Zakopane is located in the south of Poland in mountain area of Tatra National Park. I have put together a list of 10 best things to do in Zakopane, all these attractions are worth doing and you’ll be astonished by the city and amazing mountain landscape. Zakopane is busy almost 12 months during the year with a high season in December – March and May – October. It is located in Tatra Mountains which is an entry to a magnificent scenery of crystal clear lakes and nature views. It is on the top of my favourite locations in Poland and I would use any opportunity to go back there to climb the mountains, that’s why I recommend spending few days and take time to explore the place, unique mountain culture and local traditions, they are all fascinating. This is your destination if you are looking for great hiking adventures, different trekking trails. Local transport will make your traveling easy, hassle free and pretty cheap. Zakopane is a great family destination, cable rail will carry you and your family to the top of the mountains, where you can enjoy your time with family facilities.
What to do in Zakopane?
Trek to Morskie Oko – Sea Eye – one of the most scenic natural wonders of Europe!
This crystal clear lake surrounded by Tatra mountains. This is one of the most spectacular scenery near Zakopane. There is an easy walk leading to the lake Morskie Oko, 6km one way but there is a asphalt wide road and plenty of magnificent views on the way. It can be really crowded during weekends so try to do it during the week to enjoy it even more.
How to get to Morkie Oko?
Before heading Morskie Oko you need Tatra Mountains Map – it’s FREE in a Tourist Information Office in Zakopane. You’ll get a map with times and colours for different routes. Although a road to Morskie Oko is very easy and it’s not possible to loose a trail it is useful to have a map in case you wish to continue your walk further or take another hike.
You need to take a mini bus from Zakopane to Palenica Bialczanska /this is the last bus stop just after Lysa Polana/ – there is a huge parking place and an entrance to TPN /Tatra National Park/. Buses run every 20 minutes from Zakopane Bus Station stage 1, which is located next to PKP Station/Train station. The bus will run toward Morskie Oko – Sea Eye /there will be a sign on the window/.
Before you enter Tatra National Park you need to buy a ticket – you can do it in the ticket office at the entrance to the Park /there are entry points on the beginning of the trails/ or online – if you are planning to spend few days in mountains you can buy 7-day pass to TPN which costs 35 PLN /9 euro/.
At the entrance to the park you will see a lot of horses with carriages taking you directly to Morskie Oko – please DO NOT use it! For years people and media have been fighting to ban the Carriage Horse Transport to Morskie Oko Lake in the Tatra National Park in Poland! Horses are constantly dying on the way to the lake, as they are forced to work below their capabilities.
Try Oscypek – traditional smoked cheese, with cranberry 😉
Oscypek is an original mountain cheese, made by the local farmers. There’s plenty of small markets in Zakopane where you can get it, it’s available on every corner. My favourite is grilled with cranberry! Try mountain honey, there are different types of mountain honey. The differ in colours and taste. You’ll be delighted!
Walk Krupowki Street & try local food!
Krupowki is a centre of Zakopane, the most famous road leading along the city with plenty of shops and restaurants. If you find yourself there try visit one of the restaurants as the atmosphere and food is unforgettable, although pretty fat 😉 Zakopane architecture is mostly wooden, restaurants are lighted up with small fire places and stylized with cosy blankets. The food is very filling, to give you lots of strength in the mountains area and cold air. Try Placek po zbojnicku – this is a fried potato cake with stew, one of the favourite dish in the mountain area. Bare in mind Krupowki may be really crowded in high season.
Take a lift to Kasprowy Wierch – 1987 metres high!
If you are not a hiker Zakopane gives you plenty of options to get to the top of the mountains. One of which is taking a cable car to Kasprowy Wierch summit, one of the most spectacular peaks in Tatra Mountains. It is also the longest ski slope in this area but a lot of people take a ride just to sit at the top and admire views while having their lunch or hot tea. The journey to Kasprowy Wierch takes approximately 20 minutes, while hiking is pretty tough and takes at least 3 hours.
Go skiing or snowboarding!
That is a wonderful land for skiing and snowboarding. There are plenty of very high quality slopes in: Bialka Tatrzanska, Bukowina Tatrzanska, Zakopane – with Kasprowy Wierch the highest one. Just be aware there may be long queues for the ski lift/or cable rail in high season /Christmas time & New Year is very busy/.
Take a Cable Railway to Gubałówka mountain.
Easy and pleasant journey with rewarding views of Tatra Mountains and Zakopane panorama – make sure the weather is good otherwise clouds will cover the landscape. There are plenty of bars and attractions for kids at the top.
Local market in Zakopane.
On the bottom of Gubalowka where the cable railway is there’s the most famous local market with plenty of traditional products – strong mountains alcohol, food, craftwork and hand made clothing. It is worth to take a walk first to compare prizes and products. My advise – try everything but just be careful with the traditional Sliwowica – Plum vodka, it can contain 42% – 70% of alcohol and you need to know how to drink it. Always inhale first before taking a shot! If you take a breath after the shot you may choke yourself. Course nothing will happen to you but it is much nicer and pleasant if you inhale first, take a shot and exhale. 😉
Hiking adventures – go hiking in Tatra Mountains!
This is really highly recommended, there’s plenty of hiking trails in Tatra National Park, it may lead you to beautiful lakes, valleys and mountain views! This requires a separate post, as there are many hiking and climbing trails and you need more information before you go there. Polish mountains are not easy and you need to check a lot of things before starting your trails. The views in Tatra Mountains are absolutely stanning and for those who love mountains it will be a mystic adventure. Tatra Mountains are rocky and dark but in spring the slopes are covered with magnificent flowers and green fields.
How to get to Zakopane?
It is a very easy and short 2 hour trip from Krakow.
- The train ride is 2.15h and it’s a very comfortable train, highly recommend.
- Bus would be the same 2h drive, there’s plenty of companies to choose from. Buses and trains leave from Cracow Glowny/Main station.
- Car – depends on a season – 1-2h. Just bare in mind there’s winter in Poland with snowfalls 😉 A lot of people do not realize that and it is a completely different drive than during summer.
- Organized tour from Zakopane – although I would recommend staying at least 3 days in Zakopane, exploring Tatra National Park.
Useful advise on transportation in Zakopane.
Local buses – there are local buses no 14 and 11. They go through the city and their final stop is near main train and bus Station in Zakopane.
Mini buses will take you outside Zakopane – they run toward Morskie Oko lake and Kuznice – Kasprowy Wierch cable rail.
Taxis – be careful they are very expensive in Zakopane!