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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.