Known as the capital of the Polish mountains, Zakopane is one of the most famous and visited tourist destinations in Poland. Its charm lies in its scenic landscapes, extensive hiking trails, and the region’s rich culture.
Every year, the capital of the Tatra Mountains attracts not only Polish tourists, but also visitors from various European countries. You can expect well-equipped accommodation, delicious regional cuisine and numerous tourist and cultural attractions, all thanks to the local people.
What Makes Zakopane Special?
Located in southern Poland at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane is a beautiful city that offers more than just breathtaking scenery. Its unique culture, traditions and ambience can be experienced in every shepherd’s hut.
A Mixture of Tradition and Nature
Zakopane has many fascinating aspects – from its distinctive wooden architecture dating back to the early 20th century to regional dishes such as the famous oscypek, kwaśnica and potato kluski hałuski.
↳ Make sure to check out my guide to ALL attractions in Zakopane, so you don't overlook anything interesting: 66 Best Attractions in Zakopane 2023 – What to Do – Interesting Places
Highlander horse-drawn carriages are a common sight on the streets of Zakopane, carrying tourists around. Most traditional establishments have staff dressed in Zakopane folk costumes. The locals are incredibly friendly, speak their characteristic dialect, and in winter invite you to enjoy aromatic mulled wine accompanied by local music.
Outdoor Adventures for Everyone
Zakopane caters to summer hikers and winter sports enthusiasts alike. Interestingly, despite the high mountains, there are trails for the elderly or parents with small children. From gentle strolls to climbing Giewont or Kasprowy Wierch, there’s something for everyone.
Explore the Mountains: On Foot or by Cable Car
If you prefer to admire the views without the strenuous climbing, you can take the cable car to Gubalowka, which offers picturesque views of Zakopane. Other activities include horseback riding and skiing in the winter, with ski lifts for easy access to the slopes.
After your mountain adventures and sightseeing, unwind in one of the lively local pubs, relax in a park overlooking the Polish Tatras, stroll along the Krupówki River, or enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride with a local highlander.
The Holiday Spirit of Krupówki
Krupówki in Zakopane has its share of admirers and critics. However, its importance cannot be denied, as many routes pass through it. Most tourists go there first to find a good restaurant or souvenirs. Krupówki Street is the center of Zakopane, and after a day on the trail you’ll probably want to dine in an atmospheric restaurant and soak up the unhurried pace of life during your mountain vacation.
Best Things You Can Do To Enjoy Zakopane
You can experience this place by meeting local people who will (for a small fee) present you the town and it’s best location. Here are few suggestions:
- (€) Zakopane Private Walking Tour: As you stroll past the picturesque wooden houses, learn more about the history of Zakopane and fun facts about highlander culture.
- (€) ❤️ Biking Tour Zakopane: During this trip we will stop in a nice spot for picnic, which is a chance for you to taste some of a local snacks while resting.
- (€) Zakopane Food Tour: It is a special combination of walking and food tour in Zakopane. Among others, you will taste delicious „moskole”, one of its kind- „oscypek” cheese or „litworówka” liquor.
- (€) Tatra Mountains Hiking Tour: With a local guide, you will walk along trails that offer incredible panoramic views over Zakopane, and see Siklawica Waterfall, and Giewont Summit up close. During the walk, you will enjoy fun facts about the local area.
Savor Zakopane’s Delicious Cuisine
As I already suggested above, another compelling reason to plan your vacation in Zakopane is its culinary delights. The city is a stronghold of Polish cuisine, with charming restaurants and inns serving dishes like kwaśnica and lamb specialties. Don’t forget to try moskola (a pancake served with oscypek) and bryjka! The people of Podhale know how to preserve their culinary traditions.
Fun Activities for Kids
Zakopane offers many attractions for children. While many activities are available during the winter, there’s no shortage of summer fun either. Dolna Rówień Krupowa is a fairytale playground that closes in the winter and children will love it. Don’t miss the 7D movie experience.
- For More Things to Do with Children, read this article: Discovering the Best Sites of Krupówki: Zakopane’s Old Town
Summer Events and Concerts Galore
Chances are that during your mountain vacation you’ll come across one of the many events taking place in Zakopane. In June, you might attend the annual Hasior’s Run or a poster exhibition at Villa Oksza. Zakopane also hosts concerts, artist meetings, vernissages and sports events.
Zakopane Weather – Is it Ideal for a Vacation?
Suitable weather is crucial for a successful stay in Zakopane. It’s difficult to hike and explore the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane in constant rain or hail.
As the highest city in Poland, situated at the foot of the Polish mountains, Zakopane has a unique microclimate and changeable weather. In order to visit all the interesting places, admire the beautiful views or take the cable car to the top, you need good weather. So when should you plan your vacation so that rain and low temperatures don’t ruin your plans?
- You may also want to read more about the weather in Zakopane here: Average Weather in Zakopane: Tips for the Best Time to Visit
Experience The Best of Zakopane
If you want to be on time and without any hassle, you can alternatively book a private tour in Zakopane. You will get a professional local guide who will take care of you and teach you about local history and traditions. There also available biking tours, food tours, pub tours and many more.
Zakopane – Places To Stay With a View
If you are not sure whether you should book your stay in Zakopane, I suggest you check these places. They are my top three picks across different price ranges in terms of accommodation:
- (€) Hotel Tatra: Situated in Zakopane at an elevation of 1080 meters above sea level, this outstanding 3-star modern hotel is both budget-friendly and appealing. You can enjoy amenities like an indoor swimming pool and complimentary Wi-Fi, as well as beautifully furnished rooms offering a breathtaking view of the Tatra Mountains.
- (€) ❤️ Bachleda Residence Zakopane: A gorgeous place, less than 1 km from Aqua Park Zakopane, this stunning hotel provides amenities like a bar, private parking, and an on-site restaurant. It is known for its air-conditioned, luxurious rooms, it is truly a beautiful destination.
- (€) Hotel Paryski Art&Business: A 4-star hotel, here you have seasonal outdoor swimming pool, complimentary private parking, a shared lounge, and a garden. Additionally, there is an in-house restaurant, a terrace, an indoor swimming pool, and a sauna.
A Few Reasons Why A Vacation In Zakopane Might Disappoint
Unfortunately, not everyone leaves Zakopane with positive impressions. Internet forums are full of bitter opinions of people who vow never to return. Based on your feedback, we’ve compiled a list of the 6 most common complaints about this city at the foot of Giewont.
Zakopane Can Be Expensive
The most common complaint about Zakopane is its high cost. Some online users complain about the inadequate price/quality ratio of services. You could spend a week in Egypt or Bulgaria with guaranteed weather for the same amount you’d pay for a vacation in Zakopane.
Parking fees are increasing by 30% every year, portions in restaurants are getting smaller and more expensive, and there seems to be an endless quest for profit from tourists. Horse-drawn carriage rides and cable car rides can also be quite expensive.
Check here how expensive that might be: Is Zakopane Really Expensive? A Cost Comparison For a Family of 4
Zakopane Gets Crowded
As one of Poland’s most popular tourist destinations, Zakopane attracts throngs of visitors every year. The Tatra trails are packed with hikers, and long lines form at the top of Giewont. The wait for the Kasprowy Wierch cable car can be up to 5 hours. Krupówki, the busiest place in Zakopane, is constantly flooded with tourists.
Kitsch in Zakopane
Some visitors criticize Zakopane for turning into a giant fair over the years. Krupówki and Gubałówka are now filled with tacky souvenir stalls, and oversized cartoon characters roam the main promenade, posing for pictures. The atmosphere can sometimes feel like an amusement park or a small-town fair.
Zakopane’s Reputation for Swindling
Online forums are full of complaints about dishonest practices in Zakopane. Locals are accused of trying to extract as much money as possible from tourists, sometimes through deceptive means. Overpriced taxi rides, pubs, parking and accommodation leave some visitors feeling ripped off.
Traffic Jams in Zakopane
Drivers often lose their enthusiasm for a vacation in Zakopane before they even arrive due to heavy traffic. The road from Poronin to Zakopane is often congested and finding a parking space in the city center can be a challenge.
- If you are in Zakopane and you are looking for free parking spot, read this: Zakopane on a Budget: How to Find Free Parking Spots
Controversial Treatment of Animals in Zakopane
Tourists’ concerns extend to the treatment of animals in Zakopane. Horse-drawn carriages and dogs sold on Krupówki raise sympathy for the animals’ plight. Animal rights activists have called for an end to horse transportation to Morskie Oko in the Tatra Mountains, claiming that the horses are overworked. Allegedly, exhausted horses are sent to slaughterhouses or disappear under mysterious circumstances.
Have a nice stay!