Zakopane Travel Guide
Krakow © Sebastian Warneke
The Tatras, forming the border with Slovakia, is Poland's beautiful alpine range of towering peaks, rocky cliffs and glacial lakes, dotted with numerous little villages preserving traditional highland lives. The region's largest town is Zakopane, Poland's premier mountain resort and a popular holiday destination in both winter and summer. Zakopane is the winter sports capital of Poland, superbly situated at the foot of the Tatras with immediate access to the ski slopes in winter.
The charming town has a laid-back fairytale atmosphere, the steep streets lined with traditional wooden cottages made from roughly cut logs and the 'Zakopane-style' architecture featuring delicately carved patterns and intricate woodwork decoration. The heart of Zakopane town is a pedestrian mall lined with restaurants, cafés and shops. The region is popular for outdoor activities and one of the more popular holiday attractions is the trip to the exquisite glacial lake, Morskie Oko.
The area has good facilities and is also known for its fascinating highland folklore and culture, and many of the inhabitants wear colourful traditional dress. Zakopane holiday resort lies about two hours south of Krakow, and is a great choice for those looking to take a ski holiday in Europe.
Zakopane's slopes are fast becoming legendary within Europe's skiing and snowboarding community. Featuring good snow conditions, splendid views and a real youthful energy among its staff members, your experience at Zakopane is guaranteed to be fun and rewarding. The most popular slopes at Zakopane ski resort are Kasprowy Wierch, Nosal and Gubalowka, and tourists are warned that they will be better off purchasing their ski passes in advance, to avoid long queues on the popular downhill courses. The slopes are best for beginners, with a number of ski schools operating, but there are a few rewarding runs for the more advanced. Cross country skiers will be delighted with the picturesque trails in the forests surrounding the town.
Shopping in Zakopane is centred on the main street, Krupowki, which is lined with restaurants, shops, stalls and street performers, creating a fun, traditional atmosphere. Popular souvenirs include items such as oscypek (smoked goat's cheese) and ciupagas (long, thin traditional axes). There are plenty of ski stores where visitors can buy or hire equipment before hitting the slopes.
Zakopane boasts a variety of restaurants and there should be something to cater to all budgets and tastes. Tuberoza, which serves up traditional eastern European fare on Pilsudskiego street, is one of the most popular restaurants in the town, and the Trattoria Adamo offers a tasty range of Italian food. There are plenty of fun bars for après ski drinks.
Zakopane has a vibey nightlife with numerous bars and a few great dance clubs. Some of the night spots are uninspiring tourist traps but the big clubs attract party people from as far away as Warsaw. Krupowki street is the main drag, but it is worth exploring a bit to find less touristy options.
Outside of the ski season Zakopane is a popular destination for mountaineers and hikers, with a number of great climbs beginning at the Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw lakes, and ascending Rysy, the highest peak in Poland. Other popular climbing routes ascend the peaks of Mieguszowiecki Szczyt, Glewont, Mnich and Cubryna. Most of the area's attractions are natural, but the town is known for its charming traditional atmosphere and there are many folk dancing performances and cultural events held to entertain tourists. There are a handful of museums and galleries in town and there is a water park and a Teddy Bear Museum to amuse young children.
The popular ski slopes can get crowded and the ski lift infrastructure is rather old-fashioned.