Attention all avid city-hoppers and enthusiastic trainspotters! If you’re itching for an authentic experience that encompasses all of Poland, look no further; the click-clack of Polish train tracks are calling your name.
As one of Eastern Europe’s most extensive railway networks, these sprawling tracks showcase the very best of what Poland has to offer, paving the way to all corners of the country. Get beyond Warsaw to visit myriad medieval cities and countryside delights. It’s comfortable, convenient, and perfectly priced — so forget the bus. This is Poland from a passenger car, and we’re talking everything Polskie Koleje Państwowe. All aboard!
Things to Know Before You Go
Poland’s national railway service is operated by Polskie Koleje Państwowe (PKP) who handle all long distance, intercity rail services. To help you become better acquainted, here is a breakdown of the different types of PKP services that run throughout Poland:
InterCity (IC), EuroCity (EC), and Express InterCity (EIC) railway services run between the largest cities. Modern and fast, these trains feature ergonomic armchairs, air-conditioning, and toilet facilities.
Express InterCity Premium (EIP) or Pendolino routes have higher speeds, fewer stops and, extra comfort with reclining chairs, fold-out tables, dining carriages, and complimentary snacks.
Twoje Linie Kolejowe (TLK) services are a cheaper option for travel between regions, with older models of carriages. These routes are slightly slower and stop at all moderately-sized stations — perfect for countryside landscape photography.
For shorter trips to lesser-known Polish towns and a slower-paced journey to regional areas, services are handled by the relevant rail company of each Polish region, or Regional trains (Regio). While a seat reservation is required for all PKP bookings, locally operated train seats are unreserved, so simply hop on and pick a spot.
To purchase tickets for all PKP train services within Poland, simply buy online by visiting the Polish Railways InterCity website, www.intercity.pl. Alternatively, you can use Polish train ticketing agency www.polrail.com if you’re wanting to arrange train tickets in advance or are looking to purchase international train tickets either into or from Poland.
To purchase tickets for regional trains, you can either visit this website or simply purchase tickets within the station on the day.
Check out www.rozklad-pkp.pl/en for a helpful journey planner for all PKP trains and this map to see just how well-connected the railways across Poland are! It also might help to know that PKP is partnered with Google Maps, meaning users can easily check train schedules and find the best connections from the app or Google webpage.
To help you decipher the departure boards and posters, keep color in mind! Yellow posters list departures and white posters list arrivals. Fast trains are listed in red, and slow, regional trains are listed in black. Each board should include the numbers and names of trains, intermediate stops and the facilities on board.
And wherever your destination, you can always find local transportation just outside the station, as main railway stations are always located within the heart of the city with good connections to local trams and buses.
Handy Polish Words
Przyjazdy = Arrivals
Odjazdy = Departures
Peron = Platform
Kasa biletowa = Ticket office
Pociąg osobowy = Stopping-all-stations train
Warszawa = Warsaw
Wrocław = Wroclaw
Kraków = Krakow
Gdańsk = Gdansk
Poland’s railway stations are a sight in themselves; a jumbled and fascinating blend of old and new. From Gdansk’s handsome Neo-Gothic train station with rich architectural details and an iconic clocktower to the looming grey slab of Communist-era Warsaw Central. Poland’s stations offer a visual tour through the country’s modern history. Arguably one of the most attractive of all Polish railway stations is Wroclaw Glowny: originally built by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1857, it was recently restored with whimsical turrets and extravagant interiors.
Creating a strange clash between antique and shiny 21st century is the Poznan Glowny, which was opened for UEFA European Football Championship 2012. The spaceship-like complex is seamlessly combined with a large shopping mall; a magnificent structure of gleaming glass and steel — the train station itself enough of a reason to visit the city of Poznan.
See the Cities: An Itinerary
Poland’s cities are a unique blend of eccentricity and rich culture, each of them wrapped up in elaborate and complicated histories. To really get a firm handle on what Poland’s cities have to offer, a voyage around the country to visit Poland’s biggest and mount bountiful cities are your best bet. In case you need help in planning your cityscape adventure, we’ve put together a sample itinerary.
Warsaw → Gdansk
We suggest beginning your trip in Warsaw, as this bustling metropolis is both the most well-connected city in regards to international connections and the hub around which Poland’s railway network revolves.
From Warsaw Centralna Station, board either an EIP or TLK train headed for the Baltic Coast’s port city of Gdansk. EIP Routes will take approximately 3 hours and cost approximately 150 PLN ($39USD). TLK Routes will get you there in just under 4 hours and cost approximately 63 PLN ($16USD).
Once you’re settled in, get ready for a truly remarkable voyage. This journey carries passengers across one of the longest bridges in the world and whizzes past the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, the largest bricked castle in the world. Grab yourself a window seat and have your camera at the ready!
Gdansk → Poznan
From Gdansk Glowny railway station, ride the rails west to Poznan, a city set on the banks of the Warta River. An IC train will get you there in around 3 hours, while TLK routes will take a slightly longer time of around 3 hours 45.
Tickets for both IC and TLK routes cost approximately 55 PLK ($14USD).
Poznan → Wroclaw
Leave Poznan in the morning and be wandering around Wroclaw by lunchtime. A TLK train will get you there in 3 hours, with an IC route being slighter quicker at 2 ½ hours. Both routes will cost approximately 37 PLN ($9USD).
Wroclaw → Krakow
Head to Wroclaw Glowny railway station and catch either an EIC or IC to finish your journey in the city of Krakow, a true highlight of medieval and modern Eastern Europe.
Train routes vary between 3 ½ and 4 hours for both routes, with EIC costing around 85 PLN ($22USD) and IC costing around 44 PLN ($11USD).
See the Countryside: An Itinerary
If you’re looking to skip the hustle and bustle of the city and get out into the rolling green hills and fresh Polish air, seeing the countryside by train is the best way to do it. We’ve picked out two train journeys with particularly spectacular scenery.
Wroclaw – Jelenia Gora – Szklarska Poręba
From Wroclaw, board an IC or TLK train headed for Jelenia Gora in Lower Silesia. On either route, tickets will cost approximately 29 PLN ($7USD) and will take just shy of 2 hours to get there.
From Jelenia Gora, continue on your journey out to Szklarska Poreba, which sits at the foot of Mt Szrenica within the Karkonosze National Park. Catch a REG train for approximately 9 PLN (a cheap $2USD) which takes just 1 hour.
Poznan – Wolsztyn – Leszno
From Poznan, board a KW train to Wolsztyn. The trip will take around 1 hour 30 minutes, costing approximately 17 PLN ($4USD).
Check out Wolsztyn’s steam depot, before boarding a second KW train to Leszno, taking approximately 1 hour at a cost of around 11 PLN (3USD).
Header and other uncredited images by Lily Allen and Kyle Peters.