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Know Before You Go: Visiting Auschwitz


Know Before You Go: Visiting Auschwitz
Hi, I'm Zoë!

Zoë Smith is a British travel writer, editor, and digital content creator who has lived, worked, and traveled over six continents, and is currently based near Nantes, France. She has written for Rough Guides, CNN, and Culture Trip, and is digital editor at FrenchEntrée.

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Hi, I'm Zoë!

Zoë Smith is a British travel writer, editor, and digital content creator who has lived, worked, and traveled over six continents, and is currently based near Nantes, France. She has written for Rough Guides, CNN, and Culture Trip, and is digital editor at FrenchEntrée.

see more

Auschwitz was the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps, and the ruins remain a tragic reminder of Poland’s history. Visiting is a moving and educational experience, but before you take your trip, here are a few things you should know.

There are two ways to visit

Independently or with a licensed tour guide.

There are two main areas of Auschwitz—Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau—and it's often said that the most convenient and informative way to visit is with a guide. Private and group tours last about 3.5 hours, visiting the museum, exhibitions, and memorials of Auschwitz I, followed by the original camp buildings at Birkenau, including the prisoner barracks, gas chamber, and crematoriums.

Respect the rules

This includes keeping your phone and cameras off where required.

Over 1.1 million people lost their lives at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945, and visiting is an unsurprisingly somber affair. Be mindful of this and observe the rules of visiting, which include acting and dressing with appropriate solemnity and respect. Also keep in mind that the sensitive nature of the exhibitions means that photography is banned throughout many parts of the Auschwitz museum; however, it is permitted in most outside areas. Eating, smoking, and the use of cell phones (except to take photos) are also prohibited on the site.

Auschwitz is a place to pay respect and learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust. Photo: Studio MDF / Shutterstock

You can reach Auschwitz from both Krakow and Warsaw

There are multiple departure points.

The easiest way to get to Auschwitz is from Krakow, which is about a 1.5-hour journey by car or bus. Most tours take at least 6 hours and include hotel pickup and round-trip transport. Meanwhile, Warsaw is just under 4 hours away by road, with tours lasting over 10 hours given the transport times.

Insider tip: Due to the disturbing nature of the material inside, visits to the museum are not recommended for children under 14 years old.

Wear comfortable shoes

You can expect to do a lot of walking at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz covers an area of about 12 square miles (30 square kilometers) and although shuttle buses run between the areas open to visitors, you will still do a lot of walking. Wear sturdy shoes suitable for uneven terrain and comfortable clothing that you can walk in for the duration of the tour.

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