Zakopane is the mountain capital of Poland and one of the favourite places to visit for people staying in Krakow. It’s undeniable that the Tatra Mountains are beautiful, and the small southern city of Zakopane is the best place to explore them. If you’re in the big K, you may be wondering how you can get from Krakow to Zakopane?
Zakopane lays at the foothills of the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland. It’s just over 100 km from the city of kings, and you can get there in less than two hours by car. It’s impossible to fly so you can only travel there overland. So, what are the best ways to get from Krakow to Zakopane? Read on…
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This is just one part of our guide of travelling in and around Krakow
What’s in this guide on how to travel from Krakow to Zakopane
- Krakow to Zakopane by bus
- Krakow to Zakopane by train
- Krakow to Zakopane by car
- Other ways to get from Krakow to Zakopane
- Where to stay in Zakopane
Krakow to Zakopane by bus
By far, the easiest and the cheapest way to travel from Krakow to Zakopane, if you don’t own a car is by bus. There are lots of companies out there that offer frequent and inexpensive direct connections from the city of kings to the mountain capital of Poland.
Although this may not be the most comfortable way to travel, it usually only takes less than 2.5 hours. That said, the main road connecting Zakopane, and Krakow often gets congested, so travelling times may be extended. Make sure to avoid travelling during the rush hours if you don’t want to waste hours in traffic.
It’s very easy to find buses going to Zakopane from the main bus station in Krakow which is centrally located (right by the main train station). The good thing is that don’t need to pre-book your tickets, but we recommend checking the times beforehand to avoid waiting at the station. While the prices of the tickets vary, they start at around 18 PLN per person. You can easily buy them online or at the station.
While there are lots of bus companies out there, they all offer pretty much the same standard of coaches so there is no need to research them extensively. Just make sure to avoid the minibuses that don’t have as much legroom. Most buses will stop on the way, and it’s possible to catch them at other locations in Krakow, but you will not be guaranteed a seat, plus you can only put your luggage in the boot at the first stop.
Krakow to Zakopane by train
This may not be the quickest way to travel from Krakow to Zakopane but travelling by train is a much more comfortable option. Although the train is quite slow, it takes a more scenic route. Especially as you get closer to the mountains the views will be much more pleasant than those from the bus window. Sometimes though, the train may actually be the fastest mode of transport by avoiding the traffic on the main road, which can be pretty bad.
You can catch the train from the main station in Krakow, which will drop you pretty much at the same location in Zakopane as the bus would. We recommend checking the times beforehand because the trains are not as frequent as buses. You should also bear in mind that trains often get cancelled due to bad weather and heavy snow.
You can buy your tickets at one of the counters at the main train station in Krakow. As with buses, you don’t need to book your tickets in advance, but you may find cheaper tickets if you buy them online. Although the trains are quite old, they are comfortable as long as you get a seat. We personally think this is the best way to get to Zakopane if you’re not short on time, but we may be biased.
Krakow to Zakopane by car
Usually, the fastest way to travel from Krakow to Zakopane is by car. You will take the same road as the buses do, but you don’t need to stop along the way since the journey doesn’t take too long. With no traffic, you can get there in less than two hours. That said, if you travel during the most popular times, you may take almost as long just getting out of Krakow. It’s not unusual for the road to be very busy.
Zakopianka, as the road from Krakow to Zakopane, is known, is a two-lane highspeed road for a large part of the journey. There are plans to make it high-speed all the way, but the progress is slow. At the time of writing, it’s sadly not the case. For some parts, it’s a slower, windy, one-lane road that often gets a lot of traffic. It’s impossible to avoid this way unless you take an even slower DK28 route that will still lead you into the mountains the same, often busy, way towards the end. That is just a reflection of how many Poles head to the mountains for their holidays…
Other ways to get from Krakow to Zakopane
You cannot fly to Zakopane as there is no airport, with the closest one being a tiny Poprad-Tatry airport in Slovakia that only serves a couple of routes. That means you can only really get to Zakopane overland from Krakow.
There are not many other ways to get to Zakopane aside from the three ways we mentioned above. It is technically possible to cycle, but you shouldn’t attempt it if your fitness is not up to scratch. It is over 100 km with plenty of uphill and downhill sections so, it’s not the easiest task. But hey, if you’re up for it, you could give it a try! There is always a train you can take back with your bike.
With the number of people that regularly travel the main road, it’s actually possible to hitchhike. That said, your success is never guaranteed, so we don’t recommend this as a reliable option.
Where to stay in Zakopane?
One of the most luxurious hotels in town. It’s not cheap but it’s well worth the price.
Conveniently located, very close to the train station. One of the most iconic hotels in Zakopane with a lovely spa.
Lovely little family-run hotel with a great breakfast. It’s around a 15-minute walk from the centre.
Krakow to Zakopane – The conclusion
So, there are only three ways to get to Zakopane, by bus, by train, and by car. The fastest and the cheapest way to get there by public transport is by bus. It is also the easiest way since there are lots of buses every day. We think, however, that although the train is slow, this is the most comfortable way to travel. Of course, if you can drive, you will save yourself some travelling time, provided that you avoid the rush hours.