We just returned from one of our favorite spots in Zakopane, entry point to Poland's stunning Tatra Mountains. On the first night of our four-day stay, my 7-year old asked, "can we stay for two months?" My kids absolutely adore the Tatras, not only for all for all of the beauty and fun winter and summer-time activities it has to offer, but also because of our choice of lodging - the Tatra Chalet. With multiple trips to the Tatras under our belts over the last few years, I want to shout from the mountaintops (and I could, literally, if I was there right now) what makes our vacation time there so fantastic, so that others can find the same joy in this spectacular place.
Our Favorite Accommodation - Tatra Chalet
A seven-room luxury boutique lodge, the Tatra Chalet is family-friendly, personable, cozy and charming. We have stayed time and again - during every season - and it is always the perfect choice for us. We are loyal to the family suite, which is situated on the top floor of the chalet. It has a king bed, two single beds (in a separate bedroom area), a baby crib (provided on request), and two large bathrooms with heated floors. Those heated floors? They are KEY - especially during the winter season! The room also has a living area with TV, armchairs, a large sofa, and plenty of area for kids to play, spread out, chase each other (please tell me yours do that, too?), and relax.
Other positives of the Tatra Chalet? It's small enough that it feels like home. Large hotels in the area are sprawling with guests, which ruins the tranquility of being in such a peaceful, unspoiled place. The Tatra Chalet, on the other hand, feels like your very own vacation home in the mountains. Secondly, the staff is amazing. Our s'more-loving kids beg to roast marshmallows over an open fire (whether in the heat of summer or in the deep snow). When we stay at the Tatra Chalet, the staff always lights up the outdoor fire for us and our kids get their s'more fix. The Chalet also has an outdoor Jacuzzi. Per your request, they will have it ready and waiting for you after a long day of hiking in the national park or sledding in the nearby valley. And there is a sauna to enjoy post-Jacuzzi. Other positives? The Chalet will cook meals specifically catered to your little ones (for ours, it usually consists of tomato soup with rice, chicken fingers, and vegetables). And the food at the Chalet? It is outstanding - some of the best we've had in our three years in Poland, bar-none. They provide kid-sized bath robes. There is a children's play room on the second level of the Chalet, an outdoor swing set and wooden playhouse in the yard (which literally backs up to the national park), and a comfortable drawing room, furnished with a fireplace, inviting leather armchairs, round-the-clock snacks, a 50-inch TV and countless DVDs. The Tatra Chalet is a mountain retreat that really has everything you - and your kids - need to both relax and stay entertained at the same time. The Chalet is removed from the (usually very crowded) town center of Zakopane, which is a plus. From the Chalet, it is only a five-minute walk to the entrance of the Tatra National Park, and a 20-minute walk to the center of town.
If you want even more details on the Tatra Chalet, you can find an in-depth review I wrote on the property here.
Our Favorite Activities in the Zakopane Area
Generally my kids dub any day in the Tatras as "the best day ever." I am always a very proud parent when I hear these words because I know we've made some particularly good choices. S'mores and Jacuzzi aside, there is so much to do in every season in Zakopane and the surrounding area that make it fun for families. Here are some of our favorite activities:
1. Hike in Tatra National Park. It's no surprise that the Tatra National Park offers some spectacular hiking. Hiking trails vary in difficulty, but the entrance closest to the Tatra Chalet offers trails that our three-year old could easily navigate.
2. Take the funicular up Gubalowka mountain for an excellent view of the area. In the spring, summer, and fall seasons - go alpine sliding. This is a particular favorite for our family - and so.much.fun!
3. Ride the cable car up to Kasprowy Weirch for gorgeous views of Tatra National Park. If you are adventurous and it's the right season, ski down. And while I'm at it . . .
4. Ski, sled, get lost in the ice labyrinth at Snowlandia, watch some of the world's best ski jumpers in action, make snow angels, have a snowball fight. This area is a winter lover's dream! One tip: If you do attempt the ice maze, do not get separated from your kids. This may have happened to us, and it may have taken nearly an hour to resolve. It is not an easy maze to navigate! Ha ha!
5. Bask in the area's thermal pools. There are several to choose from in the area, the most popular being Bukowina.
6. Amble down Kuprowki Street, a pedestrian-friendly area where you can check out local restaurants, cafes, and merchandise. Indulge in some hot chocolate or waffles with cream while you are at it.
7. Take a horse and carriage ride into the beautiful Polish countryside (make sure to negotiate the price beforehand).
8. Dine in a Gorali (Polish mountain) restaurant, because they are simply entertaining and like nothing you've ever experienced before. Our favorites are Bakowa Zohylina Wyzino and Karczma Przy Młynie (make reservations in advance).
Be adventurous and enjoy!