Blog Family Travel Istanbul Turkey

Istanbul with Kids – Travel Babbo

Istanbul with Kids

I had by no means been to Istanbul earlier than – one of many main holes in my travel historical past. By any measure it’s one of many world’s great cities, however I didn’t get there throughout my earlier travels, and my spouse was somewhat hesitant to take our youngsters. A rational worry? No. It was media-based, since something unfavourable that happens in that part of the world is reported slightly too heavily. And there have been incidents up to now. However there are incidents in the US on a regular basis. Heck, on the current listing of the world’s most harmful cities, 4 US cities are listed but zero Turkish cities. So we lastly came to our senses and booked a visit – ten days in Turkey, beginning with five days in Istanbul.

We felt protected all over the place we went. Very protected. If security is holding you back from visiting, I’d encourage you to get beyond those fears and guide a trip. We had a guide and driver in all places we traveled, simply to allow us to maximize our time within the nation, so that in all probability helped us feel even safer? But we additionally walked around by ourselves at night time in a number of destinations and felt equally confident that there was nothing to fret about.

Istanbul with Kids - Heading to our painting workshop

Heading to our portray workshop

We beloved Istanbul. Over 5 days we checked out several areas of the town, we did a cooking class, we took a boat journey up the Bosphorus, we visited loads of the key websites and markets, and we ate extraordinarily properly. We hired Sea Track Excursions to rearrange all the things, they usually did a superb job. We left eager to see more, but knew we fit as much as potential into the time we had within the metropolis. We’ll be again.


We flew continuous from Los Angeles to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines – one of the first trips I can keep in mind the place we didn’t want to attach anyplace. We appreciated Turkish general. The service was wonderful and all of us slept nicely. My only grievance: meal service took endlessly. Provided that the flight left LA at 6:30pm, by 9:00 we have been all tired and wanting to go to sleep, but they have been nonetheless serving fundamental programs. I feel all of us opted to skip dessert to go to sleep. Would like to see Turkish velocity that up, especially for households.

We flew into the brand new Istanbul Airport. The airport is awfully giant. Sea Music Tours organized for a VIP buggy experience for us from the aircraft to passport control, which is dear however is a good way to zip by means of a very giant airport. Not solely did it save us over half a kilometer of strolling, it had the additional advantage of getting us to the front of the immigration line. FYI, we had utilized for e-visas prematurely, and the passport individual didn’t ask to see the exhausting copies we introduced.

Istanbul with Kids - Zipping to passport control in Istanbul

Zipping to passport control in Istanbul

Things to Do in Istanbul with Kids

We appreciated nearly all the things we did in Istanbul. Sea Track is used to creating trips for families. Though they designed this itinerary specifically for us, based mostly on how we wish to travel, I’m confident that this can be a good beginning record of things to do for any family visiting Istanbul for the primary time.

Hagia Sophia

There are a couple of superb, iconic buildings within the city that it’s a must to see. St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia) is one among them – one of many oldest church buildings on the planet, then converted to a mosque, and now technically a museum. We liked getting the historical past of the superb construction from Metin our guide. Plus the world around the building is charming, with cobblestones and parks.

Istanbul with Kids - The Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia from the surface

Istanbul with Kids - Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Istanbul with Kids - Hands-on History in Hagia Sophia

Palms-on historical past in Hagia Sophia

A Turkish Cooking Class

We try to take cooking courses all over the place we go. Sea Music arranged one for us with Turkish Flavours and we have been very glad with it – one among our favorite courses we’ve achieved anyplace. Selin and her assistant led us via the creation of six dishes: phyllo triangles with feta and herbs; green beans; cut up belly eggplant; roasted purple pepper spread; tabbouleh; and, for dessert, shekerpare – small domed cookies. Then we ate all the things (or as much as we might). Highly beneficial.

Istanbul with Kids - Our cooking class with Turkish Flavours

Our cooking class with Turkish Flavours

Istanbul with Kids - Making shekerpare

Making shekerpare

Istanbul with Kids - Decorating our split belly eggplant

Decorating our cut up stomach eggplant

A Painting Workshop

Our youngsters love crafts, so Sea Track arranged for a plate portray workshop for us at Caferaga Medresesi. Four of us selected to color traditional Turkish motifs, and my son did his own design. The youngsters had fun, they usually ranked this as one in every of their favourite actions in all of Turkey.

Istanbul with Kids - Painting Turkish motifs

Portray Turkish motifs

Istanbul with Kids - My daughter's plate

My daughter’s plate

A Boat Journey On the Bosphorus

We boarded a personal boat not far from Ciragan Palace for a trip up the Bosphorus to see more of the town (it goes endlessly!), cross over from Europe to Asia, after which disembark on the Asian aspect of the town. While this isn’t a must-do, all of us favored the experience, complete with a scorching tea service, and it was a good way to get to the Beylerbeyi area with out driving.

Istanbul with Kids - Passing Ortaköy

Passing Ortaköy

Istanbul with Kids - Tea on board

Tea on board

Istanbul with Kids - At times we felt like we were on Lake Como

At occasions we felt like we have been on Lake Como (aside from the flag!)

The Şerefiye Cistern

Istanbul is filled with cisterns – giant underground amenities that used to retailer the town’s water supply. Dan Brown’s novel Inferno even finishes in one. We actually enjoyed the Şerefiye Cistern, built by Roman Emperor Theodosius II between 428 and 443. My youngsters ranked it as their favourite thing in all of Istanbul. And we didn’t even spend loads of time there, nevertheless it’s facinating, and nicely cool in comparison with the recent day above us. Plus we had it to ourselves because of good planning by our guide.

Istanbul with Kids - The Şerefiye Cistern

Having the Şerefiye Cistern to ourselves

Istanbul with Kids - In the Şerefiye Cistern

In the Şerefiye Cistern

A Carpet Weaving Demonstration

A number of years ago we visited Ephesus for a day without work a Disney cruise ship – our solely earlier journey to Turkey. Our youngsters have been small, it was a very popular day, and the ruins have been far too crowded as there have been multiple cruise ships in port. Not an incredible experience. However our information saved the day with a visit to a carpet retailer, complete with a weaving demonstration, the unrolling of carpet after carpet (on which the youngsters performed for half an hour), tea, and then a superb lunch subsequent door. And the air con helped immensely in making our youngsters like life once more. We even bought several carpets.

We have been completely happy to do it again in Istanbul. We went to Orient Handmade Carpets, which is five ranges or so with hundreds of carpets. Our weaving demonstration was even better than in Ephesus, and we beloved the unrolling and descriptions. The youngsters didn’t play on the carpets this time, but we as soon as once more beloved every part concerning the expertise. And we didn’t even purchase any carpets this time – although we wrote to the store and purchased a vase that my wife appreciated after we returned house.

Istanbul with Kids - Our weaving demonstration at Orient Handmade Carpets

Our weaving demonstration at Orient Handmade Carpets

Istanbul with Kids - Loved the stairwell at Orient Handmade Carpets!

Beloved the stairwell at Orient Handmade Carpets!

The Suleymaniye Mosque

I’ve been to a variety of superb mosques all over the world, and final yr my son received to go to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. For the women, though, this was their first experience. The Suleymaniye Mosque is a beautiful building, and a superb probability for Metin to talk about Islam in Turkey. My spouse and daughters coated their heads with borrowed scarves to have the ability to go inside.

Istanbul with Kids - At Suleymaniye Mosque

At Suleymaniye Mosque

Istanbul with Kids - Inside the Mosque

Inside the Mosque

The Spice Bazaar

We didn’t like the Grand Bazaar. It’s a type of locations you’re presupposed to go in Istanbul, however it was too giant and all the outlets shortly blended together, selling the identical things just about only to tourists. Much more our type was Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar. The dimensions is extra manageable, and being foodies, we purchased many, many spices and teas to take residence. We notably favored Hayat (market stall 8).

Istanbul with Kids - In the uninteresting Grand Bazaar

Within the uninteresting Grand Bazaar

Istanbul with Kids - Turkish Delight at the Spice Bazaar

Turkish Delight on the Spice Bazaar

Istanbul with Kids - Spices at the Spice Bazaar!

Spices at the Spice Bazaar!

Istanbul with Kids - On a shopping spree at Hayat

On a purchasing spree at Hayat

Exploring Istanbul’s Neighborhoods

We spent a whole lot of each day simply exploring – walking around totally different areas of the town, learning about their significance and historical past from Metin, making an attempt road meals and specialties, and doing a bit of purchasing (particularly for distinctive foods and groceries to take back to California). Our favourite areas have been Beylerbeyi, with its tree-lined streets and charming cafes and stores, Moda with its markets, and Ortaköy, which had an excellent vibe in the evenings, with road meals and music. We also appreciated the historic space around Hagia Sofia, and Istiklal Caddesi, the place we saw the Tünel (the world’s first underground funicular and the second-oldest underground railway) and the lodge where all friends on the Orient Categorical historically overnighted. Oh, and our baklava tasting at Karakoy Gulluoglu Baklavain Karakoy was fun.

Istanbul with Kids - Walking around Beylerbeyi

Strolling round Beylerbeyi

Istanbul with Kids - Old-school multitasking in Beylerbeyi - smoking, drinking tea and reading the paper

Previous-school multitasking in Beylerbeyi – smoking, consuming tea and reading the paper

Istanbul with kids - The markets of Moda

The markets of Moda

Istanbul with Kids - Istiklal Caddesi

Istiklal Caddesi

Istanbul with Kids - Watching jellyfish near the Ortaköy Mosque

Watching jellyfish close to the Ortaköy Mosque

Cat Spotting

And eventually, I might be remiss if I didn’t mention Istanbul’s cats. My youngsters love cats. Each day in Istanbul they counted each cat we saw (usually 50-60 a day), they photographed the cats, they took selfies with the cats, they usually fed the cats from our tables each time attainable. In case your youngsters like cats too, Istanbul is the town for them.

Istanbul with Kids - Photographing Mustache Cat near Istiklal Caddesi

Photographing Mustache Cat near Istiklal Caddesi

Istanbul with Kids - A cat crossing in Beylerbeyi

A cat crossing in Beylerbeyi

Istanbul with Kids - Constantly entranced by Istanbul's cats

Continuously entranced by Istanbul’s cats

Istanbul with Kids - My daughter sneaking chicken to a pregnant cat in Ortaköy

My daughter sneaking hen to a pregnant cat in Ortaköy

The place To Keep in Istanbul

We stayed in two totally different resorts in Istanbul, partly because of occupancy and rates in the course of the holiday week we visited, and partially as a result of we needed to see totally different areas of the town. We liked them both.

Ciragan Palace Kempinski

Should you’ve learn different posts of mine, you realize that I really like iconic places to stay – the basic resorts which were round eternally and have plenty of historical past. In Istanbul that’s the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, a literal Sultan’s palace on the banks of the Bosphorus. We had two rooms next to each other, both with balconies and beautiful views over the property and river. Our first morning, awake early with jet lag, I walked around the property at dawn with two of the youngsters – so enjoyable having the lodge to ourselves, and sunrise was beautiful.

Istanbul with Kids - Looking out from our balcony at Ciragan Palace Kempinski

Searching from our balcony at Ciragan Palace Kempinski

Istanbul with Kids - A gorgeous hotel!

A stunning lodge!

Istanbul with Kids - Waiting for sunrise. Loved walking around the hotel early!

Ready for dawn. Liked walking across the lodge early!

Istanbul with Kids - The palace part of Ciragan Palace Kempinski

The palace portion of Ciragan Palace Kempinski

Istanbul with Kids - Beautiful at night as well

It’s magical at night time!

The lodge’s history and structure set it apart, however we also beloved the situation, solely a 10-minute stroll to the Ortaköy neighborhood.

Istanbul with Kids - In Ortaköy

In Ortaköy

Raffles Istanbul

Raffles Istanbul is more trendy than the Kempinski – completely luxurious, with an impossibly excessive service degree (especially from our butler Kübra). In case you’re a client, it’s good as it’s hooked up to the Zorlu Middle. We beloved having connecting rooms (1612 and 1613) – not widespread anyplace in Europe – and a bigger balcony than we’ve had in any lodge earlier than. And the pool was enjoyable. We by no means had an opportunity to use the Kids Membership, but actions included crafts, origami, face painting, mask making and puppet making.

Istanbul with Kids - Looking out toward Ortaköy from our balcony at Raffles Istanbul

Searching towards Ortaköy from our balcony at Raffles Istanbul

Istanbul with Kids - The kids' room at Raffles Istanbul

The youngsters’ room at Raffles Istanbul, complete with kid-sized slippers and robes

Istanbul with Kids - Our room

Our room

Istanbul with Kids - Loved the stuffed Raffles bears!

Beloved the stuffed Raffles bears!

Istanbul with Kids - The Raffles Istanbul pool

The Raffles Istanbul pool

Our remaining day the lodge arranged for a family hammam experience for us. It was fascinating! The girls and boys first cut up as much as experience the saunas, and then we all came together within the beautiful hammam room. My wife and I received onto the marble tables first, whereas the youngsters relaxed and watched. The overall parts have been mass portions of warm water poured over us, tough exfoliating rubs, massages, ice rubs, more heat water, and then hair washing. I liked all of it. My spouse didn’t love the exfoliation or ice, however appreciated all the things else. After we finished, we went to a waiting room with numerous food while the women acquired their remedies – really simply the water, therapeutic massage and hair washing parts. After watching all of us, my son opted out. He’s never enjoyed massages prior to now. So unsure if your 11-year-old boy will just like the expertise, nevertheless it was enjoyable for the remainder of us.

Istanbul with Kids - Heading to our family hammam experience at Raffles Istanbul

Heading to our household hammam experience at Raffles Istanbul

Istanbul with Kids - The hammam room. Crazy how much water was poured over us on this table!

The hammam room. Loopy how a lot water was poured over us on this table!

Where We Ate

Breakfast every morning was at our lodges. Each Ciragan Palace Kempinski and Raffles Istanbul have superb breakfast buffets with the whole lot underneath the sun. We opted primarily for local specialties. We particularly appreciated the simit (sesame bread circles) and the honeycomb. The primary two afternoons Metin organized our lunches. We dined at Aslan Restaurant and Pandeli Restaurant. We favored Pandeli a bit better. Then our third day we ate what we had simply made on the Turkish Flavours cooking class.

Istanbul with Kids - A small portion of the breakfast spread at Raffles Istanbul

A small portion of the breakfast spread at Raffles Istanbul

Our first night time we ate at the Ciragan Palace’s essential restaurant. The subsequent night time we walked perhaps a kilometer from the lodge to Ortaköy, tried the famous potatoes on the road, and ended up at The House Cafe. Extremely really helpful. Then we transferred to the Raffles and wandered around the related mall, finally having dinner at Eataly – our solely non-Turkish meal in Istanbul. Our last night time was the top of Ramadan, so we joined the massive celebration at the Raffles. We arrived when the restaurant opened, perhaps half an hour before sundown, and spent an hour enjoying the scene because the restaurant crammed with celebrating locals. There was music and conventional Turkish foods and drinks, and we acquired the sensation that the majority groups have been going to be there nicely after we went to mattress.

Istanbul with Kids - Loved this staircase heading up to our lunch at Pandeli

Liked this staircase heading up to our lunch at Pandeli

Ramadan in Istanbul

I mentioned Ramadan above. We scheduled our journey for the final three days of Ramadan, after which the annual post-Ramadan vacation. Truthfully, I expected to get to Istanbul and really feel awkward eating and consuming through the day whereas everyone else was fasting. It was nothing like that nevertheless. I heard numerous estimates, but somewhere between 40 and 60% of the Muslims in Istanbul were not fasting. In all places we went it was business as standard, and restaurants for lunch have been crammed with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I know that’s not the case elsewhere within the Middle East, but in Istanbul there are absolutely no issues being a vacationer throughout Ramadan. Aside from the superb feast/celebration at Raffles Istanbul, there was very little indication (for us, no less than) that Ramadan was even happening.

Istanbul with Kids - Pouring traditional Turkish drinks at Raffles' end of Ramadan celebration

Pouring conventional Turkish drinks at Raffles’ end of Ramadan celebration


We acquired media rates from Sea Music Excursions, Ciragan Palace Kempinski and Raffles Istanbul. Sea Music’s normal worth for a guide and driver is $285/day complete, plus parking and entrance charges.

The VIP Arrival Service at Istanbul Airport is $130 per individual. In case you have the cash go for it! Otherwise it’s completely a splurge. Once we got here again by means of Istanbul on the finish of our trip, we wished we had it. We had lower than an hour to attach from our Athens flight to our Los Angeles flight. I’m fairly positive both flights used the same aircraft, but we had to run 1.4km via the airport to undergo safety and then get back to the aircraft. We barely made it.

The boat experience on the Bosphorus was $450. Our cooking class with Turkish Flavours was $100 per individual. Meals usually appeared to be between $50 and $60 for all of us.

Rooms on the Ciragan Palace Kempinski start at $450 or so for the non-Palace building where we stayed. Palace rooms are costlier. Raffles Istanbul starts at $380.

Istanbul with Kids - Morning at Ciragan Palace Kempinski

Morning at Ciragan Palace Kempinski

Take your youngsters to Istanbul! I regret ready so long to visit. We felt protected all over the place, and beloved every part concerning the metropolis. And take an extra duffel or two! We came again with a whole lot of purchases – primarily spices and other elements in order that we might duplicate some of our favourite Turkish dishes at residence.