Our Favourite Hikes in Tatra’s Chochołowska Valley

Tatra Mountains around Zakopane are definitely not off the beaten track in Poland but they are still quite extraordinary and a must see. Especially being so close to the most popular city in Poland- Kraków. Tatra Mountains are perfect to visit all year long. During the winter you can enjoy skiing, hot wine and looking at the snow peaks. On the other hand in the autumn you will see incredible colors of red, green and yellow spread all over the slopes. Some say that the best period to go to Chochołowska Valley is spring as it’s covered with purple crocuses. The worst season to go would probably be summer as it gets really crowded (july-september).

Although you can see the Chochołowska Valley in one day going from Zakopane, it’s preferable to stay there. There is a certain charm in staying in an old mountain shelter and waking up surrounded by the sheep.

The hikes 🙂

Chochołowska Valley is a great base for some incredible hikes. They are all quite easy meaning no chains or difficulties 🙂 Here are the ones we have done

  1. Trzydniowiański Wierch easy half day walk 🙂 perfect for the first day, 8 km

First we took the yellow path through a nice forest then it turned into the red path and that’s when the going-up-part started. It wasn’t steep or difficult, just a nice walk up through a forest with a sneak peek on the mountains every now and then. At some point we left the forest behind and we started walking up the mountain itself. And that’s when it got pretty spectacular. The colors were just unbelievable, the slopes were red and with patches of yellowing pine bushes and purple flowers that looked a bit like lavender. I guess a perfect hike for the autumn time. And it’s not too high, it’s only 1765 m at the top.

To go down we took the red path to the other side and then the green to get back to the Valley and the shelter. I would say it’s better to go down the same way, it’s way prettier as on the other side we didn’t see much except for bushes that surrounded us and toilet paper.

  1. Ornak Shelter and Smerczyński Lake- easy although you go up and down twice, 15.5km

With this one it’s all about the destination and not about the way. We started by going back with the green path and then turning on the yellow path that leads to the cutting tree area where people from local villages work. The sight of fallen trees and the sound of the chainsaw didn’t really make it the best mountain hike ever. At least not until in the middle of the path when we reached the Iwaniacka Pass (1459 m above sea level) after which we went down through a forest straight to the shelter.

Ornak shelter is a pretty small one but it’s charming and beautifully situated in a small valley. It serves meals, beer and other drinks so you can chill out here or go straight to the Smerczyński Lake. It’s around 20 min walk on the black path, a bit up but not too much and the lake is just breathtaking. It’s small but the reflection, the peace and the fact that there is a terrace build right onto it where you can chill out… Amazing! A must see.

  1. Grześ mountain and then Rakoń and Wałowiec- definetely the most demanding of the three although still not difficult, 10km

First you take the yellow path to get to the top of Grześ. We decided to take a shortcut and go on the blue path which was much shorter indeed… but just in meters. It was very steep so it probably took us the same amount of time or even more. It was pretty fun though to walk on the steep rocks through the forest. Once we got on the top and passed some bushes we got some amazing views on all of the mountains. Later it was very clear that we had to continue on the blue path to reach Rakoń and then Wołowiec. Afterwards we had to go back a bit and go on the green path to get back to the shelter.

The shelter… how much and how to get there?

The cheapest option is sleeping in a 14 bed-dorm, it’s 25 zl. You need to pay additionally 5zl for sheets or bring your own sleeping bag. The prices for a private vary depending if it’s low or high season. The whole list of prices http://chocholowska.com/project/pokoje/ (and it’s in English).

You need to book the shelter in advanced either by just calling them or sending them an email. They will ask you to pay some money in advance to secure your booking.

The shelter has a restaurant. It’s not super expensive but it’s not cheap either. You can buy your dinner for around 25 zl but it’s not a big portion so it might not be enough. They serve breakfast as well but starting from 8 am so if you want to leave early to the mountains it’s better to have your own food. They do have boiling water for freeJ it calls for noodles 🙂

To get to Chochołowska Valley you need to take a bus from Zakopane to Siwa Polana (6zl). Once there you can walk (2h, pretty flat) or take a kind of train to Huciska Glade (30min) and then walk or take a bike (wouldn’t dare on the stones but whatever floats your boat) or lazy people can take a horse carriage that will bring you straight to the shelter 🙂

ps. To enter the valley from Siwa Polana you have to pay an entry fee of 5 zl.

Life saving app 🙂

During our hikes we used “Szlaki turystyczne Małopolski” app (Android, IOS, Windows Phone) which is just great. Ok, it’s in polish but it shows you all the paths, tracks where you are, shows you elevation, nearby attractions or shelters.

Enjoy the mountains 🙂

And remember you can download the hikes for Maps.ME: Chochołowska Shelter Hike, Grześ Mountain Rakoń and Wałowiec Hike, Ornak Shelter and Smerczyński lake, Trzydniowiański Wierch Hike.

How to enjoy a fairytale in peace close to Poznan?
Kobylniki Palace

Poland has many palaces and castles. There are plenty of them going for waste and trying to be sold. I guess it’s one of the very few places in the world where you can buy a property like that for quite cheap for what they are. Still not cheap enough for normal people to buy them. Not to mention that a house like that has to be maintained, renovated, cleaned and that brings the expenses quite high. Fortunately Kobylniki Palace is one of the few lucky ones which survived the hard times... and after many years went back to the family that had it before the war. That happened only last year. You would think the war was over a long time ago but after World War II the palace was actually used as apartments for farmers working on a State Agricultural Farm… so as a form of collective farming on fields that belonged to the government. Later when the communism was over the Twardowski family still had to fight in court to get their property back. After around twenty years.. they have it.

Nowadays the family is slowly bringing the Palace to its old beauty and they are doing a pretty good job. Kobylniki Palace was nominated for 7 New Wonders of Poland by National Geographic and although it didn’t win we had to see it.

Kobylniki Palace unlike most of the palaces and castles is quite easily reachable by bus so that’s what we take to get there from Poznan. Although not visible from the main road, where the bus passes, it’s just next to it. After just a short walk through a charming alley along farm fields, we see the gate and the palace. Even though it's small it's still very impressive with it's garden, little lake and decades or centuries old trees. It has room for only a maximum of 50 guests and it’s not particularly busy there… The first thing that draws our attention are the photographs of the family that owns the place, the Twardowski family. They’re placed on the walls of the common areas and some of them are quite funny like a woman showing her tongue. I guess we mostly think that people from the last centuries were very serious but they were just people like me and you and thats what those pictures show.

To get to our room we take an amazing, round staircase. It’s small but it’s unbelievable. The wooden stairs squeak like if they were medieval and not from the late XIX century which gives it another fairytale-like tone. Unfortunately our room is not all kept in style. There are no ornaments on the walls or ceiling, the bed is just normal and so is the bathroom. I wonder if it was like that or was it “made modern” during the soviet times? Hopefully the family will try to alter it a bit in the future. But we have a spectacular terrace with a view over the garden and although it’s very cold I’m highly motivated to use it. Wrapped in blankets I decide to do a bit of reading… You see the beauty of the palace and the neighborhood is that there is nothing to see really. So there is no rush just sheer joy as the only thing you can do is enjoy… and eat! Downstairs there is a restaurant which serves pretty nice food and they change their menu quite often.

Except for the interiors there is also a small park where you can chill out, walk around or feed a few ducks and a swan which already associates people with food and comes closer.

In the night, when the sky is clear, the park is a perfect spot to watch stars. No bigger cities means not too much light and so the night sky is beautiful and black.

How to get to Kobylniki Palace?

From the Central Station in Poznan you have to take a bus that goes to Wałcz and get off at Kobylniki just next to the Palace (although you won’t see it from the bus, too many trees). The ticket costs 17 zl and there are 3 buses per day. You can check on e-podroznik.pl (although it sounds very polish, the page is available in English as well). WATCH OUT! There are more villages called Kobylniki and another one of those is actually just on the way to the Palace so make sure you go to the one next to Obrzycko.

How much does it cost?

A private room with a private bathroom for two costs 200 zl. It includes a breakfast. Renting the whole Palace is 3500 zl. Other prices you can check on their webpage. May google translate be with you:)

Wroclaw, Poland

9 Things to do in Wrocław

Honestly if I wasn’t from Poznan I would probably say Wrocław is the most interesting city in Poland. It’s cultural, it’s full of surprises, history, events and new ideas. While all the massive crowds stay in Warsaw or Kraków, Wrocław stays calm and not too crowded. Here a few tips of what to do in there.

  1. Walk with the Lamplighter

Wrocław is one of the very few cities that still has the romantic tradition of gas lamps. The whole Ostrów Tumski Island (the island where the Cathedral is) has 103 of them. Every evening there comes this lovely hero in his cape and hat and switches them on. He is a lovely guy who likes talking to people and joking around. If you miss him in the evening you can still see him switching the lamps off in the morning. The time in the evening and in the morning depends on the sun so in the evening he starts before the sunset and in the morning around sunrise. Fortunately the place is fixed. He always starts with the double lamps, just in front of the main entrance to the Cathedral.


  1. Go on the Gnome search

To be in Wrocław and not to search for its most popular inhabitants would be a real shame! The whole city is full of statues of tiny gnomes who are placed there by restaurants, museums, hotels or the city. They all have a story. To know more read our other post.


  1. Walk around and drink coffee at Four Denominations District

The name comes from four temples situated really close to each other. There is an orthodox church, a synagogue, a catholic church and of course a protestant one. Except for the fact that it’s an architectural pearl, it’s also very much a food destination. We especially loved old style grandma-like café Mleczarnia with fresh flower and amazing coffee as well as CIŻ, a Jewish café with Jewish coffee and delicacies like croissants with rose and dates and their cakes. Both of the cafes have stunning terraces both in the front part and in the back.


  1. Enjoy the beer cocktail at the Golden Dog microbrewery (Złoty Pies)

Yep, as weird as it sounds to drink beer in a cocktail it’s absolutely delicious and really worth trying. It helps that the waitresses are full of life, joy and knowledge. They will tell you all about their specialties.  There is nothing better than sitting in their garden, looking at the main square, sipping beer& chocolate& earl grey cocktail. We want to go back immediately when we think of it:)


  1. Enjoy the views of the city from the Witches’ Bridge

It’s a bridge connecting two towers of St. Mary Magdalene Church which gives you an amazing view of Wrocław. Don’t expect anything pretty while walking up, it’s really messy and there are signs of pigeons’ presence, if you know what I mean. No wonder as according to the legend walking over the bridge was a punishment for the ladies that prefer to flirt with men rather than marry them and take care of the kids.


  1. Cross the street with The Anonymous Pedestrians

Anonymous Pedestrians are statues going underground on one side of the street and appearing from the ground on the other. They can be found a short walk from the Market. It’s really worth seeing it as the sculptures are really detailed, you can see their faces, what they carry, almost what they think. It makes you think of all the forgotten “nobodies” who had to go underground during all of those tough years in Poland. No wonder that it's a memorial for the introduction of the martial law in Poland in 1981.

  1. Read a book and enjoy the peace at the garden of the Ossolineum

This library has the most amazing courtyard ever! All walls are covered with green ivy and in the middle there is a huge tree. You can sit on one of the few benches and just enjoy the silence. It's a perfect spot to escape the crowds and read a book.

  1. Stroll along the Oder River

There is nothing better on a sunny day than to walk around and chill by the river. Not only the islands are amazing but going a bit further from the center you get to see some quite unique architecture (like the National Museum) and picturesque bridges. It’s also possible to go kayaking or on a boat.

Książ, Poland

History and kitsch under one roof
Castle Książ

The first thing that we see entering the Książ property is a line of cars and German retired tourists. Passing through the gate all we have in front of us are restaurants/bars with kitsch umbrellas and Golden Train in all the names of the menu. Everyone needs to earn a few zloty on the supposedly found train full of German treasures. We can’t help to think it’s been commercialized just a little bit too much. Thankfully we didn’t decide to sleep in one of the hotels that they have there.
To see the castle we sneak in between all the German groups. Already from the first floor we hear a weird music. As ridiculous as it sounds it’s the soundtrack from Star Wars… I guess the castle doesn’t earn enough from all the tourists and restaurants around it so they decided to have films’ costumes exhibition. To bring it to another level in the middle of a beautiful corridor there is this “American” movie booth with the most bored girl ever. By her face it’s easy to figure that they won’t earn much from this one either.

The Castle itself dates back to XIII century but more recent history has not been kind to it. During World War II it was taken by the Nazis. Many say that it was supposed to be Hitler’s resident. One way or another the Nazis started changing the Castle destroying a lot of its beauty and historical value. Their reconstruction included also tunnels built under the castle. The Nazi style and lack of ornaments is especially prominent in the “ball room” that doesn’t look like one at all. Here there are no ornaments, it’s very basic and it looks like it just serves the purpose of a reunion room. On the lowest floor we find out how the Nazis reconstruction looked like as there is one room left as it was, with stripped walls…and painful history. It presents a very interesting exhibition about Książ when it was a sub concentration camp. It tells the story of the camp and their workers which is really shocking. Honestly for us it was the only interesting thing in the castle. The rest of the interesting furniture and things were taken by the Soviet Army…

After the visit to the castle we decided to walk to the Palm House. It's not nearly as old as the Castle, it was built in the beginning of the XX century. But maintenance doesn’t seem to be the top priority there so it seems much older. While walking around our level of disappointment is only going up. The Palm House is small and doesn’t have anything spectacular except… an exhibition of bonsai trees. There are not only many trees but also information about the age and descent and even a short explanation about different types of bonsai. As we walk between the trees we are being followed by the eyes and body of a not so kind, old lady. She must think we want to steal one of them because she doesn’t leave us even for a second. Thank God we are only the two of us otherwise the lady would probably lose her mind.

How to get to the Książ Castle from Wrocław?
So you take a train to get to Wałbrzych Szczawienko and from there it’s a 5 km walk mostly through the Castle Park so it’s nice and easy. It took us around an hour to get there. You can check the timetable on http://www.e-podroznik.pl/ (as Polish as it sounds… it’s all in English).

How much does it cost and what shall I see?
Ticket prices vary depending on what you want to see. We took sightseeing of the castle with its terraces and the palm house. It was 30 zl each. All the prices are on the official web page which is also in English http://www.ksiaz.walbrzych.pl/en/turystyka/zwiedzanie/dzienne#tickets-and-prices. It’s important to know that the Palm House is not really close to the castle, it’s an hour- walk away. We wouldn’t really say it’s a must see anyway. But what is really nice and worth seeing, is the viewing point which is in the Castle’s park. It gives you an amazing, classic view over the forest and the castle.

Moszna, Poland

How to feel like a king without spending like one?
Moszna Castle

History has not been kind to Moszna Castle… It was build (as it is right now) between late XIX and early XX century. After World War II it was occupied by the Red Army. Especially then a lot was damaged and even more was stolen. The Soviets decided to use a tiny chapel as a horse stable just to show their hate for the religion. Which can be seen even now on the stairs from the chapel. Later the Castle was a mental hospital for over 40 years up till 2013. Now finally it is a museum, restaurant and a hotel.

It was always my dream to sleep in a castle. I guess it’s a dream every little girl has and well maybe I still am one. Not to mention Moszna is supposed to be one of the most beautiful castles in Poland. It’s a bit of a weird place when you look at it closely. Every wing represents a different style but somehow they go really well together.  I thought sleeping there would be a budget breaker for us but I always check things like that just in case… And it turns out a night there starts from 150 zl per room… too cheap to be true?

We just couldn’t resist the chance and we decided to take the cheapest room and check it out. It was supposed to be just a double room with a bathroom on the corridor. We hope the corridor wouldn’t be too long. Arriving we are shocked. So not only the bathroom is private and just next to our room but tickets to the sightseeing of the castle are included in the 150 zl for the room. In disbelief we walk to our room and when we open the door we are amazed… We thought we would get the servants room somewhere on the roof or in the basement. Nothing like that. The room is enormous. We could play hide and seek in here. And it’s beautiful, all kept in style. Not to mention we have a view on the huge garden with a fountain and on the entrance to the castle. As I look outside of the window I see 4 newlywed couples on their wedding session. It looks hilarious as they all try to have the most amazing pictures with the castle but without the other couples in the frame. On our way to see the castle I comment that to the receptionist who tells me that’s nothing. One time they had 17 couples. That must have been entertaining.

As we go through the castle on sightseeing we kind of imagine how it was a mental hospital. Those long, endless corridors and tiles in some places are a bit creepy. And it’s not popular so the emptiness gives it the extra spookiness. But on the other hand it looks a bit like a fairytale castle with its 99 towers, 365 rooms and charming café and restaurant. Both serving good and not too expensive food.

Moszna castle is like another dream coming true for us. It’s relaxing, soothing and peaceful. The garden is amazing as well, perfect to picnic, read a book, walk around, stare at couples taking their wedding pictures.

For the receptionist I assume we are more of a nightmare really. Especially when we ask her to open the door before the sunrise because we absolutely have to take a picture of the castle…

How to get there from Wrocław?

First you need to take a train from Wrocław Główny to Opole and then from over there a bus to Moszna. The whole route with timetable you can check on e-podroznik.pl. I know it sounds very polish but it is in English.

How much does it cost?

Cheapest room is 150 zl per night. And that includes a huge breakfast consisting of absolutely everything: lots of fruit, granola, yogurt, sausage, eggs, ham, cheese, bread of all kind and much much more. Except for the breakfast it also includes visiting the castle. You only need to pay if you want to see the towers but you have a discount even for that so it’s 6 zl per person. On weekends Moszna Castle organizes other kinds of sightseeing or parties. To check it out and to check out all the other rooms and the restaurant menu go to http://www.moszna-zamek.pl/ . May google translate be with you 🙂 You have to call them or write them an email to reserve.

Zalipie, Poland

The Painted Village- Zalipie

The journey to Zalipie starts easily, just by a bus trip from Kraków to Tarnów. And that’s where easy stops. Getting out from the bus I ask the driver if he could tell me which buses could take me to the Painted Village. He repeats the name a few times in disbelief and tells me he doesn’t know where it is. “Why would you go there, is there something to see?” he asks intrigued. I tell him about the folklore painted houses and he doesn’t seem impressed. From him I go to the next bus driver and to the next one. I guess the fame of the village is worldwide except for the closest city… Finally, one of the drivers calls his company and finds out how I could get there. So from Tarnów I go on a mini bus to Dąbrowa and then on another one to Zalipie. From the road to the actual museum and village it’s still about a 1 km walk.

Firstly, I decide to go and visit the museum of the lady who brought the wall painting of the houses to the next level- Felicja Curyło. She loved the floral ornaments and was a brilliant painter and propagator of the art. Thanks to her and the effort of the generations now, some of the houses are real pieces of art, including her house which is a museum now. It’s run by her granddaughter who is just the most cheerful and charming woman ever. She herself started painting when she was 4. “It’s in my blood, I wouldn’t be able not to paint” she smiled even talking about it. The house although small is really busy with all of the charming folklore art. It turns out that Zalipie is not only about the painted outside. Everything is painted starting from the whole interior, ending on clothes and except for the floral patterns there are also incredible paper curtains and paper spiders which are also very famous here. In the museum even the ceiling is impressive and each pattern is unique. The granddaughter now has an idea of moving a few more houses on the land and creating kind of a folklore antique building museum from them. In the garden I can see the first one which is white and has stunning floral patterns on the walls.

Unfortunately, Zalipie is not a village built around one street but rather big patches of land and houses scattered there. Thankfully the museum has a map where houses with something or everything painted are indicated. And there are 45 of them. Walking in between fields I admire the polish countryside. It seems like time has stopped here. Fiat 126p passes me, then a drunk man and then another one on a bicycle. I guess here you still can’t get things done without any booze. Obviously not all the houses are painted so I pass a lot of normal, modern houses.  But when it’s painted it’s usually all the way.  The painters don’t limit themselves to just their houses, the school, fire station and church are also painted and even some of the abandoned houses. I guess the colors improve the mood in the village, everyone is cheerful and happily wants to talk to me. One lady even drags me into her house to show me how beautiful it is. She won the yearly competition for the most beautiful painted house. Unfortunately, except for oh and ah she wanted a bit of money. I give her 10 zl and she seems happy enough. She even gives me some grapes from her garden. And she is also interested in just one thing: if I am married and why he is not here with me. To every single one of the ladies, I have to explain how he, Jandirk didn’t feel it was something for him. I also try to explain and hide my hands because I know what the next question will be- where is the ring…

How to get to Zalipie?

Firstly, from Krakow to Tarnów. It’s really easy, the buses go from the central station and they cost 15 zl one way. Once in Tarnów you have to take either a direct bus (3 a day at 12.48, 15.10 and 18.40) with destination: Gręboszów/Bieniaszowice or a bus to Dąbrowa. Bus to Dąbrowa costs 2 zl and from Dąbrowa to Zalipie it’s 2.5 zl. All the buses stop exactly in the same spot so you don’t need to search for them. But the problem is the timetable from Dąbrowa to Zalipie. You can check the schedule here.

What to see in Zalipie?

  • House-museum of Felicja Curyło opened daily except for Monday from 10am to 4pm. It will give you a lot of insight into the history and how it all started. And you will be able to see an amazing house which is a piece of art really.
  • Dom Malarek- The Painters’ house is a place where you can admire even more of the folklore art and also see it being done. They also do workshops and they are the only place where you can get a cup of coffee 🙂 you can check when they are open on here
  • The church in the village- it has an incredibly painted tiny chapel that you absolutely have to see!
  • The nice old lady that will show you her house! She is one of the very few who doesn’t mind showing all her work and talking about it. Her house is indicated on our map.
  • Just walk around and explore! 🙂

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