Zakopane, the Winter capital of Poland, is situated in the heart of Polish Mountains, Tatra. It is by far one of the most vibrant and attractive holiday resorts for Poles and gaining on popularity amongst foreign tourists. Located only 100 km from Krakow it is a must during your stay in Poland!
Zakopane is primarily known for its broad infrastructure for mountaineering and skiing. It is also a great destination to start your hiking holiday in Poland.
A vast majority of the beautiful Tatra National Park is located within town’s near neighbourhood. Zakopane serves as a starting point for mountain escapades since within walking distance from Zakopane town centre you are able to reach breathtaking mountain sites.
The most popular spot for mountain climbing amateurs is Morskie Oko, a pond situated at the foot of Rysy Mountain (2,499 meters), the highest peak in Poland and its natural border with nearby Slovakia. From there, hikers can proceed to the overlooking Morskie Oko, Czarny Staw, which is also a pond. Mountaineering up to the Rysy requires a bit of experience, but climbing up the mountain and admiring stunning views and the wide skyline is worth every step.
Visible from almost every place in Zakopane is Giewont Mountain, another very popular hiking spot. A legend says that this mountain is, in fact, a sleeping knight who will wake up in the time of need to protect Poland from danger. From most of the peaks, when the sky is clear, the majority of the High Tatra mountains are visible. The High Tatras is one of three distinct parts that make up the Tatra Mountains, alongside with the Western Tatras, and the Bielskie Tatras. Characteristic of the High Tatras are steep peaks, sharp rocks, wide glens and crystal lakes that can all be found in the Zakopane area.
Skiing in Zakopane
Zakopane is Poland’s ultimate mountain resort. Each year thousands of visitors come to Zakopane to take advantage of its skiing infrastructure. Not only beginners are pleased, but also advanced skiers enjoy many skiing trails in the area. Some say that skiing conditions in Tatras can be even compared to those in the Alps. The most popular spot for skiing is Kasprowy Wierch. Winter sports enthusiasts can choose from five ski slopes, three marked as red, two as black. Zakopane hosted several world cups and championships in winter sports to prove its full potential. It is also a leading ski-jumping centre, sport much beloved in Poland.
The Tatras’ mountainous climate is generally cold due to high altitude. In the summer, sudden fierce rainstorms are common, as well as temperature sudden decreases. It is often possible for thunderstorms to occur in the afternoon. Nevertheless, summertime is generally warm and sunny, just like in other parts of Poland. In the winter snow can be up to a meter deep, what makes skiing conditions superb. Snowstorms are likely to occur, therefore hiking in the mountains should be carefully planned.
Other attractions in Zakopane
Zakopane is visited by over 2.5 million tourists a year. Winter sports and hiking in the mountains are not the only activities that Zakopane has to offer. Popular for evening walks is strolling down town’s main street, Krupowki, that is lined with stores, restaurants, carnival rides and performers. Restaurants serve a wide selection of regional cuisine, with local’s most famous snack, oscypek, which is a smoked sheep cheese. Pilgrims also often visit Church of the Holy Family. It is the oldest brick Catholic Church in Zakopane, built between 1879 and 1896 from stones brought from the mountains.
One of the most beautiful and worth visiting sites in Zakopane is mid-19th century baroque wooden Church and Old Cemetery Na Pęksowym Brzyzku. It is a gravesite for 250 noble Poles who are important in local history and Polish culture, such as Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Kornel Makuszynski, Tytus Chalubinski, Wladyslaw Hasior, Stanislaw Witkiewicz. People buried and honored here had lived at some point in their lives in Zakopane, cultivated local traditions and worked on introducing this region to Polish culture. Almost every grave in the Cemetery is a unique piece of art.
For those looking for a little more quiet experience, a different side of Zakopane awaits to be discovered.
Zakopane’s fastest development took place in the 19th century and from then on it has been a very popular holiday resort. But while nowadays everybody is welcome to visit Zakopane, back then it was a cultural hub for top Polish artists. It was here, where such individuals as Henryk Sienkiewicz, Stefan Zeromski, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Jan Kasprowicz, Karol Szymanowski and many, many more, created and affected Polish culture in 19th and in the beginning of 20th century. In 1873 Tytus Chalubinski initiated the Tatra Society, whose aim was to promote knowledge of the Tatras, as well as conservation and promotion of local development.
In the late 19th century, Stanislaw Witkiewicz created the Zakopane Style architecture (sometimes called Witkiewicz Style architecture), a mode inspired by traditional buildings in the region, enriched with selected elements from Art Nouveau style. He designed several buildings in Zakopane and influenced other great architects of the time. Many beautiful examples of villas and houses had been built in accordance with Zakopane Style. Some of them, such as villa Oksza and villa Koliba, now house museums and galleries dedicated to this unique region, architecture and local culture.
In one of the most beautiful villas in Zakopane – villa Atma, a branch of National Museum in Krakow is located. It is dedicated to composer Karol Szymanowski, who lived there in the 1930s.
From Krakow to Zakopane
Zakopane is located 100 km from Krakow. You can reach this remarkable area in just a few hours ride from Krakow. While visiting Krakow, it is a must to have a trip to Zakopane and admire the beauty of Polish Tatra Mountains.
Zakopane from Krakow by train
A train to Zakopane departs several times a day from Krakow Glowny. It takes up to 4 hours to get to Zakopane. The one-way train ticket costs 14 PLN.
Zakopane from Krakow by bus
There are several carriers offering transport from Krakow. Ticket prices vary from 15 PLN to 20 PLN one-way, depending on the carrier. The ride from Krakow to Zakopane takes around 2.5 – 3 hours.
Zakopane from Krakow by car
The easiest and fastest way to get to Zakopane is ordering a private car transfer with a driver. There are several carriers in Krakow offering private transfer to Zakopane. They usually offer door-to-door pick-up and around 3 hours drive. Depending on the carrier, transfer to Zakopane costs around 400 PLN per car.