Grande Saline de Salins-les-Bains

Useful Information

Location: 3 Place des Salines, 39110 Salins Les Bains.
(46.937457, 5.876554)
Open: NOV to MAR daily 10-12, 14-17:30, tours 10:30, 14:30, 16.
APR to JUN daily 9:30-18, tours 10, 11, 12, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-19, tours every 30 minutes.
SEP to OCT daily 9:30-18, tours 10, 11, 12, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30.
Fee: Adults EUR 9, Children (13-18) EUR 5, Children (7-12) EUR 4.50, Children (0-6) free, Students (-26) EUR 5, Unemployed EUR 5, Disabled EUR 5, Families (2+*) EUR 24.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 6.50.
Classification: MineSalt Mine SubterraneaMining Museum
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=12 °C.
Guided tours: D=1 h, St=100. Audioguides Deutsch - German English Español - Spanish Italiano - Italian Português - Portuguese Nederlands - Dutch 日本語 - Japanese Chinese Esperanto. free download from website.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Grande Saline de Salins-les-Bains, 3 Place des Salines, 39110 Salins Les Bains, Tel: +33-384-73-10-92. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


12th century springs covered by a vault.
1854 establishment of the first thermal bath in Salins.
1856 medical use of mother waters recognized and approved by the National Academy of Medicine.
1860 Lillo contract for the relationship between the thermal baths and the Grande Saline.
1962 Grande Saline closed.
1966 Grande Saline bought by the City of Salins-les-Bains and tranformed into a heritage and tourist site.
1971 underground gallery declared a Historic Monument.
2009 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, as an addition to the listing of the royal saltworks of Arc-et-Senans.


The salt deposit is located at a depth of 250 m. This is in the reach of the ground water which dissolves the salt and when it emerges from a spring it has a salt content of .


The Grande Saline de Salins-les-Bains is a Medieval Salt work, where the brine from a salt water spring was evaporated to produce salt. It is easily confused with the Saline Royale at nearby Arc-et-Senans. The Grande Saline de Salins-les-Bains has a history of 1,200 years, which makes it one of the oldest factories in France. In the 15th century a system of protection for workers was introduced, which was unequaled on a national scale.

The site has three parts, the salt springs which are underground, the salt works where the brine was evaporated, and the salt museum. The guided tour visits the first two, afterwards the participants can visit the museum self-guided. The salt water extraction wells are actually the reason why we had difficulties classifying this site. Salt is typically not mined with picks, it is dissolved with water, and then the brine is evaporated. This also works without any mining activity if there are natural salt water springs. As a result those salines have no mining at all, and especially no underground part, so it is actually at the fringe of the sites we list on Nevertheless, the gathering of resources is commonly called mining, so this is a mine. On the other hand, the natural springs were originally on the surface. Today there is a 165 m long vaulted gallery from the 12th century, which was erected to protect the springs from pollution. This actually makes the site a subterranea, an artificial underground site, but as we actually have no category for crypts with salt water springs, we decided to classify it as a salt mine.

The salt water was actually used by animals since they formed. They were also used by humans since the Neolithic period, the oldest remains connected with the salt springs are 7,000 years old, but most likely they were used much earlier. However, it is unclear if the springs were accessible during the last Cold Age, before 12,000-years BP.

The salt was obtained by artificial evaporation using wood as fuel. The name Grande Saline was adopted, because the saltworks produced 14,000 t of salt annually during the 17th century, and supplied the countries Burgundy, Switzerland and Flanders. The revenues from the Grande Saline represented half of the revenues of the whole Franche-Comté. This had a major impact on the development of Salins-les-Bains, which became the economic capital of the region. The wealth caused greed and for the protection of the salt, Salins-les-Bains has had an impressive defense system. The Forts Belin and Saint-André are remains of this defensive structure, which protected the production and the transport of the salt. The Grande Saline itself was fortified, a high wall emclosed 2 ha of industrial buildings, a fortress within a city, with production buildings, workshops, housing, tavern, court, chapel, and even a prison.

The late 19th century brought many changes, the industrial revolution brought new technology, new means of transport and economic changes. While the use of coal for evaporation made the salt cheaper, the means of transport also made the price of salt fall. The profitability of the salt fell, and the city needed an alternative. As a result, the medical use of the thermal salt water was exploited. In 1854 the first thermal establishment was opened, in 1856 the National Academy of Medicine recognized and approved the medical use of the salt water. In 1860, the Lillo contract defined the relationship between the thermal baths and the Grande Saline. They used the so-called (mother waters) the residual water obtained after evaporation, highly concentrated in mineral salts. The tawny-colored liquid had the highest possible content of salt around 33 % and also contained bromide in a quantity 5 times higher than in seawater. It was used in dilution with salt water from the Puits à Muyre, at different concentration levels.