How to get to Auschwitz from Krakow

In November 2015 I began researching how to get to Auschwitz from Krakow. At the time I was in the early stages of creating my travel content business. As a result, I would spend a month sleeping in various hostels around the city so inevitably, I had more experience than fellow tourists when they arrived.

The question I would get asked everyday was either “Should I take a tour of Auschwitz from Krakow? or “How to get from Krakow to Auschwitz by bus?”. Below are the answers to these questiond but first of all, you really need to know there is a huge difference in terms of the experience of taking a day tour to Auschwitz and travelling to Auschwitz by train or on the local bus;

How to get to Auschwitz from Krakow

What is Auschwitz?

Auschwitz was a series of Concentration and extermination camps which were used by the Nazi’s to exterminate the Jewish population during World War II. This tragic event was to be known as the Holocaust.

Auschwitz consisted of two main camps: Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II which is more commonly referred to as “Birkenau”.

Today, both camps are a memorial for the Holocaust with much of the ground and many of the buildings open to the public.

Where is Auschwitz / Where is Birkenau ?

Auschwitz is next to the town of Oświęcim, a 1 hour 30 minute drive to the west of Krajow in Southern Poland.

Auschwitz I is a 10 minute walk from the main train station and town centre. Birkenau is a similar distance except they are in the opposite direction of each other. As long as you find out how to get from Auschwitz to Birkenau, you will find your way between them with ease.

The two camps are just 4km apart.

Should I take a tour of Auschwitz?

It goes without saying you are likely to understand what you are looking at in a lot more depth by having a guide with you. That said, this is also the most convenient way instead of figuring out how to get to Auschwitz from Krakow. Although in my opinion, this is where the advantages of taking a tour to Auschwitz end.

Before I continue, let me just say that I am actually a huge fan of day tours and group activities. As a solo traveller they are the perfect opportunity to meet people and a lot of fun.

Disadvantages of taking a tour of Auschwitz

There are two major disadvantages of a tour to Auschwitz from Krakow, with the first being time. You simply do not have enough time and will find yourselves rushing from one part of the camp to another while never really having time to take everything in. From what I have witnessed, the Birkenau part of the tour is very much a fly-in visit whereby you hurry from one side of the camp to the memorial and then possibly squeeze in a few buildings before heading back to the bus.

The second disadvantage is the most important; you will not have much space to experience this journey on your own. Believe me, I ended up spending a week next to the camps in the town of Oświęcim for the fact that I was so blown away by the experience and can tell you that this is in fact a “journey” rather than a tour. Auschwitz will make you sad, depressed, angry and everything in between but it will also take you to places in your mind in a way that no experience will ever do. It is fascinating, evil, emotional and unforgettable; do you really want a tour guide talking in your ear or to be surrounded by people for four hours while you go through this?

There are educational plaques to explain most parts of the camp and even without a guide, you will still spend time trying to escape some of the groups.

I highly recommend that you go independently for this experience.

How to get to Auschwitz from Krakow by train?

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Taking the train to Auschwitz from Krakow

The local bus to Auschwitz departs from the central bus station which is just beyond the train station. This makes it easy in terms of finding out how to get to Auschwitz from Krakow. Both are a five to ten minute walk from the main square in Krakow and to be honest, both are as easy as each other to organize.

In my opinion it is a good way to do it by train in at least one direction just for the sake of retracing the route taken by the holocaust victims when they were taken to the camp. You should buy a ticket for the train to Auschwitz the day before travelling although I did buy mine on the day itself. If you plan on returning the same day, I recommend taking the 6am train to ensure you arrive there early enough to enter (only guided tours can enter between 12pm – 3pm).

When you reach the town of Oswiecim, turn right once outside the station and approximately 400 metres down the road you will come to the sign and left turn for Auschwitz (Just before the bridge). The museum is another 1100 metres down that road and it is a short 15 minute walk from the train to the museum.

How to get to Auschwitz from Krakow by train?

Taking the bus to Auschwitz from Krakow

As mentioned above the bus station is a few minutes walk from the train station and easy to find if you follow the signs. The great thing about the bus is that it drops you right at the front door of the museum so it might be a good idea to get the bus there and the train back.

Please note the bus does not pick up outside the museum to go directly back to Krakow; you need to take a bus from the museum to the station in town in order to board the Krakow bus.

Important tips for visiting Auschwitz

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Important tips for visiting Auschwitz

You will need to put any bags into the luggage room outside so with this in mind please take note of  the following tip:

There are two concentration camps; Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II (aka Birkenau). Neither are to be missed; To give you an idea, I spent a full day in each camp.

After you are finished looking around Auchwitz I, the free shuttle bus outside will take you to Birkenau which is just 4km away. This bus goes every 20 – 25 minutes and takes 5 minutes drive. I walked it both times instead.

DO NOT take your bag out of the luggage room after Auschwitz I as you cannot take it into Birkenau and the only storage place near this camp closes at 3pm. Just leave your bag in the original room and collect it when you finish checking out Birkenau -then get the shuttle bus back to Auschwitz I.

Another tip is to bring warm clothes. shoes and socks. I wore hiking socks and boots while everyone else around me seemed to be having a miserably cold time.

Read my thoughts about my independent tour of Auschwitz.