With its stunning historic buildings and rich cultural heritage, you may be forgiven for believing that Istanbul is a destination best suited to adults, but you’d be wrong. Turkey’s thriving, cosmopolitan city, Istanbul, has plenty to keep its younger visitors happy too. From theme parks and boat rides to one of the world’s largest aquariums, Istanbul is a great destination for families with young children.
Family holidays are all about going somewhere where you can have fun and relax together – with all the activities on offer, Istanbul makes an ideal destination. Whether you choose to spend the day trying out the rides at the city’s huge theme park, Vialand, or prefer introducing the kids to the sights of Turkey in miniature at MiniaTürk, rain or shine there is always plenty for you and the kids to do together.
Turkish Life in Miniature
MiniaTürk offers sightseeing on a scale which is much more likely to appeal to your little ones than traipsing around the ruins of ancient buildings. All the most significant sights of Turkey are recreated here on a scale of 1:25.
Your little ones can run from tiny Roman ruins to miniature replicas of some of Turkey’s stunning Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques. And the best part is, they won’t even realise that they’re actually learning something about the history of this fascinating country as they play.
Make sure you don’t miss out on a visit to the Istanbul Crystal Museum while you’re there – your kids will marvel at some of Turkey’s most iconic buildings recreated in delicately cut and illuminated glass. Quite stunning!
Cruise Like a Sultan
Bring history alive for your little ones by taking them on a boat ride down the Bosphorus in a replica of the royal boats used by the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. These beautiful wooden vessels with their ornate golden gilding recreate the transport of Istanbul’s prosperous past. They are also a great way to keep the kids entranced while you take in a spot of sightseeing.
You have a choice of leaving from the dock at Dolmabahçe Palace and gliding down the Bosphorus Strait, taking in the city’s district of stunning old palaces, or the dock at Haliç Kongre Merkezi from which you’ll gain access to one of the oldest parts of the city.
Explore the Marine Life at the Aquarium
If your kids love staring at a submarine world of fish, sharks and crustaceans, then Istanbul’s 22,000m² aquarium is going to have them spinning with excitement. One of the world’s biggest thematic aquariums, Istanbul Akvaryum has around 1,500 species of sea creatures, a 5D movie theatre with wind, fog and water effects, and a 1.2km walkway, stretching from the Black Sea to the Atlantic, for your kids to explore.
With three separate cafes and a restaurant – featuring a recreated view of the Panama Canal on one side and the sea on the other – you could come in the morning and spend the whole day wandering around this fascinating place.
Step Back in Time on Prince’s Islands
Your kids are guaranteed to love a day trip to one of the Prince’s Islands, which lie off the shore of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. Originally a place of exile during the Byzantine era, the four islands have become a popular tourist spot for visitors and locals alike, thanks to the peace and tranquillity they offer.
Kids will love the fact that there are no motorised vehicles at all on the islands and the only way to get around is either by horse-drawn carriage or bicycle. In fact, everything from the ferry ride over, to the carriage rides and bicycle hire seem to be custom-built to entertain children. But don’t worry, there’s plenty for parents to love here too, from the shady beauty of the unspoilt pine forests to the wooden Victorian houses which line the streets. Visiting is like stepping back into a quieter, calmer past.
How to Get to Istanbul
Istanbul has two international airports, Istanbul Ataturk and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen, both of which are served by flights from most of the major UK airports. Airlines which fly into Istanbul from the UK range from national carriers to budget. Take the stress out of arriving at an airport with young children by booking an airport transfer in advance with Shuttle Direct. For the most economic option, ask about shared and group transfers.
Of course, Istanbul is also a busy port with many ferries and cruises stopping here. Arrange a port transfer with Shuttle Direct and a driver will meet you at your arrival point and take you wherever you want to go in the city.
Where to Stay
Hotel Sumengen – With friendly staff, family rooms and free WiFi in all the rooms, Hotel Sumengen is a great option if you’re holidaying with the kids. A former Ottoman mansion set in the heart of the city, the hotel has views of the Marmara Sea, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Kids will love the plentiful breakfast buffet with traditional Turkish pastries as well as rolls and cakes.
Sultanahmet Suites – If you’d prefer to cook for the kids rather than always having to eat out then the self-catering family rooms of Sultanahmet Suites could be the perfect solution for you. LCD TVs in the rooms, seating areas and free WiFi will help keep the kids entertained in this clean, modern hotel just 10 minutes’ walk from the Blue Mosque.
Prestige Hotel – For a little touch of luxury, try the Prestige Hotel just minutes away from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. With a range of family rooms on offer, it is a great option if you’re travelling with little ones. The rooms come with seating areas, TVs and minibars. The restaurant downstairs has an international menu that should have something for even the pickiest eaters, and offers a great buffet breakfast.
About Shuttle Direct
Providing a reliable, friendly airport transfer service across Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct transfers are a great way of taking the stress out of travelling with small children. Book a car or group transfer before you set off with Shuttle Direct’s easy online booking system and rest assured that your transfer will be waiting for you when you arrive. Choose from a budget group transfer or a spacious private car with enough room to fit you, the kids and all of your luggage.