Breathtaking architecture, strong coffee and layers upon layers of history – at first consideration, Istanbul might not seem like the perfect place to keep the kids entertained. But think again. Turkish culture is very family-oriented, so if you're travelling with children you're bound to enjoy a warm welcome. We’ve picked out our favourite things to do with the kids while you’re here.
Take the little ones on a tiny Turkish adventure. Miniaturk is an open-air miniature park with hundreds of scale models. It tells the story of Turkey’s rich past, including the Ottoman Empire, all shrunk down to a handy size for the children. With 105 scale models, Miniaturk is the world’s largest miniature park.
Sutluce Mahallesi, Imrahor Caddesi. Tel: +90 (212) 222 2882.
2) Rahmi M Koc Museum
The Rahmi M Koc is a transport museum with a difference. Kids can clamber all over the exhibits, from vintage cars through to trains, submarines and airplanes. They can sit in a plane cockpit, pretend to be living in a submarine and try their hands at scientific experiments. The museum is housed in a beautiful 19th century factory which is well worth a visit in itself.
Haskoy Cad. No: 5. Tel: +90 (212) 369 66 00-01-02.
3) Istanbul SEA LIFE Aquarium
Let the kids dive into the fun and get up close with the fishes. The Sea Life Aquarium was opened in 2011 and is the proud host of Europe’s largest shark collection. Don't miss the sea turtle hospital, the jellyfish exhibit, or the interactive touchpool experience.
If you want to make a day of it, bring the family to Vialand. This huge theme park is located in the Eyup region and has lots of rides and roller coasters to keep the little ones entertained all day long. Take the free shuttle bus from Taksim near Big Bus stop 8, or from Sultanahmet near Big Bus stops 1 and 11.
5) The Princes’ Islands
Why not take a break from the sightseeing and the hustle and bustle of the big city? The Princes’ Islands are a chain of 9 small islands where locals and tourists alike come to relax and recharge the batteries. Motorised vehicles are banned, so if you want to go anywhere you’ll have to take a horse-drawn carriage. To get here, take a ferry or for a little extra cost a sea bus from Kabatas.
6) Istanbul Toy Museum
They can never have enough toys. So bring them to a place that holds 4,000 or so, at the last count. Many are antiques and some date back 200 years or more. If the little ones are itching to get creative, they can take part in workshops like wooden toy painting. While you’re here, see how many of the toys you used to have when you were young!
Dr. Zeki Zeren Sk. No: 17. Tel: +90 (216) 359 4550.
7) Istanbul Modern
Okay, we’re not expecting your little ones to gaze in awe at the paintings. But what they can do at Istanbul’s modern art gallery is get creative. There are free workshops most days to get kids involved in art, including making sculptures, drawing, painting, and more.
Karakoy, Meclis-I Mebusan Cad., 34433 Beyoglu. Tel: +90 (212) 334 7300.
8) The Nostalgic Tram
It’s like a theme park ride, but at a fraction of the price! The Taksim-Tunel Nostalgia Tramway travels the length of Istiklal Caddesi, one of Istanbul’s main shopping streets. So you get to enjoy the shopping, while they get to enjoy the journey. The trams and even the ticket collectors’ uniforms look like they’re like something from the early 1900s. Don’t miss the Tunel, an underground funicular near Galata Bridge.
9) Legoland Discovery Center
Rides, a 4D cinema, a mini Istanbul constructed out of Lego, a Lego builders academy and a variety of themed construction areas. You won't be forgiven if you don't bring the kids here during your trip to Istanbul. Don't look at it as a chore though - Adults actually need a child chaperone to visit Legolan, so consider yourself lucky if you have the chance to visit with the kids! Big Bus Tours offers 24 and 48 hour sightseeing tickets that also include a 1-day pass to Legoland and Sea Life aquarium.
Kocatepe Mah., Paşa Cad. 5/5, 34045 Bayrampaşa/İstanbul.
10) Istanbul Dolphinarium
Kids and adults alike will enjoy visiting Istanbul's Dolphinarium, an indoor habitat for dolphins, northern fur seals, walruses and even a white beluga whale. Dolphinarium tickets are included with our 24-Hour Tour & Dolphinarium Package.
Silahtarağa, Silahtarağa Cad. D:2/4, 34050 Eyüp/İstanbul (near Big Bus Stop 24)