Istanbul, Europe’s largest city, is one of the best city break destinations in Europe to visit with kids. The city is a mix of cultural influences, and there’s plenty to do for families.
This Istanbul city break travel guide will take you through the very best things to do in Istanbul with kids, where to eat, where to stay in Istanbul for families and the best day trips.
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Top 10 Things to do in Istanbul with kids
If you’re visiting Istanbul with kids, there’s plenty to do. Here are our top recommendations:
1. Explore The Besiktas district
One of the best attractions in Istanbul for kids in Turkey is the Besiktas area. Known for its kinetic streetlife & bustling food places, it is one of the best places for kids in Turkey due to the abundance of ice cream parlours and great kebabs. It also features a lot of great kids activities in Istanbul.
Visit Dolmabahce Clocktower & Palace, serving once as the administrative centre of the Ottoman empire.
Make sure you visit Taksim Square, where you and your little ones can feed pigeons.
Don’t miss the one-of-its-kind Vodafone Arena, where one of Turkey’s top football teams plays the great Besiktas.
2. Walk around Galata
One of the best things to do in Istanbul with family is to go to the picturesque Galata district.
It boasts some of the most stunning landmarks for kids in Turkey, such as:
- The Galata Tower, a masterpiece dating back to the Byzantine past.
- The Quincentennial Foundation Museum displaying the history of the Turkish Jewry, and one of the holiest prayer houses in Istanbul.
- The Neve Shalom Synagogue.
Keep in mind that Galata is one of the best spots for going on an Istanbul old city walking tour, one of the best things to do in Istanbul in July, June, August, and other warm months.
3. See Bosphorus
Another of the best things to do in Istanbul is going to the majestic Bosporus, a waterway that has long divided Europe and Asia, with Istanbul straddling both – one of the most impressive things for you and your kids in Turkey.
Here you can go on the tour of the Bosporus, one of the best Istanbul sightseeing tours.
4. Turkish street performances
Turkey has some of the worlds best street entertainment Visit the Istiklal Avenue, where you can take delight in the harmonious intermingling of Romani and Turkish music..
5. Taksim Square
Taking a walk to the stunning Taksim square, the city’s main forum, is one of the best things to do in Istanbul in April when it is warm and pleasant to be outside.
Here, you can marvel at the spacious square shape and make it your starting point for exploring the beautiful Besiktas district, where the square is located.
Don’t miss out on the chance to feed pigeons that the square pullulates with; it will bring you and your kids a lot of luck.
6. Hagia Sofia
Once a Christian church, then a museum and now a mosque, the beautiful Hagia Sofia is one of the world’s best places to visit with kids.
Its vast dome is beautified by four slender towers, while its inside is ornamented with Arabic writings and is beautifully lit with mind-blowing circular skylights placed around its beauteous dome.
Going on a tour of Hagia Sofia is one of the best things to do in Istanbul with family because your kids in Turkey can uncover how the succession of different faiths and ideologies can be traced in the ever-changing status of this excellent prayer house.
7. Topkapi Palace
The Topkapi Palace is one of the top Istanbul landmarks to show your kids the unrivalled beauty of Turkish architecture.
8. The Blue Mosque
Take your kids in Turkey on the tour of the Blue Mosque, a UNESCO-listed heritage site. Constructed in 1616 under the rule of Ahmed, it is the ruler’s burial place, also featuring a hospice and a madrasah. It is a functioning place of worship. It is one of Istanbul’s most popular landmarks drawing in thousands of tourists every month.
Show your kids it’s beautifully ornate inside, where hand-painted blue tiles adorn the holy place’s walls.
9. Turkish Street Food
Istanbul is known for its ambrosial street food, a veritable treat to your kids in Turkey. Istanbul for kids can offer you the highly delectable kebabs and other meat dishes and baklavas, a sweet Middle Eastern dessert; mouth-watering ice cream, and falafel, a vegetarian dish if you don’t want your kids to eat meat.
Head to Grand Bazaar Turkey to see for yourself how bountiful street food in Istanbul can be, and don’t miss out on its great dried fruit and sweetmeats.
Also, keep in mind that drinking hot Turkish tea, served in glasses, is one of the best Istanbul winter activities.
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10. Walls of Constantinople
One of the city’s most ancient landmarks, the walls of Constantinople date back to the times of the Roman Empire and will for sure impress your kids in Turkey with its sheer antiquity.
Note that sometimes when snow falls at the New Year, they are covered all in white, making a trip to the walls of Constantinople, one of the best places to visit in Istanbul in December or winter in general.
Going there is excellent for your kids in Turkey, and you and is one of the most unusual things in Istanbul.
What is the best time to visit Istanbul?
Whatever time of year you choose to visit, you’ll have a fantastic city break with kids in Istanbul. Here are the best times of year to visit:
April-May is the best time to visit Istanbul. Enjoy mild weather – perfect for seeing the main sights.
Don’t forget that April-May is when the Tulip Festival lasts from April 1st to April 30th, & International Film Festival, occurring on April 8-19, take place, among other things.
Another great time to visit Istanbul with kids is September-November. Then, just like in April-May, crowds are sparser, and an average room price is lower than in summer. Temperatures are nice for walking to fun places for kids in Istanbul and doing sports.
Finding out what to see in Istanbul is especially interesting during these months, given the abundance of cultural and sports events, like the UEFA Champions League matches played by Istanbul’s best clubs like Fenerbahce or Besiktas.
How to Get to Istanbul with Kids
You can travel to Istanbul by air and by bus, car, train, or even on a cruise. It is a transport hub, with Istanbul airport being one of the world’s largest, and Istanbul Cruise Port, one of Europe’s nicest cruise terminals.
Getting to Istanbul by plane
Flying to Istanbul is cheap, and one of the most hassle-free ways to visit the city from outside Turkey is made especially appealing by easy access from the airport to Istanbul centre. View flights for your dates here.
Getting to Istanbul by bus
If you are already in Turkey or a neighbouring country like Greece or Romania, going to Istanbul with kids by bus is also an option.
This may not be the best option for younger kids!
Getting to Istanbul by car
If you are a large family renting a car to visit Istanbul with kids from another Turkish city or a nearby country can be the best solution. View car hire prices and availability for your dates here.
Getting to Istanbul on a Cruise
To keep the kids entertained, tell them stories of the loot-lustful Turkish Corsairs that preyed on ships in the times of yore, something is long forgotten by most.
Getting to Istanbul by train
Boasting modern railway infrastructure, Turkey is one of the best countries to travel to by train. The train can be the most comfortable way to get to Istanbul from cities like Ankara, Samsun or Adana.
It is especially lovely to visit Istanbul with kids by train if you appreciate the scenic window views and comfort, absent sometimes on a bus trip due to traffic-clogged Istanbul roads.
Where to stay in Istanbul with kids
Istanbul is a great place to stay with kids. Here are our top accommodation recommendations for all budgets:
Budget: Taksim Park Suites
Spend a night in the best value Taksim Park Suites, one of the best places to stay in Istanbul with kids.
The hotel boasts impeccable cleaning and sanitization standards while its staff is expert in safety protocol.
The child-friendly property is located in Beyoglu district, just 3,4km from the city centre and rated 9.2 by Booking.
Mid Range: Grand Residence Stay to Enjoy
Rent an entire apartment at the GRSTE, complete with three beds and fitting up to 4 guests, one of the best options in Istanbul for kids.
The one-bedroom studio offers a bath and exquisite décor. At the same time, the property boasts cutting edge facilities like a private pool, a top-notch gym, free Wi-Fi in all rooms, and air-conditioning throughout the building.
What is more, it is located 550m from public transportation in the green area far from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul’s touristic downtown, perfect for kids in Turkey if profiting from the up-to-date Istanbul city guide and its modern transport infrastructure.
Splashing out: Amazing Triplex Apartment
Situated close to the city’s main touristic sites, the luxurious Amazing Triplex Apartment offers a spacious apartment for you and your kids that can provide enough room for your extended family.
The world-class-hospitality-standards apartment features nine beds and can house up to 17 guests. It boasts three bedrooms, three bathrooms, complete with cutting-edge cooking facilities, and even a garden and a balcony.
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Istanbul Itinerary: Day 1: Istanbul in one Day
Morning: After breakfast, venture on an Istanbul old city walking tour. The tour will guide you through some of the best attractions in Istanbul, Turkey. Headfirst to Hagia Sofia Mosque, a stunning piece of Greek architecture, converted into a mosque, then a museum and then a mosque once more time.
After showing your kids into marvel at its stunning interior, take them to Sogukcesme, a walking-only street famous for its historic flower-covered mansions and Hagia Irene, a museum housed in Istanbul’s oldest church, turned into the mosque upon the Ottmans’ conquest.
Afternoon: After lunch, you can start your afternoon by visiting the Ahmed Cesmesi fountain.
Next, proceed to the green and tranquil Gulhane Park and Cafer Aga Madressi, a 15th-century building housing craft workshop that will introduce your kids to the centuries of success achieved by the Ottman craftsmen.
Following that, take your time to stroll around the historical downtown to treat your kids in Turkey to the best Turkish ice-creams and Turkish desserts, one of the best things to do in Turkey in December, to uncover its one-of-its-kind New Year festive charm.
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Day 2: Istanbul in 2 Days
Morning: Let your 2 day Istanbul itinerary start with a visit to scenic Sultanahmet Square. Then head to Cemberlitas Hamami, a historical Turkish bathhouse and Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, one of Istanbul’s most revered places of worship.
Afterwards, pursue your 2 day Istanbul itinerary to Kucuk Aysasofya, also known as Little Hagia Sofia, a former Greek Orthodox church known for its beautiful Greek exterior. Eat lunch on the beautiful Bosphorus, a short walk away from the Kucuk Aysasofya, and let your kids in Turkey delight in the stunning seascape.
Afternoon: After lunch, go to the Turkey Grand Bazaar to treat your kids in Turkey to the best of what is there do in Istanbul, like Turkey Grand Bazaar’s crafts, Oriental delicacies and many more.
Make your way to the picture-perfect Laleli Mosque and beauteous Pertenviyal Valide Sultan Mosque. Take a stroll back then to the Bosphorus to sense its briny charm and sea breeze.
3 Days in Istanbul Itinerary
Visit Topkapi Palace, arguably Istanbul’s most treasured landmark. Located in the East of the Fatih district, it is home to one of Istanbul’s best museums. Get your Topkapi Palace tickets here.
After the sultan moved to Dolmabache Palace, it functioned as the mint yard, imperial treasury and library. Head here to make your three day Istanbul itinerary truly inspiring for your kids. Get your skip the line ticket with a guided tour here.
4 Days in Istanbul Itinerary
Begin your 4-day Istanbul itinerary with breakfast at one of the Bosphorus-facing restaurants. Then proceed to Besiktas and its wonderful Taksim Square. Spend your day walking along its labyrinthine streets.
If you still want to continue your 4 days in Istanbul itinerary, head to the Constantinopole Walls, an ancient architectural site and a great reminder of how old Istanbul is.
Crown your evening afternoon with a visit to the Devrishi Show (starting at 19.00) to see the whirling Devrishi, one of the best things to do in Turkey with family to unveil its mesmeric past and then to head for dinner to try out the best of Turkish cuisine: the best fun activities in Istanbul to do with your 4 days in Istanbul guide on the day four of your journey. Get your tickets here.
5 Days in Istanbul Itinerary
Galata is renowned worldwide for its Galatasary football team, one of Europe’s best. Commence your 5 day Istanbul itinerary with a tour of the Galata district. Head to the ancient Byzantine-built Galata tower and then to the multicultural district’s stunning Synagogue and Jewish sites.
After spending the first part of the last day of your 5 days in Istanbul, Turkey, head to the Fener district known for its sidewalk cafes, European-Turkish bistros, and scenic streets lined with old wooden houses, beautiful churches like Saint Stefan Bulgarian Church and the eye-appealing Church of St. Mary of the Mongols and the waterfront Halic Sair Nedim Park to end your 5 days in Istanbul itinerary.
Best Places to Eat in Istanbul for Families
Istanbul is known for its wide variety of food options. You can not only indulge in its delicious street food but also pay a visit to its numerous restaurants, ranking among the world’s best.
Here you and your kids in Turkey can find all kinds of best value eating places and have a great Turkey city break by exploring Istanbul by eating its food like kebabs, baklavas, and the world-famous Turkish meat dishes such as its heavenly BBQs or meatballs, known as Kofte.
Garden 1897 is one of Istanbul’s best restaurants and is the best place to visit in Turkey for families to revel in the mouth-watering cuisine.
Located in Sultanahmet, just a stone’s throw away from Hagia Sofia, it is simply unmatchable due to its mouth-watering BBQs, exceptional service and a beautiful setting smothered in lush greenery that will let your kids feel like true Sultans of yore.
Siva Oyster Fish Restaurant
Rated Istanbul’s best eatery by Tripadvisor, the Siva Oyster Fish Restaurant boasts a prime location and is an incredible Istanbul for kids locale.
Here you can delight in the top-quality seafood, traditional Turkish sweetmeats, and an abundance of tea, top-quality service, and great location.
Ararat Terrace Restaurant
Facing the sea and boasting a fantastic sea view, this restaurant is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul with kids.
It is located just 200m away from the Hagia Sofia Mosque in the city-central Sultanahmet and is known for its best-in-Istanbul for kids breakfast. Waiters are friendly and speedy, making it one of the best places to breakfast with kids in Turkey.
Day Trips from Istanbul with Kids
There are several attractions in Istanbul, Turkey’s environs that are worthy of a day trip from Istanbul with kids. They include architectural sites like ruins of the storied Troy, the walls of Constantinopole, and the stunning beaches on the Black Sea coast of Turkey.
One of the best beaches to visit in Istanbul with kids is Kilyos. Located 41 km from downtown, it is still formally part of Istanbul. Here you can find a long stretch of fine sand and azure waters great for swimming in Istanbul for kids. Jump on a bus N40 from Taksim (Taksim-Sariyer) that runs all the way to Kilyos.
Uncover the beautiful Turkish capital with kids and make sure to uncover all the Oriental charm before heading back to school or nursery to remember their Turkish fairytale.
Plan Your Family Trip to Istanbul
Sylvie Simpson is the founder of European Cities with Kids. For the past 6 years, she has been travelling all over Europe whenever she has the chance, both solo, for work and with her daughter. Sylvie is on a mission to help people make the most of city breaks in Europe with kids and helps over 50,000 readers per month plan and make the most of their trips in Europe with kids.