On the Polish Side of the High Tatras, it’s Perfect for Sports
Surrounded by spectacular scenery, Zakopane is perfect all year round: in summer for hiking in the mountains, and in the winter, for skiing and other snow sports.
Zakopane is not an old town – it was originally a shepherd settlement, used by the men as they followed their animals into the alpine pastures. It dates from 1578, but it became a resort and a holiday centre in the 19th century, as people went to the mountains for the clean air, and the breath taking scenery.
Now it’s a modern resort, with plenty of accommodation from bed and breakfast, renting a room in a private cottage, to large hotels, and it attracts visitors all year round, but it still manages to retain its charm.
Wooden Decorated Houses in the Suburbs
One of the most pleasant things to do while visiting Zakopane, whatever the season, is to stroll along the tree lined streets in the older suburbs, admiring the many old wooden decorated houses from the 19th century. The centre of the township is a pedestrian mall lined with restaurants, shops and gardens.
Summer Hiking – Good Maps are Recommended
During the summer, it’s simply a delightful place, surrounded by snow covered mountains – even in the summer the higher mountains still have snow. There are many walking trails into the mountains that start from Zakopane.
A good map – Tatry i Podhale – is recommended before setting off, as well as sensible clothes; even in June, the weather can change rapidly, with thick mists, cold winds, rains and sleet, and the walking trails can be treacherous with old snow and ice. But even if the traveller doesn’t reach the peaks of the surrounding mountains, the trails and the views are all stunning.
Skiing and Other Winter Sports
During the winter, skiing is the sport of the town, as well as other snow sports like snowboarding, cross country skiing, sledding, and so on.
Wooden Church Typical of Central Europe
There is also plenty to see in the town itself. There are over thirty churches, and other religious buildings such as monasteries, chapels and roadside shrines in and around Zakopane. One of the churches, on the road leading to Javorina in Slovakia, is a wooden church typical of the Central European region. It’s like a fairy tale in the middle of a clearing in the forest, surrounded by tall dark pines. It’s completely built and decorated with wood, inside and out, and is open to the public.
Museums and Art Galleries
For those interested in the culture of the region, there are ten museums and art galleries in Zakopane. Worth seeing are the Muzeum Tatrzanskie, with its displays of peasant house interiors, and brilliantly coloured embroidered folk costumes of the region, as well as other artefacts. For those interested in nature, visit the Tatra Mountains National Park Natural Science Museum, for a round up of birds, animals and plant life found in the area.
Handicrafts, Festivals and Food
One of the handicrafts of the region is glass painting, and many examples can be found in the town. The biggest festival is the Festival of Mountain Folklore, which goes for over a week, and covers music, folk dancing, and handicrafts. It’s held in the middle of August each year. Also a must do for travellers is trying the small sheep’s milk cheeses that are on sale everywhere in Zakopane; they are small and barrel shaped, and can be brought from elderly ladies at the beginning of the mountain trails.
The Slovakian village of Javorina is approximately 30 minutes away by winding mountain road, and in the other direction, Krakow is approximately 45 minutes drive.