Getting to Zakopane

(Updated December 2023!) Getting to Zakopane seems like an easy task. It is considered the tourist capital of Poland, and millions of people visit it every year. However, there are a few pitfalls that can spoil the mood of unsuspecting travellers, especially in high season: there is only one railway line connecting it to the rest of the country and only one main road. So it takes some planning and knowledge to get there and back as smoothly as possible.



Where to start?

Kraków is the most popular departure point, with 99% of visitors either departing from there or passing through on their way to Zakopane. All information in this post assumes that you are, or will be, in Kraków. The most popular route to Zakopane from Slovakia begins in Poprad. However, ‘most popular’ does not necessarily mean ‘frequented’, and so this particular topic is not the focus of this article.

From the centre of Kraków, there are two practical ways to travel to Zakopane:

  • By train, and
  • By bus.

Two less practical methods include:

  • A rental car, or
  • A taxi.

While it is not possible to travel directly to Zakopane by plane, this topic will also be briefly discussed at the end of this article..

To Zakopane by rail…

There is a railway line connecting Kraków with Zakopane. During the high season, the line operates more than a dozen daily trains, connecting Zakopane with cities across Poland, including Warsaw and Gdańsk. In our opinion, the train is by far the best method of getting to the Tatra capital during peak traffic times or during snowfall. However, if you are departing for Zakopane from Kraków, it may be quicker to get there by bus.

After several years of renovation, the line was reopened in December 2023. The fastest train now takes approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete the entire journey. However, such trains are few and far between, with most taking 3 to 4 hours. Therefore, this option is practical if you travel to Zakopane from more distant regions of Poland by direct train. For the current timetable, visit the PKP website. Also, see our blog post about rail travel in Poland.

One important note: it does not make sense to take the train for a one-day trip from Kraków. You will lose too much time.

… By bus …

Buses are the most popular way to get to Zakopane. They run frequently, sometimes every 15 minutes. In Kraków, they depart from a bus terminal next to Kraków Główny railway station. There is no need to buy tickets in advance, just show up at the station. In the worst case you will have to wait for another bus. If you really need to book a ticket in advance, here are some links to bus companies that will help you:

Majer bus
Flix Bus

The journey takes just under two hours.

Getting to Zakopane by (rental) car

There is a lot of traffic on the Zakopianka (the main national road from Krakow to Zakopane). The shortest journey by car takes about 2 hours in normal traffic. During rush hours or in bad weather, it can take 3, 5 or sometimes even 7 hours.

Bear in mind that the road between Krakow and Zakopane is currently (2024) under construction. And there is at least one “hot spot” where you drive through the construction site. As a result, traffic jams are inevitable at peak times. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, when the road from Kraków to Nowy Targ will be dual carriageway and collision-free.

In the meantime, plan your journey carefully and avoid peak periods such as holidays, Christmas and heavy snowfall. The best time to travel is early in the morning or late at night.

… Or a taxi…

A taxi is an option if you are travelling in a larger group, as the price per person is at least slightly closer to the price of a bus, and it still retains all the advantages of public transport. At the same time, it exposes you to all the potential problems of travelling on Zakopianka.

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

Last but not least, by plane

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

The airport in Poprad is relatively small and has only a few flights a day, mostly to London. It is also not easy to get from Poprad to Zakopane, as you have to drive around the whole of the Tatra Mountains.

Kraków, on the other hand, has Poland’s second-largest airport, with over 7 million passengers a year (2022). It is easily accessible from many parts of the world, with flights from almost all major airlines, including established carriers such as LOT, Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Swiss and Turkish Airlines, as well as budget options such as Ryanair, EasyJet and WizzAir.

The only way to get to Zakopane directly from the airport is by taxi. You can find a wide range of transfer offers on the internet from companies based in both Krakow and Zakopane.

However, we recommend that you use public transport. A train station is located next to the airport terminal. Trains run every 30 minutes to Kraków Główny, the city’s main train and bus station. Train timetables are available on the PKP website.

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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