The Pearls of Zakopane Style

The creation of Zakopane Style architecture was a visionary attempt to unify the culture of Polish highlanders (Gorale) with inspirations drawn from the mountainous features of Podhale region. Conceived by Stanislaw Witkiewicz – an eccentric 19th-century artist who happened to fall in love with the Tatra mountains – the style soon became identified with the notion of "Polish architecture". Based on wooden framing, reinforced stone structures, traditional folk motifs and elements of Art Nouveau, Zakopane-Style buildings are integral parts of the cosy atmosphere this popular resort emanates with from under the layers of snow.

Tour Overview

Take a walking tour of Zakopane: a town whose architecture was carved in wood and stone, defined by sloppy, summit-like roofs and solid foundations providing a safe haven from harsh local winters. Follow your expert guide through the trail covering the oldest examples of Zakopane Style architecture: the revolutionary Villa Koliba, "Pod Jedlami" house, Oksza, Rialto and Konstantynowka Villas, as well as its charming wooden chapels. Discover the vivid history of the winter capital of Poland and learn of the background that resulted in the creation of the most distinctive model ever elaborated on the grounds of Polish architecture.

Travelling to Zakopane usually means setting off southwards from Krakow – the capital of Lesser Poland voividship. The relative proximity between both locations makes for a possibility to take a leap between the mildly-shaped areas of Krakow to the high Alpine scenery surrounding Zakopane in less than two hours. This beautiful skiing resort gained its popularity as late as at the end of the 19th century. Previously, it had been quite isolated from external influences which made its unique local customs and dialects survive plenty of then-modern tendencies to denounce the concept of tradition. The high peaks of Tatra mountains started attracting more and more Polish artists to come, seeking inspiration in nature at the verge of industrialisation. With the population of Zakopane being on the rise, there appeared the need to develop its housing and accommodation base – also to cater for the newcomers. The snobbish inclination of many architects harnessed to implement this idea made the newly-built structures copied straight from the Alpine Swiss or French resorts. This is when Stanislaw Witkiewicz brought this tendency to a halt, outlining the principles of Zakopane Style architecture. You will need to devote about 3 hours to take the tour around the architectural jewels created in line with the idea.

Stanislaw Witkiewicz was chiefly known as a painter and architect who, at one point of his life, decided to settle in the then-remote Podhale village of Zakopane. Upon noticing the traditional Podhale-style constructions slowly being replaced by houses built under foreign influences, he proposed to revive them in a slightly improved form. The soaring roofs, chalet-like silhouettes, use of stone and wood-carved decorations mixed with Art-Nouveau elements was how he imagined the fabric of Zakopane composed of. The first building erected according to this vision was named Villa Koliba (18 Koscieliska street). It was commissioned by a wealthy landowner Zygmunt Gnatkowski. Built between 1892 and 1894, it was constructed with the help of local carpenters and sculptors. Due to its importance to the development of the model, it now houses the Stanislaw Witkiewicz Museum of the Zakopane Style and still shines with the warm beauty of its meticulously handcrafted interiors. During your inspiring walk of Zakopane, you will also sightsee "Pod Jedlami" House (1 Droga na Koziniec street). Built in 1897 upon another commission, it was designed as the largest and most symmetrical structure build according to Zakopane Style. At 25 Zamoyski street, you will come across Villa Oksza – erected between 1895 and 1896 for the wealthy Kossakowski family, now: a place where the Gallery of 20th-Century Art operates. Villa Rialto (Chalubinskiego 5 street) and Villa Konstantynowka (built in 1900 at Jagiellonska 18 street) will show you how much variety this seemingly coherent style allows for. The latter building is where such individuals as the cousins of Joseph Conrad or Jozef Pilsudski (the Marshall of Poland) enjoyed spending their spare time. The Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Jaszczurowka, 1904-08) and John the Baptist Chapel (Krupowki 1 street, 1889) will exemplify the sacral dimension of Zakopane Style architecture, with Stanislaw Witkiewicz given the total freedom of design in their cases – from the overall structures thereof, to the last detail of their stain-glassed windows or confessionals.

Interested in following the trail of graceful Zakopane Style architecture? Contact us to have your inspiring walking tour arranged there!

Tour Details

  • It is possible for you to sightsee the pearls of Zakopane Style Architecture regardless of your place of stay in Poland. Simply - inform us of where you are and what the date of your intended visit is - we will do the rest!
  • The price includes: transport (pre-arranged hotel pick-up and drop-off), admission fees to pre-arranged attractions, the assistance of a guide for individual tourists / small groups of visitors.

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