Kraków is the second-largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland and was the home to the Kings and Queens of Poland past. Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle, St. Mary’s Basilica, and the largest medieval market square in Europe are all worth seeing.
But located just outside of this beautiful city is one of the most recognised and feared names in WWII. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.
In this post we are going to explore how to get to Auschwitz from Krakow. Krakow is the closest major city transport hub for day trips to Auschwitz. Starting in Krakow is the best way to visit Auschwitz.
Auschwitz – Birkenau is a destination that will rock you to the core. So much history, sadness and crazy ideology all converge in this one location. In 1940, on the outskirts of Oswiecim Poland, a prison camp was established. The continued mass detainment of the Jews and Poles meant that a bigger solution was required.
On June 14, 1940, the first prisoners arrived. By 1942 Auschwitz had turned from a prison camp into a death camp, a systemic killing machine controlled by the Third Reich. For over a million people the Auschwitz arrivals platform was the end of the line for them, as they were marched straight to the gas chamber.
Visiting Auschwitz is a must for all people
Today trips to Auschwitz come in two parts. First to Auschwitz (or Auschwitz 1 as it was called). This is where you will enter under the famous gates with the sign above that says Arbeit Macht Frei.
Auschwitz 1 is where the first prisoners were held and the majority of the buildings are still intact for you to tour through. It is home to the infamous block 11 where the Nazi’s carried out all types of heinous inhumane experiments on the inmates.
Outside Cellblock 11 is the shooting wall where those being held were marched outside and shot in the back of the head. It is here that the Nazis first tested Zyklon B on small batches of prisoners before expanding the gas chambers to an industrial level.
It is here with an overload of information through words and images that you fully realise the horror of this place. To this day I still remember thinking ‘this is the saddest place I have ever been’ as I walked around with tears rolling down my cheeks.
To get to Birkenau (or Auschwitz 2 as it called) requires you to catch a bus a short distance. There are buses waiting outside Auschwitz 1 to take people across to Auschwitz 2.
Birkenau is where the killing happened on an industrial scale. This is where the Auschwitz gas chambers were erected, this is where over a million people were put to death. Birkenau was the largest prisoner camp in the Third Reich.
There were over 300 barracks on site to house the inmates and at times over 100,000 people lived in them. Birkenau was 200 hectares in size and today contains the destroyed remains of the Auschwitz gas chambers and crematorium.
There are a few original and reconstructed barracks for you to look through. These give you a feel of what the prisoner’s accommodation was like. It is amazing how many people they could squeeze into such small areas.
You can walk the length of the train platform where people from all over Europe arrived from on a one-way ticket. What struck us about Birkenau was how peaceful it felt. It had wide-open spaces and luscious green grass, that masks the fact that you are walking where the ashes of a million people lie.
Visiting Auschwitz Poland is as confronting as a punch in the face. It shows what one crazy ideology can do. Its lessons are still relevant today when we see what is happening in the world. A world where dictators are still persecuting people, where citizens are not safe because of race and religion.
The lessons have not been learnt. Auschwitz is a great reminder that power needs to be checked, that all governments need to be accountable and that human life is precious.
Facts about Auschwitz
- 1.1 million people died during the four and a half years of Auschwitz’s existence
- 144 people were known to have escaped from Auschwitz
- Auschwitz’s camp commandant Rudolf Hess was arrested in 1946, convicted of murder and hanged at the camp.
- Of a total of about 7,000 staff at Auschwitz, only 750 were ever punished.
- The company that created Zyklon B, the gas that was used to kill millions of Jews in the Holocaust, still exists as a pest control company.
- Bayer, famous for producing aspirin, bought prisoners from Auschwitz to use as research subjects for testing new drugs.
- Of those 6 million Jewish people killed in the Holocaust, one in six was killed at Auschwitz.
Let’s talk about how to get to Auschwitz from Krakow
The AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU STATE MUSEUM is located in the old world city of Oswiecim, about 66 kilometres west of Krakow. The entry at the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate is located about 2,5 kilometres from the city centre of Oswiecim. Krakow is the nearest major airport to Auschwitz. This means you will still need to find a transport option to Krakow. Let’s explore the different options for getting to Auschwitz from Krakow.
Visiting Auschwitz with Kids
Being family travellers when we visited Auschwitz Poland our kids were 5 & 8 years old. At that age, we felt they were far too young to be exposed to this kind of Museum. I would suggest your children should be at least 10 years old minimum and have had some sort of education about what went on at Auschwitz Birkenau before taking them.
How to get to Auschwitz from Krakow by train
The train to Auschwitz to Krakow trains depart Krakow Glowny station. Kraków Główny or the main station is the largest and the most centrally located railway station in Kraków. On an average day, some 660 trains run on its 12 tracks.The station is located on the edge of world famous Krakow Old Town.
- Krakow Glowny to Auschwitz trains runs daily. You will find them running every hour
- The Krakow Glowny to Auschwitz train takes at best 1 hour and 40 minutes to arrive at Oswiecim train station.
- Tram 19 connects through Krakow Glowny as an easy way to access the station for your Krakow Auschwitz train.
- Auschwitz is about a 25-minute walk or about 2 km from the train station
- The easiest way is to catch a local bus that drops off straight out front
We priced a ticket departing Krakow Glowny at 8.33 am. The price was 15 zloty or about 3.50€ on the outward journey. Returning departing Oswiecim at 5.12pm was the same price.
So the Krakow Auschwitz train return day trip will cost around 7€ return for an adult in second class. You can Check Auschwitz Birkenau Train Timetable. Krakow Glowny to Auschwitz is an easy option for a day trip.
Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial Opening Hours
The Auschwitz UNESCO World Heritage Site is open all year long, seven days a week, except January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday. You can start the visit in the following hours.
- 7:30 AM – 2:00 PM December7:30 AM – 3:00 PM January, November7:30 AM – 4:00 PM February7:30 AM – 5:00 PM March, October7:30 AM – 6:00 PM April, May, September7:30 AM – 7:00 PM June, July, August
The generous opening hours allow you visit Auschwitz from Krakow starting very early in the morning to make the most of your day.
How to get to Auschwitz by bus from Krakow
For those wanting to take the Krakow bus to Auschwitz, you will depart from MDA Bus Station in Krakow. The MDA Bus station is located at ul. Bosacka 18 in the centre of the city. The station has a total of 37 departure bays where passenger check-in takes place. You can buy tickets for the Krakow to Auschwitz bus from the ticket booths or check with the driver of the bus.
- The Lajkonik bus company that runs out of MDA station runs a Krakow to Auschwitz bus daily.
- The great thing about this Krakow bus to Auschwitz is it drops you right out front of the concentration camp.
- The bus cost 14 zloty (around 3.50€)
- This bus Krakow to Auschwitz runs every hour starting 6.20am for the first departure and the last departure is 7.45 pm.
- The return journey also runs on the hour.
- The last departure back to Krakow being 7.45 pm.
- There are 13 stops on the bus Krakow to Auschwitz route.
- Travel time is around 1 hour and 30 minutes for the Krakow bus to Auschwitz
- You can check the Lajkonik Krakow bus station to Auschwitz timetable here
Many of the bus companies drop at Auschwitz Camp but some drop of in the city of ‘Oświęcim. From here it is about 2 kilometres to the Auschwitz memorial. If you wait a local bus will come along that goes to the camp.
Guided tours options once you reach Auschwitz from Krakow
After visitors have navigated getting from Krakow to Auschwitz their are several options for guided tours. Every Guided tour includes a visited to Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
• General tours (2,5 h)
• General tours (3,5 h)
• One-day study tours (6 h)
• Two-day study tours (2×4 h)
• Guided tours for individual visitors (3,5 h)
As one can imagine after getting to Auschwitz the last thing you would want is to miss out on a tour. There is always a large number of visitors to the site. Guided tours should be reserved at least two months before a planned visit.
Guide services may be reserved:
• on the visit.auschwitz.org (upto 5 days before the visit)
• by telephone or e-mail (2-5 days before the visit): +48 33 844 81 00 or 80 99 (Mo-Fr, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. CET)
Getting to Auschwitz from Krakow by car
For those wanting to drive to Auschwitz from Krakow, the Museum is located on the outskirts of the city of Oświęcim on national road 933. If you are looking for parking enter Stanislawy Leszcynskiej Str no 11 into your GPS. The trip to Auschwitz by car will take around 70 minutes and cover 68 kilometres on Poland’s A4 Motorway .
Car Parking at Memorial site Auschwitz – Birkenau
There is a parking lot in Auschwitz I that costs 8 zł for the whole day. Like all parking the earlier you arrive the better, especially in the busy summer months. The car park at Auschwitz 2 is 200 metres away from the gate. It is reported that it costs 2 zł per hour. You will also find free car parking in the surrounding areas that are at least a kilometre away. Taking a car is the most flexible option as it allows you to explore the museum at your own pace.
If you are considering visiting Auschwitz without a guide we recommend you book your entry by the official website at visit.auschwitz.org. Entry without a guide to the memorial site is free of charge.
Krakow to Auschwitz by Taxi
From Krakow to Auschwitz by Taxi is another option, an expensive option. The Krakow to Auschwitz Taxi price is around 65-80$ each way to and from Auschwitz. This may ultimately be the best way to get to Auschwitz but price wise it is not suitable for most people.
Please find below a list of Krakow Taxi companies.
- Radio Taxi Wawel / Website – waweltaxi.pl / Phone – +48 12 266 66 66
- MPT Radio taxi / Website – radiotaximpt.krakow.pl / Phone+48 12 647 20 42
- Dwójki Radio Taxi / Website – taxi.krakow.pl / Phone+48 12 422 22 22
Organised Krakow Auschwitz tour
If public transport or the driving option don’t suit you going to Auschwitz from Krakow by organized tour may be your best option. There are many Auschwitz Krakow tours running daily. Some of the positives of going on an organized Auschwitz Krakow tour can be:
- You don’t have to get to Kraków Główny or MDA station
- You don’t have to take public transport to Auschwitz concentration camp
- You can usually organize a pickup and drop off at your accommodation
- You will have a guide that will keep you informed on the journey out to the Auschwitz site
- Entry tickets to the sights are usually included
- One price for everything
- An organized tour of the sights
- If you have children you may be able to take some extras for them and then have somewhere to keep the extra bags so you don’t have to carry them around.
Below we handpicked and researched three amazing Auschwitz Krakow tours for you to choose from. Book one of these Auschwitz trips today. Let the tour be your best way to visit Auschwitz.
Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau self-guided tour from Krakow
Visit the Auschwitz Museum, site of the largest Third Reich concentration camp. Learn how the complex functioned and see the barracks where prisoners were kept.
- Visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps
- Explore one of the most horrifying places in the world
- Explore the site at your own pace with no guide
- Transport from Krakow to Auschwitz by minivan.
- Rated 4.2 out of 5 from over 2000 reviews.
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Schindler’s Factory Tour from Krakow
Tour Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp that became a symbol of the Holocaust. Visit Oscar Schindler’s Factory also on this day trip.
- Duration 8 hours
- Visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial on a day trip from Krakow
- Watch an informative documentary film en route to the camps
- Experience Krakow during WWII at Oscar Schindler’s Factory Museum
- Rated 4.6 out of 5 based on 28 reviews
A very well explained and moving experience
The entire trip to Krakow was very well done and both the tour guide Rychart and Micheal were outstanding. Every step of the tour was well explained and detailed description of Auschwitz-Birkenau was given. This is the best way to visit Auschwitz. We will definitely use this company again.reviewed by
Auschwitz Birkenau full-day guided tour with pick up
Go on a day trip to a historical place from World War II -Nazi Germany’s Concentration Camp at Auschwitz Birkenau. Learn about the genocide campaigns against Europe’s Jewish populations.
- Visit a UNESCO World Heritage–listed place
- Learn about the Nazi Holocaust
- See authentic evidence of crimes
- Hear stories about the everyday lives of prisoners
- Free hotel pickup and hotel drop-off
- 4.4 out of 5 from over 200 reviews
Excellent from start to finish. Our guide Sofia was excellent Very knowledgeable and made the whole experience memorableJacqueline – United Kingdom
Here are some options if you need to do a guided tour from another city in Poland
As we have said a visit to Auschwitz is something everyone must do but you may not have decided before you left Krakow. there are other guided day tours available from other cities that you may want to consider.
How to get to Krakow – How to get to Auschwitz
Krakow is one of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Some of its major sights are located in the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town.
- Krakow is the second largest city in Poland. Population 766,583
- Krakow is the major airport near Auschwitz.
- Krakow airport is known as John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice. It is located 11.6km from the city centre
- Full-service carriers such as Finnair, LOT, British Airways fly into John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice.
- Budget airlines Ryanair, Easyjet, Germanwings and Vueling service Krakow Airport.
- You can check the prices of international flights to Krakow with CheapOair.
- Direct international trains from Berlina and Vienna service Krakow.
- Krakow international bus station is located 5.1km from the city centre. Direct buses for over 17 countries arrive here. book your bus today with GoEuro
- Krakow Airport is served by two regular bus lines: 208 and 252 and night line 902
- You can book an airport transfer with Suntransfers who we have personally used on many occasions.
- You can reserve a rental car and have it waiting for you at John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice
Getting around Krakow
- There is no underground transport system in Krakow.
- An integrated bus and tram system runs in Krakow from 05:00 – 23:00
- Check timetables and network maps online for Krakow at mpk.krakow.pl
- Tickets are the integrated bus and tram system are timed. This allows you the freedom to change between tram or bus lines within the allocated time of your tickets life.
- You can get 20min 40min,1-hour, 24-hour, 48-hour, 72-hour, and unlimited weekend family pass tickets
- You must stamp your ticket immediately on boarding the tram or bus in the small machines on-board
Where to stay in Krakow
- Krakow has accommodation options for every budget from Hostels, to apartments and hotels rooms.
- You can search Airbnb for Krakow offerings. If you have never used Airbnb before get yourself $50 credit by signing and booking a stay right HERE
- Hotels in Krakow generally start from around $73.00 a night for a double room 3 star and increase incrementally as the luxury rating rises towards the 5-star average price of $156.00.
- You can compare and book your stay on Priceline
We hope this has inspired you and informed you on how to get to Auschwitz from Krakow. Besides the amazing experience, you will have at Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration camp don’t forget to check out Krakow and its amazing sights.
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About the Author
Mark Wyld is a father, husband, traveler, and chief destination marketing manager at Wyld Family Travel. Having been to over 35 countries worldwide he knows a thing or 2 about traveling with kids and now traveling with teenagers. He has been writing first-hand, expert travel guides on this website for over 6 years and has featured on numerous other popular well-known websites. When he is not talking, dreaming, or planning travel he can be found working in disability support.