Family Vacation In Istanbul

Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world. This bustling city has something for everyone and every age. Because of this, I thought it would be a great article to write about where I took my wife and kids on our last family vacation. Istanbul is a stunning city that can serve up some amazing family vacation memories. You will have to do your research before an upcoming family vacation to Istanbul because there is so much to see and do in this amazing city.

Despite not having visited Asia for years, I’m excited about our upcoming family vacation. We’re going to Turkey! We’re visiting with my wife’s extended family and I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about the country. If there are things that you should know before visiting Istanbul, let me show them to you.

In this article, you will be able to find out about different family-oriented attractions in Istanbul. Plus, you will get helpful tips on how to make your trip an unforgettable one.

Family Vacation In Istanbul

Family vacations around the world capture the imagination. Many of us wonder how children back in our home country will ever appreciate what it is that impresses us so much. As our children were growing up, we wanted to share cultural experiences with them, and therefore took them to many one-week family vacations in different cities in the United States. We took each child independently to unique destinations: one to San Antonio, Texas; the other to New York City, New York; and yet another to Washington D.C. The logistic work was made easier by selecting a centrally located rental resort from which we could easily visit these three different cities. Each team was able to sample an entirely new culture and get a feel for that region’s attractions and treats from three major cities within easy driving distance of each other. Here are some of my kids’ takes on these family vacation highlights . . .

This article is to provide itinerary ideas for a 7 days stay in Istanbul with family but not a plan to follow to the dot. Obviously there are unlimited ways to combine and experience the attractions and activities in Istanbul .

Istanbul is a lovely, safe and enjoyable city; you will not be bored at the end of your Trip. It still suffers though from third world country symptoms namely some aggressive sellers, dishonest cab drivers and too many beggars in the street. On the other hand it is safe, beautiful and provide an American or European visitor with deeper understanding of Muslim life and religion. It is difficult also to have a bad meal in Istanbul !

One major luring factor for travel to Istanbul is the reasonable air-fare-s; the round trip cost from Detroit was about $850 compared with $1400-1600 for other European cities (prices in June/July).

Staying in SultanAhmet historic district makes sense since there are many hot-els with reasonable pricing (in general expect to pay $ 150-300 per night). For photographers staying in this area will provide multiple opportunities to take early morning and night shots of Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque. Most of the attractions will be accessible on foot from this area with 20-40 minutes walk.

There are plenty of AT-M mach-ines in the airport and throughout the city to withdraw in Turkish Lira. Cre-dit car-ds are accepted by most sellers except for cab drivers and street food sellers. Familiarize yourself with Turkish banknotes prints and refuse to take old ones from sellers when they give you back change (an old 20 Lira back note print is worth only 2 Lira).

First day in Istanbul is often really a half day because you have to give your body and mind a rest from jet lag especially if you traveled from the USA as there is 7 hours difference.

Day One

After resting and recovering a bit from jet lag Go to see Hagia Sophia Museum and Church from the outside and inside.

Then you can have dinner at Haseki Hamam cafe next to it. Stroll in the park between Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque, see the Thutmose III Obelisk and The Hippodrome. Enjoy the beautiful scene and the multitude of people, races and ethnicities. Have corn or chestnut from a street seller .

Day Two
This is the day to see Topkapi Palace: the Ottoman Sultans’ palace. You can enjoy a tea or Turkish coffee in the nice seaside cafeteria inside the palace.
Then it is time to see the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) with the beautiful 6 minarets and gorgeous tile work.
Best meal in Istanbul can be had at Sultanahmet Buhara kebab House restaurant on your way to the Grand Bazaar which has more than 4000 shops.
Best end to the day is by having ice cream and smoking Narjilah at any coffee shop next to Blue Mosque.

Day Three
Take a taxi to Taqsim Square then stroll down Istiklal Street for your shopping needs. You will see the famous Galatasaray Red Tram here. Many good restaurants for a good meal include Konak for kabob or doner lunch and also Otantik Anadolu Yemekleri is quite good.  You can see a nice church (St. Anthony of Padua) on the way then you can stroll down a nice neigbourhood with many shops for music instruments and art.
The view from Galata Tower is not to be missed. If you are a photographer you may want to go twice, once in daylight and once at sundown and night. Be sure to bring 80-200/300 mm lens (preferably f2.8).
After you experience the tower you can walk on Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn and see The New Mosque.
End the day with nice dinner, dondorma and narjilah at Sultanahmit district.

Day Four
This is a day for the Bosphorus Cruise. Better to avoid private boats and tours and to take the Public Ferry full Bosphorus Cruise for 25 lira. It takes off from the Eminonu Pier next to Galata Bridge and lasts for about 6 hours (actual cruising time is 90 minutes each way). You will see The Rumeli Fortress from the sea and spend some time at a fishermen village called Anadolu Kavagi where you can have lunch. It is better to take the ferry at 10:30 am and return from Anadolu on the 3pm one.
In afternoon walk up the hill to see the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque the master work of Mimar Sinan the greatest Ottoman architect (it has four minaret and required 5 years to build). It is so peaceful and elegent.

In the evening a visit to Hafiz Mustafa 1864 (confectionary -Sweet shop) is a must: This is the best place to enjoy many turkish delights (recommend their Kunafa highly) and to buy delicacies for gifts to friends and family back home. Koska next door is as good.but you cannot sit down and enjoy a turkish coffee there. You can have dinner at Guvenc Konyali nearby. The Hodjapasha Belly dance show is nearby as well.

Day Five
Start by visiting the Arrasta Bazar which is much more upscale than the Grand Bazar; the sellers here are much nicer and less pushy and obnoxious.
A visit to the magnificent Basilica Cistern is next.
Walk to the Egyptian Spice Bazar, then to Rustem Pasha Mosque to enjoy its beautiful blue and white iznik tiles.
Take a taxi to Bebek which is famous for its shops and its seaside café called La Sirene (the views are unbeatable and they have excellent ice cream with exotic flavors, milk shakes, and refreshing lime-mint frozen drink)

Day Six
Take taxi to Eyup and see the Eyup Sultan Mosque then take the cable up the steep hill to Pierre Loti Tepesi to enjoy the view from high and deep in the Golden Horn.Spend the second half of the day at the splendid Dolmabshçe Palace which deserves at least 4-5 hours (closed 2 days a week) then grab a bite at the nearby seaside café before returning to your hotel.

Day Seven
Start the day at the Archqeology Museum for 2 hours; then take a taxi to the best kept secret in Istanbul: Yildiz Park and Chalet; there are two magnificent rooms in the chalet that I thought were more beautiful and impressive than all other palaces in Istanbul. The tour is short (30 minutes). You can have lunch at a great Turkish buffet style restaurant in the park ( ties for best food in Istanbul). The restaurant is Beltur in Malta Kosku. In afternoon go to Ortakoy or Bebek for the second time to enjoy tea and ice cream at La Sirene; then take a taxi back to Sultanahmet District (35 Lira, can be painfully slow secondary to traffic jam).  suggest dinner at the Palatium ( clay oven baked kebobs) or on the terrace at Seven Hills restaurant;  cannot judge the food at Seven Hills – only had tea there but  can verify that they have the best unobstructed view of both Aya Sofia and Sultanahmet Mosque from  the highest terrace in the area. Whenever you go there bring your best camera and lenses as well as a warm jacket!

What have you missed? 

Obviously it is difficult to see everything in one trip; you can try to fit other important attractions into your itinerary during this visit  or plan another visit to Istanbul so you can see The Chora Church, Fatih Mosque, Balat/Fenerbahce Districts, Sirkeci Station, Princes’ Islands (to name few)

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