The trip to Istanbul was incredible and in here I will share the best itinerary for 4 days in this beautiful city.
As usual while preparing for the trip I made my Excel spreadsheet and included a lot of things…and as usual we took off a few things on the way…travelling with kids always needs a bit of flexibility and lot of preparation. Every time we travel I read books, look for advice online, collect all the info and then make my spreadsheet based on my findings. As usual mistakes are always around the corner. This time I missed one important thing: I didn’t realise there would have been 1 hour long queues for the more important sites. In Istanbul, visitors can buy a Museum kart pass that allows you to enter several Museums, saving a lot of money and avoiding the queues. I didn’t buy it because I thought it would have been better to see each day what was really achievable based on the boys behavior. I wanted to see at least the Hagia Sophia museum and the Topkapi palace. I was not expecting to spend the amount of time really needed for a proper visit, but I would happily have paid to walk through and to enjoy the spaces, the architecture, and the decoration for a short time. With small kids this wasn’t possible with the long queues in the hot Sun …I regret not buying the pass for 125TL (Hagia Sophia plus Topkapi palace and Harem would have been 105TL on the door) so also spending a bit more it would have worth it.
Do you need some tips to build your family trip itinerary? Check out this Step by step guide!
Anyway here is what was planned and what we did:
Our flight arrived at 4:30 pm but after all the waiting and the hour long taxi journey, it was almost 6:45pm when we arrived at the hotel. We settled in quickly and we went out slowly walking to Beyoglu where Neolokal, the restaurant I had booked is situated To come back we took the tram for a couple of stops.
After a lovely and plentiful breakfast we went out and joined a free walking tour at 10:30. The tour started at 10:45 in front of the big fountain between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Unfortunately, as the guide seemed knowledgeable, after less than an hour we had to leave the tour because Liam and Santiago were very agitated and didn’t want to sit in the pram any longer. We took the opportunity to see the courtyard of the Blue Mosque (unfortunately the Mosque was closed to visitors for preparations for Ramadan). This morning was when we realised that the queues were too long to enter all the sites I would have liked.
At 1:30 we went back to the hotel where the boys napped from 2 until almost 5, and we had time to have some food during the hotel meze time. Mark also had a nap and I spent some time in the spa. In the afternoon we went to see the Grand Bazaar (don’t forget it is closed on Sunday) and from there we took Tram #1 to Karakoy and Funicular #2 to Beyoglu where we had a walk around before heading to Mikla restaurant, and after we returned by the same route.
Again after a really good breakfast we decided to visit the Spice Bazaar, and then we boarded a short Bosphorus cruise. We decided to take the cruise with Turyol, because they offer a 90 minutes cruise and they have cruises every hour from 10am. The cruise is lovely and gives you the opportunity to have a different point of view of Istanbul. It is also short enough to go with kids.
HOT TIP: try not to arrive last minute, this was our mistake. We boarded only a few minutes before the cruise left which may not be a problem if your kids are less energetic than ours. The lower deck is usually less busy and you can take a full row of seats where they can have space to look outside and play without running around the boat. Unfortunately when we arrived all of them were occupied and we didn’t want to bother everyone, so we ended chasing Liam and Santiago up and down the decks 🙁
After the cruise we went back to the hotel around 2pm, the boys napped until almost 5pm, and Mark and I repeated more or less the same as the day before, with lunch at the hotel meze, a nap for Mark, and I went to the Spa but this time for a Turkish scrub and massage.
HOT TIP: in Istanbul going to a Hammam is an experience you should put on your list of things to do, some Hammam are really nice and not particularly expensive. For me, this time it was more practical to use the hotel Turkish bath, so I didn’t need to go around and I could do it while the boys were napping.
After the boys woke up we went back to see if the queue to the Basilica Cistern was shorter, and luckily it was so we managed to enter.
HOT TIP: the website has not been updated in a long time, but I found info around in the web and discovered that the Basilica Cistern is accessible to disabled people, you should be able to buy your ticket and then ask staff to use the lift available at the exit. Unfortunately the staff were not helpful at all this time, they said that it was late and we needed to use the stairs, on the way out it was the same attitude, a member of staff told us that the elevator was closed and we couldn’t use it, really disappointing. I hope they have a different attitude with disabled people who don’t have alternative like we do.
After the Cistern visit (that was really enjoyable btw) we took Tram #1 up till Kabatas and then Funicular #1 to Taksim square. The journey is all easy accessible with the pram. We walked a bit around the modern part of Istanbul, and then went back the same way to Hamdi restaurant.
On day 4 we double checked if we could quickly buy the museum pass at the Hotel or at the Archaeological Museum. Unfortunately the Hotel didn’t have it and the Museum was closed (the Archaeological museum and the Mosaic Museum are great places to buy the pass because the queue is usually really short). We then took the boat from Eminonu and went to Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul. We had a lovely walk, it was really interesting, much less busy and touristic than Sultanahmet, and It only takes 20 minutes with the boat. After coming back we visited the Suleyman Mosque that was spectacular! Really worth the short but intense walk via a really steep hill!
After the Mosque we ran back to the Hotel where we thought we had our taxi booked and waiting for us…but I’ve told you this already in the previous post! At the airport we were lucky and managed Check In and Security really quickly, so we made the flight by the skin of our teeth! Be aware when you enter the Airport that there is a Security check when you enter, before even to arrive at the Check In plus another Security check after Check In, factor that in your timing! Around 9:15pm our adventure finished in London Heathrow were we found really cold weather waiting for us!
–our Joolz Geo pram continues to be the perfect double pram to travel (unless of course you decide to use 2 single prams), read my review in this post if you like. Istanbul is a city that is slowly becoming more accessible, but often the footpaths are narrow or non-existent, streets are crowded, and bazaars and markets even more so, therefore having a narrow pram made it much easier! –we had no difficulties to buy a few necessities like fresh milk or wet wipes. Also in the little shop in front of the hotel I have seen Pampers. I also got an excellent Sun-cream in a nearby Pharmacy for the lily-whites of the group (Mark is usually either very white or very red, and he’s passed this to the kids)! So don’t worry if you forget something –to go to the Topkapi palace, pass by the Archaeological Museum, by going that way we didn’t have to go through the metal detector queue before the tickets office! –don’t forget to buy the museum pass in advance! Please let me know in the comment if I forgot to mention something important and enjoy Istambul!