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How to Visit Auschwitz: All You Need to Know

    A practical guide on how to Visit Auschwitz, either independently or with convenient guided tours from Krakow and nearby major cities. This comprehensive guide provides practical advice for planning your trip, choosing the type of visit that best suits your preferences and organizing transportation from Krakow to Auschwitz. Additionally, you’ll find valuable tips from locals on how to make the most of your experience while being mindful of your budget.

    Visiting Auschwitz is an essential experience that everyone should undertake at least once in their lifetime. Auschwitz stands as a solemn symbol of the depths of evil that human beings can inflict upon one another. A visit to Auschwitz provides a unique and somber opportunity to bear witness to the horrors of the past and listen to the harrowing stories and testimonies of what transpired within the camp. This profound experience is made possible by the dedicated work of official guides, also known as educators, who diligently preserve the voices of the survivors and the evidence found in historical documents over the years.

    Situated just over 60 km from Krakow, amidst anonymous countryside villages and forests, Auschwitz and Birkenau rank among the most infamous concentration camps in WWII history. Today, they have become the most significant Holocaust museum worldwide and hold a place of paramount importance among historical museums in Europe, leading to their designation as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    What you can find in this guide on How to Visit Auschwitz:

    Where is Auschwitz?

    The Auschwitz Concentration Camp is located in the town of Oświęcim, in southern Poland, approximately 60 km from Krakow and 30 km from Katowice.

    Auschwitz is the name given by the Nazi Germans to the town of Oświęcim during the occupation of Poland in the Second World War. Initially, there was a barracks that belonged to the Polish army, which was later converted into a concentration camp in May 1940. This became known as Auschwitz I, the main camp of a series of sub-camps built subsequently.

    What is the difference between Auschwitz and Birkenau?

    The Auschwitz Concentration Camp is made up of a series of camps built in the area around Auschwitz. The main camp is the one called Auschwitz I, located just outside the city center of Auschwitz.

    Here was the administration and some of the most famous blocks, such as Block 11, also called “death block”, where torture and executions of political prisoners took place, and Block 10, where Nazi doctors carried out their cruel experiments.

    The second main camp was built in 1941 near the village of Brzezinka, which the Germans had renamed Birkenau. Birkenau camp was built for Russian prisoners, but was later designated as the main site for the extermination of Jews. The Birkenau Extermination Camp is also known as Auschwitz II, and was the most atrocious camp of the Auschwitz death machine, equipped with 4 crematoria running day and night, as well as many mass graves in the surrounding area.

    The Birkenau Extermination Camp is the largest of the Auschwitz camps. It is a boundless expanse of blocks, many of which are no longer visible today.

    A third main camp was built in an area west of Auschwitz, called Monowitz. Here one of the largest German chemical companies, IG Farben, was building a huge factory, called Buna, for the production of synthetic rubber.

    A forced labor camp, called the Monowitz Buna Labor Camp, or Auschwitz III, was built around the factory site. Here prisoners able to work were sent to forced labor. Today practically nothing remains of the Monowitz camp.

    How to get from Auschwitz to Birkenau?

    The visits to Auschwitz start from the main camp of Auschwitz I, where the ticket offices are located and where in the blocks there are most of the installations that allow you to better understand the history of the place.

    Afterwards you can reach the Birkenau camp, located about 3 km east of the Auschwitz I camp.

    There are free shuttles that allow visitors to move from one camp to another. If you are visiting with a guided tour, just follow the instructions of the guide, who will come with you to the Birkenau camp where the guided tour will continue.

    If you are visiting Auschwitz on your own, the shuttles leave in the square in front of the ticket office of Auschwitz I and in the square in front of the main gate of Birkenau.

    How to get to Auschwitz?

    Auschwitz is easily accessible from Krakow and Katowice. There are also guided tours from Wrocław, which is over 190 km away.

    Most people visit Auschwitz from Krakow, from which there are many options to get to and prices are generally inexpensive.

    There are guided tours from Krakow, organized by specialized licensed guides, which include round-trip transport and guided tour in the language of your choice (there are official guided tours in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Polish, and sometimes even in Russian).

    If you decide to visit Auschwitz on your own, then you must book and pay for the ticket in advance on the Auschwitz Museum website and plan your travel according to the tour times you have booked.

    You can get to Auschwitz from Krakow by bus, train or car.

    Buses from Krakow to Auschwitz leave from the Bus Station located near the Krakow Central Station and take approximately 1.5 hours to arrive in front of the ticket office of the Auschwitz I camp.

    Trains from Krakow to Auschwitz depart from Krakow Central Station and arrive at Oświęcim station, which is over 2km away from Auschwitz I camp. From there it is about 30 minutes on foot, or you have to take a local bus or a taxi. The train ride takes from 1 hour and 40 minutes to almost 3 hours depending on the type of train.

    To get from Krakow to Auschwitz by car you can follow the A4 motorway or one of the many secondary roads. If you don’t have your own car you can rent one in Krakow, booking it online the prices are quite inexpensive. Or you can book a private transfer with driver, for groups or families it could be a convenient solution.

    There are also guided tours from Katowice, which is just 30 km away. And if you want to visit Auschwitz from Wrocław you can book a private tour.

    I have written for you an in-depth guide with all the tips and information you need on how to go to Auschwitz from Krakow.

    How much does it cost to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau?

    There are several ways to visit Auschwitz: there are guided tours from Krakow, or you can book a visit for individual visitors.

    To visit Auschwitz you need a personalized entry pass. If you go with a guided tour you don’t have to worry about a thing, your guide will take care of everything. If you go on your own then you must book your visit in advance, choosing whether to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau without a guide or join a guided tour for individual visitors.

    The Auschwitz ticket for individual visitors who intend to visit without a guide is free, but the number of tickets available is limited. In addition, access to individual visitors without a guide is only granted at certain times, depending on the time of year.

    Auschwitz Tour from Krakow to Auschwitz Train

    There are two types of guided tours for individual visitors, the 3.5 hour classic tour, which is the most popular, and the 6 hour “study tour”, which is primarily for history buffs and researchers.

    The individual ticket for the 3.5-hour guided tour costs 75 zł (approximately € 16.70).

    Students under 26 with a suitable student card, people over 75 and disabled with suitable documentation, can book a reduced ticket at the price of 65 zł (approximately € 14.50).

    The individual ticket for the 6-hour “study visit” costs 115 zł (approximately € 25.65).

    Prices for guided tours from Krakow vary depending on the company that organizes them and the time of year and include round-trip transport from your hotel in Krakow, skip-the-line admission ticket and full tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau with an official guide in the language you prefer. If you book in advance you’ll usually get better prices.

    How can I visit Auschwitz and Birkenau with an Official Guide?

    You can visit Auschwitz with an official guide by joining one of the guided tours from Krakow (or from Katowice or Wroclaw) or by purchasing a ticket for a group guided tour for individual visitors well in advance.

    The guided tour of Auschwitz is the most complete and interesting experience you can have there, because the official guides (also called educators) are much more than just guides.

    Each official guide has studied the official documents of the Auschwitz archives for many years, and has spent a lot of time together with former prisoners. They are often grandchildren or relatives of survivors. This will allow you to hear the stories of the people who have been imprisoned in that hell.

    By booking your guided tour you will have to choose the language you prefer. There are tours every day in English and other languages, conducted in small groups, each with a guide speaking your chosen language.

    How can I visit Auschwitz and Birkenau without a Guide?

    Visiting Auschwitz with a guide is highly recommended, but you may want to visit the camps on your own, without a guide.

    This may give you more flexibility, allowing you to focus your visit on a few specific things, or to experience a more intimate and introspective visit.

    Personally I have visited Auschwitz and Birkenau dozens of times, both with and without a guide. I would recommend the visit without a guide only to those who have previously visited the camp with a guide, or who are really expert on the subject.

    You have probably studied the history of Auschwitz at school or university, perhaps you have read some books or seen some movies. Maybe, just like me, you’re a history buff and think you know enough about it. I assure you that when you walk through the Auschwitz gate you will find that you know nothing about it.

    The visit with the guide will make you discover aspects that you will not read in any book and you will never see in any documentary or film.

    However, self-guided tour is possible for individual visitors who request an entry pass well in advance on the official Auschwitz Museum website. The entrance ticket is free for self-guided visitors.

    The entry passes available are very limited and for individual visitors it is only possible to visit Auschwitz at certain times.

    There is also the option to book a self-guided tour from Krakow, which includes round-trip transportation and skip-the-line ticket for individual entry. Prices are definitely cheap.

    Is it mandatory to book a tour in advance?

    In recent years the number of people visiting Auschwitz has increased considerably, which is why the management of the Auschwitz Museum has decided to strongly regulate visits to the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.

    This is the reason why if you want to visit Auschwitz you must necessarily book your visit in advance.

    During peak periods, such as in summer (especially from July to September) and between December and February, it is important to book well in advance (at least 2 months in advance is recommended) to find tickets available.

    Booking the ticket for the guided tour from the Museum’s official website requires you to pay the full amount of the ticket in advance. This is why many people choose to book the guided tour with reputable operators such as GetYourGuide or Civitatis, which in addition to including round-trip transport from your hotel also offer a free cancellation guarantee.

    Even if you want to visit Auschwitz on your own, without a guide, you will still need to book your entrance ticket in advance.

    Auschwitz Birkenau Tickets Tour Krakow

    What if I have not booked a tour in advance?

    You are visiting Krakow and would like to visit Auschwitz, but you only found out now that you should have booked your visit a few months ago. Don’t worry, it happens to a lot of people.

    Unfortunately, you cannot visit Auschwitz without a reservation. For safety reasons and to allow visitors to have a respectful visit, without creating crowds that would not be appropriate to the place, the ticket offices are increasingly strict in compliance with this rule.

    But I have good news for you! You may want to check if there are any availabilities for this guided tour from Krakow, this is because licensed tour agencies can request guided tours for their clients, regardless of availability for individual visitors.

    If the tour I just recommended is fully booked, you can check out other tours on GetYourGuide or Civitatis, which are reliable operators that allow you to book your tour online and safely.

    What to Expect on a Visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau

    A visit to Auschwitz has nothing to do with a sightseeing trip or even a visit to a museum. It’s nothing funny and it’s not a place to take a few selfies to put on Instagram. It is a visit to the place where over 1.5 million people were horribly killed.

    The visit starts from the Auschwitz I Concentration Camp, you will enter from what was once the prisoners’ reception, from here you will continue through the main gate, the one with the sadly famous inscription Arbeit Macht Frei, work sets you free.

    Once you go through the gate you will be beyond the double lines of electrified fences, barbed wire and watchtowers. The buildings you see are the blocks of the concentration camp, many of which housed the prisoners, others had a very specific function.

    During your visit to Auschwitz your guide will take you to see some of the most significant blocks and explain what happened there.

    Many blocks show documents, maps and objects that help to reconstruct the history of the camp. There are rooms full of glasses, others full of shoes or suitcases. They are part of the objects found in the camp warehouses, once belonging to the killed prisoners. Other blocks have been preserved in their original condition.

    During your visit to the Auschwitz I camp you will also see the perfectly preserved gas chamber and the adjacent crematorium.

    The visit continues to the Birkenau camp, an immense expanse of barracks. You will walk up the ramp where the trains arrived, about a kilometer long, until you reach the ruins of the crematoria destroyed by the fleeing Nazis.

    The visit takes around 3.5 hours in total, which means you will have to walk the entire time. The concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau extend over a rather large area, however the pace of the visit is calm and suitable for anyone.

    Important Things You Should Know Before You Go

    • When you visit Auschwitz you will find yourself mostly walking outside, although you will often enter to visit the various blocks. So keep in mind that in case of bad weather, you may have to spend a lot of time in the rain. Bring a k-way or something similar with you.
    • If you visit Auschwitz in winter, be aware that it can get quite cold. Average temperatures in January and February could easily drop below freezing. There may also be a lot of snow, so consider dressing appropriately.
    • The temperature is quite similar to that in Krakow, so it shouldn’t be a problem to pack something warm. Remember to wear comfortable, warm and possibly waterproof shoes. Especially in Birkenau you will often walk in mud.
    • Remember that it is essential to book your visit to Auschwitz in advance. You can rely on the excellent guided tours that include transportation and a full guided tour, or if you want to go on your own you will also have to worry about planning transport from Krakow to Auschwitz and vice versa.
    • You must arrive at least 30 minutes before the start time of your tour, otherwise you risk not being admitted. Find out in advance about the updated bus or train timetables, so as not to have bad surprises.
    • Security is quite strict, you will have to go through metal detectors and they may ask you to show your ID and proof in case you have purchased a reduced ticket.
    • Only very small bags are allowed, which do not exceed the dimensions of 30x20x10 cm. Any other bags or suitcases must be left in the car or on the bus, which could be a problem if you are traveling on your own.
    • There are some lockers where you can leave your bags for a fee, located near the ticket offices. However, availability is limited.
    • It is allowed to take photographs in both Auschwitz and Birkenau, but you cannot use flash or tripod. In some parts of Auschwitz I it is not allowed to take photographs, these places are well signposted.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions for those planning a visit to Auschwitz.

    Which is the nearest airport to visit Auschwitz?

    Many people visit Auschwitz during a trip to Eastern Europe, perhaps during an Interrail. Others come on purpose to visit Auschwitz.

    The best choice is to travel to Krakow, which has an excellent international airport and a train station that connects it to major European cities.

    Krakow offers a wide choice of accommodation, restaurants and entertainment and from here you can easily book a guided tour to Auschwitz.

    I would also like to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines, is it possible to do it on the same day?

    I recommend visiting Auschwitz and the Salt Mines in two different days, in order to dedicate to each visit the right time and the right calm it deserves. However, if you are short on time, then it might be a good solution to book this combo tour that allows you to visit Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines on the same day.

    Useful Tips for Your Trip

    To better understand the history of the Holocaust and the persecution of Polish Jews you should also visit the Podgorze district in Krakow, where the infamous Krakow Ghetto was located. Also very interesting is the visit to Schindler’s Factory, which today is the most complete museum on the Nazi occupation of Southern Poland.

    Many people choose to visit Auschwitz on a day trip from Krakow, so here you can find the best useful tips to better plan your trip to Krakow and the wonderful region of Southern Poland: