Zakopane is only four centuries old. It was founded at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries as farmer and shepherd' settlement. The legend says that a man called Gąsienica arrived to the area with his sons Paweł and Jędrzej and that they built a mill. For many years Zakopane was a godforsaken village. In the middle of the 18th steelworks were built in the nearby Kuźnice and iron ore mined in the Tatras was processed there. The manor house of the owners often received visitors and mountain climbers. This is when the beauty of the neighbouring and sunny Zakopane valley was first discovered. In the 19th century Zakopane became a well known tourists resort and a health spa. In 1845 the first parish was set up in the village and two years later Zakopane priest Józef Stolarczyk arrived to Zakopane. He encouraged highlanders to let their houses to holiday makers, so that later on people started building separate houses for guests. In 1878, Walery Elijasz was the first ever “newcomer from lowlands” to built a house in Zakopane. He was the author of numerous well known guidebooks to the Tatras. The first hotel in the town, the Pod Giewontem hotel, was built in 1885. In 1899 Zakopane was given a railway line connecting Chabówka and Zakopane, which started a new chapter in the town's history.
Development of Zakopane was strongly connected with Towarzystwo Tatrzańskie (Tatra Society - 1872) and doctor Tytus Chałubiński, who is often referred to as the discoverer of
Zakopane and the king of the Tatras.
In 1886 the village received status of a health resort. It was granted municipal rights in 1935.
The late Polish Pope John Paul II's visits to Zakopane became one of the most important events in the town's history. The Pope was attached to Zakopane and the Tatras since he used to spent a lot of time here in his childhood and then youth. As a graduate of Kraków Seminary he used to do a lot of hiking and skiing here. He did not give up his love of the mountains even when he became Kraków Metropolitan. His favourite places in the town were Jaszczurówka chapel and Księżówka - holiday house of the Polish Episcopate. In the Tatras, he was particularly fond of the Chochołowska Valley, which he visited again in 1982 after he was elected the Pope. His next visit to Zakopane and the Tatras took place in June of 1997. The Pope visited Mount Kasprowy, Morskie Oko Lake, went to Ludźmierz. There are many remainders of the visit - the altar which was built for the mass at the jumping hill was transported to the premises of Our Lady of Fatima Sanctuary in Krzeptówki.