The first thing you need to know is that Auschwitz Concentration Camp is now a museum located in the Polish town of Oświęcim (osh-shwee-en-chim). The name ‘Auschwitz’ is the German name for the same town. Oświęcim is a medium-sized town, with a population of about 40,000 inhabitants, about 50 kilometres west of Krakow, as the crow flies. By road or rail it is about 65 kilometres from Krakow. There are good, regular transport connections between Krakow and Oświęcim, both by bus and train, as well as the convenient options of joining a guided tour to and from Krakow. We’ll cover all these options in greater detail, so you can decide what is best for you.
Krakow to Auschwitz by bus
There are regular buses departing from the main bus station in Krakow. The bus station is right next to the train station, and just 5 minutes’ walk from Krakow’s main shopping mall, Galeria Krakowska. It is possible to turn up and just choose the first available bus, though it might be sensible to check the timetables first. Also bear in mind that in the high season (May to October) there may be less availability for free spaces on the buses. Buses, like all transport in Poland, are good value, though the quality of the vehicles varies a lot. You might get a smart coach with aircon if you’re lucky, or just as likely a rusty old minibus whose best days are behind it.
When you arrive in Oświęcim on the bus, there are 3 bus stops within the town that you might stop at, so make sure to get off at the right one! One stop is called ‘Museum Auschwitz’, which is right at the museum, and your best option. An alternative stop (served by some of the bus companies only) is called ‘Wiezniow Oswiecimia’ and is also good, as it is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the museum. The one you want to avoid is ‘Oswiecim Lodowisko’ which is at the town’s ice-rink and about 4 kilometres from the museum. If you are not sure what stop to get off at, ask the driver who should be happy to assist, and don’t be put off by how complicated it all sounds! Going on your own by bus is a great option if you have plenty of time, enjoy the adventure, and are not on a tight schedule.
Departures from: Main Bus Station in Krakow (also referred to as ‘MDA’ or ‘Malopolskie Dworzec Autobusowy’)
Price: 10-14 Polish zloty (PLN) for a single ticket
Travel time: 1:40-2:00 hours
A timetable for buses can be found here – https://www.busy-krk.pl/en/oswiecim-krakow/
Krakow to Auschwitz by train
There are quite a lot of scheduled trains between Krakow and Oświęcim, so this is quite a straightforward option. The Main Train Station is within easy reach of the Old Town in Krakow, close to the Bust Station and Galeria Krakowska, the shopping centre. The slight disadvantage of this option is the fact that the train station in Oświęcim is about 20 to 30 minutes’ walk from the Museum at Auschwitz, though there are always local buses which can shuttle visitors to and from the museum for a few zloty (currently 2.70 PLN for an adult, 1.70 PLN per child). This reduces the journey time from the train station to the museum to about 7 minutes.
Train tickets can be purchased at the train station itself (though many of the ticket salespeople don’t speak good English, they normally are able to work things out with visitors), or tickets can be purchased online (see the timetable below, which also has ticket sales). Tickets currently cost 15.60 PLN (about 3 GBP or 4 Euro), one way. If you buy your ticket online, you can download a pdf to serve as proof of payment and as ticket. One thing to bear in mind is that when travelling on a train, you should have your ID, and this should tie in with the passenger name on your ticket. A driving license or passport is fine. The trains themselves are of varying standards, but improving all the time.
Departures from: Main Train Station in Krakow (‘Krakow Główny’ in Polish)
Price: 15,60 Polish zloty (PLN) for an adult one way ticket
Travel time: 1:30-2:00 hours
Distance to Museum from Oświęcim train station: approx 25 mins on foot, about 7 mins by minibus
A timetable for trains can be found here – http://rozklad-pkp.pl/en – (This train booking website is in English, but just remember to choose ‘Oświęcim’ as the destination, when choosing tickets)
Things to bear in mind
If you decide to travel on your own by bus or train, please remember that reaching the museum does not mean you are guaranteed to get in. Although entry to the museum at Auschwitz is free, the number of places is limited, in order to make sure the museum does not become overcrowded. In reality, if you arrive early (before 10 am or later in the day (after 5pm), the chances are that you will be allowed to go in without much wait, if any at all. However, in the high season, if you travel on your own and are not part of an organised tour, you may have to wait some time before being allowed into the Museum. For this reason, we also include the third and most popular option – travelling on an organised tour to Auschwitz
Organised Tour to Auschwitz
Krakow Tours offers a door-to-door tour service to the Museum at Auschwitz from Krakow. Booking guarantees you a pick-up from your hotel, apartment or hostel in Krakow, transport, museum entry plus guided tour on site, and some other extras are included such as a snack and drink. This is the easiest option to arrange (you can do this through this site), and also the most recommended if your schedule is a bit tight. The day is certainly quite long (around 7 hours), but few who take the trip to Auschwitz regret it. It can be a life-changing experience. More information and booking can be found here.