No trip to Zakopane could possibly be complete without a jaunt up Gubalowka. Rising on the north side of the city, this relatively low hill (at least compared to the mighty Tatras opposite) offers up some of the most fantastic views in the valley. Getting up there is a joy in itself, since it’s a chance to ride the Gubalowka Funicular. At the top, there are lookout points, bars, and even some enticing hotel options.
In this ultimate guide to Gubalowka, we’ll take a look at all aspects of this top Zakopane attraction. We’ll outline the practicalities of getting there and also showcase what there is to do on and around the famous hill. Let’s begin…
This is just one part of our complete travel guide to Zakopane
What exactly is the Gubalowka?
Gubalowka is a hill. Yep, that’s it. A hill. It sits on the northern side of Zakopane town and looks straight over the High Tatra peaks, which rise opposite, on the south side of the town. Gubalowka starts right at the end of the famous Krupowki Street, which is the main drag in the winter capital and the main hub for bars and restaurants.
But Gubalowka is also much more than simply just a hill. It’s also a major attraction and must-do for most first-time visitors to Zakopane. First off, it’s the home of a vintage hill funicular (more on that below), hosts a number of traditional Polish food taverns, offers a series of walks with great views, and even comes topped by an array of quality hotels.
The Gubałówka Hill Funicular
Perhaps the main attraction on Gubalowka hill is the namesake Gubałówka Hill Funicular. It was built way back in the 1930s, just before the onset of WWII. It’s still going to this day and offers to whisk passengers from the base station at the south end of Krupowki Street through the forests to a top station that’s some 1,200 meters above sea level (that’s a vertical difference of about 600 meters).
In all, the ride takes around five minutes. As you go, you’ll notice the views getting better and better, with the jagged outline of peaks in the High Tatras – Giewont, Kasprowy – becoming more and more visible the higher you head on clear days.
The Gubałówka Hill Funicular is open all year round, summer and winter. Tickets cost 22 PLN ($5) return.
At the top of Gubalowka
The main draw of the Gubalowka hill and the main reason that people come to ride the aforementioned Gubałówka Hill Funicular is what’s on offer at the top. There’s quite a lot up there, so let’s take it one by one:
- The views – Some of the best lookout points in Zakopane are on offer from the top of the Gubałówka Hill. Most of them are now attached to either a restaurant or a café, looking straight south over the valley towards the high peaks.
- The dining – You’ll discover a series of traditional gorale style taverns serving proper Zakopane food up the top here. The best of them are Gospoda Pod Niebem (which sadly doesn’t have views) and Restauracja Po Widoki (which does).
- Toboggan run (Zjeżdżalnia grawitacyjna) – There’s a winding, wiggling toboggan run that we think gets the speed gauge just about right to make it fun for both kids and adults!
Hiking to the top of Gubalowka
The hike to the top of the Gubalowka Hill is actually one of the most accessible and doable hikes in the city. You can leave from any hotel in the center and start at the trailhead that in the field immediately adjacent to the funicular station. That bends over a bridge that’s built across the funicular tracks about halfway up and then ascends through a final pasture before hitting the top station. It takes around an hour in total.
There are plenty of variations in the route. A longer section veers westward after getting about halfway up and takes you through some dashes of thick pine forest. That’s a great option in winter, when there’s lots of snow on the open ground. There’s also a route on the eastern side of the hill that’s longer but a bit less steep.
We’d recommend grabbing a hiking map from one of the outfitters on Krupowki Street below.
Hotels on Gubalowka
If you’re not overly fussed about being right there in the thick of the Zakopane action, then Gubalowka Hill can be a fantastic place to stay. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to walk to the abundance of restaurants and late-night drinkeries that sit down on Krupowki Street, and the last train to the top of the hill is usually around dusk.
What you will get is a hotel that probably has fantastic views of he Zakopane mountains, peace and quiet, and even a touch of luxury, since this has become a bit of a hotspot for alpine chalets and spa hotels. Here are a few of our picks:
- Rezydencja Gubałówka sauna widok – This huge, luxury chalet can sleep up to 14 people at any time. It’s the perfect escape for Christmas or New Year, offering panoramic terraces, a big dining space, and a real-wood fire.
- Domek na Gubałówce – There are two comfy chalets that host groups of up to eight plus babies here. Both are really nice and offer a feeling of immersion in the mountains that staying down in town can’t give.
- ZAKOHOME- Apartament Gubałówka 1120 m n.p.m. – This is a SUPER cool spot with chic vibes and views that you simply won’t forget. It’s about five mins walk from the top station of Gubalowka but you’ll have panoramas the whole way to the door.
You can check out this guide for more suggestions for fantastic Zakopane hotels.