9 Amazing Things To Do in Zakopane Poland You Won’t Regret!
Our post today will show you the 9 top things to do in Zakopane Poland, one of the most beautiful mountain towns we have ever been to.
During our day trip from Krakow to Zakopane, we had lots of fun exploring the outdoors, and all the beautiful views it has to offer. Trying to figure out what to see in Zakopane does not need to be a mystery, and we will spill the beans here today.
Let’s Zip Up & Visit Zakopane!
What will be covered in this post
- Why visit Zakopane: Background about Zakopane
- Where is Zakopane located?
- What to do in Zakopane
- Getting to Zakopane
- Where to stay in Zakopane?
- Guided Tour Options
- Things to do in Zakopane: Verdict
- Logistics before visiting Zakopane Poland
Why visit Zakopane: Background about Zakopane
Here’s a quick look at what you need to know about Zakopane.
It is a mountain town located in southern Poland, about 1.5 hours by bus from the city of Krakow. Located among the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane is widely known as the Winter Capital of Poland, and many holiday makers gather here to take part in outdoor activities like skiing and alpine hiking.
During the other seasons, Zakopane sees a steady stream of visitors who are looking for one of the best nature spots in Poland, savouring delicious regional cuisine and taking a break away from their hectic lives.
You can easily take a day trip to Zakopane, or plan a 2 to 3 days itinerary, since there are so many amazing things to do here.
We had a few days here, and we are going to show you 9 things you should not miss while in Zakopane!
Related: Warsaw itinerary you can’t miss!
Where is Zakopane located?
Zakopane is located in the southern part of Poland, in a region known as Podhale. As a mountain town, it is about 800 – 1000 meters above sea level and sits at the foot of the majestic Tatra Mountains.
The distance of Zakopane from Krakow is 107 km.
What to do in Zakopane
Hiking in Zakopane
There is such a wide variety of hiking options in Zakopane that you will need to spend several days to complete them all. We highlight the best and most scenic hikes you can take here in Zakopane. Most of them belong to the Tatra National Park.
Emerald Lake (aka Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy Lake). Moderately easy hike that takes 5 to 6 hours return, this brings you to a gorgeous cold mountain lake in the heart of the Tatras. Along the way, you can stop at Hala Gąsienicowa for a short break. If you fancy an overnight stay or a meal at a restaurant, head to Murowaniec Shelter.
Valley of the Five Lakes (Dolina Pięciu Stawów). As the name suggests, you will be walking through the mountain valley to see the 5 lakes here. The journey takes about 2.5 hours and the first 4 lakes are easily sighted during the hike. The last one will require a bit of an effort to reach, but well worth it. Do not take the same way back, instead opting to take the blue trail towards Morskie Oko, the most famous lake in Zakopane. While it is really beautiful, we did not fancy it that much as it was super crowded, feeling very much like you are in the middle of a big city center.
Rysy Mountain. The highest peak in Poland, standing at 2499 metres tall, is on the top of the list of most adventure seekers who come to the Tatras Mountains. This is not a walk in the park, and there have been some casualties in the past. The hike is challenging, so beginners will certainly need to be in good shape and it is best to attempt it with someone experienced. The reward is great though, getting to the highest point in Poland.
Kasprowy Wierch. Considered one of the most iconic hikes in the region, it is suitable for both novices and experts alike. Located among the High Tatras, the hike takes you through different landscapes from forest to woodland and finally to the summit. The views here are amazing, and you can peer into Slovakia right on the border. The entire hike can be done in 5 to 6 hours, but you can shorten it by taking the cable car from Kuznice, the trailhead.
Strążyska Valley. We really enjoyed this hike for several reasons. Firstly, it is so easy! But you can quickly turn it into something more challenging by taking one of the trails to head up the mountains. From the entrance of the park, it is just a straightforward 45 minutes stroll to the mountain hut at the end of the valley, where delicious apple pie awaits you! Another reason we loved it is the views from the valley floor, where you can admire the imposing Giewont here.
Gubalowka. We are not entirely sure if you can actually hike up this mountain, but we know that you can take the funicular up, while you will find a lively village that has commanding views across Zakopane and the Tatras Mountains.
There are lots of small shops and restaurants here, and it is easy to walk around and spend a couple of hours exploring this alpine village. Pay close attention as you wander around this area for there are several traditional Zakopane wooden houses to admire.
During winter, Gubalowka grants you access to ski slopes and snow rides, and a short 20 minutes walk takes you to the ski lift where you can make your descent.
Feast on yummy Polish food
No trip to Zakopane will be complete without sampling the amazing food here. As Zakopane is located in the Podhale region, it has heavy influence from the region, and is also different from other parts of Poland for its highlander food. Look, we don’t know how to pronounce most of them, but they are nevertheless super tasty. Here’s what you should try out:
Oscypek cheese. You cannot come to Zakopane and not try Oscypek, as it is synonymous with this mountain town. Smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk, this is found only in Zakopane. You can easily recognise it by its distinct shapes and sizes, which follows a strict guideline. The taste is surprisingly mild, a bit like a mozzarella, but you can detect the smokiness behind it. There are lots of street vendors and shops selling it, but unfortunately, they are likely not made to specifications. The only way is to find a shop that has a certificate of authenticity. One more thing, they are only available from April to September.
Traditional Polish food. All over the restaurants in Zakopane, take your pick from roasted meats to fresh grilled trout, moskole to zurek. The choices are almost endless. Highlander food is typically made using ingredients from its surroundings, harvested fresh and prepared in a way that makes them look so appetising. Especially during the colder months, where you can dine in one of the taverns over mulled wine and several warm dishes. Make sure to try these out:
- Kwaśnica Soup – Pickled cabbage and mainly pork, cooked for hours
- Kluski śląskie – Potato dumplings
- Hałuski – Potato noodles
- Moskole – Potato pancakes
- Pork knuckle in Góralski style – Marinated in beer
Check out one of the museums
Although not known for its museums, that does not mean you should not visit one.
In fact, checking them out gives you an insight into the unique culture and history of this region. Get to know more about local life, how it is like in the highlands and the traditions that are observed by the locals.
Be sure to add on one of these museums to your Zakopane itinerary!
Tatra Museum. The grandfather of museums, not just in Zakopane, but also as one of the oldest in Poland, the Tatra Museum is a great place to find out more about the natural environment of the Podhale region, as well as glean into the way of life and history of its people.
Zakopane Style Museum at Villa Koliba. Housed in a beautiful mountain style mansion, this museum is an offshoot of the Tatra Museum, and has been around for over 100 years! The design of the villa is quintessential Zakopane style, and you will come across many such buildings as you explore the town. The exhibits here are from a time past, showcasing its 5 rooms in their original settings by owner Zygmunt Gnatowski.
Villa Atma. Yet another fine example of Zakopane architecture, the Karol Szymanowski Museum is housed in this beautiful chalet, and is most suitable for lovers of classical music. It is dedicated to the composer of the same name, and sometimes there are concerts held here. However, there doesn’t seem to be anything written in English, so you might want to take note of that before visiting.
Related: Travel Destinations
Visit a religious site
Which Zakopane Church should you pay a visit to?
Since Poles are mainly Roman Catholics, it should not surprise you to find many churches or chapels here.
The cool thing is that their design are mostly in the Zakopane style of architecture, which helps them blend in well with the unique surroundings.
In this town, you will find a few fine examples such as Jaszczurówka Chapel and Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
The former has been in its spot for a little over a hundred years, when it was gifted to the people of the village by a wealthy businessman.
If you are a visiting follower, you may also visit it for its daily mass.
Although its size is modest, you will find its interiors to have intricate designs and a stunning chandelier.
Over at the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa, you can expect to find a slightly more modern version of the first, but certainly not lacking in atmosphere and beauty.
What makes this church different is the unique pew designs, as well as containing a large cemetery where you can find elaborate artwork and designs to commemorate those who have passed on.
Church of Our Lady of Fatima (Muttergottes von Fatima). This next site is one of the most iconic buildings of Zakopane, and is located right at the foothills of the imposing Mount Giewont. Word is, after the failed assassination of Joh Paul II in 1981, the church was built out of gratitude for the rescue.
Now it also houses the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, and plays host to a number of fairs throughout the year, most notably the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima on 13 May.
Coming here is a great spiritual and fascinating experience, whether you are a believer or not.
Soak in Thermal Pools Zakopane
Dipping into a thermal pool is an experience that you should definitely try out during a visit to the Podhale region. Why? They are famous for it!
The best part is that you do not have to travel too far for it, since the newly opened Chocholowskie Termy is only 15 km from Zakopane, which means you can get there in no time.
As you pass through Chocholow village, pay attention to the traditional old wooden Polish houses, which is representative of the identity of the highlanders. Some of the best in Poland are found here.
When you arrive at the thermal baths park, take your pick from the pools, saunas or simply relax at the cafe. The place is huge, in fact the largest in Podhale region, and has multiple pool for you to choose from.
Our advice though: avoid the school holidays at all cost. The place will be packed!
Another option that we fancy is the thermal bath in the village of Bukovina. While it is a bit further, taking around 25 minutes to reach from Zakopane, Bukowina Termy offers equally good bath pools and lots of other facilities for you to relax.
Something for the adventurous
For the adventure seeker in you, there are no lack of activities to keep the adrenalin pumping.
Zakopane Bungee jumping. Why not kick things off by jumping off a ledge? At Bungee Jumping Zakopane, you can get the chance to leap off a platform at a height of 90 metres, suspended in the air by mechanical cranes. Although you are not there for this, the view is great as it stretches out to the landscape of the town below you. Make sure to buy the photos and videos too!
1234-meter long Bachledka Treetop Walk. This is actually in the Slovakia side, but you can still reach it pretty quickly since Zakopane is really near the border. You will experience among on top of giant trees and getting a spectacular view of the entire mountain range.
Skiing. Remember we talked about Zakopane being the winter capital of Poland? A big part of that is the availability of ski slopes here. With activities for the whole family, kids and adult alike can spend hours upon hours on the slopes. From here, the thrill seekers can take it up a notch by trying out alpine mountaineering, snowboarding, or even a husky sleigh ride!
Related: Packing Checklist
Check out the Upside Down House Zakopane
That’s right, a house built the wrong way up, straight out of a children’s fairy tale.
Since its inception back in 2007, Dom do Góry Nogami has gathered quite a bit of attention of its eccentric and unique design.
The builders have constructed a traditional wood house in the wrong direction, and when you walk through it, you experience a strange sensation as everything is inverted. Yes, even the furniture!
Behind the quirky building lies a story of defiance. The house was built this way to signify the chaos that the Soviet occupation brought, and this was a way the Poles use to throw insult at that situation.
Walking street: Krupowki Street Zakopane
At the heart of the town center lies Krupowki Street, which is great for pedestrians to take a leisurely walk down and check out the variety of shops here.
There are a number of great restaurants here, definitely worth popping in to try out the delicious local cuisine.
Many of the shops also sell locally made souvenirs, which we really love since they are not the typical types that you see in the big cities. Look out for the handmade woodwares or leatherwares.
We picked up a few here at reasonable prices, and if you need more options, you can venture over to the market near Gubalowka funicular.
Near to Krupowki Street, you can consider checking out a water theme park too: Aqua Park Zakopane.
Day trips from Zakopane
Zakopane is well placed for you to take short day trips out for different experiences. There are lots of tiny picturesque villages scattered around the southern region of Poland, and Zakopane is well connected to them.
Here are our suggestions:
- Zab, 11 km. Excellent traditional food and views of the mountain range.
- Niedzica, 42 km. Historical buildings and access to River Dunajec.
- Pieniny Mountains, 50 km. Loads of great hiking trails.
- Male Ciche, 15 km. More skiing options and very beautiful small village on the mountain slopes.
- Bialka Tatrzanska, 25km. Mountain walking and skiing.
Getting to Zakopane
As you can imagine, there are no direct flights to Zakopane. The nearest international airport you can fly into is Kraków John Paul II International Airport (Cracow Balice Airport).
Alternatively, you can make your way to Dworzec Główny Central station and take either a train or bus. Most people will choose to travel by bus since it takes a shorter time, taking about 1.5 hours, and usually below €10 to reach Zakopane Bus Station.
For a train journey, it takes slightly over 3 hours and cost about €10.
Where to stay in Zakopane?
As Zakopane is a popular getaway, there is no lack of accommodations for you and your travelling group. From traditional mountain houses to fully equipped apartments, you can try it all out here.
The best part is that prices are not sky-high, thanks to the competition around.
Here are the Zakopane Hotels we recommend. Be sure to click through to read reviews and book them for your trip! Or use the widget below to find the most suitable one for you!
Guided Tour Options
The amount of activities you can do in Zakopane is considerable, not to say overwhelming. With so many to choose from, how do you decide?
Maybe you can consider looking into a Zakopane guided tour instead then since you need not worry about the logistics and generally, the tickets are all-inclusive.
Just bring yourself and you are all set!
Things to do in Zakopane: Verdict
To us, Zakopane is a fantastic place to visit, a place to seek refuge from the big cities and immerse yourself in the great outdoors. The mountains offer lots of hiking opportunities, plus the Zakopane lakes are drop dead gorgeous.
We would return in a heartbeat, and surely there is something new to discover.
No trip to Poland, or even Eastern Europe, should leave out Zakopane.
Hopefully you get the chance to visit Zakopane and enjoy it as much if not more than us!
Let us know what you liked most about Zakopane in the comments down below.
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Logistics before visiting Zakopane Poland
Find cheap flights.
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Find the best accommodation.
Book a place ahead of time to get good rates. Booking.com has transparent fees and excellent rates.
Handy travel guide.
For the old school kid in you, get a travel guide book and get lost exploring the city.
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Planned for you activities in Zakopane.
Need a guide to show you and your group around? Lots of operators here to choose from here. You know who they are and how they are reviewed.
More resources to help you.
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