Your browser is out of date.
This site may not function properly in your current browser. Update Now
Villa Koliba was built between 1892 and 1893 in Zakopane style based on a design by Stanisław Witkiewicz. It was the first building ever erected in this architectural style, and serves as the Museum of Zakopane Style with old furniture and equipment, and highland-style ornaments.
Piotrekwas / Wikimedia Foundation

Zakopane—Tourist mecca in the Tatra Mountains

The mountain resort town of Zakopane is a headquarter for outdoor recreation, boutique shopping, gastronomy, festivals, nightlife, health resorts, and spas.

Three centuries ago, Zakopane was a tiny village in an impassable forest, populated by Poles and Vlachs—shepherds from the Balkans, who brought with them a distinct culture and folklore. In the 18th century, it was discovered by naturalists and geologists, health enthusiasts, and mountain lovers. The next century saw Zakopane become fashionable with the upper class and bohemians. Political, artistic and social life flourished, and guesthouses and public infrastructure were built. Skiing and mountaineering drew adventurous people to the surrounding Tatra Mountains.

By the the 20th century, Zakopane was already a popular health resort, but still small. After World War II, mass tourism reached the town, and still dominates it today, with the population swelling from 30,000 permanent residents to three times that number during peak seasons. Accommodations range from a cosy rooms in cottagees to five-star, luxury resorts.

Krupówki Street, the busy pedestrian zone in Zakopane, is famous across Poland, with its charming century-old wooden town houses containing shops, restaurants and galleries. – © Agnes Kantaruk
Krupówki Street, the busy pedestrian zone in Zakopane, is famous across Poland, with its charming century-old wooden town houses containing shops, restaurants and galleries. – © Agnes Kantaruk

Sightseeing in Zakopane starts on the most famous pedestrian zone in Poland—Krupówki Street—where you can buy souvenirs and local specialties from sheepskin coats, wool slippers, sweaters, scarves, mead, ewe's milk cheese, and wooden walking sticks with axe heads, a symbol of Tatra highland robbers. You'll hear the local highland dialect and music from loudspeakers—an intriguing mixture of folk and disco. Continue up the street by foot or horse-drawn carriage, and be dazzled by the number of shops, stalls, restaurants, and performers.

When in Zakopane, try the oscypek—smoked ewe's milk cheese, made in a traditional way—both cold and grilled, and served with cranberry sauce. – © Anastazja Petrova
When in Zakopane, try the oscypek—smoked ewe's milk cheese, made in a traditional way—both cold and grilled, and served with cranberry sauce. – © Anastazja Petrova

Zakopane is full of history and tradition, and unique architecture. At market square, turn off of Krupówki onto Kościeliska Street to see cottages of the oldest highlander families, which are now important monuments. Visit the oldest inn in Zakopane, "U wnuka" (the Grandson's), opened 170 years ago, and then, to Villa Koliba, the first house kept in the Zakopane style. The style was created by the Polish artist Stanisław Witkiewicz—a blend of the local mountain-region style with villa-guest house style of the Alps, which was applied to many beautiful historical buildings throughout the town including the Jaszczurówka Chapel and many modern restaurants and hotels in the area.

Jaszczurówka Chapel was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the Zakopane style, without using nails. The interior decor and ornaments are masterpieces of wood craftsmanship. – © Agnes Kantaruk
Jaszczurówka Chapel was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the Zakopane style, without using nails. The interior decor and ornaments are masterpieces of wood craftsmanship. – © Agnes Kantaruk

Zakopane has several interesting museums including the Tatra Museum focused on local history, culture, and nature. Art lovers will enjoy the many galleries and artists' workshops. And if you're into mountain folklore, you can experience it through festivals, concerts, and craft demonstrations. In almost every inn, each evening is filled with group singing, accompanied by highland music and dance. A visit to Zakopane, combined with an excursion into mountains, is a truly unforgettable experience.

Many World Heritage sites are temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please check official websites for more information.

Visit

Zakopane—Tourist mecca in the Tatra Mountains