I wish that I had spent more time at Birkenau. Since we went there via shuttle with our General Tour group, I felt like we should return back to Auschwitz with them. I should have just stayed to walk around on my own. I’m not sure if the only way you can go to Birkenau is with a general tour. We walked in with our tour guide and didn’t have to show a ticket. I would think that anyone can enter at any time. Since a non-tour ticket at Auschwitz is free, I’m sure they wouldn’t charge to go to Birkenau. There isn’t any ticket booth or anything at Birkenau, so I am pretty sure anyone can enter for free.
To read what I did to get reservation tickets to Auschwitz, see my Auschwitz page.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Official Website is very helpful with a lot of good information to know before you go. This is also the website you use to reserve tickets.
The following website has some good pictures and descriptions of Birkenau: Website with History, Maps, and More Pictures
I think it would be fine to bring children to Birkenau any time of day. Since it is outside and there are so many tours and people talking, nobody would have a problem if your child was being a little loud or had to run around a little. I would definitely advise them to be respectful and reverent, but it is such a large place that they shouldn’t be a problem with anyone as long as you aren’t on a tour, just walking on your own.
Our tour of Birkenau with the General Tour was about 1 hour (after the 1.5 hr tour of Auschwitz). Most of the tour was walking because Birkenau is HUGE!! I was astounded by how big it was! From the Main Guard House, to the gate before you get to crematorium II and III, it is 1 mile long.
On the tour, we started at the Main Guard House, then walked up the middle of the camp along the railroad tracks, then to the back where the destroyed crematoriums are, then we walked back and saw one of the barracks.
I had the impression that you are able to go up to the second floor of the Main Guard House, but for some reason it was closed when we arrived. That would be a good spot to get some view shots of the camp. When you arrive at the guard house, see if you can go to the second floor!
Gas Chambers and Crematoriums
The gas chambers and crematoriums were in the back of Birkenau. All that remains is the rubble so it is hard to imagine what they actually looked like and how they worked, but in one of the exhibits at Auschwitz, there is a diorama that helps you understand what they looked like and how they worked. There is a big memorial between crematorium II and crematorium III.
The following website has a lot of good picture showing and describing how the gas chamber and crematorium looked and worked when it was in use: Website on Gas Chamber/Crematorium