The Best Things To Do in Zakopane, Poland in Winter

Summary: This is a guide for things to do in Zakopane in Winter. You’ll find the best activities, how to get to Zakopane, and more!

The best time to visit Zakopane, Poland: Winter! Looking out over the mountains of Zakopane

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In my opinion, the best time to visit Zakopane, Poland is winter, particularly New Year’s Eve. Each year, there is an epic New Years Eve party and concert, and it’s the perfect snowy mountain ski town to ring in the new year!

How to Get to Zakopane

If you’ve done any research on how to get to Zakopane, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of tour groups offer day trips to Zakopane from Krakow. This can be a great option if you don’t have time to allocate multiple days to Zakopane because it’s still worth seeing, even for a short time.

We opted to rent a car a drive down from Krakow. If you plan to drive and you’re from the US, you’ll need to get an international driver’s permit. We got one from AAA, the process was very simple, and it’s good for one year.

Not sure where to start when looking for rental cars? A search engine like this will show you all of your options:

Another option is to take the train. There is a direct train to Zakopane from many Polish cities and more information about the train options and schedules can be found here.

Things To Do in Zakopane in Winter

New Year’s Eve Concert

When we visited, we had no idea that Zakopane was a popular European destination for New Year’s Eve. Imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon a huge televised concert with over 70,000 people in attendance!

We anticipated having a chill New Year’s Eve in a local bar, but our night ended up being wildly different in the best way. Champagne was passed around. Fireworks went off. It ended up being a much more exciting night than we were expecting.

New Years celebration in Zakopane, Poland
Zakopane New Years Eve Celebration

Afterword, I asked around to the different locals and store owners, and I guess this is their busiest time of year. The rest of the winter and summer months, they get a few tourists, but nothing like those few days over New Year’s Eve, which is why this is the best time to visit Zakopane!

Gubalowka Funicular

There’s a cable car and a funicular in town and this is the funicular. It takes you to the top of Gubalowka – one of the mountains in the Gubalowka Mountain range. It’s about $6 for a round trip ticket. You can buy the tickets in the building right next to the funicular.

While you’re walking up to get tickets, there are a ton of vendors in every direction! They’re selling clothing, sheepskin and furs, grilled sheep cheese, souvenirs, and so much more. We had an awesome time just walking around and looking at everything.

On top of the mountains of Zakopane, Poland

Then, when you get to the top of the mountain, there are even more vendors to walk around and look at. There’s a cafe, a restaurant, and some incredible views of Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains.

This is one of the more popular things to do in Zakopane in both winter and summer, but in the winter, you get all of the pretty snowy views. In summer, it will be lush and green.

Street food in Zakopane, Poland

Kasprowy Wierch

Remember how I said there’s a cable car and a funicular in this town? This is the cable car and it’s at the opposite side of town as Gubalowka.

It’s a little pricier than the funicular, but it’s worth it. The round trip is about $27 and will take you about 2 hours total to go up, spend some time on top of the Tatras, and come back down. This doesn’t include the line to wait in to get on a cable car. Be warned that this line gets longer and longer as the day goes on.

You’ll get in the cable car and start the trek up to the top of the Tatra Mountains. On the way, you’ll hear facts about the area in both Polish and English. Then, you’ll switch cars half way through to finish the ride.

Admittedly, there isn’t as much to do at the top of the Tatras compared to the top of Gubalowka, BUT the views are worth it.

On top of the mountains in Zakopane, Poland

Once you get to the top, you can walk out onto the mountain. Be careful because there aren’t any railings or anything to stop you from slipping right down the mountain. You can also walk along the mountain top to what I read is the highest point in Poland!

To get to the cable car from the main part of town, you can walk or take a taxi, but they won’t allow any personal cars to go in. It’s quite a long, uphill walk, so I’d suggest a taxi. We walked there, but then caught a taxi for the way back.

Wander Downtown Zakopane

One of my favorite things to do in Zakopane in winter is to just walk around because it such a beautiful snowy winter wonderland this time of year. You’ll likely end up doing this if you walk to the funicular at Gubalowka, but spend some time just wandering and maybe going in and out of a few stores.

The main street is lined with a ton of stores, restaurants, street food vendors, and musicians. It’s so lively and crowded – especially around New Years Eve. It’ll be fun just to take it all in and people watch.

street food in Zakopane, Poland

Take a Sleigh Ride

I’m usually very hesitant about attractions that involve animals like this. However, I spent some time talking with one of the owners and some of the sleigh ride companies will actually take you into the mountains, away from the downtown area, so the horses can run where they want to go and not have to dodge pedestrians.

The owner actually refused to do any rides around the New Year because he felt the horses are too overworked and they need a rest. I totally respect that and that’s really the only reason this made it onto my list of recommendations. That’s also the reason why I don’t have a photo to share of this activity.

Winter Sports

Last, but certainly not least, if you like winter sports (i.e., skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, etc.), you’ll love it here! These activities are at the top of most visitors’ lists of things to do in Zakopane in winter.

There are quite a few ski lifts around town – see the pricing for this season here. There was also a public ice skating rink that we passed every time we walked from our hotel to the main street in town.

Read More About Poland

I hope this list of things to do in Zakopane in winter helps you plan your next winter wonderland adventure! Since you’ll be in Poland, here are a few more posts that may help with the rest of your trip:

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