Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of the Nazi concentration camps. It is located near Munich, Germany. A visit here is an incredibly moving experience and a valuable history lesson. Here are some things you should know while planning your visit.
Dachau was the Nazi’s first concentration camp and was the only concentration camp to have existed throughout the entire twelve years of Nazi rule. In the early years it was the largest and most well-known concentration camp. Initially, it was used as a place to imprison political prisoners, but later Dachau became a transfer station to other concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Dachau was planned and constructed to hold 6,000 prisoners, but by the end of WWII in 1945, Dachau was home to 32,000 prisoners. The conditions of course were terrible with overcrowding, torture, and lack of food. Thousands of people died here, either from disease, torture, lack of food, medical experimentation, or murder. There was a gas chamber here but it was never used. Unfortunately, what got a lot of use was the crematorium, of which there were several.
The entrance is through the same gate prisoners would pass through, a metal gate stating “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which means “work makes you free,” which of course was a lie.
Visitors are able to walk the grounds, visit one of the last standing dormitories, and visit the museum, which is excellent. Inside of the museum is a chronological history of the Nazi regime, WWII, and the use of Dachau from WWII up until present time.
There is a graphic, twenty minute movie about the history of Dachau which is not recommended for children. It is disturbing, with its images of death and starvation, but a must see while visiting Dachau.
Should Kids Visit Dachau?
We had concerns taking Tyler and Kara here since it is a site not recommended for children under the age of 12. At the time of our visit, Tyler was 11 years old and Kara was almost 10 years old.
Tim and I do not want to shelter the kids…we think it is important for them to learn about world history, even the atrocities that occurred during WWII. If either of them found what we saw too disturbing we would leave. Tyler and Kara handled seeing Dachau very well, but they were some of the only children we saw while visiting the memorial.
Should You Take a Tour of Dachau?
Tours are optional and a great way to learn the history of Dachau. Plus, those who take the tours rave about the experience. I recommend taking a tour to get the most out of your visit.
We were unable to take a tour because Tyler and Kara were not old enough during our visit. The tour is only for those 13 years and older.
Guided tours are offered in English and German. At the time of this update, tours are held in German at 12 pm and in English at 11 am and 1 pm. Virtual tours are also offered on the official website. Before your visit, get updated tour times on the official website. Tickets cost €4 per person and can be purchased at the Visitor Center. Only those 14 years and older are permitted to attend the tour. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours.
If you prefer not to take a guided tour, audio guides are also available.
How to get to Dachau from Munich
From Munich, take the local S-Bahn S2 line towards Petershausen. Get off at the Dachau station (about 25 minutes by train from Central Station). Exit the Dachau station, cross the street to the bus station, and take bus 726 to Dachau Camp (KZ-Gedenkstätte).
If you have a car, there is a parking lot next to the memorial center at 73 Alte Romerstrasse.
Hours of Operation
Dachau is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. It is closed on December 24th to 26th.
Entry is free. No advance tickets are necessary.
Allow half a day for a visit to Dachau.
For more information, including updated hours of operation, click here.
More Information for Your Trip to Germany
BAVARIA, GERMANY: Take an amazing 10 day road trip in Bavaria, visiting Munich, Neuschwanstein, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and drive the Romantic Road in Germany.
BERLIN: Start with our article Best Things to Do in Berlin for a big list of things to do in the city. Plan your visit with our 5 Day Berlin Itinerary and what to expect on a visit to Teufelsberg.
SAXONY, GERMANY: In Saxony, visit the fairytale bridge called Rakotzbrücke and the amazing Bastei Bridge. Put both of these together, plus the town of Görlitz, into a big day trip from Berlin.
CENTRAL EUROPE ITINERARY: Learn how to put together Budapest, Vienna, and Prague together in our 10 day Central Europe Itinerary.
Planning a trip to Germany? Read all of our articles about Germany on our Germany Travel Guide.
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I visited the camp in 1970 while stationed in Germany with the US Army. I am 72 years now and I will never get that smell out of my head.
I visited Dachau in early December of 1970, 51 years ago, when I was 25, from Mexico/USA. It was morning, a very cloudy and somber day, with hardly any other visitor in the camp. In a very long house-looking, one storied building, there were more than a hundred life-size photographs that showed primarily prisoners walking herded to the gas chambers. The photos were obliquely arranged, so that as I walked the corridor the very long corridor, I would see a phot photo my left, then in a few steps, a photo on my right. One photo, yes, one photo, the only one that I remember, etched in my mind, is the photo of a well-to-do couple, very well dressed, like in their early 30s, holding hands, each holding one of their two children, a little girl, about four, a boy, about six. The photo caught the girl in the air as she was playing, having the time of her life. The boy was smiling, with no care in sight. Their parents, however, had the look of death the in their faces. The man’s face was sagging, literally sagging, with such deep sorrow, knowing that he was leading his family to utter obliteration, to death.
Yes, I saw the two very long rows of the very large tombs, and the one available crematorium, all very elucidating as to what happened during the Nazi regime. Man inhumanity to man, in full display. It was that photograph that impacted my being, more so that any other experience in my one-year travels in Europe.
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I’ll never forget my tour through Dachau’s exhibitions, cells, and gas chambers. The images of torture and suffering were real enough and disturbing, but the thing that stuck with me the most was the great job the museum did explaining how this type of thing could happen in a modern civilized country. We should all be scared of what happened here because otherwise it is bound to happen again. I wish others could see in person the examples and story provided for how the government leadership progressively attacked people’s minds and the deleterious effect propaganda had on how people though of immigrants and jews within the population. TV was for the first time available to form a story and sell ideas and unsuspecting consumers of the movies and ads on TV clearly started to believe what they were being told – immigrants were the reason for their low unemployment and jews were “enemies of the state.” Later on in the propaganda the labels became progressively worse and “terrorists of the state” was a typical label. Prison guards interviewed told the story how they started to believe that jews were less than human, because of all the lies and propaganda. Propaganda and lies are evil. It started to become okay to do the bad things that happened, because the people that they were subjects of the suffering, weren’t real humans. This museum is a cultural golden nugget, not just for Germany, but for the world. Germany isn’t unique, it’s a human race weakness and similar things could happen anywhere in the world. We need to support this museum and the things it teaches, or suffer the consequences potentially with even worse results in the future. Thank You!!!
Germany is one of the most beautiful countries that you will ever see, but who would have imagined what took place there in
the era of W W ll. The concentration camps were and still are hard for the human mind to comprehend. It is good for all to see
what took place and to get it instilled in your mind so that it will not happen again. This does take place when you let a people
have to much control and power and then totalitarian rule comes to be.JD Moore
I went there quite a few years ago, the picture of seperation of a mother and daughter was the saddest thing I saw. I have a very good sense of smell and you could still smell death there. This was in 1983.
After reading your blog, we decided this is something we definitely have to do during our trip. We won’t have a car, and were traveling from Zürich to Munich by train. Can you tell me how difficult it is to get Dachau from the city? My husband is a huge WWII fan, is there anything else in the area you would recommend? Thank you!
It is so easy to get to Dachau from Munich. The metro (S2 line) takes you to Dachau Station and then a 15 minute bus (#726) will take you to the entrance. Check out this link for more in-depth info: http://www.discovermunich.net/doItYourself/dachau.html. Plan on spending half of your day in Dachau and don’t miss the video…you learn a lot! There are also guided tours twice a day. I recommend reading the book “The Book Thief” before going…it is a fictional book about WWII that takes place in Munich…I wish I had read it before going and it is now one of my favorite books.
I can’t think of anything else WWII related in Munich but do a Google search…there may be more than Dachau. Berchtesgaden (2-3 hours southeast of Munich by car) is where you can visit the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s base during WWII.
Thank you for this information! I am traveling to Munich solo in December, and I’d like to visit this camp. Is it free or is there somewhere I can pre-purchase tickets?! I appreciate the help so much!
It is free to visit and no tickets are necessary. If you want to take a tour, there is a small fee (3.50 euros). To reserve a tour, click the link at the end of this post, scroll down, and click the box “Tours for Individual Visitors” to go to the tour page. Cheers, Julie
How great to read about your time in Dauchau. Being remind of our worlds atrocities is disturbing, but necessary so that we never let history repeat itself. Thank you for the story and for being brave enough to know your children could handle the facts about history..the good and the bad…..The beer garden sounded like so much fun especially the oversized beers….Good Luck in your flight to So Africa. Looking forward to hearing more.
I visited Dauchau in mid 1980’s while visiting my military friends in Nue Ulm. It is a vacation memory I will never forget.
Right now in America we are experiencing a racial and political divsoin . It is during this time I remember my trip to Dauchau.
I encouragir any one visiting Berlin to take this your. Thank you for allowing the world to see the truth . It is the only way it will not be repeated .
WONDERED IF YOU WOULD GO TO THE CONCENTRATION CAMP. I KNOW IT WAS A HARD THING FOR THE KIDS TO SEE, BUT AN IMPORTANT PART OF HISTORY FOR THEM TO LEARN. I CRIED THE WHOLE WAY THRU OUR TOUR. MADE ME QUESTION WHAT WE WOULD HAVE DONE. THERE WERE SO MANY HOUSES SO CLOSE. PEOPLE HAD TO HAVE KNOWN WHAT WAS HAPPENING. JOHN IN THERE DEFENSE SAID IF THEY HAD CHILDREN THEY MIGHT HAVE TURNED A BLIND EYE, IN FEAR OF WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THEM IF THEY FOUGHT THE NAZIS. NEEDED BEER AFTER THAT TOUR. LOTS OF IT.
Yes it was hard, but good for us and our kids to see. It’s funny you mention the beer. Immediately after Dachau we went right to the Hofbrauhaus for those huge beers.