It took me a really long time to make up my mind to write a post about how visit Auschwitz from Krakow on my blog because I couldn't find the right words. Then I realized that knowing the past is a fundamental thing to learn from the mistakes made so that in the future there is more awareness and certain things do not happen again.
Auschwitz has been a very important part of our history and I recommend everyone to go there because you may have heard about it as long as you want, have seen documentaries and photographs, but when you get out of there your vision of what has been done will be completely upset and you will have an awareness totally different.
At the very least, that's what happened to me.
You can visit Auschwitz from Krakow either alone (and in this case you have to buy the bus ticket) or with a guided tour in English (recommended and with transport included):
Auschwitz-Birkenau, also called simply Auschwitz concentration camp, is the largest of the Nazi concentration camps. Located in southern Poland near Krakow, this museum attracts over 2 million visitors a year. A visit here is grim and terribly emotional.
There are numerous options for getting to and visiting Auschwitz from Krakow. To help you plan your visit, I've written everything you need to know here, from guided tours to how to visit it independently and what to expect while you are there.
- A brief history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
- How to reach Auschwitz from Krakow
- How to visit Auschwitz
- Visit of Auschwitz I: the first concentration camp in history
- Visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp: the "final solution"
- Tips for visiting Auschwitz
A brief history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
By Jerker Larsson /
Visit Auschwitz it is one of the experiences that we should all probably have at least once in our life.
Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp in Nazi history, and the first site built in this area: to realize the dimensions of the Nazi madness, just think that more than a million people died here.
The concentration camp of Auschwitz I, with the nearby extermination camp of Birkenau, went down in history as a symbol of the Holocaust, ie the genocide of the Jews.
Not only is it the largest Nazi extermination camp by size, but it is also the place where the most grisly crimes were committed.
In fact, not only Jews but also Polish intellectuals, gypsies, homosexuals and Russian prisoners of war were imprisoned in the camps, kept in poor hygienic conditions, forced to grueling jobs, killed in gas chambers and burned in crematoria.
In January 1945, Auschwitz - Birkenau was liberated with the arrival of Soviet troops.
How to reach Auschwitz from Krakow
By PlusONE /
Most people who visit Auschwitz-Birkenau typically do so on a day tour from Krakow from which it is about 60 kilometers as the crow flies, but it is also possible to go there and visit it independently.
The Auschwitz - Birkenau camps are located about 2 km from the city of Oswiecim and therefore, if you decide to go there independently, you have to go there.
The two camps are located about 3km apart and between them there are regular and free buses that shuttle back and forth. If you want you can also go on foot. On foot it takes about 40 minutes.
How to get there by bus
THEbus it is, by train, the cheapest method of transport.
Here you find the bus schedules from Krakow to Auschwitz.
However, the bus is more comfortable than the train because the stop is right at the entrance to the fields.
There are several companies that make the journey and depart from Krakow's central bus station (18 Bosacka Street, near the train station). The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
You can buy tickets at the station or from the bus driver. You can also buy the tickets online here (if you can understand something, the site is in Polish)
You can BOOK the BUS and ENTRANCE to AUSCHWITZ from KRAKOW here
How to arrive by train
There are trains connecting Krakow to Oswiecim. From the station then you have to reach the fields (they are 2 km). In summer you can go there on foot, in winter not, I suggest you take a taxi, it doesn't cost much, but if you want, there are also buses.
Here you find the train timetables.
How to get there by car
If you have your own car, it takes about 1 hour to get to Auschwitz-Birkenau from Krakow. Near the entrance to the Campi there are paid parking lots and the rate is about 2 euros.
Below you will find the route map by car:
How to visit Auschwitz
By Eduardo MT /
If visiting Auschwitz without a guide allows you to proceed at your own pace, dwell on the details and focus on your emotions, it is with the guided tour that you have the opportunity to really deepen the topic.
Due to the heinous nature of the crimes that were committed in this place, one cannot think of visiting these places with a light heart. It is necessary to feel ready, because it is a visit that changes people profoundly.
You can visit Auschwitz without a guide if you enter after 16pm.
ATTENTION UPDATE 2021
The Museum has developed new rules for the visit, adapted to the most stringent health requirements. Visits with an educator will be organized in smaller groups than before. Also the number of visitors to the site at the same time was reduced. Visitors must maintain a personal safety distance.
You will need to book your schedule in advance because the number of visitors to Auschwitz is regulated and limited. For those who decide to book, the site specifies to do so at least one month in advance and to show up on site at least 30 minutes before the booked entry time.
However, check the timetables here as they may vary according to the season.
Since you are visiting Auschwitz without a guide, the your visit will be free.
For all other time slots, you will have to pay for admission and you will be placed in a group with an educator.
By PlusONE /
Once it was possible to arrive in Auschwitz-Birkenau and buy tickets on the spot. Now it isn't anymore. The site clearly specifies which tours or entry must be booked in advance.
You can book tickets from Auschwitz official website here
Or you can buy the TICKET with priority access here
Please note: that tickets online can be purchased from 3 months up to 5 days before your visit.
If you want (I strongly recommend it) you can too buy a package that includes in addition to the ticket also the transfer from Krakow.
BUY TICKET and TRANSFER from Krakow
Tour and visit
Joining an organized tour from Krakow is thebest option. Maybe I'm getting old, but having a guide who speaks English and can answer my questions has become fundamental, especially in the case of Auschwitz where history is so important.
Not surprisingly, in Auschwitz the guides are called "educators" and this is something that struck me very much. In fact, educators are not mere "guides" but people who have been entrusted with the delicate task of deepening history day after day, learning directly from the survivors' stories what happened and then pass it all on to us who are going to visit.
Surely an organized tour is the most expensive option, but it is certainly not money wasted, on the contrary: in Auschwitz it is not only important to "see" but it is fundamental "understand".
At your disposal you have the guide in English and transport (don't forget that you not only have to arrive but between one camp and another there is a bit of a way to go). And without a doubt it is also the most comfortable option ever.
Also take into account that if you are planning your visit at the last minute, joining a tour guarantees you a ticket to Auschwitz.
There are plenty of tours, you are spoiled for choice, but here I put you the best ever (and best sellers).
Tour di Auschwitz-Birkenau da Cracovia: this tour offered by Civitatis has more than 9.700 reviews and a very high average rating. Offers visit with a certified educator (and if you happen to Vladimiro, say hello!), Round trip transport and includes entrance tickets to the fields. The price also includes a pub crawl or on any day of the week you will have the opportunity to participate in a 4 pub tour of Krakow with shot included in every pub!
Auschwitz and Salt Mine in one day: this tour includes all the things seen in the previous one and in the same day you also visit the famous ones Wielizcka salt mines (also in this case the entrance ticket is already included).
Although in current speech we speak in general of Auschwitz, in reality there are two camps: Auschwitz I e Auschwitz II - Birkenau. The most famous one we all know for the photo of the rails is actually the Auschwitz II - Birkenau camp.
If I have to give you my opinion, however, the other field, even if less suggestive, is much more interesting thanks to museum which is truly outstanding.
3 IMPORTANT WORDS: RESPECT THE RULES
I don't think I have to tell you that when you visit Auschwitz you are not taking the Sunday trip, but you are visiting a place where respect and proper behavior are essential. Read the rules before your visit.
Visit of Auschwitz I: the first concentration camp in history
By bondvit /
Il Auschwitz I concentration camp (Konzentrationslager - concentration camp) was built in 1940 near the Polish town of Oświęcim, during the period of maximum power of Nazi Germany, to house the Polish political dissidents, who no longer found their place in overcrowded prisons.
This site, which took the name of Auschwitz I, it was therefore the first concentration camp to be built and also housed the administrative center of the prison complex that was established later.
If initially the camp was built to incarcerate Polish dissidents, it soon began to host intellectuals, members of the resistance, homosexuals and Jews as well.
The writing on the entrance portal of the camp, “Arbeit macht frei” (Work makes you free), duped the prisoners, often brought there by deception, making them suppose that they could leave freely whenever they wanted.
This is where the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
By PlusONE /
You will visit the barracks, see mountains of personal items (whoever arrived at the camp was seized everything they had, and it is still kept here), see the black and white photos taken while the camp was in operation and see the prison cells.
At the site of Auschwiz I there is also the infamous “block number 11”, also known as the “death block”, where prisoners were tortured, starved or directly killed.
Visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp: the "final solution"
In 1941, just 3 km from the main camp of Auschwitz I, in the locality of Birkenau, the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau (Vernichtungslager - extermination camp).
This is the concentration camp that went down in history with the name of Auschwitz and was created to carry out the Nazi project of the "final solution", through which the aim was to definitively exterminate the Jewish people.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp extended over an area of 175 hectares divided into sections fenced with barbed wire and electric fences to prevent the escape of prisoners.
Unlike the other concentration camps, which were conceived as prison and work camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau was conceived with the decisive aim of exterminating all its prisoners.
Here the most atrocious crimes we all know took place.
Di Szymon Kaczmarczyk /
The prisoners, after an exhausting train journey (Auschwitz-Birkenau is sadly famous for the train tracks that entered directly into the camp) without water or food, and were selected upon their arrival: the weakest were sent directly to the gas chambers , the others were instead locked up in the camp or forced to participate in scientific experiments.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp had no less than five gas chambers and numerous crematory ovens, each of which could hold up to 2500 prisoners.
Prisoners too weak to work were then forced into the gas chambers, under the pretext of having to take a shower, murdered with Zyklon B gas, and then sent to the crematoria.
From 1942 to Auschwitz II also began to arrive women, who were also killed or used as guinea pigs in sterilization experiments.
By Brandon Fike /
Shortly before the liberation, in January 1945, the Germans blew up most of the barracks and crematory ovens to hide their crimes, but it's still worth visiting the camp to realize its size: you really have the feeling how great the idea of the final solution was.
Tips for visiting Auschwitz
Put on comfortable shoes and that you are not interested in ruining: when it rains you may find mud.
The visit of the two concentration camps it is not recommended for children under 14.
Backpacks and bags they cannot exceed 30x20x10 cm. Basically you can carry a small bag. You can leave larger bags near the main entrance.
Bring some water if you go in the summer, you can buy it on the spot, but it costs you more.
Read a book about Auschwitz before your visit. These are 3 books that I have read and that I strongly recommend.If this is a man: the absolute masterpiece of Primo Levi, fresh from Auschwitz, which everyone should read at least once in their life. Translated into all the languages of the world, it is a shocking testimony to life inside the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Auschwitz: Guide to visiting the former concentration camp and memorial site: a guide full of information, photographs and maps, precise suggestions to help the visitor enter into what remains today of this terrible past.
A must-buy guide, especially if you decide to visit Auschwitz independently.The tattoo artist of Auschwitz: a heartbreaking love story, born right in the middle of the Auschwitz concentration camp. A reading at the same time strong and exciting that speaks of "life" and how true love can be stronger than everything and everyone even in the most dramatic situations. I loved it.
How long does it take to visit Auschwitz? Approximately from 4 to 6 hours only for the visit to the fields. If you add 3 hours for the transfer from Krakow, you don't have much else to do.
Can I eat and drink? There is a cafe inside the museum which is the only refreshment point and the only place where you can buy something.
Can it be photographed? Generally yes, but there are some points or rooms in the Museum where it is forbidden, but it is clearly indicated. You cannot bring a tripod, you have to ask for special permission for that.
Can I bring the children? There are no age restrictions, but children under 14 are strongly discouraged.