Getting to Zakopane

(Updated December 2023!) 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.

From the centre of Kraków you have two reasonable ways to get to Zakopane:

  • By train, and
  • By bus.

Two less reasonable methods include:

  • A rental car, or
  • A taxi.

It is not possible to get to Zakopane directly by plane, but we will also briefly discuss this topic 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.

The line has been under renovation for several years. This renovation is set to conclude on 22 December 2023, reducing the Kraków-Zakopane shortest train journey to just 2 hours and 40 minutes. For the current timetable, visit the PKP website. Also, 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.

… 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

The journey takes just under two hours.

Getting to Zakopane by (rental) car

The traffic is high on Zakopianka (that’s what the national road from Kraków to Zakopane is called). The shortest car ride takes some 2 hours in normal traffic. During peak hours or during bad weather, it may increase to 3, 5, sometimes even 7 hours.

Also, 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. The construction works are expected to conclude by the end of 2024, at which point the road will become two-lane and collision-free.

Until then, plan your drive carefully and avoid peak times like holidays and Christmas, as well as during heavy snowfall. The best time to drive is early in the morning, or late at night.

… 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.

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.

Last, but not least: by plane

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.

On the other hand, Kraków has the 2nd largest Polish airport, with more than 7 million passengers annually (2022). It can be conveniently reached from many places around the world, with flights from nearly all major airlines, including established carriers like LOT, Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Swiss, and Turkish Airlines, as well as budget options such as Ryanair, EasyJet, and WizzAir.

You can only get from the airport to Zakopane directly by taxi. You will find a wide variety of transfer offers on the internet, from carriers based in both Krakow and Zakopane.

However, we recommend using public transport. There is a railway station right next to the airport terminal, with trains departing every 30 minutes to Kraków Główny, the main railway and bus station in the city. You can find the train timetable 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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