Welcome to our second Get There Guide, a fun travel tool that details how to get from Point A to Point B of any given destination! We realize that most of you won’t necessarily find this post immediately applicable, but on the off-chance that there are two frantic Googlers out there searching for this exact route (not that we’ve been there personally or anything…), here’s a breakdown of how to get from Kraków, Poland to Spiš Castle (Spišský hrad) in Slovakia.
First things first: Spiš Castle is seemingly in the middle of nowhere in Slovakia. However, there are some small towns surrounding it. For the purposes of this guide, we recommend that you make the popular local vacation city of Poprad your base for a day trip to Spiš Castle. In our opinion, Poprad is the most convenient “home base” for those looking to travel exclusively via public transportation. And trust us…although Spiš a bit out of the way of pretty much everything, you definitely want to visit this castle. This ain’t no Medieval Times, y’all.
PS: If you are renting a car, you can go ahead and skip this guide. There is a small parking lot at the top of the hill which you can find here, but keep in mind that if you take this route, you’ll miss out on the adventure of climbing THIS! (Ahem…it’s steeper than it looks in pictures.)
Spiš Castle is actually seated right above the small town of Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia which is a complete ghost town in the off-season. There are actually a few of these small towns surrounding the castle (Levoca being the most notable) that contribute to the UNESCO designation of the area, but we still recommend staying the night in Poprad, where there’s good food and all kinds of public transit connections.
HOW WE GOT THERE
Our journey began with an Uber ride from our Kraków apartment to the train station, continued with a train ride to the Polish mountain town of Zakopane, and finished with a bus ride through the High Tatras mountain range into Poprad, Slovakia. By far, this route was the most difficult for us (re: Taylor) to figure out because there wasn’t any detailed information available in English online. You know those old Western movies where the cowboy rolls into town and there’s not a lick of anything but dust to greet him? That was us in Poprad (at least in the area near the train and bus stations). Granted, it was early September, but we had expected to see a little more bustle in the area, which is known as a Slovakian resort town.
Back to the story. We potentially passed two other humans after leaving the bus station, and one of them was not the person who owned our hotel/apartment, booked via Booking.com. Meaning there was no one at the reception desk when we arrived, so we had to place a quick international call to snag the pass code in order to let ourselves in.
Things started to pick up around dinner time thanks to a recommendation from the hotel owner who stopped by later in the evening. At Hodovna we enjoyed a meat tasting spread that possibly included balls of straight up fried fat (we’re not complaining), sausages, pork tenderloin, mustard, fresh bread, and pickled peppers and veggies, plus a plate of potato dumplings with sheep’s milk cheese and another dish consisting of sirloin on top of cakes made from meat and potatoes. And beer. Definitely outside the realm of our usual dinner orders, but just the right thing after all the walking we’d been doing!
Step One: Uber it to the train station in Kraków, Poland
Step Two: Take a train/bus to Zakopane, Poland (NOTE: We decided to go the train route. However, we have seen multiple recommendations to take a bus instead as the reliability of the train can be questionable. The bus trip is also an hour shorter. That being said, we had no problems with the train.)
Step Three: Purchase a bus ticket to Poprad at the bus station in Zakapane – it’s located right across the street from the train station. Although there is a Strama booth inside the station, you will have to pay the driver directly for your ticket. Cash only! (NOTE: Strama runs a direct route during the high season, but it’s not available during the winter. You can check the available dates here – use Google Translate to decipher the site. If there isn’t a direct line running, your travel day will be a bit more complicated. Click here for some great instructions and a more in depth look at travel between Poprad and Zakopane.)
Step Four: Arrive in Poprad! The main bus station is conveniently located next to the train station. There are plenty of hotels nearby within walking distance – we stayed at Penzion Fantazia. Not the most glamorous of locations (i.e. there was a billboard of two chihuahuas that was draped in Christmas lights right outside our window), but clean and convenient. Those things mean a lot when you’re traveling Europe on a budget, right? Right!
Now that you’ve arrived safe and sound in Poprad, be sure to check out our next Get There Guide – we’ll be detailing the semi-tricky route from Poprad to Spišské Podhradie (and the medieval castle ruins of your dreams). Stay tuned!