Nestled in the foothills of the Tatras, Zakopane is the most fashionable mountain resort in Poland and the country’s winter-sports capital. Although Zakopane is essentially a base or springboard for skiing or hiking in the Tatras, the attractive town is an enjoyable enough place to hang about for a while, with a fair number of sights and plenty of facilities. It may resemble a tourist trap at times, but it also has a relaxed, laid-back vibe that makes it a great place to visit.
Zakopane moved from being a small mountain village in about 1870, when it began to attract writers, artists and composers in search of inspiration. Among them were the composer Karol Szymanowski and the writer and painter Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, better known as Witkacy. The father of the latter, Stanisław Witkiewicz (1851–1915), based his so-called Zakopane style of architecture on traditional houses and outbuildings in the area. Some of the buildings he designed still stand to this day and can be visited.
Zakopane grew at a faster pace in the interwar period, and shortly before the outbreak of WWII the town’s prime attractions – the cableway and funicular railway – were built. Development continued after the war but it’s still reasonably small. Overall Zakopane feels more like an overgrown village than a town, its mainly villa-type houses set informally in their own gardens.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009