A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to visit the Polish ski town of Zakopane located in the Tatra Mountains. Yes, I know it isn’t quite ski season yet, but the town was every bit as enjoyable in the summer as I imagine it would be during the winter. This town is no secret to the people of Poland – almost everyone from Poland knows of Zakopane and has vacationed here at some point. And, the weekend we arrived was no different as it was a busy, bustling town from the early morning through the evening hours.
For some reason, I did not take too many photos of the town of Zakopane itself…oopsies! But, just because I don’t have many photos does not mean that we didn’t LOVE this place because we so did! Not that we have done too much traveling around Poland, but I would rank this a top vacation spot in Poland (perhaps tied with Sopot). The shopping was incredible. The food was incredible. The sights were incredible. This town is honestly incredible. Go here if you ever have the chance! A weekend is all you need!
My advice would be to visit during any season – except maybe during the HOT summer. The streets make you want to drink hot chocolate while you shop for wool socks; a hot summer sun just doesn’t fit with this description. We were lucky that our August weather was more like October weather; it was absolutely perfect and reminiscent of a beautiful fall day.
Where to Stay:
The main street is Krupowki Street, so my recommendation would be to stay near here. This is where all the shopping is and where many restaurants are as well. (Unless, of course, your goal is to be close to the slopes, then you may want to reevaluate this recommendation!)
We stayed at the Litwor Hotel, which I would highly recommend. It was located in the perfect spot, offered nearby parking and had a fabulous breakfast included. And, as with most buildings in the area, the Litwor is reminiscent of a ski lodge. It was super cute! We’d stay there again if we went back.
River Rafting Daytrip down the Dunajec River:
On the first morning we were in town, we went on a rafting trip down the Dunajec River. It was a lovely experience, though I would skip the arranged tour that we did and just drive yourself. Now, don’t get me wrong the guides were lovely, but we just didn’t care for the other sights that were part of the tour. After the river, we were ready to go home and we couldn’t. We should have known better, but you live and you learn and it really wasn’t that bad.
Anyways, it took about an hour to get to the river from Zakopane, which is located on the border between Poland and Slovakia. The rafting trip was about two hours long and full of beautiful scenery. But, be forewarned, no bathroom breaks. Once you’re on the boat, there’s no turning back 😉 Oh, also bring something soft to sit on. Here’s a look a some sights we saw while floating down the river. It was a very peaceful way to spend the morning.
Each 12-person boat is equipped with two river guides that use long sticks to maneuver the boats down the river.
The boats are really just individual canoes tied together.
After our river raft, we went to Niedzica Castle (which, as a total sidebar, is the image on the cover of my Poland Guide Book I bought from the USA).
We didnt have time to actually tour the inside of the castle, but the surrounding grounds were lovely and would be worth the trip if you are in the area.
After the castle stop, we went to visit a 14th-century UNESCO church in Dębno. Honestly, I did not take one picture of it. It kinda looked like the church in Karpacz (but I liked the one in Karpacz better). And, after the church stop, we were back in Zakopane wandering the streets and filling up on delicious Polish food 🙂 A perfect way to end any day!
Though we were only in town for a few days, we very much enjoyed our visit to Zakopane and can’t wait to come back! Hopefully, we will be able to make a visit in the winter when our parents are in Poland.
Oh and before I forget, if you find yourself in Zakopane, make sure you pick up some handmade wool goodies while you are visiting. My advice is to purchase along the highway on the way out of Zakopane back to Krakow. The price is at least half of what it was in downtown Zakopane and the items could not be more handmade. You will literally meet the sheep that made your blanket in the yard 🙂 How cool is that?!