The epic story of “white gold” is an age-old history, and an industrial, political, economic and above all, human adventure, with its roots right beneath Salins-les-Bains itself. It all started with salt sources. The region was able to profit from this precious resource, constructing extraction infrastructure from the start of the 15th century in Salins-les-Bains. Then, in the middle of the Enlightenment, the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans was established by Louis XIV and by the utopian vision of Claude Nicolas Ledoux. Every day, 135,000 litres of brine were drawn in Salins and sent 21 kilometres down a brine pipeline to Arc-et-Senans. Both are registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
It is impossible to pass through the picturesque Jura town without being impressed by the huge buildings flanked by tall chimneys, which were used for the production of salt until 1962. It is an exceptional view, reinforced by the very contemporary building which has housed the Museum of Salt since 2009. The tour begins with a descent into the underground tunnels that connect two wells, which have ingenious pumping systems for extracting salt water 250 metres down. You follow the route of the brine back into the stove room – four huge furnaces where the salt workers toiled. It was tough work – a matter of feeding the stoves with firewood then collecting the salt obtained by evaporation using rakes.
Interactive and educational exhibits invite visitors to pursue this unique journey into the historic buildings of the Great Saltworks , including the salt store.
An area entitled “Planet Salt ” enhances the visit and offers a special “children and teenagers’” view of the operation and of the countless uses of salt.
It is far from being just a basic cooking ingredient!