About an hour and a half away from Krakow is the small village of Zalipie, the most well known of the painted villages in Lesser Poland. Each year, Zalipie holds a competition for the best painted house, meaning the houses and yards are always boasting colorful exteriors (and even interiors). This contest, always the weekend after Corpus Christi is the best time to visit because it means that the houses will have all been freshly painted.
But why were the houses painted in the first place? Well this small little village, before chimneys were invented, had houses that would be covered in smoke, turning the interiors black. So the women began painting over them with white lime, any time there was a religious holiday they needed to clean for (this happened a lot, as Poland has ALOT of holidays!) By the late 1800s, they were adding this beautiful floral design you can see today, and by the 1930s Zalipie was famous for these painted cottages. In 1948 the Painted Cottage Competition in Zalipie began, and is still held even today.
It’s easiest to get to Zalipie by car, we rented one for our most recent trip. But you can also hire a private van or private driver. Or even take a bus or train to Tarnow, and then a taxi the rest of the way.
Some days you can rely solely on public transportation by taking the train/bus to Tarnow- and then finding what we call a mini-bus to Zalipie, but that isn’t the easiest thing to do, and most likely you’ll have a hard time finding someone to communicate in English with- so brush up on your Polish!
Either way, once you are in the center of the town, stop in to the information center- Dom Malarek. You can get a little map here, see some of the artwork up-close, and on some days they even offer painting classes! (See schedule and official website here.) There are also public bathrooms here for your use.
After the visitors center, spend your time riding about the city and looking at the different painted houses and styles. On our last visit we met a 12 year old boy, who had been featured on a Japanese television show for his skills, and his mother, who invited us into their home and showed us all their different works of art. We even got to watch him paint!
There is also a small museum where you can see some of the original paintings by the woman who began this style of art, Felicja Curyłowa. It’s a minimal entry for a ticket, and just a small little museum, but worth seeing how the style has evolved from the first house, to the modern day.