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Top sights in Krakow
With the world distracted by war, the Nazis brutally reshaped the demographics of Europe in the south of Poland. The harrowing truth wasn't revealed until far too late, but here are a few of the many things you'll learn on your tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Auschwitz-Birkenau – or Auschwitz II – was used as a death camp from 1942, primarily for Jews. Auschwitz I had already been holding Polish political prisoners for two years.
There was a third camp too. Monowitz – or Auschwitz III – was set up to provide slave labor for IG Farben. The Allies dissolved the chemical company the war.
90% were Jews, but thousands of Poles, Romani, Soviets, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals also died at Auschwitz. As did prisoners from other nationalities.
Not even most Germans knew what was happening at the camps. Arrivals were met with the slogan "Work sets you free." In hindsight it's hard to say how convincing that actually was.
Disguised as a farmer in Gottrupel, Rudolf Höss evaded capture for a year after the war. In spite of his expressed remorsed, he was hung outside the camp's crematorium in 1947.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau museum is open daily from 8am except for January 1st, December 25th, and Easter Sunday. It closes at 3pm from December to February, 4pm in March and November, 5pm in April and October, 6pm in May and September, and 7pm from June to August. The site can be accessed for free but it is advisable to take a tour. If you decide to do so, book your tickets in advance. The best ones fill up very quickly!
The easiest way is simply to book an all-in-one tour that leaves from the city. Alternatively, inexpensive buses frequently leave from the basement floor of Krakow's main bus station. You can also take a train to the nearby town of Oświęcim.
Krakow is a wonderful city with a great deal of attraction to please tourists. Though Auschwitz may be an essential part of your trip, it can be emotionally overwhelming. We recommend that you leave it till last.
- When should I visit?
Hours vary based on time of year:
7:30 AM-2:00 PM, December
7:30 AM-3:00 PM, January, November
7:30 AM-4:00 PM, February
7:30 AM-5:00 PM, March, October
7:30 AM-6:00 PM, April, May, September
7:30 AM-7:00 PM, June, July, August
Holiday hours may vary
- Is it expensive?
- Basic entrance is free, but it is highly recommended take a tour which will have a cost depending on which one you choose.
- Will I need a guide?
- It's not required but highly recommended. Best to book in advance online!
- How to get there
- There are direct buses from Krakow. Alternatively, take the train to Oświęcim and then hop on local bus to the site.
- Additional information
- Not recommended for children under 14.
What people are saying about Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau
Met the coach and had another pick up, which took up 30 mins (the company had over booked and 3 people were left at the roadside with barely an apology, just told to come back another day!!!) Coach was comfortable and air conditioned. Although 'tickets' were included we had to queue at Auschwich to obtain free tickets for late in the afternoon (it's free after 3 but only with reserved places) (EACH PERSON NEEDS SOME FORM OF ID TO OBTAIN the AUSCHWITZ TICKETS) which took up another chunk of time. We then had to get back on the coach and visit Birkenau first. We had 1.30 hrs here and had to be back on the bus for 3.50 (bus driver left 2 people who weren't on time) we got to Auschwitz at 4pm and told to be back for 5.50. We didn't have enough time to look around leisurely and had to miss some exhibits to ensure we were back on time as we didn't want leaving behind! It was very poignant visiting these sites but would have been better if we had the 3 hours promised at Auschwitz
We stayed at an Airbnb and still picked up outside, on time after a text instruction. We had a small mini van which showed an informative film on the 50 min journey. Our 1st guide was extremely knowledgeable and respectful throughout the camp tour. Lunch was enjoyable before the Salt Mines. Our guide here was also knowledgeable and the tour was incredible. We were picked up at 7.30am - back at 6.30pm. Would highly recommend this tour.
I found it a very interesting, absorbing and numbing tour. The guide was clearly very well informed and gave nuances that brought a perspective that was not immediacy apparent. One is left partly numbed, yet amazed that man can do this, and a great sympathy for the people, but very aware that our experience there is as nothing for what those poor people (yes, they were people) had to endure. I always felt rushed throughout the tour.
Konrad was our tour guide to the sites. He was informative and friendly. Our tour guide in the sites was an amazing guide. She explained each section with explicit detail. We will never forget this day and will share with others the exceptional experience. The history will be shared and never forgotten. Auschwitz should be shared with everyone and the actions never to be repeated in the future.
Konrad was our guide he was very passionate about the topic. Great tour around. I chose the 6.05am tour and I’m glad I did as when we were finished it was already getting busy and people were waiting in lines. We hardly waited! This tour is a must for people at least once, to be aware and informed of what happened and so it never happens again!