knows, like members of his own family. Often, the moose will come right up to the wagon to greet their friend, so you’ll get to see these incredible animals in a way you never would anywhere else.
There’s also an on-site café so you can grab a traditional Swedish lunch and spend more time in this idyllic forest environment. Grab some locally produced honey at the gift shop for a great souvenir of your trip.
A little further from the silver mine at 35 km, you’ll find the mysterious and ancient Anundshög. This is Sweden’s largest burial mound, standing 9 m high and more than 60 m in diameter.
According to Swedish legend, this is the burial mound of Anund, a 7th-century king. However, the oldest monuments here are even earlier, dating back to the third century.
In fact, this impressive burial mound is part of a larger complex that contains 12 burial mounds along with several stone circles, monoliths, and stone ships. So if visiting Sala Silver Mine is like taking a trip through the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings, this would be the equivalent of exploring the Barrowdowns – though hopefully without encountering any wraiths on your visit!
Vallby Open Air Museum
Travel only 37 km from the mine, and you can explore the Vallby Open Air Museum. If you don’t have a time machine, this is probably about the closest you’ll come to taking a step back in time. And if you do have a time machine, let us know what next week’s lottery numbers are, please!
Open all year round; this museum shows historical environments from the 1600s up to the 1900s. Many of the buildings here go back to the early 20th or 19th century and have been lovingly restored to the way they would’ve been at the time.
You’ll learn all about what life was like for farmers in this part of Sweden, and there are adorable animals to meet in the farmyard, too. This is a great family attraction where you’ll learn something about Swedish history and culture while enjoying yourself.
Uppsala Cathedral & Castle
If you’re willing to travel a little further, you’ll find Uppsala, around 70 km from Sala. Uppsala Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Uppsala, the primate of Sweden, and it is also the burial place for many Swedish kings and queens.
The cathedral was built in the 13th century and has undergone several renovations and additions over the centuries. The cathedral features a beautiful interior with intricate stone carvings, colorful stained glass windows, and a large organ. Visitors can also climb the tower for panoramic views of the city.
Uppsala Castle is a medieval fortress located in the city of Uppsala, Sweden. The castle was built in the 16th century and served as a royal residence for many Swedish kings and queens. Today, the castle serves as a cultural center and museum, showcasing the history of Uppsala and Sweden.
Visitors can explore the castle’s various rooms and exhibits, which include paintings, artifacts, and interactive displays. The castle also features a beautiful garden and a terrace with views of the city.
Both the Cathedral and the Castle are must-see attractions for those visiting Uppsala and are located relatively close to each other, making it easy to visit both on the same day. They both offer a glimpse into the history of Uppsala and Sweden, are notable for their architectural beauty, and are a great way to experience the cultural heritage of the country.
How to Get to Sala Silver Mine?
It’s a 120 km drive from the center of Stockholm to Sala Silver Mine. You can expect the drive to take around an hour and a half without traffic.
The drive will take you through the Swedish countryside, so it’s quite a pleasant way to see more of the country if you plan on renting a car.
Alternatively, you can reach the mine using public transportation. From Stockholm Central Station, you can take a train to Sala Station, which will take around an hour and 15 minutes. From there, you can take bus 61 to the Nya Vattentornet stop. This journey takes around four minutes. Finally, you’ll have a 17-minute walk to the mine from the bus stop.
Ethan started traveling with his family at the age of 10 and has since visited dozens of countries on six continents. He loves discovering new destinations, predicting trends, and turning amazing travel experiences into inspiring stories.