Zalipie is a small country town in Southern Poland, located approximately 70 kilometres from the backpacker party hub Krakow. Despite its picturesque photo value and relative closeness to one of the biggest touristic cities in Poland, it can be a little hard to find information online. That’s why I’ve put together this small guide for anyone who is considering visiting.
First of all – why should I want to go?
If you have seen any pictures of Zalipie, you already know why: to see the painted houses.
Around the village, various buildings have been decorated with bright, painted flower motifs. This traditional style of painting might have originated from the 18th century. Cottage walls used to get blackened by soot from indoor stoves; Walls would then get painted white again in expectation of important religious holidays.
At some point, village women started decorating newly painted walls with paintings of colourful flowers, and eventually it spread to outer walls and outhouses, stables, wells and any other paintable surfaces.
The style of painting that can be spotted around the village is traditionally Polish but it isn’t displayed in such volumes anywhere else in the country.
What is there to see, actually?
Well, first and foremost the houses. Many locals living in painted houses are happy to open their gates to let you wander in and snap pictures, and if you know Polish, they will gladly tell you a little more about the artworks.
Do also check out the cultural centre, Dom Malarek, also known as the Painter’s House. With some picnic tables in front and a view over peaceful Polish countryside, it makes for a nice lunch spot. The yard is decorated with some great art – such as a painted tree, a table and a small cottage – and the building itself is dedicated to informing the visitor about the tradition through exhibitions and workshops. There is also a souvenir shop. The centre is open 8-18 (weekdays) and 11-18 (weekends) from May till September, 8-16 for the rest of the year.
One of the biggest draws is the birthplace of Felicja Curyłowa (1904-1974), the best-known Polish folk artist who painted houses. Her previous home, now covered in flower art from floor to ceiling, has been made into a museum. Unfortunately it will be closed until the end of 2018.
There are around 40 painted houses in Zalipie. To avoid wandering around aimlessly, grab a map from the tourist info in Tarnow or in Zalipie. The information point turned gift shop is located opposite to the museum. (The museum is the one painted yellow, by the way – the brightly painted house on the other side might look misleadingly impressive, but it’s actually the house of Curyłowa’s granddaughter.)
In addition to houses, there is also a painted church as well as trees, bridges, dog houses, stables, wells… Even a painted Jesus on a cross.
Zalipie has also hosted an annual cottage painting competition since the second world war. This year it will take place on the 3rd of June.
Aha, sounds good. So how to get to Zalipie?
To get to Zalipie from Krakow, you’ll first have to get to Tarnow. There are hourly trains between the two cities that take an hour and a half and only cost 11 zloty (less than 3 e). From Tarnow, you can take a taxi, but that’s costly and environmentally harmful. Instead, catch a minibus.
Many online sources I read recommended having your own car, but using public transportation is not only possible but also super easy. However, services to Zalipie don’t run very regularly, so check the schedules:
From Tarnow, direction Bieniaszowice:
Weekdays: 7.05, 9.35, 11.15, 12.45, 13.35, 14.25, 15.55, 16.55, 18.55
Saturdays: 6.45, 9.15, 12.00, 14.15, 15.00, 17.00, 19.15
Sundays: 6.35, 12.00, 14.15, 17.00
From Zalipie, direction Tarnow: (schedules from the last stop, in Zalipie 5-10 minutes later)
Weekdays: 5.30, 6.05, 6.50, 9.40, 11.00, 12.15, 13.40, 14.40, 16.00, 17.45
Saturdays: 5.40, 6.45, 7.45, 10.30, 13.05, 15.30, 18.00
Sundays: 6.25, 7.35, 13.05, 15.30, 18.00
Depending on traffic, the trip takes 30-45 minutes. The van will have the company name “Plawecki” on the side.
You can get the full schedules from the tourist information in Tarnow, which is located about two kilometres from the train station where the minibus to Zalipie stops as well. There’s a small park in front of the station with a busy bus stop on the other side; this is where you’ll find the right bus. The minibus has stops elsewhere in the city, too, but it’s worth hopping in at the train station to make sure you get a seat.
Note that the bus doesn’t stop in Zalipie but in crossroads of the road leading there (in Niwki). If you ask the driver for Zalipie, though, he knows to leave you there.
Cool! So let’s go!
Awesome! Here are a few last pointers before you set out on your merry way:
Since most of these houses are actual homes, please remember to be respectful towards the owners. If you’re going to have a full photoshoot on someone’s front lawn, at least ask for permission first. Many keep their gates open as an invitation to come in, but a small contribution might be expected.
The map doesn’t really give out the scale of the village (check out my modified version at the end of this post). The painted houses are fairly spread around, and it takes some walking between them. A bicycle would be the best way to explore the village, but unfortunately there isn’t anywhere to borrow one.
There are no services in Zalipie – no hotels, grocery stores or restaurants. Bring water and snacks, and if you need to stay in the region overnight, look for accommodation in Krakow or Tarnow.
And what might be the most important point – check yo expectations. Zalipie is not a row of little houses, all painted from top to bottom. Instead, the painted houses are far and few between normal country homes (which, if you ask me, are pretty damn cute too). I would definitely recommend visiting Zalipie, but it’s important to know what to expect to avoid disappointment.
Final tip – spend a few hours in Tarnow!
Since the busses to Zalipie leave next to the train station, you can get to the town without ever entering downtown Tarnow. However, it’s worth spending a little bit of time exploring this small city. Admire the colourful houses on the main square, check out one of the oldest statues of St John Paul and dive deep into the rich Jewish history of the city.
Have you been to Poland? What’s your favourite place?