Istanbul has been attracting a huge number of Muslim tourists from around the world in every season. Some prefer to visit in the best season i.e. August, while some during offseason.
We know that traveling with kids is no piece of cake, especially to cities that are famous for art and history rather than kids stuff. Anyhow, whenever you plan to visit Turkey, here are a few helpful tips that will make your family holiday hassle free and memorable.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
The most important thing in Istanbul is booking a hotel in the real heart i.e. Sultanahmet. Staying in the tourist area means half the hassle and cost of traveling. Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Hammams, Gulhane Park, Basilica Cistern and Arasta Bazar, almost all tourist spots are inside this 2km diameter where you can easily walk or catch the excellent tram service i.e. right in front of the Blue Mosque (a.k.a. Jami Sultan Ahmet).
- We stayed at Anthemis Hotel which was almost in front of the Blue Mosque. Double room with an extra sofa bed was for about $110/night in late July. Although it’s location and staff was perfect, I found room size too small for our family 4: a toddler, preschooler, and two adults.
- Hotels are expensive in Sultanahmet but are convenient
Traveler Tips for Istanbul
- Since Istanbul is all about museums and mosques; if you’re planning to stay for more than 2 days, getting a 5-day museum pass is a great idea which is for 125 TL
- If your kids can’t bear standing in long entry ticket lines, hire a tour guide and he will take you straight inside. Luckily we found one outside Hagia Sophia for about 100TL who spoke fluent English, kept calm and entertained the kids during the 1-hour tour.
- If you have a keen interest in architecture, art or history, you will enjoy a guided tour more than a self-guided one
- Renting audio tours for museums and famous spots are a great idea
- Use Uber instead of the regular yellow cab. It’s way too cheap and arrives within 5 minutes.
- The best shopping place for souvenirs is Arasta Bazar. No other market can beat the quality and price of the genuine handicrafts sold there
- Grand bazar has become more of a China bazar. Don’t waste your time going there, instead go to spice bazaar.
- Don’t miss taking a family photo wearing traditional Turkish costumes
- Don’t bother to take stroller inside Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern, they are not stroller friendly at all.
What to Eat in Istanbul
We had meals at various casual dining restaurants such as Sultan Cafe, Dervish restaurant, and Massa Bistro, and all were great. Average cost per meal for casual dining was around 50-60TL.
- Tip: Do not expect amazing burgers and pizzas from random restaurants. Enjoy what they cook best i.e. Kababs and grilled meats from Turkish cuisine.
- Pottery Kebab
- Kunafe and Baklawa – Everybody’s favorite
- Lamb Chops (Massa Bistro)
- Lamb Doner
- Dehli Darbar near Taksim square (only if you miss desi food badly)
- Sherbethane (for local juices, drinks, and sheesha)
What to Feed the Kids
- Turkish Ravioli
- Turkish Icecream
- Lentil soup and butter steamed rice
- Boiled sweet corns to keep them busy on the way. You can find them easily around every corner
Fine Dining Options
- Sur Balik, famous for seafood with Bosphorus view (meal price/person up to $50-60)
- Nusret Steakhouse Chops and Steaks (Average meal can cost up to $50)
Things to do in Istanbul with Kids
- Vialand Istanbul – A grand theme park near the Golden Horn, famous for its waterpark and shopping complex.
- Gulhane Park – Beautifully designed park with unique flowers and relaxing open spaces for kids near Topkapi Palace.
- Take a Family Portrait in Turkish Costumes
- Legoland – World famous lego themed park, great for kids under 12
- Bosphorus Cruise
- Istanbul Aquarium – Good for kids and adults of all ages
- Miniaturk – Miniature park with Turkey’s famous landmarks for kids to see closely
For more tips and cost estimate to plan your itinerary for Turkey family holiday, read more below: