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Whirlwind Krakow/Auschwitz

We are a family of 5 (mom, dad, and three teen boys) and will be visiting Krakow (and Auschwitz) via a night train to and from Vienna. We will be staying one night in Krakow in between so we essentially have 2 full days in that area. I have already established that we are crazy taking night trains, so please refrain from your comments on that. ;-)

One of the days we would like to spend touring Auschwitz/Birkenau and the other spent seeing Schindler's Factory and any other reasonable Krakow sights. We are not against seeing that Salt Mine either but have seen a salt mine in Salzburg area so not sure if that would be the same. Let me know if you have done both and felt this one was worth seeing. Also let me know if you are claustrophobic and how you handled it compared to the Salzburg area ones (my husband is claustrophobic but survived the Salzburg area one).

Here is the schedule with trains:
Day 1: Come in on train arriving Krakow Glowny at 06:17 - stay overnight at hotel in Krakow.
Day 2: Night train leaves Krakow Glowny at 22:36

Which day would you do the Auschwitz tour? I am thinking the first day since we will be awake early getting off of the train. I am thinking we will not be able to check in to our hotel that early so we would plan to either store our luggage at the train station or if we take a tour, see if the driver will let us keep the luggage in the van?

I have seen a lot of posts about doing Auschwitz on your own vs. a guided tour and it seemed to me that the guided tour is not that bad of a deal when you have a family of 5. Sure I could do it a bit cheaper on our own but there are other hassles to deal with that make the tour sound like it could be worth it. Plus we could also see the Salt Mine in one day (I know I have read that is a lot so still considering if we should or not).

Thanks for any advice. I know - I wish we could stay longer but we can't and I don't know when we would be in this area of the world again.

Posted by
4689 posts

Find out what it would cost for a guided tour with van service to/from Auschwitz. Maybe for five it would be worth doing that way.

But it's not a bad plan to leave your bags at the train station and take a bus (or minibus) to Auschwitz soon after your train arrives.
Get the first bus from the adjacent bus station on to Oświęcim (the Polish name for Auschwitz). The bus/minibus may not stop in the camp parking lot but (as with me) drop you on the street about 1/3 of a mile away from the entrance. To get back to Krakow, some buses do stop in the camp parking lot, but none did when I was headed back, so I just walked (with several other tourists) back out o the street where the minibus had dropped me in the morning and caught the next bus back to Krakow headed in the opposite direction.

You can always just join a tour when you get to the camp. You have to join one anyway if you arrive after 10am. Do be sure in that case (arriving on your own) to reserve spots ahead of time online - I understand they do this now, weren't doing it in 2012 when I visited.

I would probably skip the salt mine. It was pretty cool but a lot of effort to get there and back plus do the long walking tour underground.

The Museum of the Occupation of Krakow under the Nazis (the name is something like that) is the museum housed in the former Schindler factory. The museum has almost nothing at all to do with him (one room preserves his office - that's about it I think). The museum as suggested from the title is devoted to Krakow during World War II. It's a terrific museum with a modern design. I love history but get bored easily in museum, and I thought it was great. Because it's not just another war museum and specific to the town you are actually in, it felt very relevant.

Don't neglect Krakow itself - charming town, lovely old Rynek (old market square).

Posted by
2092 posts

I hope you love Krakow as much as I did--I stayed 4 full days in 2015, including a guided day trip to Auschwitz. I had no interest in the salt mines, and with your limited time you'll be better off to keep your focus on Auschwitz and Schindler's factory and exploring the beautiful main square area.

I was picked up at my hotel near the rynek glowny (main square) around 7:30 am, small group of 10 people, and met by a guide who took us through Auschwitz, break for lunch that was provided, then over to Birkenau for a couple more hours. I was back in Krakow around 4 pm. I booked this through Viator, can't recall the cost but it was not expensive. So I'd say do it your first day depending on the available tour times, and then you'll have the late afternoon and evening hours to explore the main square--lots going on there, food and drink vendors (piwo is beer and lody is ice cream, I recall that much!), music, crafts, really just a fun vibe. I loved hearing the hejnal played hourly from St Mary's church--hauntingly beautiful. You don't say what time of year you're going, but I was there in late May when it was quite warm and it was nice to relax with a drink under the trees in the planty, the green belt that circles the square.

Your second day can include Schindler's factory--I believe people are now suggesting advance tickets--allow 2-3 hours, then explore the Kazimierz district and Wawel Hill castle complex--don't miss seeing the famous dragon down below--and back to the square later in the day. I would think the best plan is to go directly to your hotel and they will store your luggage, before check-in and after check-out the next day.

Posted by
2235 posts

seahunt, I spent 4 nights in Krakow back in 2011, very enjoyable. I took half-day tours to each of Auschwitz and the Salt Mine, both excellent. I have not been to any other Salt Mine but I found this visit was quite incredible, beautiful and memorable. I am not claustrophobic, so would have little perspective about that. I do remember that there were seemingly endless small spiral stairways going down, of course they did eventually end. We came back up from the end of the tour by small elevator, a few people each trip.
Given your situation, with 5 people and limited time, I think a good private guide with a van would make your day much more worthwhile, insightful and manageable. I don’t know if your own guide could actually lead your family through these sites, or whether you would need to integrate into regular site tours with site guides. As I remember, the site guides at each of these sites were very good.

Posted by
5019 posts

seahunt - when exactly will you be there?

It's important to know that entry for both Auschwitz and also the "Schindler" museum book up solid during busy times. If you're going during the peak sumer season, be sure to plan for this well in advance.

Personally, we went to Auschwitz without a tour guide (we were late to book, all entries were booked up for many days, so we just went there very, very early, stood in a long line, got tickets and gained entry with no tour - it was fine, we used the self-guided tour in Rick's book). We got to the Schindler museum early afternoon the same day, but they had booked up too, and were turning people away. We waived our "Krakow card" (which we bought specifically for this magic power) and we were waved right in.

Which day would you do the Auschwitz tour? I am thinking the first day
since we will be awake early getting off of the train.

I dunno...taking a night train, I would actually expect to arrive exhausted, groggy and miserable (that's been my experuence on every night train I tried, YMMV). That's certainly no condition in which to start a day at Auschwitz. So if it were me, I'd take that first day and just wander the center of Krakow, mingle with all the other tourists (expect crowds, hawkers on every street, a bit of a circus atmosphere) and enjoy the city for the day. Then, after an actual good nights sleep, I'd tackle the much weightier day at Auschwitz/Birkenau and the Schindler factory - which I found to be emotionally draining even when I was well-rested going in to it. That day will stick with you for a while (as it should).

Posted by
5013 posts

I would not waste the few hours you have there on the salt mine tour, especially if you've already seen one. Stay above ground and see the beautiful city.

Posted by
1453 posts

Agree, skip the salt mine. Go to Auschwitz on your first day then wander around the old town. Eat at the Milk Bar Mleczny on the Royal Way for a great cheap meal. But if you something a little more upscale, try Miód Malina, also on the Royal Way. It is inexpensive. Book Schindler for an early time, it gets very crowded. It is a historic and very moving museum about life in the Jewish Ghetto and the war itself. Across the street is a small glassblowing place, Lipowa 3 Glass. They give a short demonstration and even let us try it. Small museum of glass and a cute gift shop. When you enter, ask about the tour. We weren’t there very long. If you are Catholic, the Archdiocesan museum was wonderful. Another short visit. Of course Wawel Castle is a must. They have a lovely outdoor cafe for people watching too. If you want to eat some great kielbasa, find the Blue Van. They come out at night, around 8:00. Google them. Lastly, you must try the donuts at Stara Paczkarnia, they are located at Ul. Stradomska. Even if you hate donuts, like my husband, you will love, love, love these. Better then any bakery or restaurant. All they sell are donuts. We ate one almost every day for 2 weeks this past summer. You will love Krakow. We spent 6 nights there and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Posted by
91 posts

We will be there in June on a Sunday and Monday. I was reading that it is free entrance day on Monday for the Schindler Factory and that some of the museums are closed on Monday. Now I am thinking that I maybe should go to Auschwitz on the 2nd day (since it is a Monday) and it might be better to pay to go on Sunday to Schindler's Factory?

Thanks for all of your advice so far!

Posted by
1449 posts

Yes, there are many museums closed on Mondays. By going to Auschwitz on Monday, you won't miss out on any of the museums that interest you - including Schindler's Factory, where Monday tickets "sell out" sooner than other days (they're free, but you still reserve them in advance.) Looking ahead at June, the first Monday is already "sold" out. Timeslots on other Mondays are filling.

During my 4 day visit this past fall, I went to Auschwitz on a Tuesday and stayed in town on Monday and found plenty to do, including wandering the grounds of Wawel Castle and visiting those attractions that are open on Monday. Tickets for the Schindler Factory on Monday were sold out, but I was able to go on Wednesday.

Check the June ticket calendar to help decide!

Posted by
41 posts

visit in Auschwitz is quite a difficult experience, so it's better not to plan too many things on that day. Therefore, I'd suggest going to Auschwitz on the second day. Guided tour is better, especially if you want to get to know history of WW2.
I'd advise against visiting Wieliczka Salt Mine if your husband is claustrophobic. Some corridors are really narrow and the sense of limited space is quite strong there. I felt a bit uneasy at some points, even though I'm not claustrophobic.