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Guided tour of Auschwitz?

We understand that it is required to have guides to Auschwitz between 1000 and 1500. We are planning to arrive at 8 am and stay until 12. Do you recommend the official guides or is it possible to see the sights (and truly appreciate them) on our own with signs and Rick's guided tour? We are both very interested in history but don't want to spend our time in a big group that rushes you along.


Posted by
4686 posts

I did the self-guided tour arriving before 10am, using Rick's book tour, and it worked out for me. My attention span tends to be short, and on guided tours I tend to tune out after a while - an hour or two at a time seems about my limit. I like to stop when doing self-tours for breaks when I feel like it.

But I have heard many people say they enjoyed a guided tour at Auschwitz.

Posted by
4207 posts

We thought the guided tour was very informative and worthwhile. The guide was professional and well-informed, her English was excellent. The tour was thorough and I think took at least three hours including Birkenau. We didn't have a choice about it as we were in a large tour group, but I had no regrets.

I think they require the guide service during peak hours to handle the many visitors. You may be wise to start earlier if you want to tackle the sites on your own (don't miss Birkenau, which doesn't take as long). I recall a lot of signs and labels, but I don't recall whether they were in English -- probably were, along with other languages. One thing I recall is that the guide referred repeatedly to "the Nazis" rather than "the Germans," doubtless in recognition of German visitors' sensitivities and the fact that Germany has faced and repudiated that chapter in its history, perhaps more effectively than most other nations.

Posted by
4950 posts

A guide can answer questions, tell stories, and point out interesting details. We wouldn't have known one building from another without them, no matter how detailed Rick's notes are. They did not rush us along. Absolutely you must go to Birkenau.

Posted by
2089 posts

I took a guided day tour--left Krakow by 7, back around 4, decent lunch included--and did not feel rushed by the guide at all. She gave excellent info and answered questions, and it helped that it was a small group tour limited to 10 people. There is signage throughout Auschwitz and Birkenau but her info went far beyond that.

Posted by
201 posts

We were dropped off at Auschwitz by a friend b/c it was so much easier to get there by car than train or bus from Czech Republic. We just went on the tour with one of the Auschwitz guides (in English) and it was very informative, thorough & clear. Take the extra part to Birkenau. It was less museum-ish and equally as moving. It didn't feel rushed to us and we had ample time to mosey through, read thoroughly, etc. We also read a lot beforehand in the guidebooks.

Posted by
349 posts

We opted for one of the official guided tours at Auschwitz. I booked the first English tour of the day in hopes that it might be less crowded. The guide did give us a lot of information that we may have missed had we done it alone. Agree with previous posters that visiting Birkeneau is an absolute must. If you book a tour, they will take you there by bus. However, our guide only toured us around the front of that camp. We had been advised to see the back area of the Birkeneau that was known as "Canada". After we finished the "official" part of the Birkeneau tour, we walked to the back of the camp and toured on our own. We went through the buildings, around the outside ruins then returned to the front of the camp. It was a very powerful portion of our visit.