Know Before You Go: Visiting Auschwitz
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.
You can visit independently or with a 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.
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.
Turn off your phones and cameras.
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.
You can visit from Krakow or Warsaw.
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 last over 10 hours given the transport times.
Wear comfortable shoes.
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.
Visiting with younger children is not recommended.
Due to the disturbing nature of the material inside, visits to the museum are not recommended for children under 14 years old.