Visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau from Cracow? Tips + practical info
How to travel to Auschwitz? What's there to see? Visiting with or without a guide + practical information
A visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau is not to be missed as an important witness to one of the darkest periods in European history.
All over the world, this place is a symbol of terror and genocide.
Auschwitz is divided into the main camp, Auschwitz I, and the Birkenau camp, Auschwitz II. All the info for your visit and how to book an organized tour. Compare at Ticketbar and GetYourGuide.
Our tip: Tickets and tours to Auschwitz and Birkenau
Would you like to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau? Book a guided tour for € 22 (incl. transport from Cracow), so you can learn a lot more about the history and are not limited to the visiting hours.
Check out the full offer below, order at GetYourGuide in a safe and quick way. No If you prefer to do it without a guide, you can book transport from Krakow only.
Visiting Auschwitz I
At the entrance there is the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work makes free"), a horrible lie. Few who were sent there were never able to recount the nightmare.
- Auschwitz I has a rather industrial feel to it, with its brick and red buildings. However, real quick it becomes clear in which terrible conditions Jews, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, Soviet fighters, political opponents of the Nazis and other prisoners were put in.
- In the various buildings of the camp, exhibitions and artifacts elaborate on the horror the prisoners had to endure.
- In Block 5, there are everyday objects and possessions such as glasses, shoes, pots and pans, as well as cut-off hair of the heads of people who died here.
- In Block 10 is the place where Mengele carried out his gruesome experiments on children and twins.
- In Block 11 Zyklon B-gas was tested for the first time.
- In Block 27 there are children's drawings which were found after the liberation. A huge book lists all known names of all the Jews who died here. The book is huge, but not even complete, because many names are still unknown.
- A visit to Auschwitz raises a lot of questions, Why, when but mostly how could this all happen? It is a question that still haunts us days or even months after the visit.
At certain times of the day the main camp can only be visited with a guide. So be sure to check the times if you want to go without a guide. (See below on the page)
Visiting Auschwitz II: Birkenau
A free shuttle bus runs from Auschwitz I to the larger Auswchitz-Birkenau. The buses depart every 10-15 minutes, just outside the museum.
Although you may have seen images of this place in books or on television, a personal visit is a shock. You can see the world famous entrance gate through which the trains passed. A little further is a duplicate of the type of wagon in which most of the prisoners were transported. As far as the eye can see, there were rows and rows of barracks and bunkers. This was the end station, a destination of which most would never return.
When the exhausted, terrified and starving passengers arrived after days without water or food, SS officers ruthlessly took families and loved ones apart. The majority (90%) were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Those who were kept had to work hard and survive in unthinkable circumstances, while death looked over their shoulders.
A visit to the Auschwitz camps is not an easy experience. It confronts us with the unpleasant truth that human beings can do the most terrible things to each other. However, it is important to face these dark periods of history. This is the only way we can learn and avoid it from happening again.
Click here to reserve your entrance ticket For Auschwitz
How can you reach Auschwitz?
There are 2 options to go from Cracow to Auschwitz. Either you book a guided, organized day trip, or you go on your own.
Many people fear that the day trips may be rather hurried, and that for a more authentic experience, it is better to do it on your own. Still, it can be very useful to have a guide, especially if you want to delve deeper into the history of this place. This is especially the case in Birkenau Camp, where there are no explanatory signs.
Traveling to Auschwitz by yourself
4.1. By bus or train from Cracow to Auschwitz
The bus is more convenient as it stops right in front of the camp, it runs frequently and isn't very costly. The ride takes about 90 minutes.
The train takes you only to the station in Oswiecim, which is 3 km from the camps, from there you can take a taxi to Auschwitz.
More information about the bus arrangement can be found at the information stand in the Cloth Hall of Cracow, on the Main Square.
Buses leave at the Krakow bus station (In the back of the central station),
Address: Bosacka 18, 31-505 Kraków. GPS: 50.0690769,19.9466488 (view on map)
Tickets can be bought at the ticket office or when asking at the bus driver; reservation is not necessary or you can also buy a ticket for the bus online.
4.2. With the taxi to Auschwitz
This is possible from the center of Cracow or book your taxi transport online.
If you are in Poland by car, then you can drive to Auschwitz I. There is sufficient (paid) parking. But be aware: on the way you have to pay toll on the highway.
4.3. By car
The adres is Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-603 Oświęcim, Poland (view on map)
Following an organized day-trip
There are many organized tours, whereby you can choose between a half-day or full day guided tour. You can easily book these at different locations in Cracow. You can also book your day trip to Auschwitz online. This way you are sure to get in, without worrying about all the practicalities.
Practical + important info Auschwitz
6.1. Tickets for Auschwitz
Entrance to the museums is free. Nonetheless, you have to make a reservation in advance, because there is a limited number of 25 people per quarter of an hour.
Reservations can be made via https://visit.auschwitz.org/ , and can be made up to 3 months in advance.
Via the GetYourGuide website you can also book a ticket with a guide, which is recommended, so you can get a lot more info and insides.
At certain times of the day, the main camp can only be visited with a guide. If you want to visit Auschwitz I without a guide, you can do so at these times:
- From 1 January to 30 March and in November, before 10 a.m. and after 1 p.m.
- From 1 April to 31 October before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
- In December before 10 a.m. and after 12 (noon)
6.2. Important to keep in mind
- Check the weather forecast, bring sunscreen or an umbrella, or put on a thick coat. There is a lot to walk.
- Wear easy walking shoes.
- When it rains it can be muddy.
- Trunks and large backpacks are not allowed inside.
- Show respect, behave respectfully and serene on the site.
- Bring enough water or packed lunch, you can't buy drinks or food inside.
- Take enough time to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, the site is large.
- Recommended to book your tickets or tours online, this way you are assured to get inside.
6.3. Visiting Auschwitz as a wheelchair user
- The Auschwitz-Birkenau site is not wheelchair friendly.
- The paths between the different buildings are very difficult to go through with a wheelchair.
- You will have to drive over loose gravel, broken boulders and when it rains you will have to take mud into account as well.
6.4. Adres Auschwitz
Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-603 Oświęcim, Poland
GPS: 50.0274739,19.20048, See location on the map
6.5. Hotels and overnight stays close to Auschwitz
Would you like to spend the night near the site? Then you can stay at Hotel Olecki, which is near the entrance. prices and reservations can be made via this link. The hotel also has its own restaurant. Easy after a day trip. High score of 9.3/10.
Video: First impression of Auschwitz
What can you expect from a visit to Auschwitz? In this video you can already get a feel of what it is like.
What more to see in the area around Auschwitz
- Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine
- Oskar Schindlers Enamel Factory
- The pretty village of Tyniec and the famous monastery on the banks of the River Wisła
- Visiting the old town of Cracow
- A visit to Warsaw
Where to stay in Cracow?
Would you like a budget or luxury stay in Cracow, there is are many possibilities regarding hotels. An overview + prices here.
A Hotel? We stayed at INX Design Hotel (4*), in the trendy, old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz with AIRCO and free WiFi. Delicious breakfast with local products, neat rooms and friendly staff! They will be happy to help you plan out your day. More info and prices.
An apartment? Then be sure to book Aparthotel Stare Miasto in the historic centre of Cracow, just 120 meters from the Grand Place. More info and prices.
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