The New Zakzrowek: Krakow’s Most Popular Lake is Making Everyone Mad

Want to skip the gossip- and just learn how to get to Zakrzowek? Click Here. 

I give free walking tours here in Krakow- and one thing I’ve learned about this city is that any change, whether it be in modern times, or hundreds of years ago, is often met with controversy and complaints. And the renovations of Krakow’s best swimming spot are no exception. A quick scroll on Facebook and you will see how angry people are about this project. So, in case you don’t know the history behind this place, and why everyone is angry- I’ll break it down for you below. And then cover the reality of these renovations and what they mean for visiting.

The History of Zakzrowek: How it Became A Lake in the First Place

So, zakrzowek was once a limestone quarry. In fact, Pope John Paul II, before he was Pope, well before he was even a priest- worked here during World War II. He had been attending Jagellonian University, but when the war broke out, it was compulsory that he begin a job, so he dropped out of school and started working in the quarry. [The nazis believed that there was no need for higher education of the Polish people- they needed the basic childhood education, and then they needed to work].

By the 1990s the massive amount of space left here by all the limestone that had been removed began to fill with water. It was at this point that the decision was made to turn the quarry into a lake.

For many years it was actually forbidden to swim here. People would do it any way, but it was illegal. At some point, the lake was allowed to be used by the local diving community for training. The water was as deep as 70 ft. or 21 m. in many spots, so it was perfect for deep diving practice. A couple of cars, some boats, even an airplane with skeletons (don’t worry they’re not real!) are in the deepest depths of the lake. We’ve even heard the rooms that the former workers used to use to change into their uniforms are at the bottom somewhere! These props make for great scuba-diving, and were used as part of the scuba diving courses.

Because the lake was so deep, and it was surrounded by cliffs, people would often come here to jump in from daring heights. This led to many deaths over the years, even this summer. So word of advice– DO NOT DIVE OFF CLIFFS AT ZAKRZOWEK. These deaths was of course one of the many reasons the city forbade swimming here, they didn’t want to be held responsible.

But that brings us to the current state of affairs. In 2015 when I first began writing about zakrzowek, it was mostly an off the beaten path thing to do in Krakow. You could get down to sea level by hiking to a few different beaches- but there wasn’t much space, and since it was unregulated, it was often filled with trash from people who had been partying there.

So Why Does Everyone Hate the New Zakrzowek?

Most of the people leaving all the hate-filled comments about the city’s new project, probably never went to Zakrzowek before, but for some reason feel the need to be some sort of keyboard warrior on its behalf. The project itself was criticized for costing too much money (of course this happens with every project the city does); but it was also criticized for ruining something that was “wild”. So this crusade against the project at the beginning was mostly focused on how the city had “ruined something natural and wild and made it into a commercial space.”

Now, my response to that is, it was literally a quarry, not a national park, so acting like it was some form of nature preserve is stretching a bit I think. But, it’s also important to remember that these pools cover a very very small portion of the entire Zakrzowek Park- it is not as though they took over the entire space and made it into some water park. The pools they added are literally part of the landscape and are floating pools that use the lake water to fill them. For anyone complaining that the “wild part” has been ruined, just don’t go to this new part. You can literally be on the other side of the park and avoid this new part all together. There is no reason you have to use it, if you don’t want to.

But the newest anger about the project is partially warranted. All the current headlines are about the new limit that has been placed on people using the pools; and this limit has caused a wait time of almost 3 hours to get in and use the park. How do I know? I waited in the line last Sunday.  Is the line always that long? No. And I would encourage you to go early, before 10am, and you can probably avoid it all together.

The two main problems I see currently are that using the new pool area is still free and completely without time restriction. So when they limit the new pool area to 1000 people- people come and stay all day, for free, without any incentive to leave so that others can enjoy it as well. I’m sure the city is aware of the fact that this current system isn’t working, and will come up with a plan to try it a different way in the coming weeks or years. But for now, we need to work with the system.

It is my understanding that currently, as of mid-July 2023, the pools are opened at 10am and have lifeguards until 6pm. But during the times before and after those hours you are allowed to use the decks, and swim in the larger lake area at your own risk. You also can explore the entire park, which has hiking trails, biking trails, beautiful viewpoints, picnic areas, and other unguarded beaches and recreation areas as well.

So What About the Pools? What’s the Difference Between the Pools and the Lake itself?

There are 5 pools at zakrzowek, which are guarded from 10am-6pm everyday but Monday. On Mondays the pools are closed for a much needed cleaning after the busy weekend times!

The pools are all different depths. One shallow enough for toddlers, and one about half as deep as the lake itself. So when you are looking at photos, you can see the different colors actually correspond the depths of the water- because all of the water is sourced from the lake itself. The sides of the pools are nets to allow the water in.

The pools are obviously better for children. And are safer because when they are open they are guarded. They also are usually much warmer than the large lake.

But the large lake is completely available to you from the pools. You just climb over the deck ropes to the opposite side and you have ladders and decks to jump off of into the water. Just remember the water in the larger lake is not guarded, so it is swim at your own risk. And its depth is deeeeeep! So do not try to touch the bottom.

The lake itself is my favorite part. The water is crystal clear blue, and cold, but in a beautifully refreshing way, especially during a summer heat wave. I prefer to get into the main part with the pools so that I can use the decks to jump off of into the lake. But moving forward, if there is a long line, I wouldn’t wait and would try to get down to one of the old unregulated beaches instead. Just walk past the pool entrance towards the Sports Recreation Complex and you will be in the unregulated area that will never have a line. But please remember it is SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK in this area.

So have you been yet? What other questions do you have? This is our old article on zakrzowek if you want to see what it looked like before or learn the logistics of how to get there etc..


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