Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau: Guided Tours and Helpful Tips

Auschwitz-Birkenau, officially known as the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, stands as a testament to one of the darkest chapters in human history. Located in Oświęcim, about 70 km from Krakow, it was the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps. Known primarily for its mass executions, including the use of gas chambers, Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of the Holocaust, during which over 1.1 million people lost their lives, mainly Jews, but also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, and individuals of other nationalities.

How to visit Auschwitz

Why Visit Auschwitz?

Although a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau can be emotionally taxing, it serves as a crucial testament to the inhuman acts and the scale of the Holocaust crimes. Touring this site is not only a tribute to the victims but also an important lesson in history and a reflection on the contemporary threats of hatred and intolerance. The museum presents exhibitions that depict the daily lives of the prisoners, their hardships and survival, as well as preserved artifacts that bear witness to the cruelty of those times. How to Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp from Krakow?

Visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum from Krakow is a poignant and profound experience that offers deep insight into one of humanity’s darkest chapters. If you are planning to organize this visit on your own, there are several transport and touring options to consider to ensure that your trip is both educational and well-coordinated, including a visit to both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Auschwitz Tour Krakow
Auschwitz Tour, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Types of Visits at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum for Individual Visitors

Tour With an Educator

Before your planned visit, you should reserve your entry tickets to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. Tickets are available online on the official museum website. Due to high demand and limited availability, it is recommended to book your tickets well in advance, especially during the tourist season.

Free Visiting Hours

The museum also offers the possibility of free entry without a guide after the last guided tour of the day, depending on the time of year and opening hours. While admission is free, the number of entry passes is limited and they must also be booked in advance.

Auschwitz Tour Krakow
Auschwitz Tour, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Transfers from Krakow to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and MuseumBy Private Vehicle

If you choose to drive, make sure to familiarize yourself with the available parking options and the route to the museum. The tour typically starts at Auschwitz I, where there is paid parking available. After visiting the first part of the museum, you can move your car to a second parking area near Birkenau, about 3 km away, for another fee. Or use the museum’s free shuttle bus.

Public Transport Options

For those preferring public transportation, buses and trains from Krakow to Oświęcim are available. It is advisable to book your bus and train tickets in advance due to limited seating and high demand, especially for visits to the Auschwitz Memorial. Plan to arrive at the entrance to the museum at least 30 minutes before the start of your tour. Note that the train and most buses go to the Oświęcim bus and train station, which is about 2 km from the Auschwitz site.

Taking a Taxi

Another option is to hire a taxi. The cost of a taxi ride from Krakow to Auschwitz starts at around 50 euros per person one way. Although more expensive, this option offers direct and hassle-free travel.

Auschwitz Tour Krakow
Auschwitz Tour, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Organized Auschwitz Tour from Krakow

An organized full-day tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau from Krakow is an easy and convenient way to experience this historical site without the stress of planning every detail. Companies like KrakowBooking offer comprehensive packages that take care of all the essentials for a smooth and reflective visit. You can check out their offer on their website at Auschwitz Birkenau Tours with KrakowBooking.

These tours typically include round-trip transportation by coach or minivan, which alleviates the worry of finding your way to and from Oświęcim. Once aboard, you can relax and prepare mentally for the visit without the hassle of navigating public transport or driving yourself.

Upon arrival, a professional guide takes over, leading the group through Auschwitz I and Birkenau. The guided tour is invaluable as it provides not only historical context and poignant stories but also ensures that visitors gain a deep understanding of the sites and their significance.

Auschwitz Tour Krakow
Auschwitz Tour, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Guided or non guided tours options: What to choose?

When planning a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, deciding between a guided and a non-guided tour is crucial. Here are key reasons why a guided tour often proves to be the better choice:

1. Depth of Knowledge: Guided tours are led by knowledgeable experts who provide crucial historical context and insights into personal stories that enhance understanding and make the visit more meaningful.

2. Convenience: Guided tours simplify logistics by handling all arrangements including transportation and entrance tickets, allowing visitors to focus on the experience rather than planning details.

3. Emotional and Educational Support: The emotional weight of visiting such a historical site is significant. Guides offer not only detailed explanations but also emotional support, helping visitors process the intense feelings that can arise during the tour.

Auschwitz Tour Krakow
Auschwitz Tour, Author: Jason M Ramos, Source: Flickr

But sightseeing without a guide has two additional advantages that you can consider:

1. Cost: One clear advantage of a non-guided tour is that it can be free, especially if you visit outside of peak hours or book through the official museum site well in advance. This can make the visit more accessible for those on a tight budget.

2. Flexibility for Personal Reflection: A non-guided tour allows you to move at your own pace, spending as much or as little time as you wish in different parts of the museum and memorial. This can be particularly important in a place as emotionally charged as Auschwitz-Birkenau, where you may need more time to reflect personally on the history and the individual stories within the camp.

Overall, a guided tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau is generally recommended due to its comprehensive benefits, making the visit both profound and well-supported. However, some people may also benefit from visiting the Auschwitz Memorial without a guide, especially if it is not the first visit to this museum or memorial site.

How Long is Auschwitz Tour?

When planning a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum from Krakow, it’s important to consider the overall time commitment involved to ensure a thorough and respectful visit. Here’s what you can expect in terms of duration and travel:Duration of the Museum Visit

The tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau itself typically takes about 4 hours. This duration allows visitors to carefully explore both Auschwitz I (the main camp) and Auschwitz II-Birkenau (the extermination camp). The guided tour is structured to give a comprehensive view of the historical site, including exhibitions and preserved areas such as the barracks, the unloading ramp, and the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria.Travel Time from Krakow

Auschwitz-Birkenau is located approximately 80 kilometers from Krakow. Travel time one way usually takes about 1.5 hours, depending on traffic conditions. Considering the return journey, the total travel time can be up to 3 hours.Overall Time Commitment

Combining both the travel time and the duration of the museum visit, a complete trip from Krakow to Auschwitz-Birkenau and back typically totals about 7 hours. This estimate is especially useful for those scheduling their visit amidst other sightseeing activities or within a tight itinerary.Additional Tips

  • Early Start: It’s advisable to start your trip early in the morning to avoid the larger crowds that gather later in the day and to fully utilize the daylight hours, especially if visiting during the shorter days of winter.
  • Preparation: Given the emotional weight and physical demand of walking through the extensive grounds of the camps, visitors should prepare mentally and ensure they wear appropriate and comfortable clothing and footwear.
  • Booking in Advance: Whether you are opting for a guided tour or planning to visit independently, booking your entry tickets in advance is crucial as the museum limits the number of visitors per day to preserve the solemn nature of the site.

Planning your visit with these details in mind will help ensure a smooth and respectful experience at one of the most significant historical sites in the world.

Rules that you need know book your Auschwitz TourVisiting

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a deeply sobering experience, and it is important to approach it with the respect and sensitivity it demands. Here are some general guidelines and rules of conduct to keep in mind when visiting:

Respect and Solemnity: Remember that Auschwitz-Birkenau is not just a historical site but also a place of immense suffering and a mass grave. It is crucial to maintain a respectful demeanor throughout your visit. Avoid loud conversations and inappropriate behavior.

Dress Appropriately: Wear modest clothing out of respect for the memory of those who died here. This includes avoiding flip-flops, shorts, and sleeveless tops. Comfortable footwear is recommended due to the amount of walking involved.

Photography Rules: Photography is permitted in most areas for private, non-commercial use. However, inside the buildings and in specific areas, such as near the “Wall of Death” or in the gas chambers, taking photos is prohibited. Always follow the signage and instructions from museum staff regarding photography.
No Eating or Smoking: Eating and smoking are not allowed on the museum grounds, except in designated areas. This rule helps maintain the solemnity of the site and keeps the premises clean.

Silence Zones: Some areas within Auschwitz-Birkenau are designated as silence zones to allow visitors to reflect on the gravity of the place. Be mindful of these zones and keep conversations to a minimum.
Children: The content and nature of the museum can be distressing. It is generally recommended that the visit is suitable for children aged 14 and above. Parents and guardians should use discretion based on the maturity level of younger children.

Prohibited Items: For the safety and preservation of the site, certain items are not allowed within the museum, including large bags or backpacks, pets (except for service animals), and alcohol.

Guided Tours:

While you can tour Auschwitz independently, guided tours are highly recommended to gain a deeper understanding of the complex history of the site. Guides are trained to convey the sensitive nature of the site and can provide context that enhances the educational value of the visit.

By adhering to these guidelines, visitors ensure that they respect the memory of those who suffered and died at Auschwitz-Birkenau and contribute to the preservation of this important site as a place of memory and education.

Auschwitz Tour Krakow
Auschwitz Tour, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr


Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau is a profound and moving experience that lingers long in memory. Opting for an organized tour from Krakow not only facilitates comfortable access to the site but also enables a deeper understanding of its history and significance, thanks to the narratives of a qualified guide. This educational journey highlights the importance of remembering the past to protect the future from similar tragedies.

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip?

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

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