Is Zakopane worth visiting?
Zakopane is a compelling destination for visitors to Krakow. Discover why this mountain town of thermal spas and beautiful landscapes worth the journey
After exploring the hidden corners of Krakow, you might be wondering what to do outside Krakow. In particular, whether Zakopane is worth visiting.
The short answer is yes. The “Winter capital of Poland” is just a two-hour drive from Krakow and is where nature and outdoor activities flourish. A haven for snow sports and summer hikes, the resort town bubbles with life whatever the season.
The long answer is below, as we look at some of the leading attractions in Zakopane.
What is Zakopane
Starting life as a hamlet in the 17th century, Zakopane has grown into a busy resort town that welcomes millions of annual visitors.
Tucked away at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, the former mining village Zakopane is renowned for its thermal spas, which still continue to attract visitors on health and wellbeing escapes.
Bustling Krupówki Street is the heart of the town, where you’ll find bars and restaurants that keeps the town buzzing at night.
During the day, cable cars and ski lifts are busy ferrying hikers or skiers, depending on the season.
Who Should Visit Zakopane
Winter sports fans, hikers, and outdoor sports enthusiasts will feel at home in Zakopane.
While the town center can be a little crowded when craving solitude, the town is a fantastic base for hikes with 100% mountain views.
Anyone looking to dig deeper into Polish heritage will find a few cultural diversions, highland cuisine, and a ch
Outdoor Activities in Zakopane
Zakopane nestles at the foot of the Tatra mountains. It’s a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts. But a roundup of the best outdoor activities in Zakopane illustrates there are also opportunities to appreciate the peaks without breaking a sweat.
Lake Morskie Oko
Lake Morskie Oko, AKA Eye of the Sea, is the largest lake in the Tatra Mountains and the star destination outside Zakopane for nature lovers.
The crystal-clear lake filled with trout lies at the end of a flat road suitable for all ages. In the winter, the lake freezes over. In the summer, crowds walk or ride horse-drawn carriages to see chamois grazing amongst the trees lining one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
A gateway to more demanding trails, Lake Morskie Oko is around 13 miles (20 km) outside Zakopane and accessible by car or bus.
The Valley of Five Polish Ponds
Why settle for one lake when you can have five? The Valley of Five Polish Ponds is as scenic as it sounds. A bus can drop you off at a trail just outside Zakopane, opening up a well-signposted hike that wends along verdant paths, past waterfalls, and a restaurant. And, of course, the five ponds, which kind of undersell these chocolate-box mountain lakes.
Hiking in the Chochołowska Valley and Kościeliska Valley
If you like to hit the trails, you’ll love the Chochołowska and Kościeliska valleys a few miles outside Zakopane. In spring, flower-blanketed meadows line deep gorges on these elevated glacial plains as the celebrated krokusy (crocus) poke their heads up, drawing nature lovers to their colorful beauty.
It’s a stunning contrast to the urban charms of Krakow. Bring hiking boots, fill your backpack with kanapki (sandwiches), and drink in the fresh mountain air on trails easily accessible from Zakopane.
Gubałówka Funicular Railway
Ditch the hiking boots and take the easy way up to the clouds on the Gubałówka Funicular Railway, which climbs 300 meters to drop passengers at an observation deck with sweeping views across Zakopane and the peaks beyond.
Stunning panoramas might be the payoff. But the ride up from the heart of Zakopane is a whole lot of fun, too.
Kasprowy Wierch Cable Car
Kasprowy Wierch, at 1,987 m above sea level, is a lung-busting hike or an easygoing cable car ride from Kuznice in upper Zakopane.
Kasprowy Wierch sits right on the border of Slovakia. At the top is a café and station for skiers or hikers.
It’s a two-cable-car journey and 10 memorable minutes suspended above the Tatra National Park en route to breathtaking views.
Skiing, sleigh rides, and snow sports in Zakopane
When the lakes freeze over and snow drifts appear, Zakopane lives up to its title as the winter capital of Poland.
Skiers and snowboarders can choose from 16 pistes or go cross-country on ski treks. While adventurers speed through the powder on snowmobiles.
Less strenuous winter fun can be found on horse-drawn sleighs and thrilling husky rides. In short, Zakopane is a winter sports haven.
Top Things To Do In Zakopane
The natural wonders of Zakopane are a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, adding extra layers to the question of how many days to spend in Krakow. But there are plenty of exciting things to do in Zakopane without heading into the mountains.
Zakopane Thermal Baths
Fight off winter blues and invigorate summer spirits at the famous thermal baths of Zakopane.
Zakopane Aqua Park is a venue for all seasons. Thermal spas with views and swimming pools, slides, and more right in the heart of town.
Dotted around Zakopane are geothermal pools for families to sample the magical healing properties of naturally heated waters. Among them are the indoor and outdoor thermal spas of Szaflary Baths; while a little further out (10 m /15 km), you can luxuriate in the 20 naturally heated pools of Bukovina Thermal Baths, surrounded by forests and a calming sense of well-being.
Mountains wouldn’t be complete without a local cheese to sustain locals through the winter. The hard, smoked Oscypek cheese is king, and this museum shows you how it’s made.
They also showcase Goral heritage, from homegrown handicrafts to regional history. For a taste of local life, an afternoon at the Oscypek Museum in the center of Zakopane is as rich as the cheese you will inevitably take back to your lodgings.
Underlining the charm of Zakopane is Krupówki Street, where the modern meets the mountains with log cabin boutiques, bars, bakeries, and restaurants.
While away an afternoon poking around the shops and sampling your way around regional gastronomy. Return in the evening to wine, dine, and let your hair down.
If you’re visiting Zakopane for moments of tranquility, you might want to skip Krupówki Street. Unlike the rugged spaces outside town, this tourist hotspot is rarely quiet.
Traditional Goral Dinner and Dancing
Talking of having a good time, a highlight for many visitors to Zakopane is dinner and dancing the Goral way.
Local favorites include the atmospheric Goralska and Bakowo Zohylina Wyznio restaurants, dripping in old-time character and serving up Polish delights with a side of folk music and traditional dancing.
With log fires and oodles of character, you might forget what century it is.
Hopefully, we’ve answered whether the town is worth visiting.
As you can see, there is much more to Zakopane than winter sports and thermal spas. you could happily spend several relaxing days here. Especially if you love the great outdoors, with the wilds of the Tatra Mountains ensuring you won’t run out of things to do in Zakopane, whatever the season.