You would love to visit Istanbul, but you wonder if it is child friendly? Yes it is! Sure, the first thoughts that spring to mind are its vast history and uncountable historical sightseeing spots. And you may have even heard stories of the hectic life in Turkey’s metropolis and their ‘odd’ way of driving. But did you also know that Turks just LOVE children. So, stop worrying and check out my list that will keep both you and your children entertained while visting Istanbul with kids.
1. Miniaturk (Miniatürk)
This open-air miniature park on the banks of the Golden Horn contains no less than 105 scale models, all 1/25th of the original Istanbul, Anatolian and Ottoman structures. With its 15.000 m² miniature park and a total area of 60.000 m², Miniaturk is the world’s largest miniature park. The park also features a playground, life-sized chessboard, and labyrinth. Miniaturk is open daily from 09:00 till 17:00, even later in summer. English audio guides are free with admission.
2. Play n Learn
Play n Learn is designed for children up to 6 years old and has plenty of activities to make your child learn through playing. In a child-friendly atmosphere, they organize activities such as play dough, art and craft, puppet show, little experiments, active games, finger plays, little dramas, 3 dimensional toys, and much more.
Arrangements are flexible: you can join in with your child, or let them explore it all independently. Play n Learn is located at the backside of the German Hospital — a 5 minute walk from Taksim Square. Check out their website for more details.
3. Rahmi M Koç Museum
Also on the shore of the Golden Horn (Hasköy), you’ll find the exquisite 19th century factory now housing the Rahmi M Koç industrial museum. The building itself is already worth a visit, but your kids will especially love the fact that they can climb all over a vintage car, take a seat in a real plane’s cockpit, take a ride in a submarine and try real-life scientific experiments. There are also two fine restaurants on the premises. Check their website for opening hours and current exhibits.
4. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı)
This unusual Istanbul attraction will please both young and older. Why will you be interested? Because it’s a vast underground water cistern containing 336 marble columns to keep the roof up. Why will your children be enchanted? Because of the slightly creepy (romantic for us) lighting and the dripping of the water. Do walk all the way to the end on the raised platforms not to miss the wishing corner, big carp fish and Medusa heads.
5. The Princes’ Islands
Children will have a blast on the islands. People go about by horse and carriage on the islands. So you no longer have to worry about them getting hit by a car. They can run freely and absorb the fresh air. You can take a nice nature walk or, with older kids, rent a bicycle to make a tour of the island. Check out my post on Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands!
6. Bosphorus Tour
Every child enjoys a ride on a boat. There are several options to take a cruise on the Bosphorus, ranging from a quick (and inexpensive) ferry trip to the Asian side and back, to full length Bosphorus tours going all the way to the Black Sea. In summer you can even do the latter at dusk and be back just before midnight.
7. Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)
Chances are very likely that your kids will notice this 60 meter high tower and Golden Horn feature immediately while scanning the Istanbul skyline. Although not suitable for very small kids, a walk on the tower’s top balcony will surely please them – and you. After an elevator ride to the ninth floor, followed by a flight of stairs you’ll enjoy commanding 360 views over the metropolis. Do skip the bar or restaurant!
8. Istanbul Aquarium
Istanbul Aquarium is located in Florya, not far from the airport, hence a bit far from the city center. But if you love fish, it’s a trip worth making. Your kids (and you) will be amazed by the amount of huge aquariums. As of 2015 they operate free shuttle services from several locations in the city center.
9. The Nostalgic Tram
Have you ever managed to take your kids to a theme park and deny them a ride on the tram or train that circles the premises? Right! So, after dragging them from store to store over the whole Istiklal Caddesi stretch, why not reward them with a very inexpensive ride back on the nostalgic tram. The trams and the ticket collector’s costumes still have the 1900s look and feel — and I promise you some local kids will hang from the tram just like in the old days.
10. Istanbul Modern
No, I’m not losing it here. Istanbul Modern houses both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. This of course won’t carry your child’s interest. But they will have a blast with the museum’s interactive section for 6 to 12-year olds, where they can learn about art while having fun.