I was born in Cracow and have lived here until I was 21, so I have experienced first hand what a great place it is for a young child, teenager and a student. Now I am back after 10 years, with Daddy and our 19 month old son – Little F. Cracow has not disappointed and we have found lots of great child friendly places for all of us to enjoy.
There’s lots of places claiming to be child friendly. But what makes a place truly child friendly? Or rather, family friendly, because the accompanying adult(s) should also feel comfortable.
Too many restaurants and café’s hijack the child friendly label just because they accept children (without giving funny looks), have high-chairs and kids’ menu. That is not enough to make a family outing a pleasure for all involved.
We have spent a month in Cracow and I have decided to write about the many wonderfully family friendly places we have used when meeting with friends and family, or out and about on our own.
What makes a place family friendly?
I have my own family friendly categories, which guide my choices of venues to meet friends with kids.
- Is there an attractive play area? And I don’t mean a small table tucked in the corner with some drawing implements.
- Is there space between tables to move freely with a buggy? Can a child freely move in between tables or are they so close you can barely move?
- Are there baby changing facilities, or a spacious clean toilet?
- Is there a good selection of vegetarian options? (we are veggie, but this may also be a great way to get extra veggies into your child)
- What is the access like? Are there stairs?
- Is staff genuinely comfortable with children –not throwing you looks at the slightest peep?
- Is it nice for adults to be in (good location, interesting design etc) or geared 100% for kids?
It seems like a lot to ask, but this is what it takes to make a stress free outing with a young child. And before you ask, yes, I have found a few places, which meet (most) of the requirements. And they are all in Cracow.
Where to eat and relax with a child
This is a one of a kind place. The owner knows exactly what is needed to make mums, babies and young children comfortable. I came across it when I was doing some research, before coming to Cracow for 6 months of my maternity leave. This was the only place Little F (under 12 months at the time) would be so engrossed with play that I could drink hot coffee and have an uninterrupted chat for as long as an hour! They must pump in magic dust through air vents…
Location: 52 Karmelicka street, Old Town (7 minutes walk from the Main Market Square)
Play area: Yes. A big corner with soft carpet (no shoes allowed) full of attractive and varied toys: kitchen with pots and pans, cars, doll’s house, walkers, noisy battery operated contraptions, teddies… A full blown play place!
Space: Lots of space between tables to park buggies with sleeping babies, you will not need to worry about someone bumping into the buggy while squeezing past and waking your sleeping angel (just when you were telling your friend THAT great story!)
Baby changing: Yes. There is a changing table in the spacious and pleasant loo. There are also potties and toilet trainer seat for the loo.
Menu: A good selection for adults with lighter options like soups and salads, but also more filling things like savoury pancakes and escallops. Few veggie options, though there could be more. There is a small kids menu with healthy meals like kopytka (Polish gnocci made with potaotes and cottage cheese), rice with fruit puree, pasta with tomato sacue.
Access: This is the only downfall, as there are a few steps to get in.
Staff’s child friendliness: This is a place genuinely designed for mums with young children, hence the name Mamy Café (Mammas’ Café), so no one will bat an eyelid if your child starts screaming.
Attractiveness to adults: It is a nice and bright space with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Karmelicka street, the ceiling is hight, but the kids corner gives the place a cozy feel. It’s a pleasant place to be with soft background music and good coffee. And excellent hot beer with spices!
I have come here by chance, while looking for decaf coffee with a pregnant friend. There is a variety of flavoured coffees on offer, all made to order. The cafe has three rooms, each with a different feel – the narrow passage area with small coffee tables is reminiscent of Paris cafes, the middle area is squareish and offers seating on various levels, and finally the spacious back room with a vaulted brick ceiling, where the children’s corner is situated. Central location and great cakes make this an excellent place to come for a treat after chasing pigeons on the Main Market Square.
Location: 8 Wislna Street, Old Town (just off the Main Market Square)
Play area: Yes. There is a sizeable children’s corner in the furthest room. There is enough space for up to 4 children to play with multitude of toys. There is also colourful chalk to draw on specially prepared wall.
Space: There is a lot of space between tables, so navigating with a buggy is not a problem. There are a few steps once you are inside, but they are wide and comfortable.
Baby changing: Yes. There is a baby changing unit in the loo.
Menu: This is a place to come to enjoy good coffee and hot chocolate, along with an excellent cake or ice-cream. There are no savoury options on the menu.
Access: There is a high step to get in, but it’s still comfortable to enter with a buggy.
Staff child friendliness: Staff does not engage with children, but is not unfriendly.
Attractiveness to adults: It is a very pleasant space to be in, especially the room with vaulted brick ceiling. Leather armchairs are very comfortable, and with your child occupied in the play area, you may be able to sit in them for a while. Only the children’s corner has kids themed decorations, the rest of the space is designed for adults pleasure.
This is the grandest looking of the child friendly places, as it is situated in the underground of an art exhibition space. You enter through a very impressive entrance hall presided over by 3 tall stained glass windows. There are many art activities for children organised in likeKonik, but you have to be quick to pre-book, as places are limited. If you are feeling frivolous this cafe hires out children’s costumes. Closed to public on Mondays, due to nursery school activities.
Location: Plac Wszystkich Świętych, Old Town (just off the Main Market Square)
Play area: A large play are with carpet. Some toys are provided, but the main attractions are a large castle and huge soft and colourful blocks.
Space: There’s enough space to park your buggy out of the way.
Baby changing: To my surprise there is no changing table, however there are toilet trainer seats.
Menu: Only coffees, teas and fresh juices are offered, alongside cakes. It is a shame there are no menu items for children, you need to bring your own if you are planning to stay longer.
Access: There is no step to get into the building and a quick modern lift takes you down to -2, where the cafe is located.
Staff’s child friendliness: I haven’t spent much time in here, however I imagine staff would not say anything if your child is having a meltdown. likeKonik hosts many noisy activities and children’s parties, so they must be used to it.
Attractiveness to adults: This a beautiful bright space with high ceiling. Walls are a mixture of with smooth concrete pillars and exposed brick. Vivid plush covering the chairs makes it a joyous and pleasant place.
This is an all together different child friendly place. Yes, there is a carpeted area to play and some toys and books, but everyone seems to come here to work – most tables are occupied by individuals tap-tapping on their laptops. You might think it is a strange suggestion for a child friendly place, however I like to come here when Little F is asleep in his buggy. It is so quiet here with soft music and gentle tap-tapping of fingers on keyboards.
Location: 36 Józefa Street, Kazimierz (the old Jewish district)
Play area: Yes, there is a raised carpeted area, but it is meant for those preferring to sit cross-legged, rather than a specific area for children. Though there are a few toys and books, I tend to leave soon after Little F wakes up, so as not to disturb those hard at work.
Space: There is lots and lots of space between tables, so you can position your buggy in the most favourable spot for him/her to sleep peacefully.
Baby changing: There is no changing table, but the toilet is spacious. As majority of places don’t offer baby changing facilities I have quickly learn to change Little F standing up – especially that he was not happy to lay down ever since he learnt to stand.
Menu: The menu is quite limited, but with interesting Jewish and middle eastern options, like Peace in the Middle East – Olive oil with Israeli zatar and grilled pita bread. Don’t expect fast food, but it’s all well prepared. There’s a great selection of hot and cold drinks including Yemeni and Israeli style coffee’s, prepared with spices and served in a traditional finjan kettle, as well as aromatic and indulgent mulled wine.
Access: There are a couple of low steps to get in. You may have a problem with a wider buggy, but a stroller will pass through easily.
Staff’s child friendliness: Staff is pleasant, but won’t be too happy with your child making too much noise. Especially that many of the customers come here for the peace and quiet.
Attractiveness to adults: I like the dark wooden interior, the bare floor boards and extensive bookshelves (subject matter focuses on Jewish history and holocaust in particular). Hight windows allow plenty of light in, but somehow you still feel cocooned in this relaxing space.
Out of mud and industrialism there is a new district rising on the other side of the river, namely Zablocie. It is filled with lofts and newly built attractive flats.
We came to Coffee Cargo with Daddy and Little F completely by chance. We were to meet our friends in Zablocie and head off for a skiing weekend, except they were an hour late… Not knowing the way, we had to wait. We drove around Zablocie to find something open so early in the morning (8 am) and luckily noticed an A board advertising coffee outside of a warehouse. To give you an idea of the background, Zablocie is a very new and vibrant district (when I lived there more than 10 years ago Zablocie was just the name of the street, a street no one ever heard of) with lots of flats being built and families moving in, but there are also offices in post-industrial spaces. The atmosphere of the area, with a new modern art museum MOCAK built a few years ago, attracts a lot of young start-up companies and designers. On the historical side, this is where Schindler’s Factory is, now turned into a fascinating interactive museum about wartime life in Krakow and holocaust.
Location: 3 Przemysłowa Street, Zablocie
Play area: Yes (to my amazement!). There is a dedicated play area with a slide and play kitchen, as well as table and chairs with drawing implements. There is even a beautiful yellow coffee machine for the little ones to play with.
Space: There is a lot of tables (a mixture of old garden furniture and giant cable rolls), but there is also a lot of room. The tables are placed on two levels, with some comfy couches on a metal frame mezzanine.
Baby changing: No, and the toilets are standard size, so even changing your child standing up is not easy. Clearly a sing this is a space for children past the nappy-period.
Menu: There is a selection of cakes and made-to-order sandwiches. Coffee Cargo has a great selection of coffees, this is their strong point. They sell all the coffees you can sample in the café.
Access: As it is a warehouse there are no steps to get in and the floor is level. Easily navigable with a buggy.
Staff’s child friendliness: The place is so large that no one seemed to mind Little F having some noisy play.
Attractiveness to adults: This is an edgy modern space designed with adults in mind. It’s located in an old warehouse and the space is cleverly arranged with help of remodelled cargo containers, including some very inventive solutions. The dominating materials are plywood, industrial metal (sometimes rusty), concrete and unhewn wood from palettes. It’s very much a hipster place for adults who want to be cool, have good food and drink, but also spend time with their kids.
And now going even further away from the Old Town…
Filmowa Café holds a special place in my heart, as it is situated in the exact room where I cried my eyes out on the Lion King – first time I properly remember seeing a film in the cinema. It may sound a little strange, but the café is part of a redevelopment project of an old cinema, a cinema which used to be 5 minutes walk from my family’s flat in Nowa Huta – a place I grew up in until I was 14.
To give you a little background information, Nowa Huta literally means New Steelworks and is a district built in the 50s by communist authorities next to bohemian Cracow. It was to house workers of a newly build Steelworks (currently Mittal Steel) and help to create a desirable social balance with the dangerously academic and creative old Cracow. To a UK resident it may seem like a huge council estate with everyone living in high-rise flats, but this is where doctors and teachers, lived alongside steelworkers and bus drivers. There is a real social mix in this district. Since it was purpose build it has plenty of green areas, playgrounds, schools, doctor’s surgeries and wide roads.
I was introduced to the new guise of Kino Swit (The Dawn Cinema) by an old friend with a new (ish) baby.
Location: Teatralne 10, Nowa-Huta (it’s a 20+ minutes tram ride trip from the Main Market Square)
Play area: Yes, there is a carpet, a table, some toys and books. It is a shame the carpet does not cover a larger area, as the space around is redundant.
Space: There is lots of space for a buggy, or for kids to run around.
Baby changing: There is a changing table in a spacious and modern toilet.
Menu: Only coffee and cakes are offered, no savoury options are available.
Access: There is a comfortable ramp to get you up the steps leading to the building. Once inside there is a lift to take you and the buggy up to the first floor.
Staff’s child friendliness: It seems like there is selfservice at the bar, therefore I did not have an opportunity to observe staff’s reaction to children.
Attractiveness to adults: I like the clean and bright space with white leather armchairs. It’s elegant, comfortable and not over complicated.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the child friendly places in Cracow and are already planning a visit. If this is not enough to convince you that you can have a relaxing city break with your child in Part Two I will write about indoor and outdoor activities for children in Cracow. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it!
likeKonik – photo source http://www.likekonik.pl/