ZAKOPANE AT A GLANCE
how to spend a few unforgettable days in Zakopane, winter or summer, sun or rain:
Weather permits, we shall visit the Tatra National Park.
I strongly recommend Strążyska Valley, which can easily be reached from the centre of Zakopane. Those who are not that fond of hiking, or with kids, will make it to the end of the valley after some 40 minute's walk to see the Siklawa waterfalls and taste tea in the local shelter, to rest at the foot of the imposing Mount Giewont.
I recommend this trip also in winter time, it is then worth renting sleighs for the kids, as on the way back to the town they will have a great fun slipping down the valley.
Experienced hikers, used to 5-6 hour's walking, can climb Mount Giewont from Strążyska Valley (2,5 hour's climb on the way up), and then descent via Kondratowa and Kalatówki to Kuźnice (another 3 hrs), where mini buses are available on the way back to the town.
Other places worth recommending and easily available to less experienced and keen hikers are Morskie Oko lake (as beautiful as popular, it is recommended to start your hike quite early in the morning to avoid enormous crowds later on in the day), Kościeliska and Chochołowska Valleys. There are horse carts, carriages and sleighs available for transportation in all of the above making it even more accessible for almost everyone.
While in Zakopane, it is a must to take the cable car to Mount Kasprowy (1987 m asl)
, both in summer and winter this is one of the most popular local attractions for both the adults and especially the kids. In winter time, there are two chair lifts operating in Mt. Kasprowy and two skiing pists for advanced skiers and snowboarders.
The other very popular lift in the area is funicular to Gubałówka hill, which starts in the very centre of the town. Gubałówka (1100 m asl) offers spectacular views over the town and the surrounding Tatra mountains.
On the way back to the centre of the town we come across the local market nestled in between the very foot of the hill and Krupówki street. We shall find local souvenirs (woodware, leatherware, woolware, etc.) there together with leather jackets and fur coats, clothes, shoes, fruit, vegetables, and a whole alley of local OSCYPEK sheep cheese sellers - all in different shapes and sizes.
We then reach Krupówki street - the main pedestrian zone of Zakopane, full of shops and restaurants. This is where the post office, banks as well as exchange offices are situated. In the season the place gets extremely crowded, and we find it hard to believe that as late as at the very beginnings of the 19th century this street was nothing more than just a narrow bitten path joining central parts of the village with the iron works in Kuźnice (this is where the cable car is today). Krupówki street gets particularly crowded in bad and rainy weather, when people search for alternatives to outdoor activities.
What else could we recommend to do in Zakopane in rainy weather apart from walking up and down the main street and visiting local restaurants in search for local specialities?
Most of all, we shall recommend visiting some of the numerous local museums. We shall however remember that most of those will remain closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I particularly recommend Tatra Museum in 10 Krupówki street and Zakopane Style Museum in Villa Koliba in 18 Kościeliska street (on the way to Koliba we shall not miss out on the Old Church and Old Cemetery). Classical music lovers shall visit Villa Atma, great Polish composer Karol Szymanowski's Museum in 19 Kasprusie street (closed on Mondays).
Zakopane's churches are also worth mentioning. Personally, I recommend visiting three of those, two are small wooden ones - Jaszczurówka Chapel and the Old Church in Kościeliska street, the other one is the imposing Fatima Sanctuary in Krzeptówki.
In bad weather, thou not only then, I recommend a visit to local Aquapark, as well as the bowling alley. Should you have a car, I would suggest visiting thermal spas in Szaflary as well as Bukowina and Białka Tatrzańska (some 20 km outside Zakopane).
If the rain is not too heavy thou, I strongly recommend that you get equipped with a raincoat or an umbrella and decide to do a short walk into one of the Regle valleys. The Tatras can be as beautiful in the rain as in the sun, and will guarantee no crowds on the trails.