The mining of silver near Schwaz, 22 km north-east of Innsbruck, began in the 15th century and was begun by migrant miners from Bohemia and Saxony. For many decades the mines at Schwaz were the most productive source of silver in Europe, but they declined after discoveries in the Americas led to the importing of large quantities of the precious metal from Potosi in present-day Bolivia and elsewhere. Nevertheless the mines continued and from 1670 were owned by the Habsburg emperors.
Parts of the mines are now preserved. Visitors to Schwaz are taken on a 90-minute tour that includes a train ride into the underground workings, meetings with miners who describe their working lives, a theatrical performance, audio-visual presentations, and displays of mining equipment. The shop at the mine offers extensive ranges of mineral specimens and jewellery.