Things to do in Zakopane

written by Maciek Bogdanski

The Tatra Mountains are the highest mountains in Poland. They are not as high as the Alps, and the highest peak within the Polish borders (Rysy) is 2499 meters high, but it is very popular region for hiking in summer and for skiing in winter. The Tatra Mountains in Poland are associated with Zakopane – which is the most popular city in this region. Below you’ll find information on the top things to do in Zakopane, while in another article we write about the best ways of getting to Zakopane from Krakow.

Walk around the city

Wooden architecture

Old Villas

At the end of the XIX century, Zakopane was very popular among Polish writers, poets, painters, and other important people – all of them found many things to do in Zakopane. This led to the development of “Zakopianski style” in architecture. There are still some buildings of this style in Zakopane, including villas: „Koliba” (Koscieliska Street)– now serving as Museum of Zakopianski Style, „Oksza” – (Zamoyskiego Street) „Pod Jedlami” (Koziniec street), „Rialto” (Chalubinskiego Street) and „Konstantynowka” (Jagiellonska Street)

Things to do in Zakopane - Villa Oksza in Zakopane
Villa Oksza in Zakopane

Jaszczurowka

Jaszczorówka is a neighbourhood in Zakopane, known for the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was designed by the renowned Polish architect, Stanislaw Witkiewicz. The chapel is a beautiful example of the traditional Polish and local highlander styles that are prominent in the Zakopane region.

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The Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Jaszczurowka, Zakopane
The Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Jaszczurowka, Zakopane

Old Zakopane cemetery

The Zakopane Cemetery contains some beautiful chapels, which are made from wood and decorated with intricate carvings and religious symbols. These chapels are a testament to the traditional wooden architecture that is so prominent in the Zakopane region. Many prominent Poles, including artists, writers, and politicians, are buried in the cemetery, making it a significant cultural landmark.

One of the most notable graves in the Zakopane Cemetery is that of the Polish painter and writer Stanislaw Witkiewicz, who designed many of the wooden buildings and landmarks in Zakopane. His grave is marked by a unique wooden cross, which he designed himself.

Another important figure buried in the cemetery is Karol Szymanowski, a renowned Polish composer and pianist. His grave is marked by a simple yet elegant stone monument, with his name inscribed in both Polish and French.

Things to do in Zakopane - Old Zakopane cemetery - Na Peksowym Brzyzku
Old Zakopane cemetery – Na Peksowym Brzyzku

Things to do in Zakopane – try Oscypek, smoked cheese

Oscypek is a traditional smoked cheese from the Tatra Mountains region of Poland. It is made from salted sheep’s milk, which is first heated and then mixed with rennet to curdle it. The resulting curd is then pressed into a wooden mould, which gives the cheese its distinctive spindle shape and decorative pattern.

Things to do in Zakopane - try Oscypek, smoked cheese
Things to do in Zakopane – try Oscypek, smoked cheese

Oscypek is an significant part of the cultural heritage of the Tatra Mountains region, and is a popular souvenir for tourists visiting the area. It has even been granted a Protected Designation of Origin status by the European Union, which recognizes its unique cultural and historical significance.

Take cable car to Gubalowka Hill in Zakopane

If you are not into hiking, but still want to see the breathtaking views, you may either walk or use a Gubalowka Hill funicular (a return ticket costs about 25 PLN depending on the season) to Gubalowka. It is a hill in Zakopane offering a good view of the Tatras. There are some restaurants and shops at the top, where you can enjoy traditional Polish food and drinks.

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Things to do in Zakopane - taking a cable car to Gubalowka Hill
Things to do in Zakopane – taking a cable car to Gubalowka Hill

Things to do in Zakopane – Hike in the Tatra Mountains

Hiking in the Tatra mountains is something most people come to Zakopane for. There are many trails that suit you regardless of your fitness or skills. Most of the trails go through Tatra National Park (Tatrzanski Park Narodowy) and require paying an entrance fee (8 PLN/day, 40 PLN/7 days). Some trails require getting out of Zakopane by bus.

Easy trails

Those are mainly trails to Tatra Valleys: Chocholowska, Koscieliska, 5 Stawow, Strazyska, Hala Gasienicowa, or Morskie Oko lake. Most of them end at some refuge, where you can eat something or drink tea or coffee. Those trails are not demanding, but you are in the mountains, so you still should be prepared: comfortable shoes, water and sun protection, drinking water and a flashlight are a must. Another easy route is “Droga pod Reglami” which goes along the Tatra National Park borders.

Route to Morskie Oko
Route to Morskie Oko

Moderate trails

Those are trails that require good condition and general fitness, as you are going to climb some mountains on your way. These trails go mainly to the Western Tatras. The most popular peak to climb is Giewont – the one with a big crucifix, seen from Zakopane. It’s not difficult to get there, and this sometimes results in a massive cue to the summit. But it may be dangerous when the weather changes. The steel chains and crucifix attract thunderstorms – this proved to be fatal in 2019, where 5 tourists died and over 150 were wounded after a thunderstorm hit the steel chains just below the summit.

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Giewont Mountain in Tatra Mountains
Giewont Mountain in Tatra Mountains

Another easy but long trail is a walk through Czerwone Wierchy, which passes Krzesanica (2122 meters high) on the way. The whole trail takes about 8 hours, so you need to leave early.

Difficult trails

Those hiking trails go to the High Tatras. There are two trails that are more demanding. The first one leads to Rysy, the highest peak in Poland. The return trip from Morskie Oko refuge takes about 7–8 hours. This trail includes some exposure, falling rocks or ice even in the summer. So be well prepared.

The most difficult trail in the Polish part of Tatra Mountains is definitely Orla Perc. It includes a lot of exposure, chains, and ladders. Even people who feel they are prepared for that, get paralysed on the way. And it’s difficult to resign, as part of the trail is one way only. It takes 11 hours to go through Orla Perc from Hala Gasienicowa.

Other things to do in Zakopane and Tatra Mountains

Kasprowy Wierch Cable Car

Alternatively, you may take a cable car to Kasprowy Wierch. Return tickets cost about 80-110 PLN depending on the season and where you buy them (it’s cheaper to buy online, at the Gubalowka Funicular, or at the ticket machine). If you have a return ticket, you may stay at Kasprowy Wierch for 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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