Auschwitz tour: How to plan your visit?
Auschwitz Concentration Camp – a brief history
Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany from October 1939 (starting with an invasion on September 1, 1939). As the number of Polish political prisoners was high, Nazis opened a concentration camp less than a year later on the outskirts of the town of Oświęcim. If you ever wondered about the origin of the name Auschwitz, it is simply the German name for Oświęcim. Auschwitz consisted of three parts – Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II Birkenau and Auschwitz III.
Originally Auschwitz was meant to be a labor camp for political prisoners but with the opening of Auschwitz II Birkenau in 1942, it became an extermination camp where many people, mainly European Jews, were murdered in mass. Newly arrived prisoners were divided depending on their age and condition. The young and healthy were selected for forced labor while the old, frail and pregnant women (among others) were sent straight to the gas chambers. Auschwitz camps were also where Nazi doctors conducted unethical and inhumane medical experiments on Auschwitz inmates. As the largest of six Nazi death camps, Auschwitz is also considered to be the most lethal. It is estimated that at least 1.1 million people died in Auschwitz and Birkenau.
The camp was liberated on January 27, 1945, when the Soviet army entered Auschwitz. However, with Soviet troops approaching, the Nazi’s tried to get rid of all the traces by demolishing buildings in Auschwitz II and sending thousands of prisoners to other concentration camps in Germany.
Can you still visit Auschwitz Birkenau?
Many people may wonder if it is even possible to see Auschwitz and the answer is yes, it is. The former Nazi Concentration Camp has been preserved in the form of Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum in memory of the victims of the Nazi regime. Auschwitz Birkenau is the only death camp inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Apart from remembering the victims, it is also a symbol of the Holocaust, evidence of horrid crimes that occurred in World War II, as well as a warning and lesson for future generations.
What can you see in Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II?
Without getting into too many details, an entry pass allows the visitors to access the grounds and most buildings of both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II concentration camps. During an Auschwitz Birkenau tour, visitors will see hundreds of suitcases, shoes, glasses and other belongings that were confiscated from the victims. In Auschwitz II, it is also possible to see the ruins of gas chambers and crematoria. A general tour of Auschwitz takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.
How much does it cost to visit Auschwitz Museum?
Admission to Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial is free unless you’re visiting with a guide or in a group. Although you can enter Auschwitz for free (with an earlier reservation), we recommend paying for a guided tour if you’re a first-time visitor. The grounds of Auschwitz are extensive and there’s a lot of information to take in. Only the Museum’s licenced educators are authorised to lead guided tours, so you’ll have the best source of information.
Where is Auschwitz located?
In order to tour Auschwitz, you have to travel to Oświęcim. This small town is located in Southern Poland, around 60 km from Krakow. Krakow is a big city and cultural center with its own major airport and a huge number of tourists, so this is the obvious base for most tours to Auschwitz.
How to get to Auschwitz from Krakow?
Auschwitz Memorial is one of the most visited places in Poland so naturally, you can find public transport connections between Krakow city center and Oświęcim. A journey takes between 1h 20 min and 2h depending on the mode of transport. You can get to Auschwitz by bus, train or private car.
- By bus: As it’s the most budget-friendly option, many tourists decide to take a bus. This option is not very comfortable, but there are so many bus companies offering trips on this route that you won’t have to wait long to hop on a bus. Ensure that the bus will get you to Muzeum Auschwitz on Więźniów Oświęcimia Street and not another location in the town. Bus trips to Auschwitz take between 1h 20 min to 2h, and you can find them at the bus station on Bosacka 18 Street.
- By train: It is also possible to get an affordable train from Krakow Main Station to Oświęcim Main Station. On average, the trip will take 1h 40 min. Although the train is one of the most comfortable ways to travel, in this case, we do not recommend it. This connection is not the fastest option, and Oświęcim Main Station is a good 25-minute walk from Auschwitz Memorial and Museum. You can get a local bus once you get off at the station in Oświęcim, but that’s another cost and can be a hassle if you can’t communicate in Polish.
- By car: As you can imagine, going to Auschwitz by car is the most comfortable and the fastest option. You don’t have to worry about finding bus stops, figuring out timetables and buying tickets. If you don’t have a car of your own, nothing’s lost. You can book a transfer with us – you choose the pick-up and drop-off points, our English-speaking driver collects you at a specified time and drives you to Auschwitz. Once you’re done at the museum, he will drive you back to your hotel. The ride from Krakow to Auschwitz in a car usually takes between 1h and 1h 20 min and you don’t have to worry about finding your way around. You will be collected from your hotel and dropped off right in front of the museum’s entrance.
What should I consider before booking a visit to Auschwitz?
Before booking your entry pass to visit Auschwitz, we recommend taking into account a few important aspects. First of all, consider whether you want to visit the museum on your own or with a tour guide. Of course, going alone has its perks like free admission and being able to explore at your own pace. However, if it’s your first time visiting such a place, seeing it with a guide will contribute a lot to your understanding of the topic and make the tour more efficient. With the Museum’s educator guide, you’ll know for sure that you’re not missing anything important.
Secondly, is your trip to Krakow, Poland, last minute or do you have it planned far in advance? Auschwitz is a sought-after place for tourists so it’s best to book tickets as much in advance as possible. If you’re visiting in high season and there’s not much time left until your trip, perhaps picking an organized tour from Krakow is your best bet to ensure a spot.
Another thing to consider is simply the way you like to travel. Do you like to organize your trips on your own from start to finish? Or maybe you’re looking for stress-free travel and prefer to join organized tours so you don’t have to worry about the details?
Finally, how will you get to the museum from Krakow? Do you have your own car? Are you comfortable taking public transport in a foreign country? How much time do you have? A visit to Auschwitz alone can be a very draining experience and together with transport, it will take the better part of your day. Choosing transport you feel comfortable with can make a big difference.
Answering all these questions will help you decide on the best way to visit Auschwitz. You may find that even though you like to travel independently and be in charge of all the organization, booking a guided tour with transport works better in this case.
If you do decide that an organized tour of Auschwitz may be a better solution, you’ll find several variants of MrShuttle’s Auschwitz tours.
What is the best Auschwitz tour for me?
Although we cannot make the decision for you, we can do our best to help you decide on the best option. At MrShuttle we offer Auschwitz tours that will suit the needs of most travelers, whether they need a group tour, a private tour, or just transport.
- If you want an affordable regular tour from Krakow, you can opt for our Auschwitz & Birkenau Tour. This is a group tour, which means that you’ll share transport and the Museum’s guide with other travelers. The price includes entrance tickets (with a guide) and a hotel pick-up and drop-off service with an English-speaking driver. During the ride, you will watch a documentary movie about concentration camps in German-occupied Poland.
- We also have a private Auschwitz tour for those who would like to visit the museum only with their travel companions. This Auschwitz & Birkenau Private Tour means that you’ll get private transport and have a guide just for your tour group. Note that it’s also possible to opt for a semiprivate alternative if you don’t mind a shared guide but just want to have private transportation.
- Tourists that don’t have a lot of time in Krakow but would like to see two UNESCO World Heritage Sites located outside of Krakow – Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine -can do so on a day trip with MrShuttle. Our comprehensive Auschwitz Birkenau & Salt Mine One Day Tour comes with entrance tickets and a guide to visit both places, lunch, as well as comfortable transportation with a hotel pick-up.
- Have you decided to visit Auschwitz on your own without a guide? In such a case, you can book just transport. We offer private Auschwitz transfers either from the center of Krakow or the airport. You can book a transfer one way or both ways, depending on what you need. If you book a transfer both ways, our driver will wait up to 4 hours for you.
What are the rules when visiting Auschwitz?
Finally, we will just point out a few things to keep in mind when touring Auschwitz.
- Backpacks and bags brought into the Museum should not exceed 30x20x10 cm. It is possible to store baggage in lockers for a fee.
- Because of the place’s graphic nature, it is not recommended to visit with children under 14.
- Visitors should behave and dress in a respectful manner.
- Although taking photographs without flash is allowed in most places of the museum, it is forbidden in Block 4 Room 5 and Block 11.
- Due to COVID-19, measures like checking temperature may be in place.