Poland doesn’t have lots of mountains, but they make the most of it in Zakopane, nestled at the foot of the Tatras. This popular, around two hours south of Krakow is an appealing mix of chocolate box quaint, accessible ski slopes.
Add low prices and Zakopane makes for a value for money ski break that is a good alternative to big budget spending of Val d’Isere even if there is no real ski in/ski out option and the mountains are not especially high. The fact is you’ll find snow, mountains and nightlife to rival plenty of other budget.
Budget skiing for families and beginners
The town of Zakopane serves as the gateway to the mountains, so visitors need a taxi or the use of a daily transfer service to access the ski stations.
Bialka Tatrazanska is the most Alpine of Zakopane’s ski stations, with 16 kms of ski runs spread over of small valleys. To the experienced winter sports enthusiast that may not sound like much, but beginners or the undemanding intermediate will find the terrain extremely pleasant and forgiving. Wide runs and beautiful woodland scenery make for a pleasant skiing experience.
Those looking for mountain runs will find the best option in the imposing Kasprowy Wierch, the mountain that towers over the city. The 15 kms of runs will be more and are better suited to intermediate skiers and boarders.
The closest slopes to town are at Gubalowka, which is accessible via a funicular ride from the centre of town. From here you’ll get great views across the town plus an excellent market which is fun diversion for bargain.
We headed to Zakopane fairly late in the season, in mid March and although there was snowfall on the day we arrived it didn’t stick around for long. But, thankfully the ski areas have invested in great snow making facilities. Kasprowy Wierch is mostly pretty snow sure and offers skiing up until late.
Ski day passes vary from around 62 PLN (approx £12) up to 120 PLN (approx £25).
One thing is for sure, you won’t be short of dining options in Zakopane. Most of the fare is of the hearty meat and veg type with a side. The main drag, Krupowki, is packed full of authentic wooden panelled eateries, with grills stacked with sausages and joints of pork. The rustic vibe is often completed with live traditional music.
The best of the bunch was at Watra (Hr. Władysława Zamoyskiego 2, 34-500 Zakopane), brewery a short walk off the main drag. The stills in the window aren’t just for show, their selection are perfect for warming you up.
We also found a great vegan burger joint, Mountain (Ulica Weteranow Wojny 2, Zakopane), which serves some of the biggest vegan burgers I’ve ever seen.
If you’re not so bothered about sliding down mountains then how about a spa? There are several thermal baths, including at Bialka Tatrazanska and down the road at Terma Bukowina. Both are great for kids with lots of play areas, but also the perfect way to soothe those aches and warm your bones. Prices start from 18 PLN (approx £3) for kids and 28 PLN.
Closer to town there is also an ice rink at 73 Krupowki (the end of the road) and a kid’s snow park as part of the same complex.