8 Things You Should Know About Auschwitz ​Before Visiting The Concentration Camp

Visitors to Kraków and Katowice are faced with asking themselves whether or not they will make the effort to visit Auschwitz. It is indeed a difficult question. It’s easy to give reasons for not going: not having enough time, already knowing as much as we need or want to know about it, not feeling personally connected enough to the site or the history to need to visit, or being uncomfortable about the prospect of visiting a site of such emotional resonance at the same time as hundreds of other tourists. Having been there, we can tell you that all of these explanations for avoiding Auschwitz are perfectly reasonable until you’ve actually visited the site; you’ll hardly find anyone who has made the trip and still argues against going.

So, if you’ve decided to visit Auschwitz, these are a few things you need to keep in mind.

1. How to visit

You basically have 3 options:

1. Visiting as part of an all included guided tour. By far the most recommendable to avoid all the hassle of sorting out your own transportation, ticketing and guidance.

2. Visit independently and join a guided tour at the museum.

3. Visit independently for free without a guide.


2. How to get there

3. Time & Schedules

Opening Hours: 07:30 – 18:00Last entrance 1.5hrs before closing.

1 Jun 2019 – 31 Aug 2019Open 07:30 – 19:00.
1 Sep 2019 – 30 Sep 2019Open 07:30 – 18:00.
1 Oct 2019 – 31 Oct 2019Open 07:30 – 17:00.
1 Nov 2019 – 30 Nov 2019Open 07:30 – 15:00.
1 Dec 2019 – 31 Dec 2019Open 07:30 – 14:00.

If you are determined to visit independently you need to know that during peak season (March – October) the museum makes it obligatory to buy a ticket and become part of a 3.5hr guided tour unless you get there before 10:00 (difficult to do from Kraków) or after 16:00 – during which times it is possible to visit for free on your own.

4. Book in advance

If you’re visiting on your own, know that all visits must now be booked in advance through the website visit.auschwitz.org

5. Remember there are 2 sites

6. Prepare Accordingly

Visiting Auschwitz is a full day’s excursion so prepare wear comfortable shoes. The guided tour of Auschwitz I takes around 2 hours, so make sure you’ve eaten breakfast. After completing the tour of the first camp, there is only a short break before the bus leaves for Auschwitz-Birkenau II; in order to stay with the same tour guide, you need to catch that bus, so it would be wise to pack some food for the day (though there is some limited food available at the museum). The tour of the second camp is shorter, lasting 1-1.5 hours. Buses regularly depart back to Auschwitz I, or you can walk or catch a cab to the train station 1.5km away. At Auschwitz I there are restrooms (have change available), a fast food bar and a restaurant; there are also restroom facilities at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Note that only small bags are allowed into the camp; if your bag exceeds the very small dimensions of 30x20x10cm, you’ll have to leave it somewhere; lockers (4zł) are provided for this purpose.

7. Be respectful and at your best behaviour

The Auschwitz Museum & Memorial is not an amusement site.

The Auschwitz Museum & Memorial tour present one of the most horrific acts in human history with a level of tact, passion, poignancy and professionalism that is so profound, it almost makes as lasting an impression as the site itself. Without being heavy-handed, the history of the site is presented in all of its contexts and guests are perhaps spared from fully surrendering to their emotions only by the sheer relentlessness of the information. No matter how much you think you know on the subject, the perspective gained by visiting is incomparable. Whether or not you choose to go to Auschwitz is up to you to decide. However, it should be understood that Auschwitz is not a site of Jewish concern, Polish concern, German concern, Roma concern, historical concern… It is a site of human concern. As such, we believe everyone who visits should treat it with solemn respect.

8. Auschwitz is Oświęcim

The name of the Polish town is Oświęcim and there is much more to it than just the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. In fact, the small town has a life of its own and like any other thriving community, it offers its residents and visitors an array of activities that highlight its present and portray its historical and Jewish heritage in a different light. We encourage you to walk the streets of this historical Polish town and discover its present and its people; or plan in advance to enjoy the Life Festival organised every year since 2010.

Auschwitz Jewish Museum & Synagogue
Carlos Santana, Fot. Fot. Mateusz Moskała. lifefestival.pl

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