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Getting to Auschwitz from Krakow?

For most people a visit to Auschwitz is an essential part of a visit to Krakow, in fact it's fequently the reason for being there. So what are the options for visiting the memorial?
One of the blocks in Auschwitz
One of the blocks in the Auschwitz memorial
Table of contents

Auschwitz is a Memorial

Auschwitz, or Auschwitz-Birkenau to give its full name, is now a memorial and museum. You can tour the sites for free, but the guided tours do add to the visit. Either way book in advance on their website to guarantee entry. Turning up without a booking is almost certainly a good way of being turned away or at the very least, having to wait for hours to get through the busy entrance.

Auschwitz Guided Tours

There's something about guided tours that just does not feel right in certain circumstances, but these guided tours are nothing like those tours. The guides are very knowledgable, take their time to show you around the camps and manage to keep you interested throughout the tour. They will point out features that you would miss just wandering around at leisue and although there are huts the tours don't take you into, the tours see all of the main ones.

In fact as an independent tourist you'd probably find it difficult to squeeze into certain huts between the tour groups they are that well organised. So unless you've been before and have already seen the camps, a guided tour is certainly best.

But this isn't following an umbrella through crowds like you would in a city. You are issued with headsets and the guides are then able to talk softly as they explain what you are seeing. Each group, on the whole, maintains it's own space and even in the huts when visitors are closer together the guides position themselves to talk to their group who are walking around in single file.

The second part of the tour is a little more relaxed, although more horrifying, as you explore the open Birkenhau camp with your guide and see the remnants of gas chambers and the station platform where victims were sorted.

Organised Tours From Krakow

This is, especially for the first time visitor, the way to see the memorial. Through one of the many providers you can book a trip to Auschwitz, which will collect you from a central meeting point or even your hotel and drive you to the camp. The driver will be in contact with your guide and deliver you to the first camp in time for your tour, before transferring you to Birkenhau then back to the city at the end of the day.

Some of these tours will provide a packed lunch, which you need to eat rapidly between camps. Otherwise there are eating places by the ticket office to grab food and drink and that's where I'd suggest visiting.

Taxis From Krakow

Taxis are possible for the return trip, but it's a significant drive so make sure you agree a price and book a pickup for the way home too. There's a lot of walking in the day and if you only have transport there and back you are going to need to walk between camps too. That's not too difficult, but make sure you have time. If you are on a guided tour that's mostly with people who have transport the guide might be expecting to start quickly.

We did have a couple on our tour using a taxi and they'd had to book the car for the entire day to cover transport there, between camps and return to the city. Unless you are desperate to see the camp alone a taxi seems an expensive way to get there.

Self Drive From Krakow

I didn't try driving in Krakow but again it's possible to visit the camp that way. Make sure you pre-book yiur visit and allow plenty of time to get there and park, remembering it's a reasonable drive and quite a long day anyway. Unless you have the car for other purposes I really wouldn't bother with this method.