Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Auschwitz
If you are in Krakow, I highly recommend visiting Auschwitz. The collection of Nazi Concentration camps has been transformed into a memorial for all those who died during the holocaust, emphasizing those who died at Auschwitz. In total somewhere between 1.1 million and 1.3 million people were killed at Auschwitz. It is safe to say that Auschwitz is a deeply eerie place. However, understanding what happened during World War II and commemorating those who died is an important part of working to prevent something so horrible from happening again. In this post I will walk you through how to get to and from Auschwitz from Krakow and how best to get tickets. I will not go into detail about what is seen on the tour, as I think it is important to see it first hand. Frankly, my words will never be able to represent it properly.
1. What to Know Before You Go
Small Bag Size
You are only allowed to bring a very small, 30x20x10 cm, bag inside the memorial. This is the size of a typical clutch purse. A backpack or large purse will not be permitted. Fortunately, you can store any luggage you bring in a safe storage area for 5 PLN ($1.30). My recommendation is to bring minimal baggage. If you do need to bring something larger make sure to bring some cash in order to store your bag.
Auschwitz is an incredibly morbid place. Things happened there that will hopefully never be repeated in the history of humanity. Due to the gravity of what happened at Auschwitz, it is likely that you will pay an emotional toll of some sort. I want to put this warning into my post so people are not caught off guard by Auschwitz. However, warning about the emotional toll that Auschwitz may incur is by no means telling you not to go. In fact, the opposite is true. As I mentioned before, I think it is very necessary to see places like Auschwitz in an effort to properly commemorate those who died and keep history from repeating itself in such an evil way.
2. Getting to Auschwitz from Krakow
Auschwitz is one of the main destinations for many tourists in Krakow. With this comes many people trying to take advantage of tourists by overcharging for transport and all-inclusive tours to Auschwitz. Do NOT do one of these. The best way to get to Auschwitz is by simply taking the bus. You can take a bus to Auschwitz from Krakow’s Central Station. Simply enter the station and follow signs to the busses located at the back train station. Once there, there are two realistic options for your bus to Auschwitz; an 8:40 A.M. bus and a 10: 30 A.M bus. You can buy tickets on the bus for under 10 PLN ($2.70) The bus ride will take around an hour and a half.
3. Getting tickets for Auschwitz
First off, I should mention that visiting Auschwitz II-Birkenau is free, with free shuttles departing every hour from Auschwitz I (the original camp) to take you there. Auschwitz II-Birkenau is about 1.5 miles from the first camp. Also, if you would like to do the entire Auschwitz experience without a tour, you must arrive at Auschwitz before 10:00 A.M. or stay until after 5:00 P.M. Between ten and five, only guided tours are offered. However, the guided tours are very professional and give a lot of insight into what Auschwitz was really like. I recommend taking a tour.
To get your guided tour tickets head to the right of the main entrance where you will see a white ticket booth. You will find that English speaking tours depart every hour or every half hour depending on what time of year you visit. One adult ticket will cost you 50 PLN ($13.50) or 30 PLN ($8.00) with a student card. The tour lasts 3.5 hours and takes you through Auschwitz I and (via the free shuttle) Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
4. Getting Back to Krakow
After completing your tour, you will be free to take your time at Auschwitz II-Birkenau (free of the guide) or take the next bus back to Auschwitz I. Once you do get back to Auschwitz I, buses will leave every half hour from the same central parking lot as the shuttle. Once again, tickets will cost 10 PLN ($2.70) and can be bought on the bus. The return ride will take another hour and a half.
For more about Krakow, click here.