10 Fun Activities for Kids in Istanbul

Picture of a family with children visiting Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Sightseeing

You would love to visit Istanbul, but you wonder if it is child friendly? Yes it is! Sure, the first thoughts that spring to mind are its vast history and uncountable historical sightseeing spots. And you may have even heard stories of the hectic life in Turkey’s metropolis and their ‘odd’ way of driving. But did you also know that Turks just LOVE children. So, stop worrying and check out my list that will keep both you and your children entertained while visting Istanbul with kids.

1. Miniaturk (Miniatürk)

This open-air miniature park on the banks of the Golden Horn contains no less than 105 scale models, all 1/25th of the original Istanbul, Anatolian and Ottoman structures. With its 15.000 m² miniature park and a total area of 60.000 m², Miniaturk is the world’s largest miniature park. The park also features a playground, life-sized chessboard, and labyrinth. Miniaturk is open daily from 09:00 till 17:00, even later in summer. English audio guides are free with admission.

2. Play n Learn

Play n Learn is designed for children up to 6 years old and has plenty of activities to make your child learn through playing. In a child-friendly atmosphere, they organize activities such as play dough, art and craft, puppet show, little experiments, active games, finger plays, little dramas, 3 dimensional toys, and much more.

Arrangements are flexible: you can join in with your child, or let them explore it all independently. Play n Learn is located at the backside of the German Hospital — a 5 minute walk from Taksim Square. Check out their website for more details.

3. Rahmi M Koç Museum

Also on the shore of the Golden Horn (Hasköy), you’ll find the exquisite 19th century factory now housing the Rahmi M Koç industrial museum. The building itself is already worth a visit, but your kids will especially love the fact that they can climb all over a vintage car, take a seat in a real plane’s cockpit, take a ride in a submarine and try real-life scientific experiments. There are also two fine restaurants on the premises. Check their website for opening hours and current exhibits.

4. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı)

Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey.

Basilica Cistern, exciting for all.

This unusual Istanbul attraction will please both young and older. Why will you be interested? Because it’s a vast underground water cistern containing 336 marble columns to keep the roof up. Why will your children be enchanted? Because of the slightly creepy (romantic for us) lighting and the dripping of the water. Do walk all the way to the end on the raised platforms not to miss the wishing corner, big carp fish and Medusa heads.

5. The Princes’ Islands

Children will have a blast on the islands. People go about by horse and carriage on the islands. So you no longer have to worry about them getting hit by a car, and they can run freely and absorb the fresh air. You can take a nice nature walk or, with older kids, rent a bicycle to make a tour of the island. Check out my post on Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands!

6. Bosphorus Tour

Every child enjoys a ride on a boat. There are several options to take a cruise on the Bosphorus, ranging from a quick (and inexpensive) ferry trip to the Asian side and back, to full length Bosphorus tours going all the way to the Black Sea. In summer you can even do the latter at dusk and be back just before midnight.

7. Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

Chances are very likely that your kids will notice this 60 meter high tower and Golden Horn feature immediately while scanning the Istanbul skyline. Although not suitable for very small kids, a walk on the tower’s top balcony will surely please them – and you. After an elevator ride to the night floor, followed by a flight of stairs you’ll enjoy commanding 360 views over the metropolis. Do skip the bar or restaurant!

8. Istanbul Aquarium

Istanbul Aquarium is located in Florya, not far from the airport, hence a bit far from the city center. But if you love fish, it’s a trip worth making. Your kids (and you) will be amazed by the amount of huge aquariums.

9. The Nostalgic Tram

The nostalgic tram running on Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul, Turkey.

The nostalgic tram running on Istiklal Caddesi.

Have you ever managed to take your kids to a theme park and deny them a ride on the tram or train that circles the premises? Right! So, after dragging them from store to store over the whole Istiklal Caddesi stretch, why not reward them with a very inexpensive ride back on the nostalgic tram. The trams and the ticket collector’s costumes still have the 1900s look and feel — and I promise you some local kids will hang from the tram just like in the old days.

10. Istanbul Modern

No, I’m not losing it here. Istanbul Modern houses both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. This of course won’t carry your child’s interest. But they will have a blast with the museum’s interactive section for 6 to 12-year olds, where they can learn about art while having fun. And don’t forget, on Thursdays the museum is free for all.

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What's Next

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

reem othman June 16, 2012 at 7:27 am

I am planning to visit Istanbul with my child ,we are Arab American ,and I want him to be attached to the civilization of muslems ,,and I hope to have a beautiful unforgettable visit ,,please how I can get the metro map as I am sure taxi won’t be cheap,,,,,thank you

Reply

Erlend Geerts June 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Hi Reem,

Taxi’s are very cheap. But the metro can be quicker. In every metro station, you can also find carry-on maps in English.

Reply

Tan August 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Hi, lots of information on this website, thanks. I am traveling to Istanbul from December 24th to December 30th with 3 kids aged from 4 to 9 years. Is Miniaturk open in December? Is there a zoo in Istanbul? also are there any indoor amusement parks to give the kids a break from museums etc. What indoor activities can we enjoy during December.

Thanks in advance.

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Hi Tan,

Thanks a lot for the comment.

Yes, normally it is open in winter. Of course it will lose a bit of its charm if it’s a rainy day. There is no zoo (worth visiting) in Istanbul. But they have a very nice aquarium.

The biggest shopping centers also have some kids corners/floors, sometimes even with railways. There is also the Rahmi Koç Science Museum that is nice for kids.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Ruba subhi October 5, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Hi reem, I just checked this website cause I’m also planning to visit Istanbul with my 5 years old boy, and I saw your comment, you r Othman, so as my mom, I wonder if you r originally from beit safafa – Jerusalem?

Reply

farikica October 14, 2012 at 5:24 am

Hello Erlends,

I plan to visit Miniaturk during my visit to Istanbul. I’ve found bus numbers to go there from Eminonu. However, is there any tram or metro that i can catch straight from sultanahamet or eminonu to Miniaturk? Tq Erlends…

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hi Farikica,

There is no tram or metro to Miniatürk. The best option is a taxi or bus ride.

If the weather is bad, you may also consider taking the kids to Forum Istanbul, which has plenty of activity for kids such as a small theme park and an aquarium. You can ask your hotel for directions.

Have fun,
Erlend

Reply

farikica October 14, 2012 at 5:44 am

so sorry about yr name, Erlend…he..he..my bad…

Reply

John September 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Hi Erlend,

Firstly congratulations on your fantastic and very informative website – excellent stuff.

I am coming to Istanbul for the first time and hope to visit the Rahmi M Koç Museum when there.

Could I ask, is it still possible to reach the museum by ferry? Any details would be gratefully recieved.

Thanks and kind regards

John

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Hi John,

Here are all the transportation options to reach the Rahmi Koç Museum (http://www.rmk-museum.org.tr/en/rmk_getting_here.htm)

Hope this helps,
Erlend

Reply

Lara December 16, 2013 at 7:44 pm

hi, My family and I will be in Istanbul over the Christmas holidays. Your article has great info. Will it all be available in the winter?
Are there Christmas events on for kids?
Thanks, Lara

Reply

Erlend Geerts December 16, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Hi Lara,

Yes, most activities will be available during Christmas. Keep in mind that this is a Muslim country, so Christmas is just business as usual.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Atique May 13, 2014 at 2:48 am

Hi Erlend. Very good & informative site. Thank you.

The Istanbul Modern is free on Thursdays for residents only, not tourist.

Reply

Erlend Geerts May 16, 2014 at 8:26 am

Hi Antique,

Thanks for sharing.

Erlend

Reply

Waleed July 2, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Nice and very informative article. Thanks Erlend.

Reply

Echo Y July 25, 2014 at 12:06 am

Hi, Erlends,
Thanks for the great information provided here. I had visited Miniaturk and Modern with my two boys, 5 and 7. Mimiaturk is great place for both adults and children, both fun and educational. The price is also reasonable and worthy, 1 tl to ride the remote control boat, 1 for lybranth, my son especially enjoyed the 4D movie taking helicopter cruising through the city of Istanbul. However, I will NOT recommend Modern for one who has kids. The staff are extremely rude and militant, the information desk staff understand my English but did not talk back to me at all; I paid 10 TL for audio guide, but found less than 10 artwork that offers audio guide, it is useless, don’t rent it. Their website posted incorrect information about their educational program for kids, it says every weekday except Monday, well we went on Thursday, the staff told us it is by reservation only and it has to be paid in advance. My kids were very disappointed that they could not paint there. The cafe has nice scene but expensive for such a service, non of the waiters speak English.

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 25, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Hi,

Thanks a lot for sharing this.

I’m sorry for your bad experience at Istanbul Modern. I had the opposite when I visited it last time around.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

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