Getting to Zakopane

Getting to Zakopane appears to be an easy task. The town is considered to be the tourist capital of Poland and millions of people go there every year. However, there are a few pitfalls that can spoil the mood of unsuspecting travellers, especially during peak season: there is only one railway line connecting it with the rest of the country and only one main road. So you need some planning and knowledge to get you there and back as smoothly as possible. Here’s a short how-to guide. Once you get there, remember to download our mobile app, with as many as 5 amazing audioguides which will help you discover the city’s best attractions.

Where to go from?

Kraków is the most popular place to depart from, with 99% of visitors either departing from there or passing it on their way to Zakopane. All information provided in this post assumes you are or you will be in Kraków.

From Slovakia, the most popular route to Zakopane starts in Poprad. However, “Most popular” does not mean “frequented”, so we do not focus on this particular topic in this article.

Zakopane by rail…

There is a railway line connecting Kraków with Zakopane. However, the trains are not too frequent, especially during the low season. In addition, in good weather and outside peak hours, the total time of the ride is significantly longer. Nevertheless, there is one huge advantage of rail over bus. It helps you avoid the traffic. If you plan to get to Zakopane from other cities, like Warsaw or Gdańsk, check the timetable as there may be direct connections available.

See our blog post about rail travel in Poland.

One important remark: it does not make any sense to use the train when taking a one-day trip from Kraków. You will waste too much of your time.

Second remark. The railway between Kraków and Zakopane is under renovation. It may be closed temporarily, especially during the low season. Double-check the timetable when planning your trip.

Update 2023: The line will be open until Sunday 27 February – the end of the winter holidays. All trains will end at a temporary station about two kilometres from the actual terminus in Zakopane! Then it will be closed again – probably until the end of June!

…and by bus

The buses are the most popular way of getting to Zakopane. They run frequently, sometimes as often as every 15 minutes. In Kraków, they depart from a bus terminal located right next to the Kraków Główny railway station. No need to buy the tickets in advance, it is enough just to show up at the station. In the worst case, you will have to wait for another bus.
If you really feel a need to book a ticket in advance, here are a few links to the bus companies that will help you get started:

Majer bus
Flix Bus

Getting to Zakopane by car or a taxi…

A taxi is an option if you travel in a larger group, as the price gets at least slightly closer to the price of a bus. It does have all the advantages the public transportation. Sill, at the same time, it exposes you to all of the potential troubles of travelling on Zakopianka – that’s what the national road from Kraków to Zakopane is called.

If you arrive by plane to the airport in Kraków, taking a taxi from there and by-passing Kraków will save you a lot of time.

…or by (rental) car.

The traffic is high on Zakopianka road. On peak days, Zakopane is always crowded, and traffic jams are a serious issue. So, unless you have a strong need to have a car, avoid it. The actual ride takes some 2 to 2:30 hours in normal traffic. During peak hours or during bad weather, it may increase to 3, 5, sometimes even 7 hours. Plan your drive carefully and avoid peak times like holidays and Christmas, as well as during heavy snowfall. The best time to drive is at night.

Keep in mind that the road between Kraków and Zakopane is currently (2023) under construction. And there is at least one “hot spot” where you drive through the construction site. As a result, at peak times, traffic jams are unavoidable.

By plane? No.

There is no airport in Zakopane. However, there are two airports nearby: Kraków (KRK) and Poprad (TAT) in Slovakia.

The airport in Poprad is relatively small and only has a few connections per day, mostly to London. Moreover, getting from Poprad to Zakopane is not easy, as you have to go around the entire Tatra mountain range.

Kraków has the 2nd largest Polish airport and getting to it is relatively easy from all over the world. From there, taking a taxi, or renting a car will be the fastest and the most expensive option. Otherwise, take a train or a bus to the Kraków Głowny station and continue from there by bus or train. Our recommendation: go to Kraków first.

Our mobile guide

And when you get to Zakopane – don’t miss our mobile app with five amazing audioguides! It will help you enjoy all that Zakopane has to offer! Available in Polish, English, German, Lithuanian and Ukrainian.

Don’t miss our other articles about Zakopane either! (find a list of them below).

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