I'd known for almost a decade that there was a private toy museum in Istanbul since it opened in 2005 - long before I even had a child. But something prevented me from going - probably a fear of disappointment. With my son now 3.5 years old, we decided that he was mature enough to be able to tour the museum without getting bored or getting frustrated that he wasn't allowed to touch the toys, so, with my expectation phasers set to low, we set off for the Asian shore to visit it. Boy, was I proven wrong.
The museum is easily identifiable by the two huge giraffes statues that dominate the street. The entrance to the beautiful white historic wooden building that houses the museum is guarded by giant nutcracker soldiers.
Inside, the former family home of the museum's founder, the Turkish poet and author Sunay Akın, is filled with 4000 vintage toys that cram every corner of the building. Dating from the 1700s to today, the toys were collected over 20 years from over 40 countries at toy shops and auctions. Neatly organized in window displays by function and age, the effect is overwhelming at first, but manageable. Repeated trips may be necessary.
Each room in the museum has a theme, including cowboys and indians, castles, and a room decorated to look like an actual train carriage.
My favorite was the one full of dolls' houses, including a historic German one dating from the 1870s, while my son was more impressed with the 'spaceship' room filled with rockets and Star Wars & Star Trek toys.
Some of my favourite finds were the truly nostaglic figurines of people from history, including Princess Di, Churchill, Kennedy and even (rather morbidly) the car he was in when he was shot.
The museum also has a fantastic cafe, which looks like a gingerbread house (and serves an incredibly edible eclair), 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.
I'd definitely recommend this to local or out of town visitors. At only 10 TL for adults and 7TL for kids, it is afforable (as is the cafe). And I can guarantee that parents will have great fun reliving their childhoods and pointing out old toys to their disbelieving kids.
Check if there are any special events going on via the website. Our trip coincided with the puppet festival and there was a puppet show in their small auditorium.
And a final note - make sure to use the bathroom at the museum - it's been designed to look like a submarine, and there is even an acquarium in the walls!
I got a bit snap-happy at the museum, taking over 100 photos, which you can see in a gallery if you click HERE.
Istanbul Toy Museum, www.istanbuloyuncakmuzesi.com
(The website is very informative and well done, and is in Turkish, English or French)
Ömerpaşa Cad. Dr. Zeki Zeren Sk. No: 15 Göztepe Istanbul
T: +90 216 359 45 50
Week days: 09.30-18.00 (CLOSED ON MONDAYS)
Weekends: 09.30- 19.00
Adults: 10 TL
Children: 7 TL