The historic cities of Krakow and Gdansk often feature at the top of Polish bucket lists. They’ve got the UNESCO history. They’ve got the medieval castles. They’ve got the nightlife. But, for adventure-hungry families, there’s one place that really stands out from the crowd: Zakopane.

Hidden under the jagged tops of the Carpathian mountains in the extreme south of the country, the town is hailed as the Winter Capital of Poland for its abundance of ski fields (we’ll get to them later). But it’s also a mecca for hikers and bikers, shoppers, and explorers of all ages.

7 Top Things to Do in Zakopane

The Tatra Mountains

In this guide, we’ll delve into the top things to do with the little ones in Zakopane. It’s a list riddled with cable cars and hot springs, with mountain lakes and fairy-tale town centers, promising a Polish adventure that’s just a little out of the ordinary. Here goes…

1. Be enchanted by Krupowki Street

Krupowki Street is the vibrant heart of Zakopane, bustling with shops, restaurants, and street performers, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful Tatra Mountains, which loom like daggers covered in snow on the horizon.

Around a kilometer in length from tip to tail, it’s entirely pedestrianized, so families can safely stroll (the entire street is stroller friendly) and – most importantly – shop!

Mhmm…Krupowki is the place to go a-searching for the unique arts, crafts and foods that make Zakopane so famous. The kids are sure to love the make-believe wooden swords and shields that are sold in the market at the north end of the street. More daring eaters might also want to sample the iconic highlander cheese, which is heavily smoked and served up with a dollop of cranberry sauce.

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2. Defy gravity on the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch

No trip to Zakopane could be complete without hopping on the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch. It’s the most famous landmark in the city, with a history that goes back to before the First World War – don’t worry, though, it’s been updated since then.

You’ll need to first take the bus from the central station to the small village of Kuznice. It costs about $1 per person and takes 15 minutes. There, you’ll see the huge, spanking new cable car station. Buy tickets and hop aboard! (Be warned: There are ALWAYS queues in the peak seasons of summer and midwinter).

What unfolds next is a montage of panoramic views of the Tatra Mountains. At the top station you can take short hikes suitable for young walkers or simply enjoy the stunning scenery from the observation decks. 

3. Splash around in Aquapark ZakopaneAquapark Zakopane

The area around Zakopane is famous for its hot springs, which are fed by natural mineral water that originates in deep underground rivers beneath the Tatras. There are umpteen spas that make use of that, but most of them are very adult orientated. 

Aquapark Zakopane, however, is the perfect place for water-loving families. The park features various indoor and outdoor pools, slides, and a lazy river, all of which are designed with safety and fun in mind. 

If you do want some R&R away from the little ones, pop into the on-site wellness area. That’s got saunas and hot tubs galore.

4. Go HikingHiking in Zakopane

There are stacks of amazing hiking trails in and around Zakopane. It’s the hiking epicenter of the whole of Poland, with most of the walking taking place in the Tatra National Park just to the south of the town center. 

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Of course, long-distance romps through the Carpathians aren’t necessarily the best thing for traveling families. But there are one or two routes that are suited for smaller feet and smaller attention spans. 

Here are the ones we’d recommend…

  • Dolina Strążyska – This hard-to-pronounce valley has a semi-paved path for half the way up and then a rocky path that’s not too steep or challenging. You can walk here from the town center and there’s a café at the park entrance. There’s also a mountain hut at the end of the valley where families should turn around, but not before catching a glimpse of the waterfall that streams over the rocks below the mountains.
  • Morskie Oko – More serious family hikers should consider Morskie Oko. This is the most famous lake in the Tatra region and its reached on a paved road, though you will have to drive or bus there in the morning to start your trek. The walk takes 1.5-2 hours in all, each way.

5. Dine in a traditional tavern

There’s tons to entertain the kids once the sun goes down in Zakopane. Most of all, the traditional highlander taverns of the town center offer a real local experience. They’re all built in wood and carved with little mountain designs, often dark and cozy and mysterious inside, with a roaring log fire somewhere in the middle. 

Food-wise, the mountain region and Zakopane is big on meats and cheeses, but most places have decent children’s menus that will offer an intro into Polish cuisine for smaller people – think miniature plates of pierogi dumplings and local salads with salted gherkins. 

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The best part is that it’s normal for these highlander taverns to have live bands in the evenings. They’ll play mountain music on double bass and violin while you dine together as a family.

6. Go skiingSki slope in Zakopane

Zakopane is a ski town at heart. It’s the best-known ski resort in Poland, in fact. The season here isn’t quite as long as in the Alps, but it does last from early December to mid-March, and there’s decent snow coverage most years.

The thing to know about Polish skiing is that it’s mainly for beginners and learners, which is just about perfect for families with little ones who are just finding their feet in the snow. 

The ski runs of Polana Szymoskowa offer the most convenient option in the town center of Zakopane. You could also catch a bus from Zakopane to Bialka, which is the largest single interconnected ski field in the country. It’s around 20 minutes’ drive away and has very modern, heated lifts, and loads of nursery runs.

7. Get lost in Snowlandia

Of course, skiing isn’t the only thing to do in Zakopane in the winter. There are plenty more family activities. Chief among them has to be the Zakopane Snowlandia, an entire labyrinth and castle complex that’s carved from huge snow blocks each year. 

The opening date changes depending on how much snowfall there’s been – it’s usually just before Christmas, but there’s a lot to build, so you need lots of white stuff on the ground. On top of a maze, there’s also a dedicated snow-sled run and an ice palace filled with unique ice sculptures. 

Entry costs around $19 per person for all the attractions but you can also get discounted tickets for certain areas and deals for multiple entries. There are a few large buffet restaurants just over the road from Snowlandia that are great for family lunches on the cheap, too.

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