Istanbul, Turkey: 5 Family Favorites
Thanks to Max Forlani for doing the legwork on this one. Max is the author of Istanbul Trails, a blog dedicated to helping tourists and expats make the most of their stays in Istanbul.
Istanbul is probably not the first destination that springs to mind when you think of family travel. And rightfully so. This fabulous city by the Bosphorus is not exactly child-friendly. Streets are clogged all day, parks scarce, and car-free zones rare. But there are so many world-famous tourist attractions to see, that postponing a visit until the kids are older would be a pity. Here are five places to escape the hustle of Turkey’s most vibrant metropolis if you come with kids.
1. The Dolphinarium
As any parent knows, marine mammals are the universal language. If you’re up for a 45-minute show featuring dolphins, walruses, and belugas, the Dolphinarium is your place. Kids 10 and older can also swim with the dolphins for an extra fee.
Check their website for hours because as we all know the only thing worse than traveling all the way to Turkey to see walruses is traveling all the way to Turkey to see walruses and then arriving on Monday when the place is closed.
2. The Rahmi M Koç Museum
At the Rahmi M Koç Museum your kid can have an antique car ride, try out the control panel of a real plane, or even ride a submarine (8 and up only). Housed in historic buildings on the shore of the Golden Horn, the location is as impressive as the museum itself. Book your planetarium and submarine rides upon arrival–they’re very popular.
Miniaturk is a theme park containing miniaturized versions of Turkey’s (and the former Ottoman Empire’s) most famous historical sites in 105 1/25 scale models. It’s not unlike Legoland.
Visitors can scan 3,000 years of architecture in about an hour, and kids (who don’t always appreciate antiquities, even in miniaturized form) will enjoy a playground, life-sized chessboard, and labyrinth. English audio guides are free with admission.
4. Princes’ Islands
There are many reasons why you should visit the Princes’ Islands with your kids. For starters, all of the islands are car free. You can rent a bike and cycle around the island, or even take a phaeton tour. If you go in spring, you’ll enjoy fresh air and green space. In summer, think about bringing your swimming trunks and having a dip in the sea.
5. Bosphorus Tour
No matter your kids’ ages, a tour of the Bosphorus makes a wonderful day out. IDO Bosphorus tours (the official sea transportation company of Istanbul) start at Eminönü, make stops at five piers (Beşiktaş, Kanlıca, Yeniköy, Sarıyer, Rumeli Kavağı) along the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea, and arrive at Anadolu Kavağı – the sixth and final stop on the Asian side.
From here, you can take a short walk around town and enjoy some seafood in one of the restaurants that are lined up next to each other. Just pick any one of them, since they have more or less the same price range and quality. There is also a fortress up the hill that you can walk to if time and energy permit. Keep in mind that the slope is steep for little feet, and you will not be permitted to wander around in the fortress once you get there.
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