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Looking for fun things to do in Zakopane in winter? Look no further! Zakopane just happens to be one of our favourite winter destinations and for so many great reasons!
Located at the foot of the breathtaking Tatra Mountains, the winter season is the best time for visiting Zakopane in Poland!
Zakopane, located in Southern Poland, is often described as the capital of the Tatra Mountains and is even called Poland’s winter capital, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike during the winter months.
Visiting Zakopane in winter is like entering a real-life fairy tale. Everything is usually covered in snow, which makes it look like a magical winter wonderland. At least, this is always how I describe it to everyone.
We were lucky enough to spend a White Christmas in Zakopane, with plans for another soon, so we can definitely tell you all the best things to do during Zakopane in winter!
Zakopane Winter: The Ultimate Winter Wonderland In Poland
While this beautiful mountain village is worth visiting any time of the year, as one of the most scenic places in all of Poland (and there are many), there’s no doubt that Zakopane in winter is something extra magical!
Winter is peak season for visiting Zakopane, but it really is a wonderful place for a winter break! It’s also a perfect place for a white Christmas!
If you enjoy the snow, winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, sleigh rides, and snow-covered rooftops, you will absolutely love Zakopane in the winter season.
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Best Things To Do In Zakopane In Winter
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Zakopane during winter, you will have no trouble filling your days.
In fact, I hope you’ve got a few days to spare so you have time to fit everything into your stay!
Here are some of the best things to do in winter in Zakopane:
1. Kasprowy Cable Car Ride
One of the most iconic attractions in the region is Kasprowy Wierch. This is one of the tallest mountains in Tatra National Park and it is absolutely breathtaking in winter.
This is also an incredibly popular attraction in winter, so you might find yourself waiting in line in the freezing snow for a while if you’re visiting during the Christmas break.
We waited so long and it was so cold, but the experience once we got to go up the top was well worth the temporary discomfort! This was the day before Christmas Eve though, so pretty much the peak of the holiday season!
ALWAYS book ahead of time. This will help reduce your wait time drastically!
The Kaspowy Wierch cable car takes you up the mountain, offering a stunning panorama view of the surrounding mountains.
The cable car station is located in Kuznice, which is in the upper part of Zakopane. The cable car trip takes you 1987m up Mount Kasprowy. The ride is around 10 minutes long and there is a cable car change halfway at Myślenickie Turnie.
When you’re at the top, you can take in the great views of the higher mountains nearby from the summit, climb to the top of the peak (Simon did this… I regret not going with him), or take one of the walking tracks.
There is also a restaurant where you can sit and enjoy the surrounding views in warmth.
If you’re a more experienced snowboarder or skier, you might want to take on the ski slopes from the top. Many people take their equipment up with them for this reason.
The other must-do attraction when visiting Zakopane in winter – or any time of the year, is a ride in the funicular up Mt Gubałówka.
Technically, you can just hike your way up this much smaller of the Tatra Mountains, but the funicular is more fun. The word fun is in the name, so how could it not be fun? And it’s a great option for visiting Zakopane with kids!
If you don’t know what a funicular is, it’s essentially a small train that goes up and down Gubałówka Hill.
The best thing about Mount Gubalowka is that it’s located right in the town center of Zakopane! As it is much smaller than some of the other Tatra mountains, it is a relatively easy walk to the top.
However, in winter, hiking is always a little more challenging and you’ve got to be equipped for it, so the funicular from Zakopane town is a good option.
Up the top, you will find market stalls and food stalls, great views and plenty of places to buy Polish souvenirs.
The Gubalowka Restaurant has an outdoor dining area with epic views (although this was closed during our visit). Normally, it’s a great place to sample some of the delicious Polish food!
There are also places for ski lessons, dog sleigh rides and other tourist attractions.
3. Skiing & Snowboarding
As Poland’s winter capital, there are plenty of ski slopes in Zakopane, some a lot more challenging than others, but with plenty of options to suit beginners too.
Zakopane is known for being a cheap option for winter sports, and one of the best places to go skiing or snowboarding in Europe since it has several ski resorts.
If you are new to skiing or you want to improve your skills, there are a lot of skiing and snowboarding instructors.
Ski Resort Szymoszkowa in the Szymoszkowa Valley is one such option that has both beginner and intermediate options and is around a 20-minute walk from Krupowki Street.
We did a beginner snowboard lesson here, near the world-famous Wielka Krokiew ski jump. We were terrible at it and I have never been so cold in my life, but it was fun to say we tried!
Some of the kids in the extended family did a beginner skiing lesson at a snow park on Mt Gubalowka too.
In hindsight, I should have joined the kids! Maybe I will be better at skiing. Next time!
But for those of you who are more experienced, you will find a ski resort suited to your experience level with plenty of opportunities to catch the ski lifts up a mountain for some exciting downhill skiing or cross-country skiing.
4. Explore Krupowki Street
If you plan to spend a few days in Zakopane, it is likely that you will find yourself at Krupowki Street.
Krupowki Street is the main street of Zakopane and it’s always busy with locals and tourists alike.
The street runs from the centre of town all the way to the foot of Mount Gubalowka.
There are plenty of shops to explore here, and in winter you will often find Christmas markets set up along the street. A great spot to grab a few Polish souvenirs and sample the local food.
This pedestrian street is full of life day or night, with restaurants and cafes, live music and street performers.
It’s a great place to sit back and watch the world go by. This is especially nice when it’s cold and you’ve got a mug of mulled wine in hand!
5. Step Into A Fairytale Village Along Koscieliska Street
The thing that I will never forget about Zakopane is the beautiful traditional wooden houses topped with snow. They look like real-life gingerbread houses.
And Kościeliska Street is a great place to admire this unique architecture so well known in the Podhale region.
This is the oldest street in Zakopane, where you will also find the oldest church and cemetery. Well worth a stroll!
6. Soak In The Thermal Baths
After a day of hitting the ski slopes and hiking up mountains, you might want nothing more than to soak those tired muscles in some relaxing thermal pools.
Luckily you can do exactly that in Zakopane!
There are a few options for thermal baths nearby.
Aqua Park Zakopane is located right in Zakopane. It has 2 outdoor thermal pools, multiple jacuzzies, a sauna, an indoor lap pool and a recreational pool with slides and water attractions.
There is also a hotel here if you’re looking for a place to stay! A great place to visit with the whole family!
If you’ve got your own car, there are also several other thermal bath houses and water parks within 22km of Zakopane:
Terma Bania Water Park – 8 thermal indoor and outdoor pools with geothermal water that range between 34-38C, saunas, slides and kids pools.
Bukovina Thermal Baths – 13 indoor and outdoor natural thermal water pools, saunas, slides, and pols for the kids.
Chocholowskie Thermal Baths – The largest thermal complex in Poland with 30 indoor and outdoor pools and barrels, sauna and relaxation rooms.
Szaflary Thermal Baths – 4 thermal pools, saunas, slides and pools for the kids.
Goracy Potok Water Park – 21 outdoor pools, saunas, mud baths, slides, rope park, and paddling pool.
Since it’s pretty cold for most of the year in Zakopane, the whole family will appreciate these delightfully warm waters and the kids will love the slides and water attractions.
7. Take A Winter Hike
Among Tatra Mountains’ stunning winter wonderland, Zakopane is home to some of the best hiking spots in Europe, with the chance to explore some of Tatra National Park.
Of course, when it comes to hiking in winter anywhere, you do need to take extra care to stay safe and check the weather before you leave, as well as the avalanche report in cases of a potential avalanche risk!
Winter days in this region are much shorter and you really need to take care to give yourself enough time to reach your destination and back during daylight hours. It is often dark soon after 4PM in winter.
With all that important safety stuff in mind, there are some really lovely hiking trails around Zakopane to suit all difficulty levels, including some that are great for families with kids.
You might be best saving the longer trails for the summer and spring months!
It’s an amazing experience for all the family when you take in the beauty of this region and perhaps catch a glimpse of some local wildlife too!
8. Go On A Sleigh Ride
On the Eve of New Year’s Eve, we had one of our favourite Zakopane experiences, taking a nighttime horse and sleigh ride through the forest and into the mountains.
It was pitch black and we could see almost nothing but the stars above in some parts, wrapped with snuggly thick lap rugs as we made our way to a special cultural experience with the mountaineers.
We toasted sausages over the fire and watched traditional Polish dancing and mountaineers performing, with mugs of Gluwine. It was a really fun night and such a unique experience we won’t ever forget.
But you can also enjoy a horse and sleigh ride or a horse-drawn carriage ride during the day and admire the stunning winter scenery as you pass by the white snowy forest.
If you have the time and the budget for this experience, definitely do it!
9. Warm Yourself Up With Polish Food
It’s no secret that Polish food is our favourite. Simon’s parents are from Poland and his mum is an incredible cook so we eat pierogi and homemade smoked kielbasa often.
In Zakopane, there is no shortage of traditional Polish restaurants to try – they are everywhere and you definitely need to try all the popular dishes.
You will also find street food vendors serving up pork knuckle, potato pancakes and sausages.
With such a cold climate, Polish comfort food is exactly what you will want!
10. Wander The Markets
Zakopane has a few markets during the winter months, some of which are open all year round.
The Krupowki Market is open all year round, located near the base of Gubalowka Hill.
It’s great for picking up souvenirs and gifts – you will find traditional wooden crafts, local honey and handmade woollen goods.
My favourite souvenir from here is my hand-painted wooden babushka doll. The old lady who made it carved the word Zakopane into the back for me for no extra charge, knowing we were certainly not local. Such a lovely keepsake.
We actually didn’t do any Christmas shopping before we left home, knowing we needed to keep our luggage light, so aside from a couple of things we picked up earlier in this particular trip in Germany, we split up at the Zakopane markets and each got a little something for each other for Christmas Eve gifting. So fun!
During November and December, you will find Christmas markets along the main street also, selling food, gifts and Christmas decor.
11. Conquer the World’s Largest Snow Maze
Between late December and early March typically, you can visit Snowlandia.
Located in upper Zakopane, to the right of the Wielka Krokiew ski jump, here you will find plenty of fun for the whole family.
There are a few fun things to do here. The most iconic is the snow maze. This is the world’s biggest snow maze, first having been constructed back in 2015.
The whole maze is built with artificial snow which can only be done during negative temperatures.
Aside from the snow labyrinth, there is also a snow castle that has towers up to 15 metres high and an ice palace with ice sculptures.
Plus there is a sled hill with sled rental, a ski lift and ski slope for beginners, so you can have a whole lot of winter fun here!
12. Tobogan Gubalowka Hill
It doesn’t really matter how old you are – tobogganing in the snow is something everyone needs to try!
If you don’t have a toboggan, you can rent one at several places in the centre of town.
We were lucky enough that the vacation home we stayed in had some for us to borrow.
You will find lots of locals and visitors here tobogganing down the hill – from kids to adults!
And if you’re not brave enough to do it yourself, you’ve at least got to go for the laughs. We saw so many moments that would have gone social media viral in this modern era. Oh my gosh… so many stacks.
A few people got caught out standing with their backs to the hill at the bottom, assuming they were a safe distance from the speeding toboggan riders, only to get bowled over when someone skidded out much further.
13. Take A Snowmobile Tour
This isn’t something we had the chance to do but it is a popular activity for the Zakopane region. Jump on a snowmobile for a truly unique way to tour the area.
There are a few different companies that offer snowmobile rides and tours.
This is a great way to get around and take in some amazing scenery at the same time, especially if you are not an experienced skier and don’t fancy winter hiking a long distance in the snow.
14. Go On a Snowshoe Walk
This is another thing we didn’t have time to do, but it’s a unique variation of just taking a hike in the snow!
You can take a guided snowshoe tour through the snowy fields with an experienced guide. A snowshoe allows you to walk over piles of snow without sinking down, making it much easier to trek through the forest.
I could have used a pair of snowshoes on our wander around the top of Mount Gubalowka on Christmas Eve.
I stepped off the side of a snowy road for a car to pass and sank to my thighs in the snow. The worst part was it was the day my thermals were all in the wash and I was only wearing jeans. OMG… so cold. And they were so stiff. But it was hilarious!
15. Visit Morskie Oko
Morskie Oko is one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. It is located in the Tatra National Park, on the Poland-Slovakia border and is a popular hiking destination.
The Wall Street Journal named it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world!
In the summer months, hiking to this gorgeous lake is extremely popular, but it is a lengthy trail and in the short winter daylight hours, it’s not so possible.
There are alternative ways to get, such as by horse-drawn carriages that will take you most of the way.
This all depends on the weather though. On our last visit, we couldn’t get there as the roads were snowed over and closed. Simon was lucky enough to have been during the summer so I am yet to see this beautiful lake in person myself.
In winter it is completely frozen oven. It’s also downright frosty so you’ll have to make sure to dress for the experience. We had a night in Poland that reached -29 C during our winter trip. Yikes!
16. Husky Sleigh Rides
There were several places in Zakopane where you could go for a husky sleigh ride in the snow, including up Mt Gubalowka.
We got to meet some of the husky dogs and they were so cute!
This is very much a tourist attraction though and as such, the price tag can be high. A fun experience though.
17. Go Ice Skating
There are a couple of different ice skating rinks in Zakopane. If you love ice skating or you’ve never tried and would like to, this is a relatively inexpensive activity for the whole family.
These are all outdoor ice skating rinks though, so they are only open in Zakopane in winter.
18. Experience A Traditional Christmas Eve Feast
Polish Christmas Eve is called Wigilia and the tradition is to have 12 dishes served during dinner, all of which are vegetarian.
This often includes red borscht soup with uszka (mushroom dumplings), mushroom and cabbage salad, roasted potatoes and other delicious dishes.
Afterwards, it’s tradition to open Christmas gifts after Santa has been.
We still do this same tradition here in Australia with Simon’s Polish heritage, however, it was a lot of fun to book into a restaurant to experience a real Wigilia in Poland!
19. Celebrate New Year’s Eve
The most memorable New Year’s Eve of our lives was spent in Zakopane and it was magical and just a tiny bit insane too.
We booked into one of the central restaurants for a multi-course dinner and bottomless drinks.
This means vodka of course. So much vodka. Your shot glass is almost never empty!
But your belly is full of food, which definitely helps!
The town square was filled with pretty much every single person in town, staying up until the early hours of the morning to greet the New Year.
Fireworks lit up the skies as everyone hugged each other at midnight and locals sang Sto Lat.
It was actually nuts! We saw someone’s fluffy jacket catch on fire from a firework. Another almost came in our 2nd story restaurant window.
I’m not sure if it would be quite so lax these days as this was a couple of years ago, but we can’t wait for our next NYE in Zakopane!
20. Play In The Snow
Sure, it doesn’t need to specifically be Zakopane where you do this activity, but why not make it Zakopane?
There are plenty of places you can have fun in the snow, whether you are visiting Zakopane with kids or if you want to make some memorable moments of acting like a big kid, it’s always a good option!
Make a snowman. Have a snowball fight. Make snow angels.
We did all of this on Christmas day after letting our massive brunch settle! There was hardly anyone else around by mid-afternoon and it was hilarious fun.
Best Places To Stay In Zakopane
There are quite a few places to stay in Zakopane. If you’re planning a shorter stay of a few days, a hotel or resort might be the perfect option.
For longer stays, there are a lot of full houses you can stay in as vacation rentals.
We did this since we were there over Christmas and New Year and had a large group staying together. It was the perfect self-contained option.
But definitely book early when visiting during this peak season.
Hotel Aquarion Family & Friends – A great family-friendly option, within walking distance to town with play areas for the kids and easy access to the Aqua Park.
Hotel Bambi Boutique – Large rooms in traditional wooden style, walking distance to central attractions, kid-friendly.
How To Get To Zakopane
The closest airport to Zakopane is Krakow Airport, about 2 hours away.
From the airport, you can take a shuttle bus directly to the town centre or you can rent a car and drive there yourself.
Getting Around Zakopane
Zakopane is an easy place to get around. Most of the main attractions are within walking distance. If you want to go further, there are also plenty of buses and taxis available.
Most people opt for the bus as it is a much cheaper option. Buses run frequently throughout the day and night, so it’s easy to get where you need to go.
Taxis are more expensive but can be convenient if you’re in a hurry. You can also rent bicycles if you want to explore the area at your own pace. This isn’t as easy to get around in winter though!
An important tip when going around Zakopane is to take caution on icy roads, even in Summer it can be slippery due to thawing and freezing temperatures.
If you’ve got a rental car, you will likely need snow chains for safety.
Conclusion: Winter in Zakopane
Winter in Zakopane is the perfect time to visit! There are some destinations that are just more special in the winter season and this is definitely one of them. There’s a good reason why this is one of our favourite places in Poland and you will easily find plenty of things to do in Zakopane in winter!
Is Zakopane family-friendly?
Yes. The town actually offers a range of activities suitable for all ages, from skiing and sledding to exploring indoor attractions. You will find a lot of family-friendly accommodation and restaurants too.
When is the best time to visit Zakopane?
Between December and March is the perfect time to visit Zakopane for skiing and other snow-related activities, while spring and summer are great for hiking.
What is the snowiest month in Zakopane?
Zakopane gets the most snow in January with an average snowfall of 8.5 inches.
How cold does it get in Zakopane in winter?
Zakopane averages minus 1 degree Celsius in January and around minus 8 degrees Celcius overnight from December to February.
Plan Your Poland Visit
Here are some more planning resources for visiting Poland: