Skip to content
Zakopane Tatra Mountains Krakow Poland

Zakopane: Best Things to Do and See, Restaurants and Hotels

    Zakopane is a pretty village located at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, surrounded by a wonderful natural landscape, which has made it one of the main winter holiday destinations in Poland, as well as being a very popular destination for skiing and hiking.

    It was once a rather isolated mountain village, where shepherds produced excellent local cheese, such as the renowned Oscypek, made only from pure sheep’s milk of the Polska Owca Górska breed, or Polish Mountain Sheep, found only here in the Tatra Mountains.

    Zakopane is not only Poland’s most famous winter resort, here travelers can enjoy hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails, forests, high mountain lakes and spectacular views of the surrounding valley and log cabin villages.

    What you will find in this guide to Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains:

    Where is Zakopane located?

    Zakopane is located in Southern Poland, about 110 km from Krakow, at the foot of the famous mountain range of the Tatra Mountains which is the highest in the Carpathians.

    The Tatra Mountains are located on the border with Slovakia and extend for about 60 km, occupying an area of ​​over 900 square km. The peaks reach an average altitude of 2000 m and the highest is Mount Rysy with its 2499 meters. There are no glaciers, but only perennial snowfields. The walls are very steep and rocky and there are many lakes that are frozen in winter.

    At the foot of the mountains, at an altitude of 850 m, we find the city of Zakopane. Thanks to its location, it is nicknamed the winter capital of Poland and hosts more than 2 million tourists every year.

    Zakopane is the main center for mountaineering, skiing and other various winter sports in Poland. Even in summer, however, it is the perfect destination for relaxing in nature, hiking along the various trails in the mountains, having fun in the pools or adventure parks in the area, or enjoying a day in one of the city’s spas.

    In addition to the numerous outdoor activities, the city is also famous for its characteristic wooden houses, built between the late 1800s and early 1900s that now house museums, hotels, shops or private homes.

    At the beginning of the 19th century, the village began to attract many intellectuals and artists who decided to take refuge in Zakopane to get away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and enjoy the relaxing mountain life, to better devote themselves to their passions.

    Over time it became more and more touristy and ski facilities, hiking trails and cable cars began to be built that allow you to climb up to the peaks of the mountains.

    When to Go to Zakopane and Tatra Mountains (Season by Season)

    Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains are a destination to experience all year round, as they offer many attractions and activities to do in every season. Some of them are accessible all year round, such as the cable cars to reach the peaks or the excellent spas in the city.

    Winter

    In the winter months, the climate is harsh with temperatures below zero and lots of snow. The lifts are in operation from morning to evening, there are ski instructors available to provide lessons for both adults and children.

    The skating rinks are open and there are also several paths that allow you to take walks in the mountains and snowy woods. It is also possible to take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, covered in very warm sheepskin, or try an exciting ride on a snowmobile.

    Summer

    In summer, temperatures are milder, even reaching around 20 °C. The activities to do are many, you can go cycling or take long walks, excursions to the lakes and trekking to the mountain huts. There are approximately 275 km of tourist trails to choose from.

    The view is wonderful, surrounded by greenery and mountains. July and August are the busiest months, therefore it is advisable to book both the accommodations and the various activities well in advance. The best month is September because the temperatures are still good and there are less crowds.

    Autumn

    In autumn, the climate in Zakopane is very variable, from sunny days to freezing cold nights. The days are much shorter and darker, but some paths are still open and allow you to admire a landscape with typical autumn colors.

    For the evenings, however, the ideal is to choose one of the many restaurants and cafes in the city, enjoy good food or sip tea or delicious mulled wine, attending the frequent shows of local folk musicians playing live. The ski slopes begin to open in the first days of December.

    Spring

    In spring, temperatures begin to rise slightly, although these are the least predictable months as it could still be very cold.

    In this period, generally, the whole area is colored purple because the crocuses, typical flowers of that area, begin their splendid flowering.

    Until the end of April it is still possible to ski and access the ski lifts. Many other activities are also reopening, such as rafting with wooden rafts along the Dunajec Gorge and quad bike tours, and it is possible to start hiking again along the many trails that are closed during the winter due to snow.

    Christmas and New Year holidays in Zakopane

    Christmas in Zakopane is truly enchanting, making it an unforgettable destination for the holiday season. This picturesque town, nestled in the heart of the Tatra Mountains, transforms into a winter wonderland during Christmas and New Year’s Eve, offering a unique and magical experience that is absolutely worth exploring.

    As the holiday season descends upon Zakopane, the entire town is blanketed in pristine, glistening snow, creating a postcard-worthy scene. The streets come alive with festive decorations that infuse the air with a cheerful spirit. Many hotels and restaurants in Zakopane go the extra mile to organize exquisite Christmas Eve dinners, complete with traditional Polish dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. These festive feasts typically culminate in a heartwarming tradition – the Pasterka, a midnight mass celebrated in Catholic Churches.

    One of the most notable midnight masses takes place at the charming church on Wiktorówki Glade, located within the breathtaking Tatra National Park. Here, surrounded by nature’s grandeur, you can partake in a truly spiritual and serene Christmas experience.

    But the enchantment doesn’t end with Christmas: Zakopane also knows how to ring in the New Year with style. New Year’s Eve, known as Sylwester in Poland, is celebrated with a flourish in Zakopane. The town hosts a plethora of events, ranging from elegant dances and traditional folk festivals to exhilarating New Year’s concerts. For those seeking adventure, snowmobile excursions are offered, even under the starry night sky, allowing you to explore the snow-covered landscape in a thrilling way.

    Don’t miss the opportunity to take a Kuling, a traditional sleigh ride with horses, through the picturesque mountain valleys, adding a touch of romance to your New Year’s celebration. In Zakopane, the holiday season isn’t just a time of festivities; it’s a magical journey into the heart of Polish tradition and natural beauty, making it a destination you’ll cherish forever.

    Things to do and see in Zakopane

    Ulica Krupówki (Krupówki Street)

    Ulica Krupówki is the main pedestrian street in Zakopane. Here there are many shops, restaurants, cafes, artisan shops and stalls.

    Along the way there are some of the most famous attractions of Zakopane, such as the Upside-down House, which is a must if you are traveling with your kids: it is a house built literally upside down and also slightly inclined. You walk on the ceiling of the house and the furniture hangs high on the floor. Admission is from 10.00 to 18.00 and the ticket costs 9 PLN (7PLN for children aged 3 to 12, free for children under 3).

    From the main street you can also reach the Parish Church of the Holy Family and the beautiful wooden building of the Władysław Matlakowski School, where young people learn the art of wood carving and learn various crafts, such as carpentry.

    We also arrive at one of the most picturesque buildings in the city, “Poraj”, a house completely built in wood that has hosted hotels and guesthouses over time, but which became famous when a restaurant was opened inside it, usually frequented by artists and famous, politicians and intellectuals, today unfortunately the restaurant no longer exists, and in its place there is a bookshop and a shoe shop.

    The Tatra Museum in Zakopane – Muzeum Tatrzańskie

    The museum is located on the main street Ulika Krupówki and houses a permanent exhibition on the history of the city and the surrounding area. The works are represented by historical and ethnographic objects that allow you to know and deepen the history and geology of the area, with a lot of interesting information on the flora and fauna of the area.

    Ulica Kościeliska

    The other main street in Zakopane is Ulica Kościeliska, which is about 1 km long and can be covered in about twenty minutes. The route is bordered by the famous wooden houses built during the 19th century in the classic Zakopane style. The beginning of the street is marked by the Old Church and ends at the Zakopane Style Museum.

    Old Church and Old Cemetery in Zakopane

    This old wooden church was one of the first built in the area, as well as being the first parish in Zakopane. It dates back to 1847 and its Gąsienica Chapel from the early 19th century is the oldest building in the city.

    It is possible to access the interior of the church and be able to admire the decorative elements and the wonderful stained glass windows representing the Via Crucis.

    Nearby is the old Pęksowy Brzyzek Cemetery, where many famous people of the city are buried, such as the artist Witkiewicz, creator of the Zakopane style. His tombstone is easily recognizable as it is made of wood.

    Zakopane Style Museum – Villa Koliba

    The museum is located inside the Willa Koliba, the first wooden villa designed by the painter and architect Witkiewicz in his famous “Zakopane” style, built in 1893.

    Inside, the decor and atmosphere aim to completely immerse the visitor in the Zakopane style. In fact, the furniture, objects and tools on display illustrate and recount this new artistic and architectural style that binds the Polish tradition to the local style.

    Oscypek Museum – Muzeum Oscypka Zakopane

    This museum is dedicated to one of the oldest gastronomic traditions of Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains, the production of the famous Oscypek cheese.

    This smoked sheep cheese is handcrafted mainly in the Podhale region, the area around Zakopane, according to well-defined criteria and passages. The milk used is that of a particular breed of sheep raised only in this region.

    During the visit it is possible to attend practical demonstrations of production according to the traditional recipe, learning about the equipment used in the various phases. The museum also offers visitors the chance to try making their own cheese.

    Inside the museum there is also a small shop, where you can buy excellent local cheeses. Demonstrations are held twice a day, dates are posted on the museum’s official website. The ticket price is 25PLN (reduced 20 PLN).

    Kasprowy Wierch Cable Car

    The Zakopane cable car was built between 1936 and 1937 and connects the city to Mount Kasprowy. The departure station is located in Kuznice, in the upper part of Zakopane, accessible only by public transport or taxi. Otherwise you could get there with a 45-minute walk from the Pope John Paul II roundabout.

    The journey takes approximately 15 minutes, with an intermediate change at Myślenickie Turnie. The summit is 1987 meters high and during the journey the view over the magnificent mountains and valleys is breathtaking.

    At the top of Mount Kasprowy, you can reach the meteorological observatory or get to the Cicha Valley Pass from which you have a beautiful view of the Tatra Mountains on the Slovak side.

    In winter the cable car can be very busy and to avoid long queues at the ticket office it is advisable to buy tickets online in advance.

    Adventure Park Gubalowka

    Zakopane is a holiday destination for families, which is why there are several adventure parks, among which the Adventure Park Gubalowka is noteworthy.

    Located on Gubalowka Hill and accessible by the Szymaszkowa Chairlift, it is a fun place with many sports activities, such as climbing, ropes, zip lines, paintball. There are several levels that make it suitable for everyone, and the activities are supervised by the park’s expert staff. It is ideal for spending a day of pure fun. Prices vary depending on the activity, to get an idea you can take a look at the official website.

    Water Park Zakopane

    Acqua Park Zakopane is a water park for the whole family, and is a good place to relax and have fun. There are several attractions, from thermal pools, to children’s pools with fun waterslides. There is also a large gym, an area with a sauna, steam room, relaxation room and salt grotto. Prices vary according to the activity and the time you want to spend in the park.

    Kościeliska Valley – Dolina Kościeliska

    It is one of the most picturesque valleys of the Tatra Mountains, with its wonderful caves and gorges. You can go there by taking the bus from Zakopane to Kiry, from where there are many paths that allow you to visit it.

    With a two-hour walk on the green trail (easy) you arrive at the Hala Ornak refuge, where a small inn offers its guests a cup of tea or coffee or even a slice of apple pie that the locals love.

    There are also trails for the more experienced, so-called red trails, which arrive at the marvelous Wąwóz Kraków Gorge, then pass to the Smocza Jama Cave and finish the trail at Hala Pisana. This route takes about 45 minutes and afterwards you can return to the city by minibus.

    Other possible routes from Kiry are those to the Czerwone Wierchy, a beautiful trail in the mountains just along the border between Poland and Slovakia, and the beautiful caves of Jaskinia Mylna and Jaskinia Raptawicka, all reachable via red trails.

    Morskie Oko Lake

    Morskie Oko Lake is the most famous destination in the Tatra Mountains. It is possible to reach it from Zakopane by bus that leads to Polana Bialczanska and get off at the stop of the same name, and then continue from here on an easy path (actually a paved road), about 9 km long. For the lazy, it is possible to travel on a sleigh (in winter) or with horse-drawn carriages.

    Once you get to the lake, the view is wonderful. The lake is located at an altitude of 1395 meters and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Before going back you can relax at the refuge, walk around the lake or continue on the red trail that leads to Lake Czarny Staw (about 1 hour), at the foot of Mount Rysy, the highest peak in the entire Tatra mountain range.

    Villa Atma

    Villa Atma is an ancient building built entirely of wood in the traditional Zakopane style, and today it houses the Karol Szymanowski Museum, dedicated to the homonymous composer and famous pianist.

    The exhibition includes a rich collection of images, photographs and musical scores that trace the life of the artist who, after Chopin, is the most famous musician in Poland.

    Mount Giewont

    Mount Giewont is also known as “the sleeping knight” because the shape is said to resemble a helmet with armor. In addition to being its natural background, it is also the symbol of Zakopane.

    You can admire a beautiful view of it while walking along the main street Krupówki, but a good idea is to spend time among nature, along one of its many trails, which however are only recommended for people who are sufficiently trained.

    Access to the trails leading to the mountain is at Dolina Strążyska, where parking is available for those arriving by car, otherwise from Zakopane there are several buses that lead here.

    The trails include some challenging climbs and in the last stretch some passages with chains. The route takes about 3.5 hours and leads to the summit where there is an iron cross from 1900 about 18 meters high.

    Cycling around Zakopane

    Many trails are closed to cyclists, but going towards the Chocholowska Valley and through the enchanting Suchej Wody Valley, we find several possibilities.

    One of the most popular Zakopane cycling routes, quite popular and consequently crowded, is the Pod Reglami road, with a path of about 10 km leading from the Wielka Krokiew ski jump to Siwa Polana, in the Chocholowska Valley.

    The route winds through nature and ends in a beautiful valley, characterized by some mountain wooden houses and some grazing cows. If you wish, you can continue for another 7 km and arrive at the Polana Chocholowska refuge. Here you are right in the heart of one of the most scenic corners of the Tatra Mountains.

    Gubałówka

    Gubałówka is a famous hill near Zakopane, easily reachable by the comfortable cable car which leaves right from the city center. To get to the cable car station from ul. Kościeliska, head north and cross the market – you will easily find the ticket office here.

    Once you get to the top, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Zakopane and you can have a nice walk among the characteristic wooden houses and craft shops where you can buy some souvenirs.

    Best Restaurants in Zakopane

    Bakowo Zohylina Niznio

    This restaurant is located near the center of Zakopane. The interiors are very characteristic and are decorated with typical mountain objects and animal skins.

    In the center of the room there is a large brazier and often a small orchestra playing popular songs. The menu is very traditional with delicious local and mountain specialties, soups and delicious main courses based on meat and mushrooms.

    Karczma u Fiakra

    Very central place right on the main street, the Krupowki ulica. Like most mountain restaurants it has a beautiful all-wood interior and serves specialties typical of the region, with generous portions of soups, cheeses and meats. It also has a nice dehors.

    Karczma Zapiecek

    This restaurant overlooks Krupówki Street and offers typical dishes, prepared following the traditional recipes of old Polish cuisine.

    The interior decor is gorgeous, warm and welcoming, there is an old stove that helps create a pleasant mountain atmosphere, and there are often live traditional music performances. In the summer you can also eat in the beautiful terrace.

    Best Hotels in Zakopane

    Tatra Wood House

    The Tatra Wood House is a guest house located 5 km from the Tatra Mountains National Park and offers wonderful chalets, with free wi-fi and free private parking.

    The chalets are equipped with every comfort, fully equipped kitchen with kitchenette, seating area, private bathroom and a splendid balcony with a wonderful view. The hotel also offers its customers an excellent buffet breakfast.

    Sabała Hotel

    Hotel Sabała is housed in a 19th-century wooden house on Ulica Krupówki, the main street of Zakopane. It offers accommodation with private bathroom and typical décor of the region. Guests have access to the swimming pool and sauna.

    It also has a small restaurant serving excellent regional cuisine.

    Hotel Belvedere Resort & SPA

    Hotel Belvedere Resort & SPA is arguably one of the best in Zakopane, offering high standard accommodation just 10 minutes from Zakopane’s main streets.

    It offers beautiful, quiet and comfortable rooms with private bathroom. Furthermore, guests can take advantage of the beautiful wellness center with whirlpool, sauna, steam bath and indoor swimming pool.

    There are 3 restaurants: Ziemiańska, Wieniawy and Pod Aniołem, the latter featuring a large wooden terrace with a magnificent view of the Tatra Mountains.

    How to get to Zakopane from Krakow

    Zakopane is easily accessible and well connected with other Polish cities. The best way to go is by car, so you can also fully enjoy its beautiful surroundings.

    Renting a car in Krakow is quite cheap, and the road is simple and in excellent condition: from Krakow just follow the roads S7 and Route 47 (DK47) which lead directly to Zakopane.

    Here you’ll find a Guide to the Best Car Rentals in Krakow

    Many travelers choose to visit Zakopane on a day trip from Krakow. There are excellent guided tours that include round-trip transport and tickets to museums and cable cars, making it easy to enjoy the best of Zakopane.

    There are also great guided hikes in the Tatra Mountains and the possibility of combining a visit to Zakopane with a few hours of total relaxation in the nearby Chochołów spa, one of the most popular in Poland.

    From Krakow there are also several trains a day that reach Zakopane train station, located within walking distance of the city center. But the bus remains the fastest public transport: from the Krakow Bus Station local buses leave for Zakopane and the journey takes about 2 hours.

    Useful Tips for Your Trip

    Many people choose to visit Zakopane from Krakow, so here you can find the best useful tips to better plan your trip to Krakow and the wonderful region of Southern Poland: