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Zakopane, Poland

Aerial view of Zakopane and Tatry mountains at early spring, Poland

Zakopane, Poland

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983 with small group educational tours for senior couples and mature solo travellers.


Zakopane is a beautiful resort town on the edge of the Tatra Mountains in Southern Poland famed for skiing during the winter months and mountain climbing and hiking in summer. Visitors are treated to a stretching Alpine-like landscape, a rich wildlife, a vivid cultural heritage of Polish mountaineers, unique architecture and delicious Zakopane style cuisine.

Odyssey conducts a tour of Zakopane as part of our 22-day long private tour exploring Poland. During this trip we visit key Polish towns and cities such as Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw, Krakow, and more. We spend two nights at a hotel in Zakopane exploring the town and enjoying traditional meals, live folk music, and a leisurely day trip cable-car ride to the top of Gubalowka Mountain for an unbeatable beautiful view. This article explores the things to do in Zakopane town and surrounds to assist your guided tour.

Landscape of Tatra Mountains, view of Zakopane from the top of Mt. Gubalowka

Tatra National Park

Nestled right next to the Tatra National Park, Zakopane is a great base to explore the 21,164 hectares of pristine and unspoilt land. Head off on a hiking trail to explore beautiful summits, caves, waterfalls, and crystal-clear streams. Meanwhile climbing, biking, and horse riding are also common in summer.

Morskie Oko Lake, listed as one of the top five most beautiful lakes in the world by the Wall Street Journal, is a particular marvel of the national park. A relatively easy two-hour hike – or ride on a horse-drawn carriage – from the nearest road will bring you to the largest lake in the Tatras. Enjoy the stunning views of towering mountains reflected off clear green water.

Morskie Oko Pond in the Tatra Mountains, Poland

For a bird’s eye perspective of the entire national park, set off on the easy mountain climb or leisurely cable car ride to the top of Mount Gubalowka, or tackle the more challenging five hour climb to the Rysy summit – the highest of the Polish mountains.  Other popular hikes include through the beautiful Dolina Chocholowska, Dolina Strążyska. Dolina Gąsienicowa, and Dolina Kościeliska valleys.

Be sure to look out for a number of local inhabitants while you’re there including the  graceful Tatra chamois, gray wolf, European otter or endangered Eurasian lynx.

Poland’s Winter Capital

Zakopane is especially popular during the winter holidays, with countless skiers, snowboarders and hikers drawn by the perfect conditions of natural heavy snow covered peaks, icebound mountain lakes and serene valleys.

It has many family friendly ski slopes perfect for beginners to learn the ropes, or more advanced slopes like Mount Kasprowy Wierch, which offers world-class skiing along a three-mile-long descending piste from the top.

After a day in the mountains, there’s nothing better than relaxing in the healing waters of the many thermal pools around Zakopane. Both outdoor and indoor, underneath giant windows, they’re a perfect opportunity to sit back, let your hair down, and admire a panoramic view of the majestic Tatra mountains.

Winter morning view of the Zakopane in valley and Tatra Mountains in background

Krupówki Street

A stroll down Zakopane’s most popular street, Krupówki, leaves you with endless opportunities. Closed to traffic and paved with granite cubes, ones is free to leisurely explore its many restaurants, pubs, clubs, discos, and stores.

Street performers, carnival rides, horse-led carriages, and street vendors also fill the street. And in summer a local market offers traditional apparel, leather jackets, fur coats, shoes, and purses.

Unique Wooden Architecture

Zakopane is well known for its own unique beautiful wooden villas composed of decorations meticulously carved in wood embellishments. Dating from the late 1800s, the creator of this style of ornate timber houses was the architect Stanislaw Witkiewicz, who endeavoured to reflect the customs, motifs and traditions of Poland’s highland Podhale region.

Witkiewicz’s creations helped establish Zakopane as a haven for painters, poets, writers and composers flocking to the town for inspirational breaks, leaving their own artistic impact there in the process.

Some of these now house museums, while others have been converted into hotels or pensions. Koscieliska street hosts the oldest examples of the architectural style – particularly the famous “Villa Koliba” of Witkiewicz (now housing the Tatra Museum).

Koliba villa in Zakopane in a winter scenery, Poland. Designed in 1892 by Stanislaw Witkiewicz is a typical exhibit of “zakopianski” style.

Goral Culture

A visit to Zakopane is not complete without experiencing the local Goral culture. The Gorals are some of the most distinctive peoples of Europe with unique styles of food, speech, architecture, music, and costume. Dressed in traditional outfits of sheep wool or colourful flowery-patterned shawls, more than willing to perform their traditional folk music and dance for visitors, they are hard to miss.

Polish Highlander Cuisine

Be sure to not leave Zakopane without first tasting the EU-protected Oscypek – a delicious smoked sheep’s milk cheese. A local staple exclusive to the Tatra mountains, it is available at stands all over town made strictly from the same recipe dating back to the 14th century. With a delicious salty taste, you can either have it cold or grilled with a bit of cranberry jam.

The Polish mulled wine, known as grzaniec galicyjski, is also prevalent – a perfect sweet treat to warm you up when it’s cold outside. It is a popular drink to wind down after a long day in the mountains.

A wide variety of local specialties are also on offer at the local restaurants. After a day on the ski-slopes or hiking in the mountains, there’s nothing better than a leg of roasted lamb, Goral style pork knuckle, or kwaśnica (Polish sauerkraut soup cooked with lots of meat). Or a soup of porcini mushrooms, fried fritters in butter, or potato pancakes go down especially well in summer and autumn.

Tour of Zakopane

Odyssey Traveller currently visits Poznan as part of our 22-day long tour exploring Poland. On this tour we view the grand monuments of Warsaw and Krakow and trace the path of the Vistula River, visiting the towns of Kazimierz Dolny with its Renaissance architecture, Baranow Sandomierski with its grand 16th century castle, Wieliczka with its UNESCO World Heritage labyrinthine salt mine, and other places that shaped the heart and soul of Poland. We will also take time to visit the homes and learn more about the life of Polish luminaries such as Frédéric Chopin and Nicolaus Copernicus.

These tours are designed for senior and mature travellers who would like to learn about history and culture with like-minded people in a small group setting (participant number is typically 6 to 12), using the knowledge and expertise of our tour leader and tour guide at destinations. For more information, click here, and head to this page to make a booking.

Articles on Zakopane

These articles were either published by Odyssey Traveller or are carefully selected external sources to maximise the senior travellers’ knowledge and enjoyment of Poland when visiting: