Mountains, fresh air and folklore. Poland’s ‘winter capital’ Zakopane has the long standing reputation of being one of the most picturesque places in Poland.
Aries Hotel & Spa is one of the newest hotels in Zakopane and the building itself has a fascinating history. It was originally called ‘Dom Turysty’ (The Tourist’s house) and was built in 1958 by architects Tadeusz Brzoza and Zbigniew Kupiec as a cheap refuge for mountain climbers/hikers exploring the area.
After an extensive refurbishment, it opened its doors as a luxury hotel in 2014 with 99 rooms and suites. The décor reflects Zakopane’s highlander culture with modern artistic twists.
LOCATION: The location is fantastic – it’s a couple of minutes walk from Zakopane’s famous central street ‘Krupówki Street’ which is packed full of restaurants, bars and shops. It’s also only a 10-minute walk from the start of many hiking trails, 1.2km away from the train station and 8 minutes by car from Szymoszkowa Ski Lift.
CHECK-IN: Rather than a formal check-in counter, there are two desks with comfy leather and metallic armchairs in front of them. It’s informal and inviting, and if there are other people checking in before you, rather than queuing, you can sit in front of a warm fire. The staff are friendly and what instantly put a smile on my face was the huge bowl of the Polish fudge ‘Krówki’ (literal meaning: ‘little cows’) for guests. These sweet treats remind me of my childhood and are hard on the outside but have a soft melty sweet toffee filling. After some brief paperwork I was given my keycard and ready to go. It was quick and easy – the only thing that could have been better would have been some information on breakfast times and the spa/wellness facilities but some quick research in the room led me to this information.
STYLE & DESIGN: Even though Aries is one of newer hotels in Zakopane, this does not mean it has forgotten its past. Aries still has a huge respect and appreciation for the wooden architectural style and highlander culture that Zakopane is known and loved for.
Immediately as you enter the hotel, you’ll see an old cable car, metallic silhouettes of skiers and mountain climbers and beautiful hand-carved wooden features. The hotel has a unique mix of rustic wooden handmade furnishings with modern artistic twists. It’s a hybrid of stone and wood and the lobby area is brought to life with supersize chandeliers.
I loved the fusion of metal with leather on the chairs, and the colourful cushions on tree trunks in the lobby was a standout element. It has a snug and homely atmosphere and immediately puts you at ease with the dimmed lighting, grand fireplace and large stacks of wood. The interiors were designed by regional artists Antoni Kenar and Władysław Hasior and you can also see historic paintings displayed in the hotel.
WELCOME DRINKS/SURPRISES: There was a lovely platter from Halka Restaurant waiting in my room with a vanilla blackberry meringue and some mango chocolate cups as well as a welcome card from the manager.
THE ROOM IN A NUTSHELL: Large suite featuring two bedrooms (1 double, 1 twin), a bathroom, additional toilet and incredible views. The room has two large flat-screen TVs, minibar, desk area, leather seating and shower and free-standing bath.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE ROOM: Warm, friendly and reminiscent of a ski chalet. With the wooden staircase mountain views and (faux) fur, you could have easily been in a mountain hut rather than a hotel.
WHAT I LOVED: Everything about this hotel seems to sum up the hugely popular (Danish) concept of ‘Hygge’ that everyone is talking about at the moment. I wonder what the Polish alternative definition for this is? I’m starting to think it’s ‘Zakopane style’.
The rooms are super cosy and warm – I loved the multiple floors and the hand-carved details on the staircase. The colour scheme comprises of warm, neutral browns, creams and beiges – these earthy tones help to convey the softness and homely feel. The hotel emblem featured prominently on the decorations around the room as well as artwork of rams.
The views were a particular highlight – every room offers multiple vantage points – from the tiny windows near the staircase to two sets of windows in the bedroom and even mountain views from the bath.
MINI-BAR/ROOM SERVICE/IN-ROOM DRINKS FACILITIES: There was a minibar with crisps, nuts and chocolate bars and a fridge with beers, wine, juices and other soft drinks. Unfortunately no kettle or coffee maker, teabags/coffees or biscuits which I would have hoped for at a hotel of this calibre.
THE BED: The bed was AMAZING. I found out after a perfect night sleep that the hotel uses the same British mattresses as appointed by the Queen (Hypnos mattresses) to ensure a perfect night’s sleep. Uniquely, there were two different sized pillows on each side of the bed – one larger and one slightly smaller….and to my great happiness, there were two krowkis on the bed
The soft (faux) fur bed toppers and gorgeous thick duvets ensured a beautiful night’s sleep. There were also two wool blankets in the cupboard, but with the central heating, getting cold wasn’t a worry at all.
THE BATHROOM: One word: DREAMY. I’m a huge fan of baths – so imagine my delight when I saw a free-standing large bath waiting for me, with mountain views out of the window – heavenly. Another bonus was having the taps in the middle of the bath – an often overlooked, but important feature.
The bathroom also had a separate shower, large sink area and a generous amount of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and soap. There were towels for four guests, hotel slippers and soft dressing gowns. The room also had a separate toilet.
RESTAURANT & BARS: The restaurant has a modern gourmet restaurant called Halka which features dishes such as fillet of beef with onions, potatoes and roasted bacon. I did not visit the restaurant during my stay but from the photos, the presentation is excellent and it’s one of the best places in town for fine dining options.
There are two hotel bars. The first in on the entrance floor before you reach the lift area. I spent an amazing evening here, made special by the wonderful bar staff – Kate and Lucasz. They were super friendly, spoke great English and talked us through the different types of Soplica vodka. We tried everything from dogwood berry to honey, blackberry and raspberry vodka – absolutely delicious.
After 11pm (and until the last guest leaves)…the other bar area that’s popular at this hotel is ‘Le Scandale Cocktail Room & Music Loft’. Think dark, smokey atmospheric cocktail bar sort of vibe with louder music rather than rustic drinks by the fire. We finished off with a nightcap here one evening but preferred the ambience of the first bar.
The breakfast at Aries is incredible. It costs 20 zloty (approx £4) to have this delivered to your room – you won’t be disappointed. Here are some photos of the breakfast delivery. The cheesecake was my absolute favourite – so smooth and melty. There was also a selection of mixed breads, cheeses, sausages, ham, cream cheese, honey, jam, juices, yoghurts and coffee.
OTHER NOTABLE HOTEL AMENITIES: A must-visit area of this hotel is the spa. It offers a swimming pool area, jacuzzis, plenty of seating areas as well as a sauna area with a steam room, 3 different saunas (salt, Finnish and birch wood), a Kneipp path foot bath area, cold plunge and a relaxation area. There’s also a nice gym area with cardio as well as weight equipment. If you fancy pampering yourself, you can also book treatments too.
There’s a computer with internet to use in the lobby and also the hotel offers a series of boutique shops in the lobby offering primarily jewellery and clothing. The hotel also offers a sports concierge service and can help organising skiing, hiking, climbing and other activities in the area.
TO SUM IT UP: If you want a super cosy hotel with an Alpine feel and modern comforts – this is the best choice in Zakopane. I’d definitely come back here next time I visit Zakopane for the spa alone. It’s luxurious without being pretentious, homely and has lots of beautiful features around every corner – from sculptures to colourful fabrics and carved wood. The spa area is exceptional, the staff are friendly and the food is of premium quality. The close proximity to town is incredibly useful too. Can’t wait to go back!
Huge thanks to Aries Hotel for accommodating me during this trip to Zakopane. As always all views and opinions are my own.
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