It’s time you met Poland’s best-known mountain resort, Zakopane, situated only few miles from the Slovak border! This charming place is an excellent place for all sports enthusiasts, thanks to its base for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. Moreover, in addition to outdoor facilities, Zakopane is known for its wooden villas, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of them now house museums, while others serve as hotels and pensions. Check out why this lovely resort is ideal for your upcoming winter holidays!
1) Wander around the Tatras
If you’re into hiking, then this is the spot for you. The city of Zakopane is situated right next to the Tatra National Park in an epic location. When we say ‘epic’, we really mean it. 110 km south of Krakow and 11 km from Slovakia, Zakopane is nestled in the foothills of the majestic Tatra mountain range. So, it’s no wonder that the city has become the ski capital of Poland and one of the favourite vacation spots for Polish people. Try a full day hike all the way up to a peak and enjoy the view. If you prefer coziness over a little bit of cardio, then hitch a gondola to the awe-inspiring peak of Kasprowy Wierch.
2) Enjoy the breathtaking nature
If the grand mountain views don’t encourage you enough, then the rest of Zakopane’s nature is a deal breaker. There are numerous of forested hiking trails protecting hidden waterfalls and clearings. The absolute must of the area is the shimmering lake, Morskie Oko (“Eye of the Sea”). The sea is the largest in the Tatras and it takes a bus ride to the base of the trail. From there, you’ll need to walk an hour or two through the impressive environment. If you wonder is it worth it, the answer is: one of the most beautiful lakes in the world is waiting for you.
Another thing worth mentioning is that even experienced nature travellers are amazed by the view over the Valley of the Five Lakes (“Dolina Pieciu Stawow”) in the autumn.
3) Taste the yummy cuisine
You can find restaurants with traditional, regional dishes across the town. Although really difficult to translate, the delicacies like pażuchy, bukty, tarciochy, moskole, karpiele, żury, kołacze and kwaśnice will win you over in a second. The restaurants in Zakopane generally respect their tradition and mainly serve the Góralski specialties. However, one of the most famous foods of the region is oscypek, smoked cheese molded and carved into ornate logs or patties. When you walk through the streets of the city centre, you’ll come across countless stands where this cheese is grilled and sold.
4) Do some bargain shopping
There are always (and in greater number than you might think) shopping addicts among you, so you should discover what Zakopane has to offer during your mountain retreat. So, go straight to Krupówki street, the main one in the city. It is a hub of modern shopping where, whilst spending your money, you’ll see horse-drawn carriages going through the lively stream of pedestrians. At the northern end of the street there is an underground entrance to the Gubałówka hill market, an outdoor bazaar where you can find a myriad of souvenirs, as well as hand-crafted pieces made by locals.
5) Become a part of Góralski culture
The city of Zakopane is nestled in Southern Poland, a region slightly different than the rest of the country. Their Góralski (“highlander”) culture is really something unique, and even the dialect is hard to understand for Poles from the northern regions. You’ll notice the elements of Góralski culture mostly in aesthetics of the town, since many of the houses and buildings are built of wood carved with decorative images. Such examples you can also find among the folk art exhibits in museums across Zakopane. When you add jubilant folk music played in rustic karczmach (woody taverns), Polish cuisine and highlander dishes and, if you happen to be there in summer, some of the festivals celebrating the Góralski culture, such as International Festival of Highland Folklore, do we really need to say more?