Zakopane travel guide for hikers and travelers

Things to do in Zakopane
By Bartosz Dąbrowski

By Bartosz
(Contact Me)

Places to visit in Europe Dec. 4, 2023 Poland Zakopane 2023 Places to visit in Europe

Zakopane city is one of the most popular travel destinations in Poland. Mainly because of the marvellous Tatra Mountains and their excellent hiking trails.

Tatras are the most breathtaking mountains in this part of Europe. But other attractions in Zakopane are also not to be missed.

In this post, we will include all the essential information you need to know about this mountain resort, including how-tos for hiking in the Tatra National Park.

Also, we'll list the best things to do in Zakopane beyond hiking. This guide contains our recommendations which we are excited to share. You'll also discover some dark secrets of Zakopane :o

places to visit in zakopane

The shopping street of Zakopane a central attraction © alexmu / Adobe Stock

Zakopane travel guide


Before we start, if you're not 100% sure you want to stay in Zakopane and thinking about other possibilities, have a look at this list of the most beautiful Tatra Mountains resorts.


A few words about Zakopane

things to do zakopane

Roads in Tatra mountains © zbg2 / Adobe Stock


The city is located in southern Poland. It belongs to the Malopolskie (lesser Poland) voivodeship. The closest major city near Zakopane is Kraków.

Check out the best day trips from Kraków!

Zakopane is very close to Slovakia. You can pass the border on foot or by car - there is no physical border between Poland and Slovakia as they both belong to the Schengen Zone.

The best Zakopane attractions are scenic mountains, unique folklore, wooden huts and handcraft, well preserved local traditions and culture.

Zakopane city is one of the biggest Tatra Mountains resorts. It has neighbouring settlements also perfect for visiting and staying, but smaller and quieter:

  • Kościelisko - is 3 miles from Zakopane, close to Western Tatras. 
  • Murzasichle - a village bordering Zakopane - is one of the highest-located villages in Poland. Located close to the High Tatra side.
  • Małe Ciche - a small village counting 850 people located 5 miles from Zakopane and on the East side of the Tatras (High Tatras). Google Maps link to Małe Ciche village.

Places to stay in Zakopane

Stay here to be near ~3mi(Kuźnice) or ~10mi(Palenica Białczańska) at starting location for routes:
Kościelec Mountain
Szpiglasowy Wierch
Five Lakes Valley & Zawrat Pass
View of Zakopane in Poland

Zakopane city is one of the most popular touristic destinations in Poland. Mainly because of nearby marvel High Tatra Mountains. Tatras are the most breathtaking mountains in this part of the continent. But Zakopane also has a couple of own attractions that we shouldn't miss. It's a good place for people that want to stay close to shopping streets, restaurants and museums.

Population: 27000
Altitude: 3691ft / 1125m
In Poland
Booking.com


Tatra National Park

zakopane hike

Hiking trail in Tatras © Grigory Bruev / Adobe Stock


Zakopane is an attractive resort, but one of the best things to do in Zakopane is hiking.

The Tatra Mountains, also known as the Polish Alps, are the highest mountains in the central-eastern part of Europe but their total length is only 57 km.

Tatras are divided into three major groups: 

  • Western Tatras (highest peak Bystra 2248 m)
  • High Tatras (highest peak Gerlach 2655 m)
  • Bielskie Tatras (highest peak Hawrań 2152 m)

The mission of Tatra National Park: protect and help to understand the nature and culture of the Tatras, enabling to experience it by current and future generations.

The most significant advantage of the Tatras is that governors of the National Park protect nature but also maintain all the trails.

Advantages of hiking in Tatra Mountains:

  • Many paradise-like spots and viewpoints.
  • Excellent hiking paths, visible and colourful route marks and signposts.
  • Well-preserved unique nature.
  • Magnificent mountains.
  • World-class rescue service and online weather alerts.
zakopane things to do

View of Tatras from Swinica mountain near Zakopane © TTstudio / Adobe Stock


Camping or hiking in Tatra National Park after down is against the rules and may result in a fine. For more info check out this article.

Beds in mountain huts are limited and require booking well in advance. Therefore it is often necessary to spend the night in Zakopane city. But on the bright side, the most spectacular viewpoints in Tatra Mountains are accessible within a day hike (including return time).

There are two national parks in Tatras:

🇵🇱 Tatra National Park of Poland (TPN).

🇸🇰 Tatra National Park of Slovakia (TANAP).

Check the differences between Polish and Slovak Tatra Mountains.


Zakopane popularity

Tourists in Zakopane

Hikers walking from Poroniec mountain to Rusionowa Polana © Piotr Szpakowski / Adobe Stock


Each year two million tourists visit Tatra National Park of Poland which is half the visits number of very popular Yosemite Park in the USA. One million travelers visit Tatra Mountains only in July and August!

In the past Zakopane was known for goat cheese production and wisest shepherds in the country. In 1899 the first rail track from Kraków to Zakopane was opened. Tourism has grown significantly since then.

In the near past access to Zakopane (and Poland) was restricted for most of the nations. The communist government at that time wasn't appealing to anyone, and international tourism almost didn't exist. Fortunately, communism ended for good in 1989.

In the 90s Poland still lacked the infrastructure, hotels and popularity to attract international tourism.

Luckily Poland has been in NATO and the European Union since 2004 and now has first-class infrastructure. Zakopane is finally ready for global tourism but still remains one of the hidden gems in Poland.

If you would like to visit the most interesting places in Zakopane with a guide, check out the below tour:


Zakopane travel essentials

what to do in zakopane


Tatra highlanders say that there are 10 months of winter in the mountains, and the rest of the year is summer.

This is a bit exaggerated but it's important to remember that the weather in Zakopane is unpredictable and it's good to come prepared.

I've divided the below Zakopane packing lists into summer and winter.

What to pack if you travel to Zakopane in the summer?


Here's a suggested packing list if you'd like to explore Zakopane attractions and hike to Morskie Oko:

Clothing:

  • Lightweight and breathable tops.
  • Shorts and comfortable pants for hiking or walking.
  • A swimsuit if you plan to visit thermal pools or lakes.
  • Light rain jacket or windbreaker for unexpected weather changes.
  • Comfortable walking shoes or sandals.
  • Casual clothing for strolling through the town or enjoying outdoor cafes.

Outdoor gear:

  • Daypack for hiking and exploring.
  • Sunhat and sunglasses for sun protection.
  • Sunscreen with a high SPF.
  • Insect repellent.

Hiking essentials:

  • Comfortable sports shoes.
  • Hiking socks to prevent blisters.
  • Water bottle for staying hydrated.
  • Trail mix or energy bars for quick snacks.
  • Tatra Mountains hiking map.

Electronics:

  • Camera or smartphone for capturing beautiful moments.
  • Power bank to keep your devices charged.
  • Travel adapter if you're coming from a country with a different plug type.

Health and safety:

  • Basic first aid kit with bandages, pain relievers, and any necessary medications.
  • Personal identification and health insurance information.
  • Any prescription medications you may need.

Documents:

  • Passport or ID.
  • Travel insurance details.

Toiletries:

  • Travel-sized toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, and shampoo.
  • Towel or quick-dry travel towel.
  • Wet wipes or hand sanitizer.

Clothing accessories:

  • Hat or cap for sun protection.
  • Lightweight scarf or shawl for cooler evenings.
  • Waterproof jacket.

Cash - while credit cards are widely accepted, having some cash on hand can be useful for small purchases or places that may not accept cards, e.x. bus drivers. If you plan to get to the trailhead by a private bus, have cash with you.

Take these with you if you visit Zakopane in winter


Insulated clothing:

  • Thermal underwear to keep your body warm.
  • Insulated, waterproof jacket for protection against snow and wind.
  • Insulated pants or snow pants for outdoor activities.
  • Multiple layers, including sweaters and fleece jackets.

Winter accessories:

  • Warm gloves or mittens to protect your hands from the cold.
  • Scarf or neck gaiter to keep your neck warm.
  • Hat or beanie to cover your head and ears.
  • Thermal socks and/or waterproof boots to keep your feet dry and warm.
  • Sunglasses (snow reflects almost 80% of UV radiation).

Winter gear:

  • Snow boots with good traction for walking in snow and ice.
  • If you plan on hiking and/or skiing in Zakopane, you can easily rent all the necessary equipment on-site. If you will be hiking in the higher parts of Tatra Mountains, remember about crampons and pickax (available in rental shops in Zakopane and mountain huts as well).

Indoor clothing:

  • Casual and comfortable clothing for indoor activities and evenings.
  • Slippers or indoor shoes for added warmth in accommodations.

Outdoor gear:

  • Backpack for day trips and carrying essentials.
  • Hand warmers for additional warmth on extremely cold days.
  • Winter trekking poles for stability in snowy conditions.
  • Tatra Mountains hiking map.

Electronics:

  • Camera or smartphone for capturing winter landscapes.
  • Power bank to keep your devices charged in the cold.
  • Travel adapter if you're coming from a country with a different plug type.

Health and safety:

  • First aid kit with cold and flu remedies.
  • Lip balm and moisturizer to combat dry winter air.
  • Towel or quick-dry travel towel.
  • Any necessary prescription medications.

Documents:

  • Passport or ID.
  • Travel insurance details.


Places to stay in Zakopane - suburbs

Find perfect accommodation between city center and Mountains
zakopane suburb

It's kind of best of both worlds. On the one hand, you might be closer to the mountains and on the other hand still have nearby aqua parks, museums, bars and restaurants. Plenty to do in case of bad weather.

Population: 27000
Altitude: 3691ft / 1125m
In Poland
Booking.com


Best time to visit Zakopane

hikes in zakopane


If you want to mainly explore attractions in Zakopane, it's best to come in May. The days are long, there's quite a lot of sun and there are not that many travellers and hikers yet. Prices are also a bit lower than in the high season.

But hiking in Tatra Mountains in May isn't very easy. There's still snow and ice on the trails in higher parts of the Tatras. Some trails are closed until June 15th. The weather may be harsh and windy.

If you'd like to explore Tatra Mountains (especially hike in High Tatras), come in September or October. Autumn in the mountains is stunning, there are fewer hikers and the trails are still open. There might be snowfall but the snow melts quickly. There's no thunderstorm or avalanche risk in Tatra Mountains in September or October.


Best places to stay in Zakopane

hikes from zakopane


Here are my recommendations for places to stay in Zakopane. I've checked the ratings, reviews, and location on booking.com and read about the amenities each hotel offers.

Have a look at the below:

Aries Hotel & SPA Zakopane - lovely 5-star hotel located in Zakopane center., just a 5-minute walk from Krupówki Street. There is an indoor pool and wellness center. Guests appreciate the location, tasty breakfast and beautiful interior.


Willa Leluja - great option if you're looking for an apartment with a kitchen. It's located close to Krupówki Street (1 km). Besides location, guests appraise amazing mountain views from balconies and the cleanliness and spaciousness of the apartments.


Hostel 1902 - nice budget-friendly accommodation. The hostel is located on Krupówki Street - it's ideal for those who want to stay close to the main tourist attractions in Zakopane. Guests are happy with the professional and helpful staff, comfortable beds and cleanliness of the hostel.


Shepherds - the Highland Folklore in Zakopane 

Shepherds in Zakopane

Shepherds in Zakopane © Adam Olszowski / Adobe Stock

They are considered the wisest men in south Poland. Tatra Highlanders are able to predict the weather and are always eager to share truths about life.

They say that native citizens of Zakopane have rooted the desire to live as shepherds driven by generations of tradition. Many valleys in Tatra National Park are available for shepherds to sustain local traditions and culture. They are famous for producing the tasty and one of the cleanest cheeses called oscypek.

Working in Tatra Mountains is difficult and the weather doesn't spoil Tatra Highlanders. Fortunately,  they are rewarded with excellent cheese and breathtaking mountains to admire.

The shepherding tradition in Zakopane is very old. Farming wasn't possible due to bad grounds and lack of proper space.

Zakopane Highlanders have very characteristic and colourful outfits. They play, dance and sing during their festivals. I highly recommend checking if there are any traditional Tatra Highlanders festivals during your visit - it's one of the most unique things to do in Zakopane. 

Zakopane local outfits

Traditional outfit of Zakopane citzens © Tomasz Zajda / Adobe Stock

Interestingly, Zakopane folklore is very present and vivid. Many locals wear their colourful outfits every day for their own pride or rich traditions and to promote their unique cultural identity.


Before you go for hikes in Zakopane

zakopane hiking trails

There are many hikes in Zakopane to choose from.

For the start, consider simple walks in the beautiful valleys like:

If you want to hike the tops of the mountains, the most famous peaks are:

You may also visit scenic Tatra Mountains lakes:

What I like about all these places in Tatra Mountains is that they're fairly easily available - all these are day hikes from Zakopane.

I recommend planning loop hikes which is also quite easy as there are lots of trails to choose from. If that can't be done you may return the same way or hike from the North to the South (Slovakia), and return to Poland by taxi or bus.

✅ Before heading into the mountains, you need to have a hiking map.

During all our trips to the Tatra mountains, we always had a map, and it was a big help every single time. We don't rely only on electronic devices - they can't be 100% trusted in the mountains.

✅ Tatra Mountains weather guide - "proper preparation prevents poor performance".

✅ Practical information on hiking in Poland - good to know before you hit the trail.

Tatra Mountains huts - if you wish to sleep in the mountains.


Hikes from Zakopane - trailheads

hike zakopane


Here are the most popular trailheads in Zakopane:

⛰️ Chochołowska Valley parking - also is known as Witów Siwa Polana

The entrance is located in Western Tatras. It is the best starting point for easy hiking to the Chochołowska Polana and mountain shelter. This trailhead is a bit less popular than Kościeliska Valley entry.

Chocholowska Valley trailhead - Google Maps.

⛰️ Kiry - also known as Kościeliska Valley Parking

Located in Western Tatras, it's one of the most popular entries on this side of the mountains. Great for hiking the Kościeliska Valley and Czerwone Wierchy (Red Peaks). Kiry is a small settlement right next to Zakopane.

Kiry trailhead - Google Maps.

⛰️ Dolina Strążyska (Strążyska Valley)

An interesting starting point for exploring Western Tatras. It's slightly less popular than the other trailheads.

Strążyska Valley trailhead - Google Maps.

⛰️ Kuźnice

Kuźnice is a Zakopane district surrounded by National Park forests. There's a cable car to the famous Kasprowy Wierch mountain in Western Tatras. It's the preferred trailhead for Kasprowy Wierch, Giewont, Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy and Kościelec Mountain.

You cannot drive into Kuźnice. You can get there by bus from Zakopane center or leave the car at the parking on Bronisława Czecha Street (Google Maps link) or Karłowicza Street (Google Maps link) and walk to the trailhead/cable car.

Kasprowy Wierch cable car - Google Maps.

⛰️ Zakopane Cyrhla

In Toporowa Cyrhla you can hike through beautiful forests into the astonishing Hala Gąsienicowa, Murowaniec mountain shelter or Nosal mountain. The advantage of these trails is that there are fewer hikers.

Zakopane Cyrhla - Google Maps.

⛰️ Palenica Białczańska - also known as Morskie Oko parking

It's the most famous and main entry to the High Tatras - it's the best starting point for the Morskie Oko and Rysy hikes. It has the biggest parking with 450 parking places. Also, Łysa Polana and Wierch Poroniec parking are backup parking in case Palenica Białczańska is full.

If you will be traveling by car, you need to buy a Morskie Oko parking ticket in advance. You may purchase it here.

Palenica Białczańska - Google Maps.


Most popular hikes from Zakopane

Kasprowy Wierch in Western Tatras

Cable Car Kasprowy

The Cable car of Kasprowy Wierch mountain © kosmos111 / Adobe Stock

Kasprowy Wierch (6519ft / 1987m) is the most visited mountain in Polish Tatra National Park because it is accessible via cable car. The lift's lower station is in Kuźnice. It is a thrilling experience and the views are breathtaking.

If for some reason you can't hike in the mountains I highly recommend using the cable car to get to the top of Kasprowy. You can check the prices and buy the ticket here.

Bear in mind that it's not allowed to drive to Kuźnice. You can get there by bus from Zakopane center or leave the car at the parking on Bronisława Czecha Street (Google Maps link) or Karłowicza Street (Google Maps link) and walk to the trailhead/cable car.

Read more about Kasprowy Wierch mountain in this article.

Morskie Oko lake in High Tatras

morskie oko lake

Morskie Oko lake one of the most beautiful places in Tatra © shaiith / Adobe Stock

Morskie Oko lake is the most famous place in Tatra Mountains. Many travellers consider it also one of the most unique places in Poland. This beautiful postglacial lake is surrounded by the High Tatras - the landscape is amazing!

Morskie Oko hike is easy and suitable for all kinds of hikers, including families traveling with baby in a pram.

If you travel by car, remember to purchase a ticket to Morskie Oko parking in advance (you may do it here).

Read the full hiking guide to Morskie Oko.

Rysy - the highest mountain in Poland

Peak of the Rysy mountain

Rysy peak © kabat / Adobe Stock

Rysy mountain is the highest peak and one of the more popular hikes in Poland. The route is considered difficult and steep and includes a few exposure points. It is still doable for inexperienced people in the summertime but it is challenging. I recommend getting prepared before such a hike in High Tatras.

The route to the Rysy from Zakopane goes via Morskie Oko - one of the most beautiful places in Tatra Mountains. If you don't feel ready to hike the very steep slope of Rysy you can just stay at Morskie Oko or Czarny Staw Pod Rysami (Black Pond Under Rysy - 1583 m) and enjoy the surrounding mountains and nature.

Read the full hiking guide to Rysy.

Five Lakes Valley - moon-like scenery in High Tatras

joanna and her sister in valley of five ponds

On the picture Joanna with her sister in the view of Five Lakes Valley near Zawrat

I love Joanna's (co-founder) description of this place: "It's like a moon surface but on earth". So you don't have to wait for Elon Musk's space travel agency - you can do a 1-day hike from Zakopane in the High Tatras to the Valley of Five Ponds 😉

For me, hiking there is one of the best things to do in Zakopane. Absolutely go there!

Read the full hiking guide to Five Lakes Valley.

Red Peaks (Czerwone Wierchy) - the most beautiful hike in Western Tatras

Red Peaks_Czerwone Wierchy_Tatra mountains

Hiking Red Peaks at the end of September

Red Peaks hike is quite long but the amazing views of Western Tatras reward all the efforts. The route includes 4 mountains, each one above 2000 metres. You'll hike on a breathtaking ridge and admire the Tatra Mountains in their full glory. 

If you would like to make the hike easier, you may get to Kasprowy Wierch by cable car and start off from there.

Read the full hiking guide to Red Peaks.


Tatra Mountains in Slovakia

Krivan Slovakia

Krivan Mountain in High Tatras


Non-hiking things to do in Zakopane

cloudy day in tatra mountains

Bad weather in Tatras © Kazick / Adobe Stock

Some people say your vacations can be as good or random as the weather you will get.

In Tatras, the weather tends to be very unpredictable. If you are interested, check out our article about the weather in the Tatra mountains.

It is essential to prepare for rainy weather, no matter if you're planning to enjoy Zakopane attractions and only try the Morskie Oko hike or you're going to spend a whole week hiking in Tatra Mountains.

Krupówki street

Krupowki street in Zakopane

Krupowki street in Zakopane © Andrey Shevchenko / Adobe Stock

Busiest and prettiest place in Zakopane. A vibrant street in the center, it is the best place for buying souvenirs and for shopping in general. There are also lots of restaurants and pubs where you may sample traditional Highlander food (or sushi or Mexican cuisine, everything really) and try Polish vodka.

Also, many historic and tourist attractions are located on Krupówki Street, e.x.:

  • Church st. Family built from Tatra rocks in 1876
  • Tatra Museum functioning since 1888
  • Art Gallery of Zamoysky
  • Lovely pond with a wooden bridge

Google Maps Link to Krupówki

If you would like to explore Krupówki Street along with other interesting things to do in Zakopane with a guide, check out the below tour:

The Tatra Museum in Zakopane

The museum opened in 1888 and functions until today. You will find there exhibitions presenting the history, culture, nature and ethnography of Tatra Mountains. 

The address: Krupówki 10 Street

Google Maps Redirect link.

Pros
Cons

Places to stay in Zakopane - suburbs

Find perfect accommodation between city center and Mountains
zakopane suburb

It's kind of best of both worlds. On the one hand, you might be closer to the mountains and on the other hand still have nearby aqua parks, museums, bars and restaurants. Plenty to do in case of bad weather.

Population: 27000
Altitude: 3691ft / 1125m
In Poland
Booking.com

The Gallery of 20th Century Art at Oksza Villa

Located in a beautiful villa built in the traditional Tatra Highlander style, it's a perfect place for art enthusiasts (Joanna loved it!).

You will find there pieces of art created by Polish artists fascinated with Tatra Mountains and Highlander Folklore. Eye-catching photos, paintings, sculptures, handicrafts - a visit to this art gallery is one of the most interesting things to do in Zakopane. 

Address: Zamoyskiego 25 Street

Google Maps link.

Klub Vavavoom

things to do in zakopane.


Located close to Krupówki Street. Klub Vavavoom is one of the main places to visit in Zakopane if you're looking for nightlife attractions.

Guests praise the ambience, music and friendly bartenders who prepare a wide selection of drinks and cocktails.

Google Maps link to Klub Vavavoom.

Zakopane water parks

waterpark.png


If you would like to relax and try some relaxing things to do in Zakopane, you might be interested in the below options:

CHOCHOLOW THERMAL BATHS

The biggest waterpark in southern Poland. It offers numerous indoor and outdoor pools with hot thermal water (there are about 30 pools!), many different kinds of saunas, slides, a kid's zone, SPA facilities, a sports centre, restaurants and a pool bar.

We especially liked the spacious infrared sauna with big windows from which we admired the panoramic view of the Tatra mountains.

If you would like to visit this modern water park and not waste time in lines, you can get a full-access ticket in advance here.

BIAŁKA TATRZANSKA THERMAL BATHS

It's a smaller waterpark than Chocholow Thermal Baths but also a fun place to visit. It offers a few thermal pools with a beautiful mountain view and several saunas, outdoor and indoor.

Bialka Tatrzanska Thermal Baths are divided into the quiet and loud zone. The latter offers water attractions: waterslides, a kid's fun zone, outdoor pools, waterfalls, etc.

You can get a skip-the-line ticket along with hotel pick-up here.

Alpinarium

Crocus flower in Polish mountains


Alpinarium is a mountain botanical garden. This outstanding place is home to about 600 types of mountain plants. There are also endangered species and plants which grow nowhere else.

It’s a very nice place to let our hair down after the hustle and bustle of Krupówki street. Visiting the Alpinarium will also be one of the best things to do in Zakopane for nature admirers.

Link to the location in Google maps.


Places to stay in Zakopane

Stay here to be near ~3mi(Kuźnice) or ~10mi(Palenica Białczańska) at starting location for routes:
Kościelec Mountain
Szpiglasowy Wierch
Five Lakes Valley & Zawrat Pass
View of Zakopane in Poland

Zakopane city is one of the most popular touristic destinations in Poland. Mainly because of nearby marvel High Tatra Mountains. Tatras are the most breathtaking mountains in this part of the continent. But Zakopane also has a couple of own attractions that we shouldn't miss. It's a good place for people that want to stay close to shopping streets, restaurants and museums.

Population: 27000
Altitude: 3691ft / 1125m
In Poland
Booking.com

Zakopane city park

Zakopane city park


The playground in the park is excellent for children. Also on the terrain of the park, there is a beautiful traditional wooden Jutrzenka Villa. I like this park and go for a stroll there whenever I don't hike in the mountains.

Link to the location in Google maps.

Gubałówka

View from Gubalowka mountain zakopane


Gubałówka (3674ft / 1120m) is a popular mountain situated in the north part of Zakopane. There are a few different ways to get to Gubałówka mountain:

  • hike from Krupówki Street (nice and easy hike, takes about 1 hour to walk to Gubałówka. Link to the hike.)
  • take a funicular - the lower station is close to Krupówki Street. You may buy a Gubałówka funicular ticket here.
  • drive there by car.

The views from Gubałówka Mountain are stunning - you get to admire a panorama of the Tatra mountains and the entire Zakopane.

On Gubałówka there are souvenir shops, restaurants, a gravity slide, a toboggan run, a rope park, an amusement arcade - you name it! Visiting Gubałówka is one of the most fun things to do in Zakopane.


The Great Krokiew ski jump

zakopane attractions


The biggest ski jump in Poland. You may walk up or ride up in a chair lift. Great view from the top and observatory. You can slide down in the pontoon if you're up for a bit of adrenaline 🙂

The entry is paid and once you're inside you can buy a ticket to the slide. They only accept cash (there's a cash machine nearby). There are lots of small shops and food stands at the foot of the ski jump. Paid parking is also available.

Google Maps link to Wielka Krokiew ski jump.

Chochołów open-air museum

zakopane-wood-huts.jpg

Wooden huts © bnorbert3 / Adobe Stock

Chochołów is a living and functioning village that is also an open-air museum of settlements and folklore.

It is located 12 miles from Zakopane but definitely worth a visit. The huts were built in the XIX century in the traditional Tatra Highlander style and are well-preserved and used up to date.

You can visit this unique open-air museum together with Chochołów thermal baths.

Link Chochołów in Google Maps.


Places to stay in Zakopane - suburbs

Find perfect accommodation between city center and Mountains
zakopane suburb

It's kind of best of both worlds. On the one hand, you might be closer to the mountains and on the other hand still have nearby aqua parks, museums, bars and restaurants. Plenty to do in case of bad weather.

Population: 27000
Altitude: 3691ft / 1125m
In Poland
Booking.com

Parrot house in Zakopane

parrot in parrot house zakopane

© Alinsa / Adobe Stock

Zakopane has its own "parrotarium" (Papugarnia Egoztyczne Zakopane). It's one of the most interesting family things to do in Zakopane - kids love this place! And it is a unique occasion to take a selfie with a parrot on your arm - the parrots are used to the presence of people and are very curious, especially if you have food 😉 (you can buy parrot food on site).

Parrot House Zakopane features over 100 birds and it's the biggest attraction of this type in southern Poland.

Address: Droga do Olczy 11, Zakopane

Opening hours: every day 10:00 am. to 7:00 pm.

Pros
Cons

Traditional Tatra Mountains buildings

mountain hut in polish mountains

Modern wooden huts © shaiith / Adobe Stock


Traditional Tatra Mountains buildings are wooden and beautifully ornamented - they reflect the rich cultural and architectural heritage of the Tatra region. These buildings are designed to withstand the harsh mountain environment

Typical characteristics of these houses are:

  • Gable roofs - steeply pitched gable roofs are a common feature, designed to shed heavy snowfall during the winter months.
  • Decorative woodwork - Tatra Highlander artisans are skilful - they create unique wood carvings and decorative elements. These carvings often present traditional folk motifs, geometric patterns, or scenes from nature.
  • Balconies and verandas - to make Tatra buildings even more beautiful 🙂
  • Colorful facades - the most popular colors are red, green, and blue.
  • High windows
  • Stone foundations - to provide stability in the mountainous terrain, many buildings have stone foundations. I like this element - it adds an authentic touch to the architecture.

Accommodation in Zakopane

Houses of Zakopane © Milan / Adobe Stock



Places to stay in Zakopane - suburbs

Find perfect accommodation between city center and Mountains
zakopane suburb

It's kind of best of both worlds. On the one hand, you might be closer to the mountains and on the other hand still have nearby aqua parks, museums, bars and restaurants. Plenty to do in case of bad weather.

Population: 27000
Altitude: 3691ft / 1125m
In Poland
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How to get to Zakopane?

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If you're planning to travel by plane, the closest airport in Poland will be Kraków Airport (full name: John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice). It's located 110 km from Zakopane.

Booking.com offers cheap flight booking services - you may compare flights from 500+ airlines to destinations around the world.

You can check deals on flights here:


If you'd like to travel a lot and visit multiple places, the most convenient and fast way to travel is to rent a car. When we need to rent a car we always use Rentalcars.com and are happy with them, never had any issues with this company.

You may check deals on car rentals in Poland here:


If you prefer public transportation you may take a bus from Kraków Airport, e.x. Flixbus. They offer direct shuttles to Zakopane. You can check the prices and timetable here.

If you have more time, it would be a good idea to visit Krakow city, spend there a few days and then head into the mountains.

Here's a 5-day itinerary including Krakow and Zakopane.

BUSES FROM KRAKÓW TO ZAKOPANE

If you prefer to travel to Zakopane from Krakow by bus you have a few carriers to choose from: Flixbus, Szwagropol, Majer Bus or Maxbus Zakopane


You can get a direct shuttle from Kraków Central Bus Station. Here you will check the timetable and prices.

Central Bus Station in Kraków is located on Bosacka 18 Street, right next to the main train station. Here's a  Google Maps link.

TRAINS FROM KRAKÓW TO ZAKOPANE

Kraków Main Station is on Pawia Street (here's a Google Maps link). Direct trains go to Zakopane from Kraków. You will check the timetable and book your train tickets here.

Trains in Poland are good for traveling between the cities. If you want to discover beautiful nature in Poland, villages and National Parks, it's best to travel by car.


Buses in Zakopane

best things to do in zakopane


To get to the trailheads it's best to travel by private buses which shuttle from the central station in Zakopane center on Kościuszki 23 Street (Google Maps link).

In 2023 central bus station is undergoing a renovation and buses temporarily shuttle from Aleja 3 Maja Street (Google Maps link).

To find a bus which will take you to your preferred trailhead simply look at the tables at the front window.

In the summer, buses start to shuttle at 6 AM and are very frequent. It's worth mentioning that drivers usually don't depart strictly according to the timetable - they wait until the bus is full and then depart (buses fill up very quickly).

There are lots of shuttles to the trailheads so you just come to the bus station, choose the right bus and shortly you'll be on your way.

You may buy the ticket at bus driver's - cash only.

If you're planning on travelling in Zakopane with public transportation, check the timetable here.

There are a few ways to purchase public bus tickets in Zakopane:

  • at the bus vending machine (cash only)
  • mPay mobile app
  • Tourist Information Center on Chramcówki 35 Street
  • ticket vending machines

The vending machines are located in several places:

  1. Zakopane central bus station
  2. Aleje 3 Maja Górne
  3. Aleje 3 Maja Dolne
  4. Jana Pawła II roundabout near Kuźnice, right next to the Tatra National Park information office.


Zakopane dark secrets

Smog in autumn and winter

smog in zakopane

Winter smog in Zakopane © Irina84 / Adobe Stock


Lots of Zakopane citizens use coal and wood for central heating. Additionally, the location of Zakopane makes it difficult to naturally ventilate the city, which results in high air pollution during the cold months.

The level of dust in the wintertime sometimes is record-high and can reach PM10 over 400 µg multiple times - where 200 µg is considered very high.

The problem doesn't exist in warm months.

If you happen to visit Zakopane in winter, it's best to keep checking the air quality with one of the online air monitors (e.x. this one). Zakopane has multiple measuring devices installed.

Halny wind (Foehn wind)

The halny in Tatra mountains - fen wind

Halny wind in Tatra mountains - © burasek79 / Adobe Stock


It is a very strong wind blowing into the valleys dry and warm air. It can be very sudden and cause a lot of infrastructure damage.

"Halny" is also influencing the people's mood. Because of rapid atmospheric pressure changes people with cardiovascular and heart issues may experience difficulties.

This strong wind also influences the mood, people become nervous and grumpy. Suicide rate rises! Also, it's reported that animals act strangely during that time.

Halny wind occurs most often in autumn and early spring.

Traffic jams

zakpane traffic

© Henryk Sadura / Adobe Stock

A lot of travelers come to Zakopane by car as it's the most convenient way to travel in Poland. This may result in 1 - 2 hours delays when travelling out of or to Kraków.

Be sure to check Traffic intensity on Google Maps in Zakopane before hitting the road.

Insider travel tip: to avoid traffic jams, consider renting an electric scooter. There are scooter rental shops in Zakopane center.


Is Zakopane worth visiting?

zakopane city


Zakopane city might not be your best travel destination if:

📌 You're vegan or on a diet. Traditional Tatra Highlander food tends to be meaty and high in calories. Pork knuckle, roasted sausages, bigos (a hearty dish made with a variety of meats and sauerkraut), sauerkraut soup (it always contains a greasy type of meat) - these are examples of typical food served in the majority of restaurants in Zakopane. However, there are a few restaurants in Zakopane which offer vegan and/or vegetarian food - see below.

📌 Crowds make you angry. Zakopane is popular among Poles and international travellers alike.

📌 You're bothered by unpredictable weather and packing additional clothing. Traveling to Zakopane is a bit demanding when it comes to windproof jackets, waterproof boots, gaiters, etc.

📌 You'd like to eat out a lot but travel on a budget. Zakopane restaurants and pubs (especially in the center) are pricey.


Places to stay in Zakopane

Stay here to be near ~3mi(Kuźnice) or ~10mi(Palenica Białczańska) at starting location for routes:
Kościelec Mountain
Szpiglasowy Wierch
Five Lakes Valley & Zawrat Pass
View of Zakopane in Poland

Zakopane city is one of the most popular touristic destinations in Poland. Mainly because of nearby marvel High Tatra Mountains. Tatras are the most breathtaking mountains in this part of the continent. But Zakopane also has a couple of own attractions that we shouldn't miss. It's a good place for people that want to stay close to shopping streets, restaurants and museums.

Population: 27000
Altitude: 3691ft / 1125m
In Poland
Booking.com


Vegan restaurants in Zakopane?

zakopane vegan


Here's a list of our favourite restaurants in Zakopane which offer vegan and vegetarian meals. We haven't found a 100% vegan restaurant in Zakopane.

🌮 Las - vegetarian & vegan bistro in Zakopane. The food is very good and moderately priced. Here's a link to Google Maps.

🌮 STRH Bistro Art Cafe - located on Krupowki street. They have a terrace with a beautiful view of the mountains. Here's a link to Google Maps.

🌮 Bar Górski - budget-friendly eatery with vegan options. Good value for money. Here's a link to Google Maps.

🌮 Eco-Cafe Zieleń - a cafe which offers cakes made from organic ingredients. Gluten-free, sugar-free or vegan options available. Here's a link to Google Maps.


Traditional Polish food tour

attractions in zakopane


If you're not on a diet and would like to enjoy Zakopane attractions to the fullest, consider going on a food tour.

It's a fantastic option for foodies. You will discover traditional Polish food and beverages and learn about Polish traditions.

This tour includes also sightseeing - check it out:


Other fantastic hikes in Poland

babia gora trails


Polish mountains are very diversified and cover large areas in southern parts of the country.

There are 3 mountain chains in Poland:

  • Świętokrzyskie Mountains
  • Carpathian Mountains
  • Sudety Mountains

Each of them is divided into mountain ranges. Have a look at the best hikes in Poland, outside Tatra Mountains:

⛰️ 13 easy hikes in Poland (great also for hiking with kids)

⛰️ Gorce Mountains - perfect for hiking near Krakow

⛰️ Beskid Wyspowy - mountain getaway, also an ideal option for hiking near Krakow

⛰️ Żywiec Beskidy Mountains - another fine destination for hiking near Krakow

⛰️ Silesian Beskidy Mountains - a splendid option for hiking near Katowice

⛰️ Bieszczady - the wildest mountains in Poland

⛰️ Babia Góra National Park

⛰️ Nature in Poland - the best places to visit




I wish you many happy hikes in Zakopane! 

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