Set in Tatra Mountains (just over 100km from Krakow),Zakopane is a great place for mountain holidays and a perfect base for walks and hiking trips in Tatras. The town is a very popular mountain resort but it retains a village feel as soon as you leave the high street Krupowki (which must be one of the most famous streets in Poland).
With the mountains on your doorstep, original timber architecture and the Highlands' traditions, Zakopane has a unique charm and atmosphere.
Special tourist minibuses run frequently to the car park in Palenica, from there you can hop on a horse-driven carriage or enjoy a 9km walk to the lake. The historic mountain shelter perched on the edge of the lake with pictures of early mountaineers on the walls, is the perfect place for lunch. Not to be missed is a walk around the lake following the marked trail, an easy one hour hike with views of the lake and mountain peaks all the way.
Get up high at 1987m above the see level for breathtaking views of theTatra Mountains on both Polish and Slovak sides (book tickets in advance in high season as queues can be long).
Another one for views - take the funicular railway from Zakopane to the top of the Gubalowka ridge. While Gubalowka is not very high, it provides great panoramic views of Zakopane in the valley and the picturesque high peaks of the Tatras.
The town's unique style of architecture, called Zakopane style, was first created by artist Stanislaw Witkiewicz at the turn of the 20th century. As you stroll through the town, you can admire many original timber buildings such as traditional highlanders' houses, Koliba (also a museum of Zakopane style) and elaborate timber tombs at the old cemetery at Koscieliska Street. The finest example of Zakopane style must be the small timber chapel at Jaszczurowka on the outskirts of Zakopane on the way to the Morskie Oko lake.
You can indulge your foodie side in any of the traditional restaurants, many of which often feature live performances of Highlands' music played by folk bands wearing regional costumes
This is the place to buy hand made wooden arts and crafts, toys and kitchen utensils, sheepskin slippers (my favorite as they are very warm), the whole sheepskins and the famous local sheep cheese called oscypek (delicious grilled with cranberries) - all at very good prices. And of course don't forget to haggle.
For the active holiday enthusiasts - read about walking in Tatra Mountains.
Get into the folk spirit as you watch the mountain folklore bands and singers (while eating some good traditional food). Most events of the week-long festival are free.
Zakopane has long been a centre for winter sports so it is a good base for a cheap skiing holiday in Poland - read about skiing in the Polish Mountains. Additional attraction in January is the international ski jumping competition taking place at Zakopane's ski jumping venue Wielka Krokiew.
Zakopane has a very good choice of accommodation options from apartments, rental houses & B&Bs to 5 star hotels. We liked our Sabala hotel in the centre and Nosalowy Dwor on the outskirts of Zakopane.
The nearest airport is in Krakow, 100km away from Zakopane. From Krakow you can take a coach to Zakopane (2.5 hours) or hire a car at the airport. The coaches to Zakopane run frequently from the bus station located just outside the main railway station in Krakow.
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