Polish New Year - Krakow and Zakopane

29th Dec 2021
Photo of Polish New Year - Krakow and Zakopane by Ayushi Dani

Best of both worlds - this is how I will describe this whole trip! We had amazing 5 days of a city and a pretty town nearby in Poland. And it wasn't enough, especially for a history and nature enthusiast like me. I almost went with zero expectations thinking Krakow and Zakopane would be like any other "touristy" place with a huge crowd of tourists and commercialized places. But Poland turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Another thing holding me back was the weather. We were tracking the weather ever since we booked our flight tickets and honestly, the weather forecasts scared us. The maximum temperature forecast for the span of 5 days was zero degrees! But thankfully, weather Gods blessed us with not-so-chilly weather and even a clear sky on one of the days! And anyway we were all prepared to get wrapped in multiple layers :D

Day 1

We are a group of students from Magdeburg, Germany and so we took our sweet time looking for a route which was convenient and cheap. We started from Magdeburg and took a train till Frankfurt, a flight to Krakow, and then a bus to Zakopane. So a train, a flight and a bus in a single day! That was quite a journey but hey, having a good company keeps you entertained right? Thankfully, getting to Zakopane from Krakow is easy and costs just around 5 EUR per person. The tickets can be bought from the bus driver and no pre booking is needed. After a 3 hour bus ride, we reached Zakopane by evening, but it was dark already. We had booked a pretty 2bhk apartment and just a look at the apartment was enough to relieve us of the day long travel fatigue. Next we had to start hunting for food (not hunting literally, most of us are vegetarians :D ). We found an amazing little cafe nearby and got ourselves a delicious meal of Polish dumplings which are called Pierogi, a pizza and some local fried cheese with some sweet sauce. The waiter was also kind enough to get us some hot sauce with the dumplings when we requested.

The prettiest cafe that served amazing Pizza and Pierogi

Photo of Zakopane, Poland by Ayushi Dani

By the way, this place will give you major Kashmir vibes because of the snow, mountains and the wood houses. No wonder the movie Fanaa was shot here for the parts where the story supposedly takes place in Kashmir. The walk from our apartment to the cafe at night gave us an idea of what to expect in the day. And of course, we were not disappointed!

Day 2

It was a little confusing where to go and what to see. It was probably more about what we choose to skip. There are of course a lot of things to do in Zakopane. It is one of the topmost ski places in Europe so going to ski was an option. The option of hiking to Morskie Oko lake was immediately rejected by all of us unanimously. We had only one full day to explore the town and so we settled for visiting Gubałówka. Pro tip: try to find an accommodation near the central bus station/train station. That is where you'll find buses/taxis to all of the sightseeing places in town. Most of the buses/taxis have a fixed rate of upto 6 EUR per person and you can share the taxi with other people. Language might be a problem as there are some boards in Polish language and to be honest, translator apps aren't always reliable. But thankfully, people are super friendly so feel free to approach anyone if you need any help. Our bus driver had to drop off some people at another location which was in the direction opposite to Gubałówka. So we got a free ride across the town! The way to Gubałówka funicular goes through an amazing flea market. Again, major India vibes! There were a lot of souvenir shops and food stalls along the way. We treated ourselves with some Oscypek - a kind of fried cheese made of cow and sheep milk which is a local Zakopane dish and is served with cranberry sauce. I guess it tasted even better as it was super cold and we were craving for something hot. Must try!

We took the funicular ride to Gubałówka and set our eyes on the amazing view of Zakopane and Tatra Mountains. It was a little cloudy in the day but clouds decided to retreat as it started getting dark. It was super cold but totally worth being there on the top looking at this amazing view.

View from the Gubałówka mountain

Photo of Gubałówka, Zakopane, Poland by Ayushi Dani

Even at the top of the mountain, there are plenty of activities to do. There is a whole big market, a lot to eat and some fun snow activities. We had some hot corn and went for snow tubing. Had never even known what snow tubing was. Still cannot describe it, but it is a fun thing to do! So if you hear "snow tubing", just go for it! It is definitely one of the "safe" snow activities.

Photo of Gubałówka, Zakopane, Poland by Ayushi Dani

There are a lot of cafes/restaurants at the top. Most of the dishes are meat based but there's plenty of options for vegetarians too. When in doubt, you can always go for a Pierogi :) Do explore the town on foot if time permits. There are many pretty shops, houses and eateries that you don't want to miss. Zakopane looks way too cute in the snow.

Day 3

On 31st December, we went back to Krakow from Zakopane. Another pro tip: do not consider "journey" a waste of time while planning your trip, specially when the journey is from Zakopane to Krakow in winters. There were such amazing views of mountains, small towns, grasslands, snowscapes through the whole route! We reached Krakow by the evening and checked in to the hotel before setting out for new year celebrations at the main town square. I wasn't sure if I'd be impressed by anything at all after being in Zakopane for 2 days. But again, Krakow was surprising! Especially because the old town was all lit up for Christmas and New Year. We took a long walk from Stradom bus stop to the old town. Pretty streets, celebratory environment and a good company = perfect new year's eve! We just walked around the whole area till midnight and stood near the town hall to watch celebratory fireworks at night!

One of the outside eateries at city centre

Photo of Kraków, Poland by Ayushi Dani

Getting lost gets you to pretty streets too :)

Photo of Kraków, Poland by Ayushi Dani

Of course, no one is ever in a mood to go back home after ringing in the new year. And so, we settled at Piec Art Acoustic Jazz Club for the night. Among all the Europeans there, it was probably just us who went looking for this particular cafe. Reason - Andhadhun was shot here! And bonus, the cafe had a really good vibe.

Day 4

Already tired from being out till 4am the previous night, we started a little late on this day. Of course, no one had the energy to plan the day, so we just settled for a walking tour of Jewish quarters in the noon. Krakow has so much history that it is just not possible to cover it all and visit all the relevant places in just one day. We took the Jewish quarters tour by Walkative which starts at the old synagouge of Kazimierz district. Much recommended! The tour covered history of Jewish settlement in the area dating back to many centuries, and it also covered the shooting locations of the movie Schindler's List. The walking tour does get a little dark towards the end, but unfortunately, so did the history. I'd recommend taking this tour because ultimately, it is the story that keeps you connected to a place. Chris/George from Walkative did a great job connecting us to those stories. Every building, every street had a meaning, had a painful past. This goes beyond being just a tourist in a new city.

A lane in Kazimierz district

Photo of Kaźmierz, Poland by Ayushi Dani

One of the prominent shooting locations of the movie Schindler's List

Photo of Kazimierz, Kraków, Poland by Ayushi Dani

Plac Nowy - market place from the Jewish district

Photo of plac Nowy, Kraków, Poland by Ayushi Dani

Visiting Oskar Schindler's factory was in my list since a long time. There is now a museum inside the factory, which had closed by the time we reached there. But nevertheless, we were glad we could at least see the premises from the outside.

Oskar Schindler's enamel factory

Photo of Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory, Lipowa, Kraków, Poland by Ayushi Dani
Day 5

The day we started our journey back to Germany! We couldn't really visit any place as we had to catch our flight back by noon and the airport is on the outskirts of the city. There is still so much left for me to discover in and around Krakow. I'm hopeful I will get to visit Krakow soon again :) Poland was amazing!


Transportation: Good connectivity from Krakow to Zakopane. Zakopane has plenty of buses and taxis to take you around. At Krakow, day tickets for public transport are very affordable. Krakow has the cheapest day tickets for city transport I've seen till now in Europe.

Food: Plenty of good options are available everywhere. Food is good and not necessarily bland everywhere. For vegetarians too there are a lot of options available. When in doubt, just go for a Pierogi with potato-mushroom or spinach filling

Language: Polish, but there are plenty of english speakers too. It might be a little problem in Zakopane but you will face no language issues in Krakow.

Overall, Poland is super affordable. Even better if you are travelling with a group as you can then share the costs. We were a group of 6 people and we could manage our trip in a budget of around 190EUR per head (except for travel from and to Germany), without even trying to save on food or any other activities.

To whoever is reading this - have an amazing trip whenever you visit :)