Zakopane is a village in southern Poland, near the border with Slovakia. It is built in a valley between the foothills of the Tatra Mountains and Mount Gubalowka. Unknown to foreigners, Zakopane is the most famous winter resort for Polish people and it is known as “the winter capital of Poland”.
With an altitude of 800-1000 meters (497 - 621 miles) above sea level, it is a popular winter sports destination.
The best time to visit Zakopane is during the Christmas holiday when the city is festive and becomes a beautifully snowy scenic town.Bundle up and head out into this winter wonderland.
Plan your visit early as every year, there is 100% accommodation occupancy. Do check out the Goodbye Lenin Hostel or the Diamond’s Hotel Rzemieślnik if you looking for a place to stay. Here is a list of the recommended things to do in Zakopane:
Enjoy winter sports
Visit Zakopane in winter. You will enjoy downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ski jumping. There are four main ski centers in Zakopane with different levels of difficulty and various ski courses for beginners and intermediate skiers offered on the slopes. Class prices start from 100 PLN (25 USD) per person for an hour up to 400 PLN (100 USD) for 5 hours. For groups, there is a discount. The four main ski centers are:
1) Nosal Ski Centre located at 30 Balzera Street
This is the best ski slope for beginners.
There is a ski school with English speaking instructors and a kindergarten offering kids courses.
Skiing and snowboarding equipment and clothes rental is available and prices range from 35 to 40 PLN (8.74-10 USD) per day for the equipment and from 55 to 65 PLN (13.73-16.23 USD) per day for jacket and pants. There is a restaurant and a paid car park.
You can get there easily by taxi (prices approximately 20-25 PLN (5-6.50 USD)from Zakopane centre).
2) Szymoszkowa Ski Centre is recommended for intermediate skiers and is located on Polana Szymoszkowa Street.
It offers ski slopes for beginners and intermediates. There is a ski school with English speaking instructors. Skiing and snowboarding equipment are available for rent (prices: from 40 PLN-45 PLN (9.94-11.20 USD) per day). There is a kindergarten for kids, a restaurant and free car park.
You can get there by taking a minibus towards Szymoszkowa from Central Station or by taxi (around 15 PLN/4 USD from city centre).
Try to get there at 9:00 am as it becomes very busy after 10:30 am.
3) Harenda Ski Centre is ideal for intermediate and advanced skiers. Located at 63 Harenda Street
It offers ski slopes for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers. There is a ski school offering English speaking ski and snowboard courses plus ski courses for kids. Ski and snowboard equipment rental is possible (35-45 PLN (8.74-11.20 USD) per day). There is a restaurant and free car parking.
You can get to Harenda by minibus number 10 from Zakopane bus station or by taxi (30-35 PLN (7.45-8.74 USD) from Zakopane centre.
4) Kasprowy Wierch Ski Center
The Kasprowy Wierch Ski Center offers the best slopes for advanced skiers and snowboarders. It is located on Mount Kasprowy but it is often closed as it depends on weather conditions. There is no artificial snow, so one should consult the current weather conditions before going there.
You can get there by cable car only if there is enough snow. Otherwise, it remains closed (cable car ticket: 43 PLN/10.68 USD).
Shopping in Krupówki
The main commercial street of the city, Krupówki, offers a great variety of shops, mainly selling ski and snowboard clothes and equipment. Famous brands like North Face, Columbia, Trespass and lesser known brands like 4F, Diverse, Mountain Warehouse etc. This street is a huge shopping ski boutique that can satisfy even the most demanding skiers.
During the holiday season, discounts reach up to 70%!
Even if you don’t need sporting equipment, do not miss the opportunity to buy traditional slippers and fur hats in the open market at the end of Krupówki Street. You can find many designs and colors in excellent quality and very low prices.
Enjoy a ride to Gubalowka Mountain
At the northern end of Krupówki Street, passing through the open air market you will find the cable car station that leads to Gubalowka Hill. The feeling inside the funicular is amazing and when you reach the top, you can admire a panoramic view of the Tatra Mountains that surround the city. The ride takes just four minutes and costs 14 PLN (3.47 USD) for a return ticket. It’s also possible to walk it and it takes about an hour.
At the top of the mountain, there is a restaurant, a wooden chapel and a local craft or open air market, hosted in wooden houses, which sells all sorts of goodies, from souvenirs to food. Do not forget to shop for wool slippers as you’ll only find them in Zakopane, drink mulled wine and taste the helical fried potato on a stick.
If you are a fan of hiking, there are several trails on Gubalowka Mountain. On the west, you can walk through the Czarny Dunajec Valley and arrive at Witow Village after a couple of hours or you can walk until the old village of Chocholow after four hours.
On the east, you can take the path heading to Poronin village. There, you can explore this small and historic Polish village with its houses and farms that date back to the 19th century. Stroll down the beautiful Kasprowicza Street and enjoy a meal at one of Poronin’ s restaurants before heading back to Zakopane. Try Restaurant Karcma Baca (Tatrzanska street 5f 34-520 Poronin), it is one of the best in the area and it has excellent food, a cozy atmosphere and fast service.
If you want to discover the highest village in the region, you just need to follow the arc to Bukowina Tatrzanska.
Food and drinks
Zakopane offers many restaurants that serve regional dishes. The highland cuisine of Zakopane includes: pierogis, kwaśnice (barberry jam), kapusta i ziemniaki (cabbage and potatoes), bukty (a pasta variety), baraninę pieczoną (roasted lamb), kotlet barani (mutton chop), udziec barani (mutton leg) and oscypek cheese. The best way to discover what all of these strange words mean is to try them! Specialities of the region are roasted meat and oscypek cheese, a smoked, salty sheep cheese that can be found along Krupówki Street.
A recommended restaurant is Owczarnia right on Krupówki Street. Decorated in Bavarian style - everything is made of wood, you can sit on the huge wooden benches and enjoy roasted meat, delicious potatoes and drink warm beer with spices.
Mulled wine is a must try! Along the shopping street, there are many wooden houses that sell delicious mulled wine with spices at the price of 13 PLN (3.20 USD).
Admire the wooden Church of Our Lady Czestochowa
The Church of Our Lady Czestochowa, located on Koscieliska Street, is a historic wooden church and the symbol of Zakopane. It was built entirely of pinewood in 1848 by Klementyna Homolacs and the church was dedicated to St. Clement in honor of the founder. It is the oldest church in the city. During the years 1850-1851 Zakopane’s first pastor, Fr. Józef Stolarczyk expanded the church by adding a tower.
Next to the church is one of Poland’s most important cemeteries. Distinguished personalities are buried there and the tombstones are a works of art. Entry costs 2 PLN (0.49 USD).
Explore beautiful Zakopane and live in a fairy tale
Ever dreamed of cheap winter holidays in an alpine-like village? Head to Zakopane, the winter capital of Poland! It will amaze you with its great ski slopes, mountains, architecture and food! It has nothing to envy from the alpine villages in Switzerland, as by the time you step foot in Zakopane you will feel as though you are entering a fairy tale. Enjoy winter sports, go shopping on the main street and treat yourself to the gastronomical delights of the area.
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