Coming to the quaint Warsaw is to recall the old days, explore its old quarters, castles, churches and buildings, the streets seem to still be imprinted with fascist shoes… But going to Zakopane, it is to forget all the hardships in life. Let’s experience Zakopane tourism through the sharing below about the beautiful Polish tourist town, the hidden gem of Poland. So, what to do in Zakopane and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Zakopane town (Zakopane Poland) for the first-time? Let’s check out our Zakopane blog with the fullest Zakopane travel guide (Zakopane guide) from how to get to Zakopane from krakow, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and things to do in Zakopane as well as suggested Zakopane itinerary 3 days 2 nights to find out the answer!
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Zakopane is a popular travel destination in Poland, not only because it is a small charming, gentle mountain town in the south of Poland with the Tatra Mountains covered with snow all year round on the peaks. Here, in addition to the unique features bearing the image of the mountainous region with the beauty of traditional wooden cottages, there are also vibrant and colorful street lights, shops, cafes and even a walking street similar in other big cities.
Zakopane blog: Overview of Zakopane Town (Zakopane Poland)
The town of Zakopane is located in the Southern Poland, 100km from Krakow and 500km from Warsaw. This place is known as the winter palace of Poland. The first impression when visiting Zakopane Poland is the beauty of this land, like a fairy in a fairy tale. Located near the Tatra Mountains between Poland and Slovakia, in addition to awe-inspiring natural landscapes, the old town here is also very attractive with lovely wooden houses surrounded by a garden full of trees and flowers.
This famous Polish tourist destination is the highest place in Poland with an altitude of 1,130m above sea level. The town’s highest peak is Mt. Swinica is 2,301 meters. You also can climb to Mount Rysy, the highest peak of Poland at 2,500 meters. Zakopane Poland was discovered in the 16th century and once belonged to the Austrian Empire. It was not until later that it returned to Poland and was the ideal summer and winter resort town of many Polish royal dynasties.
Located in a narrow valley between the Tatra Mountains and the Gubałówka Hill, Zakopane is blessed with numerous streams, valleys and majestic mountains. Due to it is located close to the border of Slovakia and shares the Tatra mountains, it is not surprising that someone will say that you will have the opportunity to go to Slovakia as well. Because “standing on this mountain, looking at that mountain” is real. As long as you stand on the edge of Tatra mountains on this side, you can zoom over to other mountains in the territory of Slovakia. It’s great, right?!
The average annual temperature in Zakopane is 2 degrees Celsius, the highest in summer is about 25 degrees Celsius. At the peaks of Tatra mountains you will see snow that never melts even in summer. You can take a cable car ride to the top of the mountain to watch the ice melt, enjoy the cool breezes and zoom out into the distance with the majestic scenery in front of you.
Where is the Tatra Mountains?
The Tatras are a mountain range located on the border of Slovakia and the beautiful country of Poland. Tatras has an extremely poetic and romantic beauty, but perhaps this place is still unknown to many tourists, especially Asian visitors. Along with the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Dinaric Alps, Tatras is also known as one of the most majestic mountain ranges in Europe today. Tatra is famous for its tall rocky mountains, green grasslands and large clear blue lakes. The Tatra Mountains are often likened to the Alps in Central Europe.
Zakopane guide: When is the best season to visit Zakopane?
You can visit Zakopane all year round but the best time to come is still summer and autumn. If you like snow, you can go in winter but the temperature is so cold that the lakes freeze, not as beautiful as the summer and autumn scenes.
But a wonderful thing of winter is that visitors can ski here. Instead of going to Switzerland, Austria, France to ski with expensive prices, Zakopane offers extremely cheap prices for visitors who want to learn to ski and experience other winter activities and sports.
I highly recommend you to travel in the summer, the best time to visit Zakopane is in early June or late August. At this time, tourists come here less and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery without having to crowded with many local guests.
Zakopane travel guide: How to get to Zakopane from Krakow?
You can also book a Flixbus to go from Krakow airport directly to Zakopane town or take a day trip from here. I find the price of the day tour is also very affordable (€27), so if you is afraid to go on your own, you can book a day tour for convenience. With this tour, I think you can only go to a few places, but it is difficult to go all tourist attractions in Zakopane. During my visit, I stayed in Zakopane for 3 days and 2 nights, but the feeling was still not satisfied.
If you depart from the center of Krakow you can take a bus or train with many trips a day. However, in my opinion, taking the bus is less tiring because it only takes about 2-2.5 hours, while the train will take 3-4 hours (costs €4-7). You can buy tickets on the websites of Flixbus or Polish bus companies such as Polski Bus, Szwagropol. You can also go to Krakow Central Bus Station and buy at the ticket counter or buy directly from the driver.
In my travel experience, you should not book tickets online in advance. Sometimes buying Flixbus online tickets are more expensive than buying regular tickets. Just go to the Krakow central bus station right near the railway station/Galeria shopping center, choose to buy a ticket to Zakopane for only €5 at the ticket counter. The price is always fixed. Normally, the departure platforms to Zakopane is number 18, 19.
Another thing to note is that traveling to Zakopane Poland on weekdays is usually less crowded than weekends. Poles come here on the weekends very crowded. That’s why I recommend you depart from the first departure point at Krakow bus station rather than pick up at the stops along the way. On the day I went, almost visitors who picked up the bus at the bus stops along the way had to stand during the trip because there were not enough seats.
Zakopane blog: Where to stay in Zakopane Poland?
You can refer to this hotel: Przy Szlaku Zakopane centrum pokoje & apartamenty (Agoda.com or Booking.com). The room rate is around €40 a night, but the room fills up very quickly. Rated 9.8 on Booking.com.
I was introduced to this place, but by the time I needed to book, the room was already full, so I booked at Hotel PRL RZEMIEŚLNIK (Agoda.com or Booking.com). This hotel is also quite close to the center of Zakopane (450m away) for €23/night for 2 people. The hotel has a nice view, next to the supermarket and just a few hundred meters from the main road of Zakopane. In return, from here to the bus station is more than 1km. Overall, I think it’s pretty good place to stay.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Aries Hotel & Spa Zakopane (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Mercure Kasprowy Zakopane (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Bambi Zakopane (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Aquarion (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Grand Hotel Stamary (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Belvedere Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Zakopane blog: Things to do in Zakopane, what to do in Zakopane Poland
Lake Morskie Oko
The most prominent place when it comes to Zakopane Poland tourism is the Lake Morskie Oko (The Eye of the Sea).
The Eye of the Sea (Morskie Oko) is the largest and fourth deepest lake in the Tatra Mountains and is located deep in the Tatra National Park. The peaks surrounding the lake are about 1,000 meters above the lake’s surface; one of them is Rysy mountain (2,499 meters), the highest peak in the Polish Tatras. This lake is called the Eye of the Sea because the water is always clear and blue like the blue eye in the sky — the eye of the sea. In addition, the name is also derived from an old legend, according to which the lake is connected to the sea through an underground passage.
Lake Morskie Oko has 2 rivers flowing in and one branch flowing out. To get here, you will need about 2 hours to walk or ride a horse-drawn carriage (cars are prohibited to protect the environment).
How to get there: If you rent a car, just make your way to the Tatra national park entrance gate and find the parking lot, then hike 9km for about 2 hours or rent a horse cart to reach the lake.
If you take the bus, go to the Zakopane bus station or the small bus stop at the beginning of Krupowski street and pay attention to the minibuses with the Morskie Oko sign in front, then come to ask for the price. If they say 10zl, get on. It will take about 1 hour to reach Tatra national park gate from the center. At the park gate, you need to pay a fee of 5zl to enter and then start hiking or riding a horse cart to the lake.
Hiking time will take about 2 hours or riding a horse cart, you need to pay about €12 more when going and €7 when returning. Note: After riding the horse cart, you still need to walk for another 20 minutes to reach the lake. The trail to the lake is really steep like climbing to the top of a mountain. Therefore, if you intend to walk to this lake, you should think carefully and exercise first.
Gubałówka Hill with its peak Giewont is one of the most famous Zakopane tourist attractions. This is a winter sports center with lots of ski resorts. However, the summer is also very crowded with tourists because of the immense natural beauty. This is also one of the very unforgettable experiences when you come to Zakopane Poland.
In addition, in May every year here the town often organizes Wielki Festiwal Tatrzański (May Festival), you can listen to local folk music, enjoy food, play adventure sports…
How to get there: You find the entrance gate right opposite Hyrczyk Euro Market to take funicular to the top of Mount Gubalowka. Just a short walk from the famous Krupowki street. From the church at the beginning of Krupowki Street (Address: Krupowki 1), you look over to the opposite side and you will see a signboard to go to Gubalowka Hill. Fares: €20/round trip.
The famous Krupowki street in Zakopane is known as one of the 5 most poetic streets in Poland. Only pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages are allowed here. Both sides of the road are hundreds of years old wooden houses with unique architecture. It must be said that the architecture of the houses here is really impressive. Wherever you go, you will be amazed by the unique and strange architecture. I’ve been to more than 40 European cities, but this is probably one of the two places I’m most excited about right now. The architecture has not been seen anywhere in Europe.
Some other places you can visit along to Krupowski street:
- Tatra Museum (Address: Krupówki 10, 34-500 Zakopane, Poland): In the town there are many museums, the oldest and most impressive museum is the Tatra museum, established in 1922.
- Museum of Zakopane Style: Address: Kościeliska 18, 34-500 Zakopane, Poland
- Old Church & Cemetery
- Chapel of Jaszczurówka
Take cable car to the top of Mount Kasprowy Wierch
Mount Kasprowy Wierch is located in the western part of the Tatra Mountains with an altitude of 1,987 m. This place is famous for its rare flora ecosystem and wonderful natural scenery. You will have the opportunity to enjoy the cool breeze, panoramic views, watching the ice melt on the top of the mountain and the majestic mountains surrounding it.
How to get there: Buy tickets at the cable car ticket counter to the top of the mountain. Usually in the summer, the number of tourists is very crowded, so you should buy tickets online in advance if you go in the peak season.
You can purchase online up to 30 days in advance and at least 2 hours before the trip. However, if you go in the summer, you should buy a few days in advance. You only need to have the code on your phone, you may not need to print out.
You take a taxi or minibus from the center of Zakopane to Kuznice point to take the cable car. This place is quite close to the center of Zakopane, so you only need to pay 3 zl (€0.75) to get here.
I bought a round-trip ticket for €23 and you could stay for 1 hour and 40 minutes in the mountain. This is the price of tickets purchased online. If you buy directly, it only costs €18.5, but in return you will have to wait to buy tickets and wait for your turn to take the cable car. With online ticket, there will be a fixed visit time frame and just arrive at the time you chose. Tickets are 100% refunded if you cancel your tickets 24 hours before departure time. 80% refund if canceled before 2 hours of departure.
My personal feeling is that this mountain is very beautiful. If you’ve been to Zakopane, you should definitely come here. Once you reach the top you can take a walk around the peaks and hike around area. From the Five Polish Ponds Valley Shelter you can looking down, also very beautiful. There are a lot of people who don’t take the cable car, but hike by themselves.
Tatra National Park
The Tatra Mountains form a natural border between Poland to the north and Slovakia to the south. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the two countries have cooperated in efforts to protect the area. Like Poland, Slovakia also built an adjacent Tatra national park. And the entire area was recognized by a UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. You can choose one of the following 4 valleys to explore nature at Tatra National Park:
- Five lake valley
- Or canoeing down the Dunajec River
The most popular in Zakopane are the 2 valleys Kościeliska and Chochołowska. These two places are on the same route. The minibus ticket for Kościeliska is 5zl (€1.2) and Chochołowska is 6zl (€1.4). The Kościeliska valley usually has more visitors while the Chochołowska valley is famous for its purple flowers blooming in March and April. If you don’t come on this occasion, you can skip it.
If you have time, go to some famous mineral bathing spots in Zakopane such as Chocholow or Szaflary, Bukowina and Białka Tatrzańska. Tourists often frequent visit these mineral baths after a long day of hiking up the mountain.
Experience nightlife in Zakopane is also unforgettable thing. There are many restaurants and bars here, mainly concentrated on Krupowki Street. These restaurants often have “live” bands playing traditional Polish music. There, you will see that Poles love to dance, from the old to the young, everyone can go on the floor to join in the fun.
Zakopane blog: Zakopane Poland travel itinerary
- Day 1: Lake Morskie Oko — Krupowski street — spots in the center of Zakopane town.
- Day 2: Choose to go to 1 of 2 valleys Chochołowska/ Kościeliska and take the cable car to 1 of 2 peaks.
Zakopane travel guide: What to eat?
Oscypek smoked cheese
When traveling to Zakopane Poland, you should try Oscypek – a sheep’s milk cheese that is a specialty in Tatra region and you’ll find stalls selling this food in Zakopane town and other mountain lodges. The recipe is strictly followed and dates back to the 14th century.
Unlike the cost of traveling and staying in Zakopane which is quite cheap, the cost of eating at restaurants in Zakopane is not so cheap. The average price of a meal is around €8-12. You can consider a few of the restaurants I named below. In general, along Krupowski street are mostly restaurants and eateries.
In addition, in the center of Zakopane town, there are many supermarkets such as Lidl, Biedronka, Carrefour Express, Abc market. In my opinion, Lidl and Biedronka (ladybug icon) are the cheapest. Both are centrally located near Krupowski Street.
Zakopane guide: Traveling cost
Mid-range self-sufficient Zakopane Poland travel costs refer to the following:
- Hotel: €23/2 nights, shared
- Transportation: €10/round trip from Krakow, €12/round trip to 4 places (Lake Morskie Oko, Kasprowy mountain cable car, 2 valleys), 2 way horse ride to Morskie Oko lake: €19, bike rental in Chocholowska valley €4,5.
- Entrance tickets: €27 to all places
- Meals: €25-30€/day
Total: €160 for a self-sufficient trip to Zakopane Poland for 3 days 2 nights.
Zakopane travel guide: Some travel tips before you go
- Majestic nature and beautiful central street.
- The cost of traveling to Zakopane Poland is quite cheap compared to other European countries (1/3 compared to Northern Europe, 1/2 compared to Western Europe).
- The Poles are quite friendly but do not speak much English. Remember to exchange to Polish currency when buying a minibus ticket.
- Zakopane is especially crowded on weekends. If possible, going on weekdays.
- On the mount Kasprowy, the weather often changes every hour and minute. You should double check the temperature before coming here.
- The road to Morskie Oko lake is very steep. You should prepare drinking water, some food and a good pair of sports shoes when you decide to hike.
- For me personally, the 2 valleys are not very special because I went in July. If possible, go in March and April to see the flowers bloom.
- Indeed, at first I was quite confused about Zakopane. It was only during a time when I accidentally learned about the border between Poland and Slovakia that I knew the Tatras mountain range and this town. In general, this Polish tourist destination is much more beautiful than I originally thought. Even though I have been to many countries in Europe so far, I am still extremely impressed with this place. For me personally, Zakopane absolutely deserves to be considered the HIDDEN GEM of Europe. I highly recommend you to come here if your travel preferences are more in terms of scenery and nature.
Hopefully with the above Zakopane Poland travel sharing article, it will help you have the motivation to set out to discover this hidden gem of Poland.
Happy traveling! Read more about Poland travel guide here.