The unofficial winter capital of Poland has changed a whole load in the last decade. We’ve watched it go from rustic mountain town to fully-fledged European ski resort, garnering methods in Lonely Planet and Guardian Travel along the way. That’s spurred on the opening of new restaurants, shops, and even whole ski fields, but has also had an impact on the range of Zakopane hotels that’s now available.
At last count, there was something like 2,200 individual places to stay on offer in the mountain town. That’s mega. To put it into perspective, Krakow – the UNESCO-tagged, one-million-strong city of Krakow – counts a total of 2,500 hotels. It’s a testimony to just how many people now want to visit Zakopane in its lovely theatre of peaks in the Tatras.
This guide will take a look at that 2,000+ selection of Zakopane hotels to help you sort the jewels from the rough. We’ll offer insights into the finest stays for a whole range of travellers, no matter if you’re on the hunt for no-holes-barred luxury and al fresco hot tubs in the snow or something bargain-friendly for getting on the hiking paths. Let’s begin…
This guide is just one part of our complete guide to Zakopane
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What’s in this guide to Zakopane hotels?
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The top 5-star hotels in Zakopane
Let’s start right at the top. Why not? Zako is now home to a series of seriously opulent and extravagant hotels. While before 2010 there was just one or two establishments that could claim four stars, there is now a handful that boasts the full five. They’re nice too, offering features like bubbling outdoor hot tubs with views of the mountains and plush suites done out in true gorale (highland) style.
Here’s a look at the crème-de-la-crème of Zakopane hotels:
Aries Hotel & SPA Zakopane ($$$)
There’s simply no doubt in our minds that Aries is still the king of Zakopane hotels. Less than a decade old, it’s now got five stars and offers a taste of high-class Tatra style. Tucked behind Krupowki Street, it gets you into the heart of the town. The spa is something else. It’s got outdoor Jacuzzis where you can sit and bathe as the snow falls. There’s a salt-rock sauna, a normal sauna, a huge pool – you name it. It’s hardly a wonder that we rate it the full five stars that it’s official rating gets. Stay here if the wallet allows.
Bachleda Residence Zakopane ($$$)
All-new Bachleda Residence Zakopane is a stunning piece of hotel design. Everything down to the last details is designed to wow, from the copper plating on the roaring hearth in the lobby to the stag murals painted on the suite walls. All-new is the keyword here: This one’s been open a very short time and looks it. The pool is a joy, reflecting the amazing ceiling art. The gym is fantastic. The breakfast – AHMAGAHDDD.
The best spa hotels in Zakopane
Zakopane has more spa hotels than you can shake a pile of smoked sheep’s cheese at. It’s really all down to the booming ski industry here. Skiers want hot tubs and swimming pools and saunas – who woulda’ thought it?
Now, we’re tempted to simply re-list all the 5-star hotels in Zakopane that we have above. But that won’t help anyone. Suffice to say that all those options have FANTASTIC spa facilities, especially Aires for its outdoor hot tubs. Here, we’ll pinpoint a few more hotel options that should also be in the mix if a spa is priority number one.
Grand Hotel Stamary ($$$)
For us, it’s always a coin toss between Grand Stamary and Aries if the bank account isn’t looking too tight. This one trumps if we’re after somewhere that’s super-easy to reach from the bus station and want access to the main bus routes to go to the ski stations and the hiking trails (they leave from basically next door!). It’s a top, top hotel, especially the spa area, which is sort of half underground, offering sunbeds and a big pool, along with one of the larger hot tubs in town. It’s not quite as new or chic as Aries but it’s also usually just a tad cheaper.
Gold Hotel ($$-$$$)
Another new addition that’s close to the base of the ski slopes on the south side of town is the Gold Hotel. The spa here is a touch smaller than the other ones on our list, but we actually really love its style. It’s sort of noir and mysterious, with plenty of relaxing corners to hide away in. The hotel is also smaller and that means you won’t be sharing the wellness facilities with so many people. The offering includes a glass sauna and a hot tub.
VIP Apartamenty ROYAL SPA ($$-$$$)
Families with spa ambitions should consider hitting VIP Apartamenty ROYAL SPA. It’s got arguably the best facility of all the aparthotels in the city. That means a heated outdoor pool with views of the Tatras, a spring bath, and a sauna. The suites are large enough for your whole crew, and there are some with fully fitted kitchens.
Villa T Apartments & SPA ($$$)
The sauna at the Villa T Apartments & SPA really is a gorgeous one. It’s got glass walls and uber-chic seating areas that gaze over the rugged Giewont mountain. We put this one down as the best small-scale spa hotel. The facility here serves just a couple of duplexes and doubles. They also have an offering of massages and treatments.
Best midrange hotels in Zakopane
We have to say – finding a midrange stay in Zakopane these days can be a bit of a chore. There’s been a big shift to spa hotels and proper winter lodges. You can still get something in the $40-100 range but there aren’t as many as there once was. These would be our picks…
Willa Orla ($$)
This family-owned B&B has often hosted us. We go for the convenience of being close to the end of Krupowki plus the easy access to the Szymoszkowa ski slope, which is a walk away (albeit up a steep hill). It’s one of the original wood-built chalets of the town, with a small parking area outside and homecooked breakfast in the morning.
Willa Jan ($$)
Willa Jan is steps from the Szymoszkowa ski run on the north side of town, about 10 minutes’ from the north end of Krupowki. It’s another charming family-run guesthouse, only has some sleek modern rooms. Try to grab one that faces southwards – they have by far the best views of the bunch!
The best budget hotels and hostels in Zakopane
The first ever trip we made to Zakopane we had about 40 zloty in our pocket and got there by hitchhiking. Suffice to say that we weren’t in a place to fork out 100 euro a night for somewhere with outdoor Jacuzzi baths and whatnot. Nope, we were on the hunt for hostels, of which Zako has a pretty great selection.
Things have changed since we first came, mind. There’s been a very noticeable shift away from uber-budget stays in Zakopane to more upscale options. But there are still some gems for those watching the pennies:
Top Hostel Guest Rooms ($)
The leading hostel in the city center and for good reason, Top Hostel Guest Rooms is a fine budget option that gets you smack dab in the heart of the action. It’s been a hostel since we can remember (remember we mentioned our first visit to the town?). But it’s been consistently refurbished and now comes with comfy doubles and dorms with a nice shared common space and balconies that overlook the main drag.
Chata MTB ($)
Chata MTB is housed in a big timber-built lodge in the area of Kościelisko, close to the mountains on the western side of Zako center. It used to be a flat-out hostel with dorm rooms and cheap doubles, but it’s a bit more upmarket now with an outdoor sauna and chip-wood fire warming the lounge. As the name implies, the target market is the MTB crowd but anyone can stay there. One word of warning: It’s not in the town center and a taxi can cost over 100 PLN because it’s technically out of town limits and the drivers love to charge for that. Still a great option if you have your own car.
Good Bye Lenin Hostel ($)
This USSR-themed hostel is a real blast. Check it out – it looks more like a long-lost pioneer cabin from somewhere up in the Cascades of Oregon. The looks aren’t too deceiving, because the hostel is actually on the far outskirts of Zakopane (we’re talking 15-20 minutes brisk walk to Krupowki from here). But that’s actually one of the bonuses, since it’s right on the edge of the national park and therefore offers prime access to the hiking trails. Rooms are dorms ranging from four to 12 beds. There’s a fun common space and the people are very friendly.
Where’s the best area to stay in Zakopane?
That all depends on what it is you want to do during you trip to the mountain town. A safe bet is anywhere within five minutes’ walk of Krupowki Street. That’s the main drag that runs through the center and it’s the hub of the gastronomy, the nightlife, the cafes – you name it. It’s also got the bulk of the shopping (for winter gear and hiking gear). Oh, and it looks positively gorgeous in the midwinter when covered in snow, what with those twisted street lamps and Christmas trees.
But there are reasons why you might not want to stay all that close to Krupowki. First off, it’s expensive and its loud. Second, it’s not all that near to the main bus station (it’s around 10 minutes’ walking) or the ski fields (the closest is about 20 minutes’ walking). It’s also quite a distance from the start of most of the hiking trails.
Here’s a look at several other parts of the town to consider:
- Droga na Bystre – This is a street that runs roughly east to west on the south side of Zakopane. It used to have next to nothing going for it, but the last 20 years have seen the arrival of some nice taverns and a supermarket, not to mention some pretty great hotels. We usually recommend it as a great midway point for hikers and skiers. The Tatra National Park is around 10 minutes’ walking, but so is the top of Krupowki Street. It’s the best of both worlds without being in the middle of either.
- Rówień Krupowa – This includes everything that’s between the main bus and train stations and Krupowki Street. There are lots of hostels and low-cost accommodations here, along with plenty of aparthotels (plus one of our favs, the Grand Stamary). We’ve stayed here many times. It’s not the prettiest place but is hardly ugly! It’s also VERY convenient for reaching the nightlife AND the mountains (because the bus to take you to the national park leaves from here).
- To the west of Krupowki – If you dive into the blocks that go west from Krupowki then you enter what can only be described as suburban Zakopane. It’s a lovely part of town, with winding streets and traditional cottage architecture. This area more than any has recently been claimed by the boutique B&Bs and chic smaller hotels. It’s no more than 5 minutes from the very heart of the town but isn’t close to the bus station. It’s also usually quite quiet.
- On the 47 highway into town – When Zakopane was but an upcoming winter resort town back in the 80s and 90s, many of the guesthouses set up shop on the main highway 47 that leads into the town center. They’re still there today. Some have been refurbed. Others haven’t. So, pick wisely or you’ll be staying somewhere dated. We’ve never actually stayed here because we don’t quite see the point if Zakopane itself is what you want to visit. We can see why if you’re keen to ski in one of the smaller resorts, like Harenda, or want to hike the famous path to Morskie Oko. The other reason is that hotels here tend to be cheap!