Here’s an overview of the best way to travel by air to Kraków, Poland, from destinations including the UK, USA and the rest of Europe
For UK travellers to Europe, it’s fair to say that the last ten years has been the decade of the low cost airline. Flights have opened up right across the continent, and previously unvisited cities have become more accessible than ever before. But, of all of the examples of ‘low cost causing tourist boom’, Kraków is perhaps the starkest.
In 2004, there were very few flights connecting Poland, let alone Kraków, to other major European hubs, and the UK was mainly accessible only from Warsaw, and by BA, or expensive connecting routes. Just 9 years later, there are now more low cost flight connections to Kraków, and Poland as a whole, from the UK than to any other country in Europe!
Naturally the best option for Kraków flights are to go direct from the UK, into the John Paul II International that sits – perhaps unusually for an airport – fairly close to the city centre. In many ways the airport is deceptive in its efficiency; with just one terminal building serving both arrivals and departures, it’s difficult to see how so many flights could possibly be serviced here.
But they are, and today you can fly low cost, direct to Kraków, from Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, the East Midlands, Liverpool, London (Stansted), and Manchester, with Ryan Air alone, while other low cost routes from Bristol, Belfast, London and Edinburgh are run by Easyjet.
However, flying directly to Krakow is not the only option, and can prove a little bit more expensive, due to the higher demand for tickets on these routes. But options abound. Routes to Katowice, a town just an hour to the west of Kraków, and easily accessible by airport shuttles that run every hour to Kraków’s central bus station, are now run by Wizz Air and Ryan Air, and are often a fraction of the cost of a direct ticket. What’s more, if tickets on these routes aren’t available, cities like Rzeszow, to the south east, or Wrocław, to the west are now served by low cost airlines too. (Both have frequent bus services to Krakow operating at really reasonable prices.)
Unfortunately Kraków airport is not quite big enough to service significant continental arrivals, so there are no direct flights from the US. However, with the ease of access made possible by the proliferation of low cost routes from London and other major international air hubs in the UK, getting a connection should never be a problem.
The other option for US arrivals is flying with Polish Airlines (LOT) directly to Warsaw. Currently, only one route is in frequent operation, which goes direct to and from Chicago International Airport. After arrival, it’s a 5-hour or so bus to Kraków, and these can be taken directly from the airport. LOT also service much of Europe and, while not a low cost airline, they are still a viable option for visitors coming from the UK, particularly from London.
In general Kraków is one of the most accessible cities in Poland. It’s fair to say, that with the ease of access from nearby towns like Katowice, and even Warsaw (which has two international airports), it’s rarely a difficult task to find a way in or out of the city.
Other Polish Cities You Can Visit From Kraków
You will find a general overview of the transport network on our page How To Travel From Kraków To Other Polish Cities. This gives information on how to use trains, coaches, planes, and private vehicles in Poland, and where each type of service departs in Kraków.
- Białystok: In the north east of Poland, Białystok has a lively cultural scene and a handful of tourist attractions, and is close to the UNESCO-listed Białowieski National Park and the oldest forests in Europe.
- Gdańsk: On the Baltic coast, Gdańsk is friendly and great for food, and one of Poland’s biggest tourist destinations.
- Gdynia: Gdynia is also a port city with some lovely sandy beaches, and also makes a great day trip from neighbouring Gdańsk.
- Katowice: For something a bit different, Katowice is very post-industrial. It’s airport and proximity to Kraków make it worth consideration for travellers who want a future-facing (and very green) Poland, with dramatic, modern architecture.
- Łódź: Set in the very heart of Poland, Łódź is coming into its own as a creative city. The city is alive with murals and street art. There’s a great food scene and a nice mix of architectural styles. Right now, Łódź has that exciting feel of the future.
- Lublin: On the eastern side of Poland, Lublin is best known as a cultural and academic city. It has a rich Jewish heritage and was apparently referred to as the ‘Jewish Oxford’ in the Jagiellonian era. There is a nice mix of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque, with some atmospheric cobbled streets.
- Olsztyn: Up in the north, Olsztyn is often overlooked by tourists keen to reach the more famous Gdańsk. It does, however, have a pretty Old Town and ranks very highly for quality of life. What’s more, the city provides a gateway to some gorgeous wild countryside of lakes and forests.
- Poznań: 300km to the west of Warsaw, youthful Poznań has a lively, friendly nightlife, with plenty of restaurants and bars. The Old Town is brightly coloured and quirkily decorated with bold styles similar to Southern Germany. There’s plenty here to keep you occupied for a long weekend, with a museums, a cathedral, and historical buildings, but the city also makes a great base for exploring Poland’s countryside.
- Sopot: Another seaside resort, between Gdynia and Gdańsk, Sopot is a playground for the rich. With sandy beaches and a pier, as well as the shops, bars, and clubs of Bohaterów Monte Cassino, it can be very busy at the height of the season. Even more than Gdynia, Sopot might be best sampled first as an afternoon out, rounded off with a meal in one of the excellent fish restaurants.
- Szczecin: Close to the border with Germany, Szczecin is off the beaten track for most tourists. The Old Town is pretty and there are a handful of attractions to see. But, mainly, visiting Szczecin is a great opportunity to get to know Polish food and to engage with the culture – there is a fine Philharmonic building and the grand Ducal Castle is now an arts centre.
- Toruń: Largely untouched by the Second World War, Toruń is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Vistula River to the north west of Warsaw. The architectural highlights are dominated by the huge Gothic cathedral and the city feels less hectic than more famous tourist destinations.
- Warsaw: Poland’s capital city is easy to reach from Kraków and makes a good weekend destination. Much of Warsaw was built after 1945. Even the pretty Old Town is mostly reconstruction. But there are excellent museums and places to eat. It’s also one of Europe’s great cities to go out drinking!
- Wrocław: Wrocław is a charming city in the western part of Poland, with islands and bridges criss-crossing the water and a strong Gothic flavour to the architecture. Built out from the 10th century Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island), Wrocław also has a stunning market square, much of which is listed within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Zakopane: 110km from Kraków, Poland’s outdoor capital and winter resort, Zakopane is nestled at the root of the High Tatra mountains. The area is excellent for hiking, skiing, and a range of other activities. However, there is also unique folk architecture and plenty of more spectacular attractions.
As well as travelling to other Polish destinations, Kraków also serves as a handy hub for a number of cities in neighbouring countries.