Zakopane - Poland's Winter Capital

The country of Poland is filled with many treats and surprises. I had no idea that sat just around 70 miles away from Krakow, sat a winter wonderland named Zakopane. It's been dubbed Poland's Winter Capital and is a popular ski resort and has plenty to offer for snow sport lovers and mountain outdoors lovers in general. Zakopane is sat in the Tatra Mountains, which are part of the Carpathian mountain chain, and the town itself is very close to the Slovakian border.

This bespoke trip to the town was a private transfer to Zakopane with www.krakowtransfers.eu and our lovely guide and driver, Jarek was a complete joy!

Zakopane Overview

We set off at 9 a.m, we were picked up from the hotel, in a luxurious car, with bottles of water provided for the trip. An added bonus was having wifi in the car (super helpful when you need to keep on top of work and emails). We headed south towards Zakopane, with a little stop off at a very old church, set just back off the main road. The drive itself was incredibly scenic, and you definitely get to see a side of Poland that you may not experience when just heading to the cities. As with any country, exploring and seeing its countryside is the best way to get the most out of your stay, and experience the true spirit of the country. We carried on towards Zakopane and as we arrived, the snowcapped mountains and snow and ice everywhere felt very festive and magical. It's a popular destination around New Year, with over a million flocking there to celebrate. The views are incredible. Jarek, our driver, suggested a trip up the mountainside for the stunning views and they did not disappoint. Cost only around £4 each and you can hop on the 'funicular train' near the outdoor market. It can't be missed. 

Viewing Point Overlooking The Tatra Mountains
The Tatra Mountains

The Funicular Train Tracks

Jarek introduced us to a charming wooden-built traditional Polish resturant named Owczarnia Restaurant, where Jarek recommended the pork and potato soup, a true mountain dish that was absolutely delicious! Afterwards, we had a little wander around the town. Zakopane itself is very tourist friendly. Plenty of hotels, cafes, and shops! A real little gem hidden in the mountains, and even more charming after the snow had fallen. The sky was as blue as summer, yet as chilly as an icy January. The temperature is known to plummet to around -20 during some winters, so it's advisable to be very prepared if you're planning a little breakaway here.

Traditional Polish Restaurant
Parish Church

After a stroll around the markets and taking plenty of photos in pretty locations, we headed off, for a little drive to the ski slopes. This destination is incredibly popular with skiiers from both Poland and abroad, and with Poland being very inexpensive and good value, it has become increasingly more popular. It's also popular for hikers and outdoor lovers, it has plenty to offer, forests, mountain treks and more and as a day trip, it's briliantly within reach from Krakow - another must-see! 

Skiing For Beginners

After researching a little further into the ski slopes and areas in Zakopane, it is believed to also be an ideal spot for beginner skiiers, lots of places to practice if you're a learner; unchallenging and well kept, they have had very good reviews by many tourists. The resorts include: 
  • Kasprowy Wierch - Two skiing tracks through the Gasienicowa and Goryczkowa Hills.
  • Nosal Ski Station - A northern slope which is fabulous for beginners and skilled skiiers.
  • Szymoszkowa Ski Station - Beautiful views of the Tatra Mountains can be seen from here.
  • Harenda Family Recreation Centre - A slope for beginners and skilled skiiers. 
Mid-afternoon we headed back towards Krakow but the schedule was very open if you had any specific requests for other places to visit. We had seen many interesting things on the trip, and opted to head back towards the city but not before we stopped off at the beautiful Jaszczurowka Chapel in the Tatra Mountains. A quaint and enchanting wooden church sat up off the main road and was the most intriguing church I've ever seen. It was seeped in history and had such a traditional Polish feel. Moments like this make you truly realise you're in the heart of another country! 

Jaszczurowka Chapel

Tatra Mountains

Jarek headed back to Krakow in good time and showed us a little famous pizza place around the Jewish Quarter, before dropping us off outside our hotel. It was the perfect day, and made so relaxed by Jarek - highly recommend www.krakowtransfers.eu. 5*****


Jarek and his company also offer trips to all the sights around Krakow including airport transfers, with a professional and helpful manner. Zakopane is definitely worth a trip and it's safe to say that I will definitely be returning to this beautiful country in the not too distant future, I hope! 

Krakow Guide

Poland is a country that is famous for so many things, firstly, usually, World War 2 and the terrible atrocities bestowed oupon the country in general. Secondly when we think of Poland we think of magical European towns, that are just the best to explore in the winter months. Krakow is a city steeped in history, and there are many reminders left behind of World War 2. From the streets of the Jewish quarter and ghettos, although mostly the city was unscathed during the war because the Nazis were so determined to use the city as a place for trade. Krakow in general is inexpensive. Food in supermarkets is very cheap as are tours and general living costs. Of course hotels may not be as cheap.



Transport

Most of the main attactions can be found on foot. It is a large city but not huge, and you can walk from the castle to the Jewish quarters in less than half an hour. There are quite a few taxis around the area, but be sure to check it is legit, and that it shows pricing in the windows to avoid any fiddling with fares. Uber is available here of course, such a handy tool if you're a little further afield and need a lift back to your hotel.  There is no underground Metro system here but there are many trams, often busy, and can be used by tourists, but it's wise to plan the route well before you go but tickets are no more than around £2.50 average.

Hotels

I stayed in Krakow at the INX Design Hotel,  a brand new hotel in the Jewish quarter that was definitely not a disappointment. Artsy, modern and so stylish with pops of colour everywhere and lots of marble that was definitely a big bonus for me. The rooms were stylish also, small a little perhaps but very comfortable and a little mood lihting also which was the highlight!

INX Design Hotel 4**** - click here to book.

There are a plethora of hotels in Krakow including most of the large chains also, be sure to have a little look here for more idea of what's available.

Typical Room - Hotel Design INX
Hotel Design INX
Top - www.wearall.com

Attractions To Make The Most Of

Wawel Castle - The walk along the Vistula River is lovely in any weather and can take you around the side of the Wawel Castle, a castle that blatantly is influenced by the medieval, baroque and renassaince periods. It's a little gothic in style, although not overly noticable, when compared to Budapest. It's exhibition  prices start at 90PLN (around £19), and there are a few exhibitions on offer, as the castle itself has many separate areas to explore. Outside is equally as beautiful and worth a trip to the grounds!

Entrance To The Castle

Stunning Architecture In Castle Grounds
Castle Grounds

View Of The Vistula River 

Clock

Wanders In The Castle

Jewish Quarter - The Jewish quarter is full of places to go inside and visit. The district itself is known as Kazimierz, and it's based a little further out of the main town, which you can access via Starowislna (street). It's full of small museums, and little untouched streets; you can hope on a little golf cart tour bus which takes you around all the areas of the city also, including this area of the city. Be sure to have a look at Galica Jewish MusuemGhetto Heroes Square and the Jewish Square.

Jewish Quarter

Auschwitz Birkenau - Auschwitz is a brilliant place to visit if you're in Krakow. Based only around an hour and a half away from Krakow, it is a must-see for history lovers and of course a wonderful way to pay your respects to the thousands of victims slaughtered during World War 2. Auschwitz and Birkenau are separated in two different camps and needless to say, both are fascinating. With a small area to eat and drink a couple of little shops, you can wander around on your own should you wish or go along with a tour group (recommended) which usually you can book just a day in advance from your hotel. Most hotels offer this and it's a good option as they will be able to pick you up from your hotel and not a meeting point, like some tours. Costs around £35 average. There is little else to say about this incredible place, I'll show some photos and let those do the talking. You shouldn't miss out on this if you're in Krakow.

Auschwitz Entrance
Original Signpost
The Blocks
Auschwitz Concentration Camp 

Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Birkenau Train Tracks
Birkenau Train Tracks
Birkenau Camp
Village - Returning To Krakow
Food

There are quite a few restaurants in Krakow. It perhaps isn't as food orientated as some European cities but they are varied and inexpensive, and there are lots of choices. There are lots of little kiosks with traditional street food but here are a few places to wine and dine in if you're in the city. I did notice however that sushi seems to be a hit in Krakow, plenty of little sushi bars around to fulfil your need of a spicy tuna roll.

1. Starka Restaurant - a chic restaurant, classic themed, with traditional Polish food served under candlelight. Perfect for dates, or a little bit of a romantic atmosphere with your other half, or just for an elegant night out to celebrate being in this superb city.

2. Nago Sushi & Sake - a trendy Japanese restaurant dedicated to top quality delicious sushi and Japanese cuisine. Highlights being their sashimi. Highly ranked on TripAdvisor also and a perfect lunch spot.

3. Albertina - this luxurious restaurant is a brilliant way to indulge during your stay in Krakow. Known for it's world famous wines and highly acclaimed food and drink in general, Albertina brings out the best in Polish cuisine, for an indulgent stay!


Make sure you decide to tick Krakow off your European bucket list!

No 1 Airport Lounges - Birmingham

Having a little luxury after your airport check-in is exactly what anyone needs before a flight. Airports are stressful. Through check-in, security, and desperately trying to find the right gates and cafes to eat in, sometimes it is just perfection to have people wait on you, be able to wind down without hassle, and indulge on some delicious food and drink. That is why, No 1 lounges is a must if you're travelling from Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow or Edinburgh.

The check-in to the lounge is simple with friendly staff. Once inside, you'll find many little areas to sit, including a chic restaurant style area, a line of easy chairs for two - these are brilliant for people wanting to sit back and read their newspapers, and a more slouchy area with booths and sofas. For people wanting an additional quiet, the library area is perfect and you're able to print off any necessities before your flight. Highly impressive decor, chic, stylish and modern, clean and relaxing! A little haven from the craziness of Birmingham's busy terminal.



What It Involves & Cost

The cost per person is £26, and this includes access three hours before your flight to all the facilities. Free food dishes are complimentary as are drinks. The food is varied, a little bit of choice for everyone and gluten free options available. There is a tempting little buffet with olives, selection of tasty nuts, and little miniature cakes and pastries, including ample amounts of tea and coffee. A peppermint tea pre-flight is always a good option and if you're not fond of plane food, stock up before your flight and enjoy a snooze on board instead.

The lounge is stylish and modern and a lovely place to relax, it is perfect for business travelers but it does not dominate. It's a lounge for everyone, and I believe is family friendly also! It has a calming feel, and the Birmingham Airport lounge is particularly airy and light, with plenty of lighting and a large window to let plenty of light in. In Heathrow Terminal 3, they offer a travel spa and pod bedrooms; which enable you to get a little bit of sleep before your flight, or catch up on some flights if you're connecting from flight to flight. The lounges are open from 4:30am to 9:00pm at night. Any travellers who are flying Business or Premium class with Aer Lingus, AA, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, IcelandAir, Monarch, Qatar Airways, Thomson Premium Club, Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines and United.



What I Chose

With my mind very settled, I was able to get a lot of work done with their unlimited wifi, in the comfy lazy chair, enjoying some peppermint tea and opted for the goat's cheese salad. Highly impressed with the goats cheese, beetroot and quinoa, very fresh and really tasty, and plenty of goats cheese, which I find other restaurants to be quite frugal with. I had a little browse at the newspapers, and headed off to my flight feeling incredibly rejuvinated, something I haven't felt in a very long time when travelling. Anyone with travel anxiety would enjoy escaping the craziness of the airport. I would definitely recommend anyone flying to have a look at No 1 Airport Lounges for comfort, style and quality.

To book your pass for the lounge for your next trip away, click here.
To follow them on Instagram, click here.

*I was a guest at No 1 Airport Lounge but all thoughts and views are my own

Rudding Park Hotel & Spa


Rudding Park Hotel and Spa has been an old faithful of mine for such a long time. Perfectly situated just ten minutes or so from Harrogate, and hidden away in the gorgeous countryside of Yorkshire, it is the perfect getaway, for the day or the weekend. Having dined before in the famous Clocktower Restaurant, I fell in love and now I am back to try out the hotel after its huge redesign and spa which is insanely beautiful. The buzz and praise of Rudding Park since its new spa is well deserved. There is a place for everyone. It's large, modern, spacious, beautifully designed, and has some wonderful experiences just sat waiting to be taken advantage of!!




The Hotel 

Rudding Park has so much to offer. It has a holiday park, a golf club and now its brilliant new spa, so there's no denying that there is plenty to do here. I have always been drawn to lovely hotels. Whether to use as a place to work away from home, or for a coffee and catch up, or even for a meal (we all know hotels have the best restaurants), it's a taste of class and a little bit of elegance that you can't often find in anywhere other than a hotel. It's welcoming, a log fire burning is always a perfect touch to make you feel all festive and cosy, staff are incredibly hospitable, and there are plenty of niches and nooks to read in, indulge in a coffee and bite to eat, and to have a little bit of privacy and relaxation. The library is lovely, overlooking the gardens. There are many areas within the grounds to explore. In fact, the grounds itself have a beautiful church right opposite the hotel reception, which is ideal for weddings and christenings.

Everything is pristine and has such a welcoming warm feel. Have a wonder around to find lots of hidden areas and a visit to see the spa is a must if you're thinking of booking a little getaway.

Outdoor Views

The Clocktower Restaurant

The Library

Entrance to Lower Floor/Spa


The Room

We were all checked in to one of their spa rooms (room 162), on the ground floor, with a little private terrace, and a gorgeous modern bathroom complete with its own steam room shower, it doesn't get anymore luscious than that, and is exactly what you need after a long day of working or exploring Harrogate. The room is very spacious, colour and style was the first thing that hit me. Colourful couches which are always a hit, and the cute added touches, of the R & P cushions on the bed and a very large television! It has all the amenities you could ask for, plenty of surface space, a mini bar, and of course the wonderful over sized dressing gowns and slippers, because no good hotel trip is complete without a standard dressing gown pose!

There are a choice of pillows that you can have brought to your room; a fabulous extra touch as I know I always have a problem with some huge hotel pillows that leave you with neck ache, here at Rudding Park you have a choice, to enable you to suit your needs and get the best night's sleep. It was dreamy, and very cosy! Quirky little touches gave it a personable feel, and the bathroom came complete with some of my favourite Molton Brown goodies.

The bathroom was my idea of heaven! The bath tub was the Pinterest worthy, large free-standing bathtub that you could happily spend hours in, head buried in a book! A television above the bath made it even more compelling to sit and soak the night away. In addition to this, the bathroom is also equipped with a steam room shower. You can enjoy a water experience like no other in this tropical shower room, it's divine!

Overview Of The Room

Details

Cosy Night-time Reading
Room Terrace

Gifts From The Hotel - Big Thank You, Rudding Park


Steam Room Shower


The Spa

Where do I begin? Ultra chic, incredibly spacious, with a very high-tech luxurious feel, it has something new around every corner. With a large pool downstairs, and saunas around every corner, including herbal steam rooms, experience showers, that allow you to feel as if you're in the depths of the rainforest, it is the perfect place to unwind. Surrounded by trees and nature, it allows you to take that well deserved me-time, or perhaps if you're with a friend or partner, that time to relax and re-evaluate. I felt incredibly relaxed; after a bumpy year with health this year, I felt very calm and very content. Upstairs again there are plenty of places to sit, sip on mint and cucumber infused water, and enjoy the surroundings. Each guest has a bracelet that unlocks each door, for privacy and security and it felt very VIP. Footspas, showers and loungers are plentiful and helpful staff there to cater to your every need. Outside there is yet another sauna, which is more than heavenly when you're venturing out into wintry November temperatures. The jacuzzi is outdoors, nestled away in plants and nature, overlooking the rooftop garden. Every aspect of this 5 star spa feels incredibly VIP and undoubtedly a lot of work has gone into making this dreamy hotel an even more stunning location.

The outdoor thermal pool on the roof is really warm, a nice 29 degrees, and perfect on these cold crisp evenings; there is a jacuzzi facility in there also, be sure to have your champagne on top, anything is possible and it would be a brilliant place for your hen party or any kind of special occasion!

Downstairs in the treatment area, I was surprised with how large the area was. Many spots within the treatment area to take a few moments before your therapy, to relax, and feel prepared for your calming experience. From the "visual room" (a dark room with a large screen of beautiful scenery and music and a swinging ceiling chair that I nestled into and relaxed with), to the "audio room", and even the "sleep room", there is something to help you get into the best frame of mind possible, with friendly staff to assist, and a warm lemon towel to cleanse with, it felt heavenly! I decided upon a 50 minute treatment which was the foot and head experience! A decadent foot massage treatment, whilst relaxing wrapped in warm towels and relaxing spa music, it was calming and filled me with serenity! Moving upwards, my therapist gave me a cranial massage and full head massage, I felt my shoulders loosen up entirely and it definitely has a healing feel, you feel as if you're stepping into a healing zone, and leave feeling incredibly rejuvinated. See below for the packages Rudding Park offer. 

Poolside

Outdoor Spa Area - Sauna
Outdoor Spa Seating Area

Beauty Area In The Spa
Salon In The Spa
Rooftop Spa
Juniper Log Sauna
Relaxation Mode
Thermal Outdoor Pool
Downstairs Pool Overview

The Restaurant 

The Horto restaurant is next door to the spa. It is a very stylish, gold and teal heaven with an incredible tasting menu and a la carte menu which I opted for. Each dish is so carefully crafted, reminiscent of fine art, with explosive and exquisite tastes and ingredients, all of which are picked fresh and locally. The chef Murray Wilson is at the helm of this fantastic restaurant and it's easy to see that he takes great pride in his work. A glass of Chardonnay with the meal is the perfect accompaniment to the brilliant tastes.

I opted for vegetarian across the board, starting with a pumpkin soup, but it was of course so much more than that! Deliciously spicy at the bottom with an "ice-cream" which left small pools of cool refreshing creaminess in your mouth seeping through the hot, rich soup. It was thick and wholesome. The ice-cream calmed the dish pleasantly, very light on the palette and incredibly tasty with a litte savoury crumble at the bottom for texture. For the main event, I opted for the carrots dish, which were homegrown carrots with the most divine spicy flavour on a creamy bed of Yorkshire fettle and avocado, lightly cooked which created a more mature taste to the avocado, something I've never tried before and something I want to re-create at home. For dessert, I chose the pear, with delicate ice-cream, and soaked in ginger and maple syrup. Very syrupy, delicious but for those who like sweet dishes, this I would say was sweeter than the chocolate tart. The team deliver five star treatment from start to finish; it is a diverse and stylish restaurant, a perfect place to impress a friend in town, or even host a quiet business dinner. It wouldn't even be out of place to dine alone, as the atmosphere is so very quiet and peaceful.

Restaurant Overview
Table Details
The Starter
The Main
Breakfast

Breakfast was also in the Horto Restaurant. I opted for a classic avocado on toast because that is such a nutritious way to start the day, and it came with a perfectly poached egg, and chimichurri flavourings. Deliciously aromatic, with zesty flavours but really awakens the taste buds early on a morning! It was a lovely start to the day after a quick dip in the pool beforehand.

Avocado On Toast

My rating: 5***** - I will definitely be returning, I think that is a given. Luxury retreat in the heart of my home county, I couldn't think of anything more perfect.

If you want to treat yourself or someone you know to a lovely spa break away, perhaps over the Christmas period, then look at what Rudding Park has to offer. Click on the links below:

Sleeping Beauty Spa Break - click here
Autumn Escapes - click here
Autumn Spa Day - click here

Rudding Park Instgagram - click here

Big thank you to Marek Jurczyk, Rudding Park's Guest Relations Manager for being incredibly kind, welcoming and very helpful!

*I was staying as a guest at Rudding Park but all thoughts and opinions are my own