Most Polish travel itineraries start in Warsaw and end in Krakow. However, venturing two hours further south brings you to one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe – Zakopane, which borders the Tatra National Park. We list the best things to do in and around this city.
Zakopane is a great base for hiking in the area. The town is nestled right next to the Tatra National Park and trails are abundant. Most trails are day long hikes; try a full day hike up to a peak, then a return to town to relax with a mulled wine in hand.
Lake Morskie Oko, or the ‘Eye of the Sea’, is the largest in the Tatras at 862 meters in length, and it will require a bus ride to the base of the trail. From there, it’s about a two-hour walk through the area’s impressive permaculture. The payoff? One of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Oscypek is a delicious smoked sheep’s milk cheese. It is a local staple and you will find stands selling the stuff all over the town of Zakopane and various other mountain lodges throughout the region. The recipe is strictly followed and dates back to the 14th century.
Hot Mulled wine, or grzaniec galicyjski, is prevalent throughout the mountains. When the temperatures drop, it’s perfect to warm you on those cool fall evenings. Locals will eat and drink late into the evening after a long day in the mountains. If mulled wine is too sweet, maybe a few shots of Polish vodka will add a kick.
Zakopane has its very own style of architecture. The buildings are known to embrace the spirit of Podhale. Stanislaw Witkiewicz is known as the creator of the style, having transformed the town in the late 1800s. Wood, rounded windows, and detailed embellishments can be seen on the homes throughout the city center.
The Rysy Mountain is the highest peak in Poland, sitting right on the border of Slovakia. The trail up the mountain is difficult and can be steep at points, but it does not require any technical climbing and can be done by most outdoor enthusiasts. On a clear day, the peak offers the best views encompassing the Tatras.
Aside from the wildlife you can find throughout the rest of Poland, the Tatras are home to a number of rare wildlife. Animals such as brown bears, lynx, mountain chamois, marmots, and eagles are all some wildlife you may see while hiking through the mountains. Is your camera fast enough to capture some of these incredible species?
The skiing in Zakopane may not be as well known as the Swiss Alps. However, skiing in Poland comes at a fraction of the price, with lift tickets topping out at $35. It also has many family friendly slopes perfect for beginners to learn the ropes. For the more advanced, Krasprowy Wierch offers world-class skiing and a three-mile-long descent from the top lift that gives skiers plenty of ski time.
For a more leisurely activity, take the Gubałówka Hill Funicular up the Gubałówka mountain. You won’t be disappointed once at the top. On a clear day, you will have stunning views of the Tatras and of the surrounding valleys.