Zakopane is a cosmopolitan mountain resort nestled in a captivating landscape of lakes, woods, and powdered mountain peaks in the foothills of the High Tatra. Tourists are primarily drawn to this fascinating city due to its excellent conditions for winter sports, but also to experience the intoxicating Goral culture and its unique style of dialect and dress, architecture, music, dance, and festive customs. These tough indigenous "highlanders" are known for their harsh way of living, but also for their persistence to celebrate every single day as a blessing. Pope Saint John Paul II was perhaps the most famous Goral, and his achievements will live long in the memory around these parts. Local cuisine is also highlighted in the area, and they say that in Zakopane, roasted goat meat tastes like nowhere else in the world. At the end of the day, a treat of "bombolki" served with honey will help you relax and sleep well.
Location: The highlands of South Poland
Zakopane is located in southern Poland near the Slovakian border. With an elevation of 800 to 1,000 meters above sea level, it lies in a valley at the foot of the Tatra Mountains and can be reached in about two and a half hours by train or bus from Krakow.
Culture: A lure for artists and writers
For more than a century, Zakopane has played an important role in the development of Polish culture as the most prominent Polish writers, artists, musicians, and journalists have come here to rest and work. And many of them stayed. The Zakopane architectural model was pioneered by Polish painter, architect, and art theoretician Stanislaw Witkiewicz who drew on the motifs and traditions in the buildings of the Carpathian Mountains. The style is now considered a core tradition of the Goral people and part of the folklore inspired by the art of Poland’s highland region known as Podhale.
Activities: Hiking, skiing, and feasting
Walk in the summer, ski in the winter, and feast all year round. The Tatra National Park is the closest hiking option with stunning landscapes that consist of sharp-edged peaks that turn into one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe once the snow lands. There are around 650 caves in the park, and also Rysy, the highest peak in Poland. The Siklawa Waterfalls are at the end of the StrÄ żyska Valley. Winter holidays are celebrated in traditional style in Zakopane, with dances and decorated horse-pulled sleighs called kulig. And all before you even taste the mouthwatering food and drink. The local market is nestled near Krupówki Street, and offers local souvenirs made of wood or wool, together with leather jackets, fur coats, fruit, vegetables, and a whole alley of local sheep cheese vendors. If you happen to catch a Goral wedding, expect to capture your best souvenir on video.