A city trip with children is always a challenge. That also applies to a city trip to Istanbul. The mega-metropolis is an exciting destination for families with children and young people of all ages.
On the one hand, there is the unique location that turns your holiday into a short lesson in geography. A boat trip between the continents or a ride over the Bosphorus Bridge provides opportunities for explanations and stimulates the imagination.
As you stroll through the Sultanahmet district with its mosques, the ancient Hagia Sophia and the Sultan’s Palace, you can take children to a whole different world. The historic atmosphere makes you feel like you stepped into another time and exciting stories come alive.
Visiting the Yerebatan Cistern, which lies beneath the Old Town, will be an exciting adventure if you let your kids look for the Medusa Head and the Tear Column. Do not forget to mention that even James Bond has rowed through the Sunken Palace.
The Maiden’s Tower with its myths and legends is also worth a visit. Both young and old tourists are fascinated by the myths and legends, and sometimes you can even discover a pod of dolphins on your ride on the Bosphorus. Which kid would not be thrilled?
When you visit the Grand Bazaar, you will immerse yourself in the fantastic world of the Orient and shopping becomes an exciting journey of discovery. Everyone will find their favorite piece here. Guaranteed.
Older children and teenagers will be attracted by the street artists, the trendy shops and the rustic bars and cafes along the Istiklal Caddesi in the hip Galata district. Younger children will certainly like to climb Galata Tower, which not only offers an exciting view of the city, but also has a fabulous history that amazes children. In the 17th century, Ahmet Çelebi flew with self-constructed wings from the Galata Tower to the Asian side of the city.
If you look at the metropolis once with children’s eyes, you realize that Istanbul is basically a big adventure playground.
The locals are generally very fond of children, which should not be underestimated either. It is therefore no problem to take a break with your children in the restaurant or café. Children are always welcome.
But be prepared! The limitless child-friendliness can sometimes cause discomfort in parents. The enthusiasm of the locals for children sometimes leads to situations where many parents do not know what to think about it. Patting the child on the head and pinching the cheeks of a child is common here. Shop-owners often give children a Nazar Boncuk, a blue glass eye that is supposed to protect and repel the negative forces away from the child. Sometimes salespeople also call the kids into the store because there are baby cats in the back.
It all happens out of sheer friendliness. You do not have to feel obliged to go to the store and buy something, nor do you have to worry about someone having malicious ulterior motives. Mostly it’s just a gesture of friendship and many locals are unaware that they might provoke the displeasure of the parents.
It’s just a situation where different cultures collide. Understandably, many parents don’t feel comfortable in these situations. But don’t let that ruin your stay. Of course it is always better to pay close attention and to be careful. Stay friendly and make it clear if you do not want your child to be touched. But don’t be upset, because what you may find inappropriate is usually completely normal and harmless in Turkish culture.
With this information in mind, you can explore the city much more relaxed with your kids, and maybe even enjoy the child-friendliness of the locals.
A guest post by Katja Tongucer; istanbul:er:leben