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Visiting Zakopane with kids is an adventure the whole family will love, with so many things to do in Zakopane throughout the year. This popular vacation destination in Poland is extra magical in winter though! Poland is often referred to as the winter capital of Poland, although there is plenty to see in Zakopane all year round!
Discover the best things to do in Zakopane with kids, from mountain visits to the Polish Tatra Mountains to hiking and outdoor activities to water parks and holiday season fun.
This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2021.
Zakopane is a popular holiday destination, not only for the rest of the world (at least those who have gotten word of it), but also for Polish natives, who come during the winter months for skiing, snowboarding and other family activities.
In the cooler months, Zakopane transforms into a winter wonderland, becoming one of the most picturesque towns in the world.
The unique wooden architecture the area is known for is made even more beautiful with snow-capped roofs and roads, giving the entire town a festive vibe.
This makes it very popular during the winter months of December to February.
However, there is just as much to do when the weather is warmer, with scenic heights, mountain day trips, family fun and pampering too.
Some of these things can only be enjoyed when the weather is fine.
What To Do In Zakopane In Winter
One of the best things to do in Zakopane, or anywhere in Europe, in December is the Christmas markets!
But that’s not all that’s on offer in the winter months!
Some of the best activities in Zakopane are only after the snow season has arrived, making it the perfect destination to hit the slopes.
Here are some of the best things to do in winter:
1. Learn to Ski
There is no doubt one of the best things to do in Zakopane in winter is skiing!
Zakopane was home to the Winter Universiades in 1956, 1993 and 2001, along with other major ski events over the years. It ss known for its great ski slopes.
They even had a bid in for the 2022 Winter Olympics, so when it comes to finding a great place to learn how to ski, Zakopane delivers.
The Zakopane snow season typically falls between December and April. The busiest time for skiing and winter activities is during February and March.
There are many places around Zakopane that offer ski lessons, from beginner to advanced.
Plus there are mini slopes used to teach young kids, so that the whole family can get involved in this fun winter activity.
Or if your kids happen to already be skiing pros, you will find endless options for places to practice this around Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains.
Popular during the winter holidays when Zakopane transforms into a tourism hotspot are the horse-pulled sleigh rides. The beautiful horse carts are yet another part of Zakopane that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Known as kuligs, they tend to hang around in the main part of town or up the top of Mt Gubalowka.
We had a kulig ride on the night before New Year’s Eve when attending an event somewhere on the outskirts of town.
It was in the dark, and with minimal light pollution in the area, it is truly dark in the forest. We could see very little apart from the ghostly white snow-capped trees along the edge of the road.
A very memorable experience though and one we enjoyed, especially with the entertainment, folk music and dancing, hot food and drink at the end.
Snowlandia is Zakopanes winter amusement park. With unique winter attractions, this is a place like no other!
There is a snow labyrinth and castle, toboggan run, igloos and heaps more of fun that the kids will absolutely love.
There is a mini zoo with an adorable array of wildlife:
Polish mountain sheep
Arctic fox and silver fox
They also have kid-friendly ski slopes and a chair lift for fun outdoors.
The Best Things To Do In Zakopane With Kids All Year
While you can, of course, visit the incredible Kasprowy Wierch by cable car any time of year, for the chance to enjoy the Tatra Mountain views, that’s only the beginning of places to visit in Zakopane.
There is plenty of fun to be had all year round in Zakopane with kids, with both indoors and outdoors attractions, and some incredible day trips too!
Here are some family-friendly Zakopane activities for any time of year:
9. Visit Mt Gubałówka
Above Zakopane, in the Gubalowskie Foothills is Mt Gubalowka.
This is a popular tourist attraction providing breathtaking views of the Tatras. On a clear day, you can see so far and the sight is enough to impress the whole family, as you prepare to feel dwarfed by their size.
You will find the entrance to Mt Gubalowka an easy walk beyond the town centre, where you can catch the funicular (even the name sounds fun).
It’s essentially a small train-type carriage to take you to the top of the hill.
This is much quicker than walking and much more fun to travel with kids. It is a super quick trip but definitely a way to save some energy so you are ready to explore what is at the top of the mountain.
At the top, you will find a village, with more beautiful wooden houses the area is known for, as well as plenty of tourist-friendly activities such as cafes and stalls serving delicious local food. Enjoy dining with beautiful views over the high Tatras.
You can also buy traditional Polish souvenirs, do ski lessons or go for a dog sled ride.
We went up Mt Gubulwka on Christmas Eve and it was one of my fondest memories of our Zakopane day, as it was relatively quiet as everyone prepared for the traditional Christmas Eve feast – Wigilia.
Although even in Australia, this is part of our family tradition too as Simon’s parents are from Poland.
Open from spring until winter, at the top of Mt Gubalowka is the Summer Toboggan Run.
Also known as the Gubalowka Gravitational slide, this is a local attraction for those of you wanting a bit of a thrill.
This man-made Zakopane toboggan run is perfect when visiting outside of the snow season, when the usual winter activities aren’t possible.
Check out the video below to see the Gravitational Slide in action:
There is an admission fee for the attraction and kids under the age of 8 must ride the toboggan run with an adult.
13. Hiking In Zakopane
One of the best parts of staying near the mountains is the opportunity to enjoy nature walks.
Zakopane hiking tracks are perfect for exploring the beautiful scenery and the crisp fresh mountain air.
Start with a shorter track if your kids are younger, to see how they go.
Find the best walking tracks in Zakopane and details on length and difficulty on the Discover Zakopane website.
During the summer months, if you’re feeling especially energetic, you may want to try an easy hike up one of the smaller Tatra Mountains.
Depending on the age of your kids, one of the most popular options is Rysy Peak, which is the highest peak in Poland. The trail begins near Morskie Oko. Prepare to enjoy some of the best views in Zakopane!
14. Explore Krupówki Street
Krupówki Street is the main street of Zakopane, lined with restaurants, shops and entertainment.
The street is around a kilometre long and a fun town centre to explore as a family. There are plenty of places to stop with the kids for fun too, with arcade games or street performers.
Follow it to the base of Mt Gubulwka, visiting the markets along the way and finding some cool handmade Polish souvenirs.
15. Kids Park Janosika
Sometimes parents need a little bit of down time, while the kids need to turn off energy and play with other kids. This is where Kids Park Janosika is the perfect option!
This mammoth indoor play centre is 540 square metres of fun, over two levels.
With a play area just for toddlers and loads of fun for the older kids too. There’s slides, huge ball pits, a basketball court and a pontoon track.
Rainy Day Activities In Zakopane
Sometimes bad weather cannot be avoided so have some indoor activities ready for rainy days in Zakopane.
Here are some indoor things to do with kids in Zakopane:
There are lots of other things to do in Zakopane with kids, especially during the peak tourist seasons when you will find street performers in town, extra food stalls and souvenirs, and other seasonal events.
It is especially amazing visiting Zakopane in December when all the festivities are happening! There are so many Zakopane winter activities on, but plenty to do all year round too.
You could even consider doing as we did, hiring a private home and enjoying a white Christmas and New Year celebrations in Zakopane.
And to the delight of kids from countries like Australia, no permit is needed to purchase and let off fireworks.
While this is probably a little on the risky side, Simon’s youngest brother thought this was the coolest thing ever and we did buy a few to let off in a park. At your own risk…
WHERE IS ZAKOPANE?
Zakopane is situated in Poland’s extreme south, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. It can be reached in approximately 2 hours from Krakow by bus, train or private transport.
The main area of Zakopane is Krupowki Street, where you will find shops, restaurants and other facilities.
DAY TRIPS & TOURS TO ZAKOPANE
There are loads of tours to visit Zakopane from Krakow, as it is only a relatively short distance between the two cities.
Or you can organise tours from Zakopane to see the Tatras and other beautiful sights nearby.