12 Things to Know About Visiting Istanbul (with Kids!)

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Visiting Istanbul with kids is a fantastic family adventure, offering a blend of rich history, vibrant culture, and engaging activities. The city is incredibly family-friendly, offering a diverse range of attractions and activities that cater to all ages. The city’s public transportation system, including trams and ferries, is easy to navigate and adds an element of fun to getting around. Istanbul’s many parks and open spaces, such as Emirgan Park and Yıldız Park, provide beautiful settings for picnics and playtime, giving children plenty of room to run and explore. There are truly endless things to explore in Istanbul with kids!

What to Pack for a Family Vacation to Istanbul: Minimal Packing Essentials for Families

Especially with a big family, it’s important for us to pack minimally so we don’t feel totally overwhelmed when we travel. Here are some of our favorite minimal packing essentials for families!

  • Merino Wool Base Layers, Socks, & Sweaters: Here are my favorite base layers to use as pajamas or to layer under clothing in cold weather. I also really love this stretchy merino silk v-neck under clothes or as a top, especially in warmer weather. All our favorite merino wool base layers and wool socks are linked HERE!
  • Diaper Belt Bag: I absolutely love this little bag because it holds so much but is really compact and easy to wear with a variety of outfits. You can use the code PASSPORTFAM10 for 10% off.
  • Packing Cubes: I love packing cubes for keeping things organized, contained, and compact. These are my favorite expandable packing cubes, and I also love these.
  • Lightweight Women’s Pants: I absolutely adore these pants for travel because they’re SO comfortable, fold super small, and dry in a flash. More about why I love them HERE.
  • Lightweight Packable Coat: I love this lightweight packable parka because it is really warm and good for layering, and folds into a bag a little bigger than a water bottle when not in use. My kids have also used these coats for years and they’re excellent because they fold up easily but are warm and layer well. They have a big line of them for the whole family.
  • Shoes: I often only take one pair of shoes – either my favorite white sneakers or my beloved black Chelsea boots. More about both shoes HERE. For my kids, we really love Keen shoes because they’re durable and waterproof. For summer, we love these sneakers or these close-toed hiking sandals. For winter, we love these boots.
  • 40L Backpack: I love this kids backpacking backpack because it’s roomy, easily fits in most carry on requirements on airplanes, and fits really comfortably. (My 6 year old uses the smaller 18L version, and my 3 year old uses the even smaller 12L version.)
  • Pop Up Tent Baby Bed: We’ve had this super lightweight baby travel bed for over a decade. We love it so much because it’s so lightweight and fits easily in a suitcase without having to take a bulky and heavy pack n play.
  • Lightweight Folding Baby Carrier; I absolutely love this baby carrier because it’s supportive but still lightweight and weighs about a pound.

For more packing ideas here’s what I packed for:

Best Places to Stay in Istanbul With Kids: Family-Friendly Istanbul

For a family-friendly vacation in Istanbul, consider staying in these three neighborhoods, each offering convenient access to attractions and family-friendly amenities:

Sultanahmet is the historic heart of Istanbul, home to many of the city’s most famous landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. It’s an ideal neighborhood for families who want to be within walking distance of these iconic sites.

Beyoğlu is a vibrant, modern district known for its bustling atmosphere, cultural sites, and lively Istiklal Street. It offers a mix of entertainment, shopping, and dining options suitable for families.

Located on the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy offers a more relaxed, local atmosphere with plenty of parks, markets, and waterfront views. It’s perfect for families looking to experience a different side of the city.

Top Things to Do in Istanbul With Kids

Istanbul is home to iconic landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, both architecturally stunning, with endless eye candy for kids. Families can explore the bustling Grand Bazaar, where children will be enthralled by the colorful stalls and traditional Turkish sweets. A leisurely cruise along the Bosphorus provides stunning views and a fun way to see the city’s skyline. Don’t miss the chance to visit Miniaturk, an open-air park featuring miniature models of Turkey’s most famous buildings, making it an educational and entertaining stop for kids.

Visiting Istanbul With Kids: 12 Things to Know

1. THE PEOPLE LOVE KIDS. Truly, the people we met in Istanbul were some of the warmest we’ve met on our travels, and they tended to really love children. We’ve been a few places where, while we’re definitely still glad we took our kids along, it took a little more management in terms of keeping them quiet and polite enough for local expectations of kid behavior.

Istanbul, on the other hand, felt very easy in terms of kid behavior. The culture really seemed to welcome them warmly, and no one seemed surprised or put out by having them around. In fact, in several of the places we went, people seemed even MORE friendly because we had kids in tow! We had several people give them treats or offer to let us through/to the front of a line because we had little ones with us. Beware that they have less of a need for personal space than we tend to need in the US, but try to go with the flow and they’ll love you for it.

2. IT’S BUSY.  You know how when you go to London, even in the middle of tourist season, everything is very orderly and neat? Istanbul is…not like that. In fact, having grown up visiting India (where my parents grew up), it felt very similar in terms of pace. Lots of people shouting, lots of crowds and haggling, lots of scents and spices and colors. This made it very vibrant and fun for kids because it was extremely visually stimulating.

3. IT’S EXTREMELY WALKABLE. Most of the major sites are within easy walking distance, even for littler legs. We loved strolling everywhere, especially since there’s so much to see all around. Since it was so crowded and busy when we were there, it hardly felt worth it to take a taxi or public transportation, and we were very happy to have the flexibility of just walking to get somewhere instead of waiting for traffic or figuring out bus schedules. We did take the T-1 tram line a few places, as well, which our kids loved. You can also purchase a prepaid Istanbulkart that will allow you to ride any form of public transportation.

4. IT’S NOT GREAT FOR STROLLERS. Lots of bumpy, cobblestoned/cracked streets and sidewalks means that it’s tricky to push a stroller around, but not impossible. We managed with a double stroller, and both our kids slept for a few hours, so it felt worth it. Just be prepared to put some muscle into your stroller pushing, or take a baby carrier or two instead (we love this baby carrier ).

5. YOU MAY NOT NEED A VISA. Türkiye currently does not require visas for Americans! U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Turkiye for less than 90 days for tourism. You will still need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond travel dates.

6. DON’T EAT FOOD OR DRINKS FROM THE STREET. It will be tempting. But there are plenty of restaurants and cafes available if you get hungry. Trust me – Daniel got incredibly sick from some orange juice off the street (after the sweet little vendor boy helped him get the stroller up on the curb) and couldn’t keep anything down for a week after.

7. BUT DO TRY LOTS OF LOCAL FOODS. Istanbul has a truly fantastic food scene. Many hotels and bed & breakfasts will provide a full Turkish breakfast, which is insanely delicious. So many spreads and cheeses and fruits and yogurts. Definitely fill up for a full day of sightseeing.

8. IF YOU’RE FEMALE, BRING A SCARF. Most mosques will request that you cover your head with a scarf. They’ll usually have something available for you to use if you forget, but it’s nice to come prepared. For the same reason, wear long pants or a long skirt inside religious structures, as well, and be sure to cover your shoulders. You may also want to wear socks, as you’ll need to remove your shoes before entering a mosque.

9. ISTANBUL HAS MULTIPLE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS. While there used to be two international airports in the city, there is now a newer international airport to serve the area to primarily serve the city. I recommend using Istanbul International Airport as your main hub.

10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO HAGGLE. It’s definitely expected and part of the experience at the bazaars, and you won’t offend anyone by trying. Know your price, be reasonable, be kind, be firm.

11. MOST TURKISH BATHS WON’T ALLOW SMALL CHILDREN. If your child is over the age of 4, you may be able to take them, but very few baths allow children younger than that, especially if you want one of the beautiful, historic ones. We visited the gorgeous Çemberlitas Hamami, which is super close to the famous Grand Bazaar. Daniel and I took turns in the baths while the other stayed with napping kiddos in the stroller while eating a snack and strolling the Bazaar.

12. USE STREET SMARTS. As a foil to #1, people can sometimes be OVERLY friendly. We found that it actually helped traveling as a family with small children, as we were far less likely to encounter catcalls and stares, and somehow having children with us made us feel even a bit safer when we were there (August of 2014). Still, even if you do, try to ignore the attention and make it clear that you’re not interested in engaging. I’d recommend staying away from any border areas and being vigilant. Overall, though, I still believe Istanbul is safe for a family to visit, especially if you’re staying in the main tourist areas.

Istanbul truly is an historic, beautiful city filled with incredible culture, food, and sights. I’d love to know if it’s on your list!


One Response

  • Janita Shah says:

    I have been following you on instagram and loved this turkey post. We are considering visiting Turkey with a 6 .5 and 2.5 year old. Do you have any recommendations on family friendly things to do?

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