Top 10 things to do in Istanbul with children

Istanbul is one of my favourite cities in the world, a true cultural hotpot of east meets west and a treat for families seeking culture, history, a sensory trip delighting your taste buds and a true colourful sight.  Istanbul is often a city break which is often overlooked by family travellers and may not seem to be the most obvious choice for a family trip but it has enchanted me and left me eagerly awaiting our return trip. 

Istanbul is steeped in history with numerous empires and cultures having contributed to its amazing past.   Remnants of times gone by is apparent in various forms throughout the city.  I have been to twice (once with my family in 2005 and for a few days in 2012) and as I write this post there are still so many things that I still want to see and do there with my little adventurers.  Below is my top 10 things to do in Istanbul with children:

Sultanahmet

A walk around the Sultanahmet area is a must.  Walking through the old cobbled streets, seeing the pull along carts, businesses and old buildings is truly like taking a walk into the past.  We stayed in the sultanahmet and you get a feel of what it is like to live in the real Istanbul.  The area between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue mosque has an amazing sense of peace.  We visited in May 2012 and Maya was 3 and Raihan 1.  The children loved just playing on the grass, making daisy chains and for the adults being sat in the feet of some of the most intricate and breathtaking buildings saw a return to travel that I love the most.  Just taking a step back from normal life, enjoying the ambience and culture of another country and relaxing and taking it all in. 

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Topkapi Palace

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The place is a true delight for historians of all ages.  There is lots to see and explore and for younger children and they will delight in having the open spaces, are ample things to climb on and explore, whilst the older historians can retrace and follow in the steps of the rulers and times gone by.  There are numerous talks around the Palace but we decided to just walk around and have a good exploration.  One of the highlights for many travellers is the holy relics room, with artefacts from many famous religious icons which are on display.

Boat ride over the Bosphorus

A boat ride is lots of fun even for the youngest of adventurers and the ride across the Bosphorus does not disappoint.  From the sea you can really take in stunning views of the city as it sprawls out in front of you.  Little adventurers will love being able to boat watch and see all the boats on the pier, and an hour or two can just doing this.  

Blue Mosque

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A visit to any of the mosques in Istanbul is an amazing experience, the buildings are stunning and breathtaking and are a living showcase of the once majestic Ottoman Empire.  My favourite of the mosques in the old area is the blue mosque and it was a real sight to behold.  The decoration, structure and building is stunningly beautiful and the art on display is some of the most beautiful you will see.  All visitors are welcomed into the mosques and it is a great opportunity to help younger children gain understanding of other religions and experience them first hand.

Galata Tower

On both occasions this has been on my list but I have not managed to make it yet.  Located in the ‘new’ area of Istanbul, is the cylindrical Galata Tower Constructed in 1348.  Even though there has been a lot of construction in Istanbul the tower dominates the skyline north of the Golden Horn. The upper balcony of the tower offers 360 degree views of the city and sounds a great way of showing children an overview of the city they are visiting. 

Grand Bazaar /Spice Bazaar

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These two Bazaars, I have grouped together but they really deserve one category each.  The Grand Bazaar houses hundreds upon hundreds of stalls selling most things you can think of from stunning lamps, to carpets, to musical instruments to gorgeous jewellery.  The Grand Bazaar is the perfect place to do a scavenger hunt and it will entertain the children as they look and seek all the items on the list.  The spice Bazaar is fantastic for the glorious colours on display, children will learn about new spices and the stall holders are always forthcoming with plenty of opportunity to taste all the spices.  I love the curious nature of children and often their reactions are the best moments to capture on video!

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Basilica Cistern

I only came across this after reading Dan Brown’s Inferno and it has really captivated my interest since.  The cistern is described as underground palace and dates back 530 AD and was built during the Byzantine empire.  I love the fact that it is something different from the usual places we would take the children.  It sounds a little eerie but would be wonderful to explore and visit with children and sounds like lots of fun.  I know this would totally captivate the children’s attention and would be an amazing, educational experience to be enjoyed as a family.

New Istanbul

As mentioned above, Istanbul is the only city in the world to be situated across two continents, I think that fact alone is very cool.  The newer end of the city is the European side and has many high rise buildings and is a lot more modern then the old area pf the Sultanahmet.  I think it would be a fantastic experience for children to see this difference first hand and how within the space of a few miles, life can be so different and how our amazing world offers us so many contrasts.  

Old Trams

As you have gathered I love different modes of transports as do my little adventurers.  Istanbul has a fantastic tram network and one of the delights is the old trams that you can catch in certain areas.  little adventurers love different types of transport and will love the metro.  The old trams run in various areas of the city including Taksim Square.  I loved the gorgeous, red trams and its another fun and interactive way for you all to experience the city and enjoy the atmosphere.

Princes Island 

The Princes’ Island are nine small islands in the sea, four of which are open to the public.  We visited the island in 2004 and it was lovely.  The most apparent feature is the silence as all motorised vehicles are banned.  The highlight was the horse and carriage ride that we took, we travelled with the my niece and she loved it.  There are lots of beautiful cottages and untouched forest to admire and enjoy.

And there you have it.  These are just the things I would love to do but there are so many other things to delight the younger traveller from the numerous buildings that I have not even mentioned included the amazing Hagia Sophia, the gorgeous food, theme parks and museums that you will be spoilt for choice in trying to make it all fit in.  We would love to hear from you if you have been.  

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Nisbah

I am a traveller, mother and blogger. We love to go on adventures (big and small, near and far) and strive to show our children how amazing and beautiful the world is! I caught the travel bug many moons ago and despite having three little adventurers, I still suffer from "itchy" feet. We love the great outdoors and one another. Come and join the fun :)

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27 Responses

  1. I’d never thought of Istanbul for kids, looks amazing, somewhere brilliant for the kids to see, so much colour.

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Ashley

      Oh Istanbul is great with children, there is so much to see and take in, you will have a fantastic time. The Bazaars and buildings are amazing to see and I was really in awe. We went when they were filming the Bond film and it was fantastic to see. I cant wait to go back 🙂

  2. What a great post! The Basilica Cistern is great, a little bit spooky maybe but I think kids would love it!

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Erin

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed the post. I agree the cistern does look spooky but i think it would be the highlight for the kids.

  3. Hayley Smith says:

    It sounds amazing, the way you describe it makes me want to go there now. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought that there would be so much for children there but the bazaar’s sound fantastic and the mosque looks beautiful! I hope you get to go again soon and visit the places you want too xx

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Hayley

      Thanks for reading. I think Istanbul is one of the more under rated cities but there is so much to do for the kids. if nothing else, the kids will be adored there like Maya and Raihan were. The Grand Bazaar is amazing, literally you could spend all day there just moving from stall to stall.

      My list of travelling is ever increasing, need to get the pennies saved so we can go exploring!

  4. riz says:

    Nisbah one place iv always wanted to visit
    .. I will definitely be looking at this soon hopefully . Great article x

    • Nisbah says:

      Riz, you would love it! Honestly, its got so much to offer and even if you fancy doing nothing, it has a great vibe that you can just relax and take it all in. Highly recommend it 🙂

  5. What a fantastic and comprehensive list. I’ve wanted to go to Istanbul for a while now – so this has just cemented it. It looks brilliant. I be the Grand Bazaar is amazing, I can just imagine the sights and sounds now!

    • Nisbah says:

      Ting, you have to go! you will love it. Its stunning, beautiful and so unique. We loved it and were gutted that we were only there for a few days. Next time we will definitely be going for longer. x

  6. Ismail says:

    Istanbul is just amazing. Thanks for posting. Great article

  7. Wander Mum says:

    Wow! Loads of ideas. I’m actually off to Istanbul in a few weeks – without children – but these tips will come in handy anyway. I’m glad it’s good for kids – will have to go again sometime with little one in tow… There’s just so much history there so it will be an education. #thelist

    • Nisbah says:

      Oh you will love Istanbul. It is fantastic this time of the year and you can really enjoy all the sights in some glorious weather. If your travelling without children I would also recommend a visit to some of the other areas. The feel in these places is lovely and you get a true sense of the appeal of Istanbul.

  8. It looks so vibrant! I would love to spend time in the bazaars. Thanks so much for linking up to #TheList x

    • Nisbah says:

      Hiya, thanks for reading. Oh Istanbul is an amazing feast for all the senses, in some ways its like taking a walk in the history books. Everything is so ornate and stunningly beautiful. Highly recommended. #thelist

  9. Becky Cowley says:

    Brilliant post! You paint such a great picture of all the places to visit. I’d never thought of Istanbul with kids, it sounds fantastic x

    • Nisbah says:

      Oh Becky you should definitely check it out. I know most people discount it in favour of other European cities but this is one of my favourites. And thanks for the kind words, I love to get families to try out new places and glad I can paint a vivid picture 🙂

  10. Sue says:

    Oh I’ve always wanted to go here- it just looks like a feast for the senses!

    • Nisbah says:

      Sue, you should go, you will have a fantastic time. You are right, its one of the best places and true delight for all the senses. We cant wait to return 🙂 thanks for reading.

  11. Cindy says:

    Beautiful photos and an informative post! I’ve always wanted to go to Instabul – it looks amazing!

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Cindy

      Thanks for reading, it is a fabulous city and we totally loved it when we went in 2012. We cant wait to return with the children once they are a little older. There is so much to see and do, highly recommended 🙂

  12. sidra says:

    Good info nisbah ,going to Istanbul with my 3 kids ,just wana ask do we need the stroller for the kids my youngest boy is 3 ,so was just concerned

    • Nisbah says:

      I would recommend a pushchair at 3 but I think it depends on your son. My youngest at 3 needed one in Athens and its a good place for them to be able to nap if he is still has one. We had our youngest in one when we went but he had just turned 1. I would also recommend a backpack carrier as in some places especially around the sultanhamet. We have one and its great especially for those situations where you don’t have a pushchair.

  1. November 2, 2015

    […] The Turkish people adore children and everyone will be welcomed open armed into restaurants and attractions alike.  The country allows children to ride on a boat across the Bosporus, board old-fashioned trams and walk through old cobbled streets which have stayed the same for hundreds of years.  A day can be spent in the Grand Bazaar trying dates or pomegranates and smelling spices to my personal favourite of a scavenger hunt.  The food is varied and not spicy so perfect for children of all ages.  A city break in Istanbul is perfect for families and you will leave richer in culture, history and local hospitality.  More on Istanbul […]

  2. March 3, 2016

    […] We loved the historical sites of Topkapi Palace, the gorgeous grounds and inside the Blue Mosque and going on a treasure hunt in the Grand Bazaar.  Children are welcomed with open arms everywhere in the city and it was an amazing city to share with children.  If all else fails, the children will love a boat trip across the Bosphorus and the views of Istanbul from the waters are truly breathtaking. You will be spoilt for things to do to help with planning, we put together 10 things to do with children in Istanbul. […]

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