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Istanbul's palaces, mosques and museums provide children a unique insight into Turkish culture and history. Here are slide shows of some of our favourites, based on our own family excursions in and around the city (map below). 

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Miniatürk (Beyoğlu)


One of Istanbul's most kid-friendly (and afforable) days out, Miniatürk is a mini-Turkey set on 15,000m2 on the banks of the Golden Horn. Akin to Madurodam in Holland, it is home to 1:25 scale model replicas of 128 landmarks: 59 in Istanbul and 69 in Turkey and in former Ottoman lands. These include the Istanbul bridge, Galata Tower and Istanbul airport, as well as locations further afield like the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia and the terraced houses of Mardin. There is also a very nice playground with a replica of the Trojan Horse, and a simple but good cafeteria. This is a great place to start or end a trip, to orient the kids or give them a great recap.


Hours: 10:00-17:00 every day except Wednesday

Price: Adults 10tl, Kids 3tl


Rahmi M. Koç Museum (Hasköy)


This is our favourite destination as it affords a worldclass collection of planes, trains, trams, horse carriages, motorbikes, boats and automobiles--all on a beautiful setting on the Golden Horn. There is also a planetarium, and, for older kids, the chance to explore the interior of a real submarine. Eateries are aplenty, including a cafe on a former Istanbul ferry, an outdoor fast food stop next to a London double decker, a proper British pub, and an upmarket restaurant serving great Turkish fare. There's also a science exhibit where kids can experiment hands-on.


Hours: 10:00-17:00 Tuesday-Friday, 10:00-18:00 Saturday-Sunday

Price: Museum: Adult12.5tl, Student 6tl

Submarine: Adult 7tl, Student 5tl (Book in advance. Children over 8 only)


The Naval Museum (Beşiktaş)


Caiques and cannons and boats, oh my! The newly upgraded Istanbul Naval museum in Besiktas is an awesome museum for kids. Only 6tl entrance for adults. Kids are free. There's a fantastic maritime-themed playroom with puzzles and pirates, and even a nice nursing room . All indoors, tho, so better for a rainy or blistering summer day.


Hours: 09:00-17:00 every day except Monday

Price: Adults 6tl, kids are free


Istanbul Toy Museum (Göztepe)


This private toy museum is easily identifiable by two huge giraffes statues and giant nutcracker soldiers that guard the entrance. Inside, the former family home of the founder, the Turkish poet and author Sunay Akın, is filled with 4000 vintage toys. Dating from the 1700s to today, the toys were collected over 20 years from over 40 countries at toy shops and auctions. The museum also has a fantastic cafe, which looks like a gingerbread house, as well as glass room where kids can paint wooden toys and take them home (for a fee). Outside is a giant chess set, and a statue of the iconic Nasreddin Hoca--the original Turkish clown. For more pics, click HERE


Hours: 09:30-18:00 weekdays, 09:30-19:00 weekends (CLOSED MONDAYS)

Price: Adults 10tl, kids 7tl

Website (in Turkish, English or French): CLICK HERE

Istanbul Aviation Museum (Bakırköy)


One of Istanbul's least visited museums is also one of the best. Very near to Atatürk Airport (you can literally see planes flying in to land overhead), the museum has an indoor area with information on Turkey's illustrious flying history (starting from Evliya Celebi, said to be the first human to fly when he jupmed off the Glata Tower wearing homemade wings a la Icarus). There are rooms full of models of planes, pilot uniforms throughout Turkish airforce history, and cases full of medals. But outside is the real treat with actual aircrafts that you an explore, including a full size commercial THY plane. Before you leave watch the movie about the Turkish Air Force aerobatic demonstration team, called the Turkish Stars.


Hours: Tuesday-Friday 09:00-16:00, Saturday-Sunday 09:00-17:00 (CLOSED MON.)

Price: Adults 6.50tl, kids are free


Tombs of the Sultans (Sultanahmet)


Steps from the hordes at the Topkapı Palace, this cluster of mausoleum-style tombs of Ottoman Sultans is a secret corner of Sultanahmet. The ornate, soaring tombs are architecturally beautiful, quiet and usually deserted. The Sultans are buried here with their wives and children, providing a potential lesson in history and culture for older kids. The younger ones will enjoy running around barefoot on the carpet floor.


Hours: Daily 09:30-16:30

Price: Free



The Mosaic Museum (Sultanahmet)


6th-century Byzantine mosaics are a surprise hit with kids thanks to grizzly hunting scenes, mythological beasts and playful kids. A fascinating insight into how little the world of children has changed over the centuries.


Hours: 09:00-17:00 every day except Monday

Price: 10tl (Muzekart welcome)



The Carpet Museum (Sultanahmet)


This new museum next to the Haghia Sophia near the entrance to Topkapi has a fine collection of carpets. The fact that they are hung on the walls will delight the kids. Glass floors and hiding places will keep them occupied while you take in the exhibition.


Hours: 09:00-16:00 every day except Monday and Sunday

Price: Adults 10tl, kids are free


Yıldız Porcelain Factory (Beşiktaş) 


Yıldız Park in Besiktas above the Ciragan Kempinski Hotel is home to the historic Yildiz Porcelain factory, established in the 1890s by Sultan Abdülhamit. Still functioning today, the factory has tours where kids can see pots being thrown, huge kilns and meticulous hand painting. Then, enjoy the many great playgrounds and a bite to eat at one of its many lovely cafés.


Hours: 09:00-18:00

Price: Under 12 is free, over 12 is 10tl


The Maslak Pavillions (Maslak)


Easily reached by Metro (there is an exit right outside) or by car (there is a parking lot), the Maslak Pavilions are a hidden secret in the urban jungle of Maslak. Built in mid 19th-century, the collection of small buildings and a conservatory feel like an Ottoman version of an Alpine village, and were home to Sultan Abdulhamid II for 8 years when he was Crown Prince. Entrance is affordable and there is a nice cafe, plus a picnic area. 


Hours: 09:30-16:00 every day except Monday and Thursday

Price: Adults 10tl


Haydarpaşa Cemetery (Kadıköy)


The Haydarpaşa Cemetery holds the gravestones of the British who died during both the Crimean and World War I and II. The moving and beautifully kept cemetery not only provides a great history lesson, but there is also space for kids to run around. It was given to the British by the Ottoman authorities as a gift during the Crimean War, and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


Click here to read an article about the cemetery from The Guide Istanbul.


Hours: Daily 08:00-21:00

Ortaköy Neighborhood


Set on the European shore of the Bosphorus, right under Istanbul's famous bridge, and boasting a beautiful mosque, Ortaköy is a quaint and colorful artistic enclave of the city. Dotted with small boutiques and street stalls selling souvenirs, it is a great place to spend an afternoon. Its cobblestone streets are also full of great eateries and street food. It is best known for its baked potatoes known as 'kumpir' that come with dozens of topping choices. Plus ice cream, simit and 'kagit helva' (layers of pastry filled with cream). Then let the kids burn it off at the playground.

Çukurcuma, Beyoğlu


The bohemian backstreets of Çukurcuma in Beyoğlu are filled with junk shops, street art and crafts boutiques. This is a great place to have lunch in one of the many cafes (Cuma is a great bet, with its delicious baked goods and shelves of kids' books and toys) and then browse through the knickknacks and antiques in the surrounding stores.


Click here to read a good piece about Çukurcuma from The Guardian.

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