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Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum Guide

Discover the poignant history of Auschwitz-Birkenau, travel tips on how to get from Krakow, and essential information about the operating hours of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Plan your visit to this significant Holocaust memorial with our comprehensive guide.

4 minutes
Gate in Auschwitz-Birkenau
“The Death Gate” was constructed in 1943 and became the main entrance to the Birkenau Concentration Camp.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of all Nazi concentration and extermination camps. This moving and poignant monument to Europe’s darkest period was preserved so we can’t forget the horrors of the Holocaust and is an essential stop for many visitors to Krakow.

A brief history of Auschwitz

Passing through a gate promising Arbeit macht frei (Work sets you free), trains transported 1.3 million Jews, Poles, Russian POWs, Roma, and other enslaved minorities. 1.1 million are estimated to die there.

Initially a concentration camp where prisoners would be worked to death furthering German war aims, the first mass killings took place using Zyklon B gas in 1941. The following year, dedicated gas chambers and crematoria were built.

In January 1945, the 1st Ukrainian Front of the Soviet Red Army liberated the camp. The camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, was arrested after fleeing to Germany and subsequently executed in Auschwitz at the request of camp survivors.

In 1947, the Polish Government passed a law to preserve Auschwitz-Birkenau, a memorial to the “martyrdom of the Polish nation and other nations.” Today, it is one of the most visited locations in Poland, with 2.3 million visitors in 2019 alone.

Auschwitz-Birkenau entrance
All prisoners walked through this gate every day and read “Arbeit macht frei” sign.

What to expect at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum

The 200+ buildings of Auschwitz-Birkenau remain as they were found following liberation. Most are open to the public.

In Auschwitz I, visitors will find barracks and other buildings, as well as with exhibits including personal possessions, the history of the camp and the holocaust, and displays by individual countries whose citizens perished there.

Approximately 2 km (1.25 miles) away is Auschwitz II – Birkenau. Free shuttle buses ferry visitors.

Birkenau houses the notorious rail platform that led to the gas chambers. Gas chambers and crematoria were partially destroyed with explosives when the Nazis retreated. In addition, a single poignant rail carriage stands as a stark symbol of the terror visited upon countries across Europe.

Set aside at least 90 minutes to explore each camp. It should be noted that, there are no limits on visiting times.

Entry to Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum

Entry is free, although pre-booked tickets are required.

Tickets can be obtained online up to 5 days in advance.

For visit 2-5 days before visiting, reserve by email ([email protected]) or telephone +48 33 844 81 00 or 80 99 (Mon-Fri 7 am – 3 pm),

However, individuals without a guided tour are typically limited to visiting after 4 pm, except in winter and autumn.

General guided group and individual tours are available in English, Polish, and other languages. Prices start at 620 PLN (2023).

Visit for more info.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is former Nazi concentration and extermination camps.

How to get to there

Public buses take 90 minutes from Kraków Dworzec MDA to Oświęcim (Polish for Auschwitz), stopping at the museum.

Trains (75-85 mins) also connect Krakow with Oświęcim, but 2 km (1.25 miles) from the site entrance.

Alternatively, book a (guided or self-guided), with return transport from Krakow or book a shuttle bus.

Opening Hours

December: 7:30 AM – 2:00 PM

January, November: 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM  

February: 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM

March, October: 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM

April, May, September: 7:30 AM – 6:00 PM

June, July, August: 7:30 AM – 7:00 PM

Closed December 25th, January 1st, and Easter Sunday.

Keep in mind, visitors may remain 90 minutes after the stated closing time.

Why visit Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is a haunting experience. Relics and memorials to the Holocaust and World War II exist all over Europe, but none render the reality so poignantly.

There are less somber and affecting things to do outside Krakow, but Auschwitz is in a category of its own. Indeed, it is essential history brought to life and leaves a powerful impression, as those who preserved the memorial intended.