Zakopane is Poland’s winter sports capital and nestled in the Tatra Mountains near to its southern border with Slovakia.
In summer it’s an excellent base for hiking however in the winter after a deep layer of snow it has a full range of winter sporting activities that attracts the many visitors.
Zakopane has around 250,000 tourists a year, which is why it is still not that well known. But tourists are drawn to it for its excellent conditions for all winter sports, which include alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and even ski jumping if you feel brave enough.
Train or bus from district capital Krakow can easily get you to the town, which is only about two hours away before you get to arrive in the picturesque valley. At an elevation between 800m and 1000m above sea level the town was popular with Pope Paul II and he even consecrated The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in 1997 a town he was very fond of.
Known for the “Goral” culture, which is rich in its unique styles of food, speech, architecture, music, and costume. Winter in Zakopane is very traditional in style with folk dancing; nighttime rides on decorated horse-pulled sleighs called ‘kuligs’ with warming drink and some tasty roast lamb dishes.
Strolling through the town’s main street called Krupowki it is lined with a variety of local stores, restaurants, carnival rides and performers. Look out here for the unique local souvenirs such as an Oscypek, a smoked cheese made from ewe’s milk or a Ciupaga an ornamental regional axe.
ZAKOPANE HAS ITS OWN STYLE
Zakopane style is known for the size and beauty of its many traditional wooden villas many dating from the late 19th century. While some have been turned into museums others have been converted into small hotels. The architect Stanislaw Witkiewicz (1851–1915) built some of the first of several stunning wooden villas in the area and one now houses the Museum of Zakopane Culture.
With Krakow so close by it’s worth spending a couple of days they’re to perhaps visit the amazing nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine or the very moving original ‘Schindlers List’ Museum right in the centre of the city.
Zakopane in many ways is a little secret destination for winter sports. With busy slopes across the Alps it is certainly an alternative charming and friendly resort with some very good hotels and all round great facilities.