From Krakow to Auschwitz: 5 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Joni Sweet and Diana Bocco
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial camps are a somber reminder of the darkest part of WWII. Built as extermination camps and partially destroyed by the Nazis at the end of the war to hide their "Final Solution" plans, the camps have been converted into museums and receive over two million visitors every year. They are located about 70 kilometers away from Krakow and are easy to reach by bus, train, or car or, on an organized tour.

Entrance to Auschwitz
Entrance to Auschwitz | Photo Copyright: Joni Sweet

Although entry to the camps is free, Auschwitz limits the number of entry passes per time slot, and advanced reservations are highly recommended, especially during the summer months. You are required to book a 3.5-hour tour with a guide-educator if you visit during busier periods, which start at 7:30am and go until the early or late afternoon, depending on the month.

English language tours take place every 30 to 60 minutes. If you prefer to explore on your own, plan to visit late in the day and reserve an entry pass ahead of time. Check the Auschwitz website for the most up-to-date schedule and visitor requirements.

The park opens at 7:30am throughout the year and welcomes visitors as late as 7pm during the summer months. You can stay at the site for up to 90 minutes after the last entrance hour, allowing you to explore until as late as 8:30pm in June, July, and August.

Whether you're planning on visiting the camps on your own using public transportation or you prefer the comfort and convenience of a guided tour, here are the best ways to get from Krakow to Auschwitz.

1. From Krakow to Auschwitz by Organized Small Group Tour

Railway tracks leading into Auschwitz
Railway tracks leading into Auschwitz

If you are considering whether to take a Krakow to Auschwitz guided tour or not, consider this: over two million people visit Auschwitz every year. The lines to get in are always long, no matter the season—during particularly busy times, you can easily wait two to three hours just to get in if you haven't reserved an entry pass in advance.

One of the benefits of joining a tour is that there's no waiting time. Tours enter through a side entrance without any wait—plus you don't have to worry about transportation, moving from one camp to the next, or finding the right English-language tour once you get there.

A good option is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial Guided Tour from Krakow, led by an English-speaking, professional guide.

On the day of the tour, an air-conditioned minibus and an English-speaking tour guide will pick you up from your hotel or a central city point in Krakow. During the one-hour drive, you'll be able to watch a documentary about the camps, so you can have a better understanding of WWII's Holocaust and what happened at the camps.

Once you arrive, your guide will take you to the main buildings at the UNESCO-listed former Nazi concentration camp complex, including the gas chambers and crematoriums, old prison blocks, and dormitories, and a number of exhibitions documenting the life of prisoners. You'll also see the watchtowers once used by the Nazi officers at Birkenau.

After touring the two camps, your driver will bring you back to 2 Wielopole Street in Krakow.

2. From Krakow to Auschwitz by Private Tour

View over Krakow and Wawel Castle
View over Krakow and Wawel Castle

If you're looking to get a deeper understanding of the WWII events that led to the construction of the camps, the seven-hour Auschwitz-Birkenau Guided Tour by Private Transport from Krakow will give you just that.

This tour starts right at your Krakow hotel, where a driver will pick you up in an air-conditioned vehicle anywhere between 7:30am and 11am, based on your preferences. From there, it's a one-hour trip to the main camp and museum, where you will join an English-speaking guided tour for a 90-minute tour of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

The tours include both indoor and outdoor spaces. You will see the permanent exhibitions and main buildings at Auschwitz I before you move on to Camp II, where you'll see the unloading platform (ramp) and a train carriage, the ruins of crematoria and gas chambers, and the barracks where prisoners lived.

You will be provided with headsets, so you can hear your guide clearly, as the museum requests that people keep their voices down while walking through Auschwitz.

After your tour is over, you'll get a private ride back to Krakow. You will be dropped off at your hotel no later than 4pm.

3. From Krakow to Auschwitz by Bus

Krakow Market Square at sunrise
Krakow Market Square at sunrise

If you are planning on using public transportation, buses are the cheapest and easiest way to get to the camps. From the Kraków MDA main bus station, you can catch a local bus in the direction of Oswiecim and get off at the stop called "Oswiecim Muzeum." This is right at the entrance of the Auschwitz Museum.

Make sure you check the bus schedules in advance on the official MDA Bus Transportation website, as not all buses traveling in that direction stop at Auschwitz.

Your other option is the Lajkonik buses. Choose the bus covering the route - Kraków - Chrzanów - Libiaz - Oswiecim, and get off at the last stop, right at the museum. You can book a seat online—a particularly good idea in summer, as the number of visitors increases, and you might not get a space otherwise. The first bus leaves for Auschwitz at 6:20am, and the last one back to Krakow departs from the museum at 6:45pm, so plan accordingly. During operating hours, the buses run roughly every hour to 90 minutes, although more frequent departures occur during the mornings and around noon.

Keep in mind that these buses take you only to Auschwitz-Camp I. To reach the second camp, Birkenau, you can walk the three kilometers that separate the camps or look for the museum shuttles that run back and forth between the two camps. The free shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes between November and March, increasing in frequency to every 10 minutes from April through October.

4. From Krakow to Auschwitz by Train

Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Kraków Glówny, the main train station near Krakow Old Town, has a number of trains that can get you close to the camps. You can check schedules on the Polish railway website to pick the best option.

Most trains have an average travel time of just over an hour and can get crowded on weekends, so pick an early morning one if you don't have tickets in advance and want to make sure you get a seat.

Trains leave every hour starting around 4 or 5am. For the camps, taking the 6:39am train is the best option, as you'll arrive in Oświęcim just before 8am.

All trains drop you off at Oswiecim's central station, 1,500 meters away from Auschwitz. You can opt to walk to the museum, which takes about 25 minutes or jump in a taxi. Another way to reach the museum from the train station is by boarding the seasonal "M" line bus. It runs every half hour from 9:07am until 4:07pm between April 1 and October 31. You can catch the bus at the Dworzec PKP stop just outside the train station or from the park-and-ride garage to the museum entrance. It takes approximately five minutes.

The last direct train back to Krakow departs at 8:39pm. If you miss that one, there's another that leaves at 8:52pm, but you'll need to transfer at Mysłowice. It takes more than 2.5 hours.

5. From Krakow to Auschwitz by Car

Guard towers in Auschwitz-Birkenau camp
Guard towers in Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and museum is located in the city of Oświęcim, about 70 kilometers from the center of Krakow. The trip takes about an hour and 15 minutes in normal travel conditions if you take the A4 motorway in the direction of Oświęcim.

Take the exit at Balin and follow signs for Oświęcim to get to the museum. As signs aren't in English here, having a GPS is essential, or you might find yourself taking the wrong turn here or there.

While the A4 is a toll road, light passenger vehicles are exempt from paying the fee as of July 2023. So as long as you're in a regular vehicle, rather than a large van or truck, you should be able to take the A4 on a toll-free basis.

There are paid parking areas at the camps. Both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps have their own parking, but keep in mind that you should start your visit at Auschwitz I, so if you park at the other camp, you will need to walk back to Birkenau or wait for the museum shuttle. The camps are 3.5 kilometers away from each other.

You can also opt to use the multi-story park-and-ride garage next to the Oświęcim train station. From there, you can hop on the "M" line for a five-minute ride directly to the Auschwitz museum. The bus runs continuously from 9am to 4pm, but is only in operation from early April until late October.