Visit Zakopane, Poland’s winter sports capital in the Tatra Mountains

Chapelle, Zakopane

Departing from Krakow, discover the Zakopane region, its history and its most beautiful sites.

Poland is a relatively flat country, with an average altitude of no more than 170 meters. Knowing that, you’d think that skiing or hiking in the mountains wouldn’t be possible in Poland. But that’s without taking into account the town of Zakopane, which, just a two-hour drive from Krakow, offers one of Europe’s most beautiful winter destinations.

If you’ve planned to spend several days in Krakow, we strongly recommend setting aside a day to explore the town of Zakopane and the surrounding Tatra Mountains.

Zakopane, famous in Poland and around the world

Zakopane

Photo credit: Shutterstock – ALEX_UGALEK

Located in the Tatra National Park, Zakopane is Poland’s highest town. It became famous in the late 19th century, attracting many writers, poets, painters and sculptors, who contributed to its extraordinary atmosphere by designing beautiful villas and creating works of art inspired by local traditions.

In Zakopane, many houses are built of wood. The design of these buildings is inspired by the art of the Polish mountain region known as Podhale. This style of construction is now known as the Zakopane style. All new buildings until 1914 had to be constructed in this way.

Zakopane, Poland’s winter sports capital

Zakopane

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Cegli

Zakopane was a candidate to host the 2006 Winter Olympics, an event eventually won by Turin. Nestled at the foot of the spectacular Tatra mountains, Zakopane is Poland’s winter sports capital and its most famous resort.

In winter, abundant snow and slopes make for excellent skiing, while the summer months offer hikers mountain lakes, glacial valleys and waterfalls. The mountains are also home to a unique and varied flora and fauna.

A day trip from Krakow to Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains

Zakopane

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Uhryn Larysa

Zakopane is just two hours from Krakow in southern Poland. An opportunity to breathe in the fresh Polish mountain air on a day trip.

Accompanied by a guide and departing from Krakow, even before arriving in Zakopane, you’ll experience a special moment in the small village of Chochołów, where you can admire a large number of preserved 18th-century cottages. You can also visit the Chochołów Museum, where you can see inside the cottages to imagine how mountain people lived more than a century ago in this region.

Chochołów

Photo credit: Shutterstock – AnnaEvgeniiKomissarovy

After this stop in Chochołów, you’ll arrive in Zakopane, where you’ll walk along Krupówki Street, Zakopane’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, where you can feel the true atmosphere of the city. You’ll see the town’s oldest church, dating from 1851 and made entirely of wood, the old Pęksowy Brzyzek cemetery and Villa Koliba, home to the Zakopane Style Museum.

This was the first villa built by the creator of the Zakopane style, Stanisław Witkiewicz, in 1892. In addition to its highly impressive architecture, the villa contains superb pastels by Stanisław’s son Witold, better known as Witkacy.

Villa Koliba

Photo credit: Shutterstock – marekusz

Afterwards, you’ll have free time to sample local specialties in one of the town’s restaurants (not included in the tour). TryOscypek, a delicious smoked sheep’s milk cheese. And enjoy a glass of grenzani galicyjski, a local mulled wine. Before or after eating, don’t hesitate to visit the local open-air market.

You’ll start the afternoon with a funicular ride to the summit of Mount Gubalówka, where you can walk along the ridge with a panoramic view of the Tatra Mountains. A chairlift will take you back down. So be sure to bring warm clothes in both winter and summer – you never know.

Chapelle Jaszczurówka

Photo credit: Shutterstock – MrPat

But that’s not all, as your guide will take you to the Zakopane ski jump, and then on to a final marvel for your day: the Jaszczurówka chapel. It’s obviously made of wood and is the work of Stanisław Witkiewicz. The Jaszczurówka church owes its name to the many salamanders that were there when it was built in 1907.

As you can see, Zakopane is more than just a mountain village – there’s something very special here. Whether it’s hiking, skiing, discovering wooden architecture or browsing the town’s many museums and galleries, a day (at least) in Zakopane is a must!

How do I get to Zakopane?

Unless you have your own car in Krakow, the best way to get to Zakopane is by bus. You can book your Krakow-Zakopane bus online, but the easiest way is to buy your ticket when you get on the bus.

There are direct lines from Krakow bus station to Zakopane bus station, taking around 2 hours 15 minutes. You can consult the bus timetable between Krakow and Zakopane on the E-Podroznik website, entering « Krakow M.D.A. » as the departure point and « Zakopane » as the arrival point.

You don’t even have to buy a return ticket if you want to stay a little longer in Zakopane. A round-trip ticket costs just PLN 40, or around €9.

You can also get to Zakopane by train. The train links Zakopane to Krakow in 3 hours. So you can avoid traffic jams.

Where to stay in Zakopane?

Zakopane is not a large city, but given its status as a tourist resort, the accommodation on offer is relatively well-stocked. You can stay in Zakopane in a youth hostel for €7 a night (in a dormitory).

Alternatively, for a personalized offer that will perfectly meet your expectations, you may prefer an Airbnb rental.

Good and luxury hotels in listed buildings and mountain chalets are also available in Zakopane. You can find a cheap hotel in Zakopane by searching on this hotel comparator.

When should you come to Zakopane?

Zakopane can be visited in winter or summer. However, Zakopane is Poland’s most touristic mountain resort, so it will be crowded if you come at the height of winter or summer. The peak winter season begins with the festive season and ends in early March, while the summer season begins and ends with the school vacations from July to the end of August.