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Located in the south of Poland surrounded by stunning nature at the foot of the Gorce Mountains (part of the Carpathian Mountain range), lies the small picturesque town of Nowy Targ.
With a population of approximately 34,000 people, Nowy Targ is the perfect place to visit if you are craving some serenity, getting out into nature and enjoying some small town vibes. Despite Nowy Targ’s small population, every winter and summer, the number of Polish tourists soar as people make their way to the Podhale Region, especially Nowy Targ, due to its close proximity to the Carpathian Mountain range, specifically the Tatra Mountains, which is the highest in the range. Tourists love to stay in Nowy Targ as a base for their skiing and hiking holidays and for good reason; it’s beautiful.
Famously referred to as “The City” by the Goral Highlanders in the surrounding area, Nowy Targ is the capital of the Podhale Region and has a rich history that spans 670 years. The town was established in the 13th century and gained town rights in 1346.
Nowy Targ wasn’t always the peaceful and quiet place as it is these days. On September 1st, 1939, the German Nazis made their way into Nowy Targ. Many inhabitants of Nowy Targ decided to fight back against the Germans in 1941 by forming a resistance movement called the People’s Tatra Confederation, which even published underground magazines to distribute to the people. Despite the Poles’ tenacity, their movement was quickly brought to a halt within a year and the members were then arrested, murdered, or sent to Auschwitz to live out the rest of their days being tortured and eventually exterminated. In 1945, the Red Army came in and forced all of the Germans out, which paved the way for the Polish people to return to Nowy Targ to rebuild after the war and turn their economy back to where it used to be.
I was excited to visit Nowy Targ and explore its vast nature reserve, its quaint Old Town streets and to relax for the next couple of days with zero plans. After what was one of the most stressful and longest travel days of my trip thus far, I was ecstatic when I finally arrived at the bus station and made my way to my cute little chalet. The first thing I did after checking in was head to the porch downstairs to get a glimpse of the mountains off in the distance and have an ice cold beer. All the stress from my travel day just lifted from me as I let out a deep sigh and inhaled that cool, crisp mountain air.
Speaking of cool air, Nowy Targ is considered one of the coldest towns within Poland due to its high altitude. I wasn’t complaining though. After being in a stuffy bus for hours with a mask on (eww), the fresh air was definitely welcoming.
Nowy Targ isn’t just an attractive destination for nature enthusiasts. It also boasts a large town square that was used during Nowy Targ’s trading days and in 1487, the town gained the rights to hold two annual festivals as well as a weekly market. In true Polish tradition, the weekly market still continues weekly to this day and is held on Thursdays and Saturdays.
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Oh, and for all you ice cream lovers…Nowy Targ is said to have the best ice cream in Poland. I can confirm that from what I had, it was pretty damn delicious. There’s even a statue sitting on a bench in the Rynek of a woman eating some ice cream. 🙂
If you’re curious as to what this little town in the Podhale Region has to offer, keep reading!
Here are some key things to do and see while visiting Nowy Targ.
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Getting To Nowy Targ
Arriving in Nowy Targ is accessible by rail, bus and car and can be reached by all major cities and towns in Poland. If you are coming from Kraków, it will take approximately 2 hours by bus. I was arriving from Żywiec and the trip was slightly nerve wracking. I knew in advance that getting to Nowy Targ would be challenging that day and I knew I’d have to make about two connections to arrive. My schedule looked something like this: Żywiec – Bielsko-Biała – Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Lanckorona – Nowy Targ. *Phew* To my surprise, the train line was halted due to construction and the trains had turned to buses and I was to make a connection in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Lanckorona (Poland’s longest train station name, by the way) railway station, which is a station in the town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship. From there, I was to take a connection to Nowy Targ. After a lot of stress, a missed bus and some help from incredible strangers, long story short, I ended up jumping on a bus back up to Kraków from Żywiec and taking a bus back south to Nowy Targ instead. It was a LONG day. That being said, the scenery along the drive from Kraków to Nowy Targ is sublime! I highly suggest that if going to Nowy Targ and you don’t have a car, coming from Kraków is by far the easiest major city to arrive from. The main rail station is Nowy Targ Główny and the bus station is called Dworzec PKS Nowy Targ, and is approximately a 20 minute walk to the city centre. To purchase train tickets, you can buy them in the station at kiosks run by salespeople, or even online at PKP Intercity’s website, Koleje Śląskie’s website and if a connection is needed, also on PolRegio’s website. There are always bus options in Poland and to buy bus tickets, you can go directly to the kiosks in the bus stations, or if it’s easier for you, you can buy ahead of time online on the FlixBus/PolskiBus website.
Getting Around Nowy Targ
Making your way around Nowy Targ is easily done on foot. The small town surrounded by nature is a walker’s paradise. That being said, there are plenty of transportation options in case you have mobility issues, such as buses, taxis and even Uber. Nowy Targ is the perfect place to enjoy leisurely walks in nature, or a stroll around Old Town to do some window shopping.
Get Outside & Enjoy Nature
Nowy Targ is famous for being a nature lover’s paradise. Make your way to the Bor na Czerwonem Nature Reserve and immerse yourself amongst the tall pine trees and keep your eyes peeled for some owls, small birds, deer and other wildlife. There aren’t any harmful animals to worry about, so you can take your walk without any issues. To get to the Bor na Czerwonem Nature Reserve, walk along the Biały Dunajec river and cross the Kładka (footbridge) where you’ll see the Owca rowerzysta (goat statue on a bike) and then go up the hill and into the reserve. The entrance to the reserve is free and you can literally walk for miles along a flat path that winds through the forest. Keep your eyes on the sky as well. The Nowy Targ airport is located in the field adjacent to the reserve and you can watch gliders and planes coasting around the skies above, which was very cool to watch! If you’re not into hiking and are searching for some more adrenaline based activities, you can also go kayaking, rafting and even dirt biking, or quadding in the area as well.
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Visit Old Town
Where To Eat
Nowy Targ is teeming with locally run restaurants, cafés and bakeries. To be completely honest, I don’t think I ran into a big chain eatery during my entire visit to Nowy Targ. I’m not complaining! I love supporting locally run businesses, especially when times are tough for smaller businesses. Whether you’re looking for a pastry to eat while walking around town, or if you fancy a delicious shwarma brought over to Poland by immigrants, you’ll find everything you desire right in the heart of Nowy Targ. I mainly stuck to eating within the Rynek, since there were zero tourists and all restaurants were takeaway only at the time of my visit. Here are some of the places I visited.
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Żarneccy – Piekarnia- Cukiernia – This incredible little bakery is located right in the Rynek, but if you didn’t realize it was there, you may just walk right by. I was looking for a quick, cheap lunch and came across this gem that was serving up personal size “pizzas” for about 6 zloty ($2 CAD) that looked deliciously cheesy. Just my style! They also serve up other baked goods, such as desserts and breads.
Od Jajeczka Do Ciasteczka Nowy Targ – You guys know I love a good flat white and the one I grabbed from this lovely little café in the Rynek was fantastic. The coffee was nice and velvety and was the perfect companion to have while walking around town in the cool early morning hours.
Deja Vue – As I mentioned earlier in this post, Nowy Targ is famous for their delicious ice cream and is said to be home to the best ice cream in all of Poland. Whether you want to argue that, or not, I can tell you this…Deja Vue serves up some absolutely amazing ice cream. It’s made with all natural ingredients in an array of flavours and you can snag a huge scoop for about 3 zloty ($1 CAD). They have a few locations within Nowy Targ, so check out their website for a full menu list and their locations.
Oberża Pod Różą – The restaurant in Oberża Pod Różą was incredible! I can’t rave about it enough. The staff was so kind, accommodating and the food was delicious. Oberża Pod Różą is a chalet located in Nowy Targ, which I happened to be staying at, so even though restaurants were closed for dining in, Oberża Pod Różą was able to only have their guests eat inside the restaurant, which was great. People that aren’t staying at the chalet are able to come in to eat as well, or place an order for takeaway. On the first night of my stay, I ordered chicken, fries and a salad and on my second night, I ordered up a plateful of pillowy soft pierogi topped with crispy bacon bits and later in the evening, I made my way back down for a scrumptious apple pie topped with whipped cream and with a scoop of ice cream. I walked 15 kilometres that day, so I deserved it. 😉 Oberża Pod Różą also has a huge breakfast buffet for guests, so I was able to get breakfast at the chalet as well before heading out to explore.
Where To Stay
Nowy Targ has a lot of chalet style accommodations to choose from within the town. Oberża Pod Różą was my chalet of choice during my two night stay. It wasn’t relatively close to the bus station, but the kind staff, clean and quiet rooms, epic buffet breakfast and on site restaurant made up for the walking distance. The distance to the nature reserve was about a ten minute walk along the river and the walk to the Rynek was about a 15 minute walk. The chalet owners were very informative when it came to activities to do and places to see while in Nowy Targ and were there to help me if I had any questions. I highly recommend staying at Oberża Pod Różą if you are planning a stay in Nowy Targ.
Despite a rough travel day to get to Nowy Targ and being crapped on by a pigeon, I can’t recommend coming here enough. If you are looking to escape the city and visit beautiful, off the beaten path communities in Poland, then Nowy Targ may just be the place you need to visit.
Visiting lesser known towns and being one of the only international tourists around is always a positive experience in my eyes as a traveller. I get to immerse myself with locals, avoid large crowds and see a part of a country that many don’t even know exists in the first place.
Have you guys ever heard of Nowy Targ? Is it a place you’d think of visiting one day? Let me know in the comments below! xo