Google+ Authentic Parenting: Istanbul with Kids - Day 1

Monday, June 9, 2014

Istanbul with Kids - Day 1

As we're spending some time in Turkey, I'm happy to share our experiences exploring the streets of Istanbul with a six year old and a two year old. We have always travelled with our kids and I wouldn't do it any other way. Many are afraid doing cultural travel with kids, but with a little planning and some considerations, it can actually be quite amazing.

Today, I will share what we did on our first day. We take things slow, and take time to look at small details, to run on the marketplace and have an icecream in between. It is possible to do more on one day, so see what is possible for your family.

Grand Bazaar
Our hotel is at the Asian side of Turkey, so in the morning, we have to cross the Bosphorus. We did
this deliberately, since we thought the morning journey with the ferry (it is also possible by road, but less fun), would relax the kids, while being exciting at the same time and put them in visiting mood. In any case it's much more fun to run around on a ferry deck and watch jellyfish than to be strapped in a car for over an hour. (Our Ferry starts at Usküdar and stops in Eminönü)

After the ferry, we took the tram from Eminönü to Beyazt. Right across the square is the entrance to the bazaar. Vigilance is required when you're travelling with small children as there are lots and lots of narrow streets and a lot of people, so it's easy to get lost.

What to buy? Obviously this depends on your needs, but here are a few tips:

  • organic soaps 
  • 'peshtamal' or Turkish Hamam towel - these are lightweight, quick drying cotton towels, look for the higher end ones as they are softer than the cheap variety - you can find these in organic cotton too
  • Alladin type slippers for the kids
  • Turkish delight, get the honey based kind
  • If you like jewellery, you're in for a treat! 
  • Lots of choice in handmade clothes, shoes and bags.
Entrance is free for all, but you can end up spending quite a few bucks with all this loveliness around.

photo credit: laszlo-photo via photopin cc

Blue Mosque
From the Grand Bazaar, the Blue mosque is just a brief walk away, follow the tramlines back the way you came. Stop in one of the many lovely restaurant for a lovely Kebap meal.
The blue mosque is the part of this day my daughter loved most. You have to wait until the end of service. Enjoy the lovely tiles and amazing architecture and take a moment to read up on the building's history and Islam from one of the free pamflets.

Entrance is free for all

photo credit: doc(q)man via photopin cc

Arasta Bazaar and Mosaic Museum
Coming out of the blue mosque, you will see arrows towards the Arasta Bazaar and the Mosaic Museum. These are certainly worth a recommendation  even though they are less known and slightly off the beaten track (maybe just because of this). The Arasta Bazaar is just one long street of handicraft shops. Ask your kids to look for the evil eyes, they'll have a blast (they're in the pavement, in the stalls, on the entrance ways...), prices seem slightly lower than at the Grand Bazaar and you'll value the relative calm after the Bazaar and the Mosque.

The Mozaic museum is very impressive, to say the least. Again, less visited but truly worth the detour. You can view gorgeous Byzantine mosaics and learn about the conservation process. 

Entrance is 10TL. Kids enter for free

photo credit: via photopin cc

The Basilica Cistern
An incredible piece of architecture, the Basilica Cistern, a small walk away from the Mosaic Museum, is one of the many water reservoirs the city built over time. It is gorgeously lit and certainly one of the most 'must see' monuments in Istanbul. Expect big lines at the counter, but inside it's relatively calm. 

Entrance fee was on the higher end of Istanbul's tourist sites, but I don't remember and prices online are dated. I think it's 20TL.

photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) via photopin cc

After all this, the kids still wanted more, but quite honestly, we were pretty knackered. Then again, we weren't being carried around. There are quite a few things to see around without having to travel great distances: you can have a look at the vestiges of the hippodrome, the million monument...

Additional information:

  • public transport fares (ferry included) are 3TL for a trip (a little over 1 euro/about 1,50USD). Get your token at one of the yellow machines near the entrance of your stop
  • Where to eat? Istanbul offers a great variety of food at very affordable prices. Stop anywhere that looks clean and you'll have a nice meal. Throughout walks, you'll also find a big variety of street fods: seasonal fruit, boiled corn, chestnuts, ice cream, fresh fruit juices...
Look out for my posts on two more days of visiting Istanbul with kids!



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