Daughter was five the first time I took her to Istanbul. Usually we would travel straight through to Adana but as she was a little older it was time to explore her second (now first) home. I have mentioned to you before that when Daughter and I travel together it is her job to find us 5 things to do together and 3 of them have to be free or a minimal cost. This encouraged Daughter to want to learn about each city we visited and to have a better appreciation at each location. It always worked beautifully with her and even now she utilises this skill regularly to learn more about a place or thing.
Daughter’s list of five things to do in Istanbul:
This is always number 1 on our list and each year this still is our first stop in Istanbul. Why? It is an extraordinary underground water cistern containing 300 plus marble columns to keep the ceiling up. It’s atmosphere is made more unique with “creepy” lighting, the occasional surprise of really cold water dripping from the vaulted ceiling and ghostly shadows this place is mysterious enough for Daughter to be enamoured with exploring every inch. Hint: Each time we go there Daughter has to re-discover the Medusa Head in the north eastern corner. Throw a coin and make a wish.
Daughter loves to shop. Daughter loves souvenirs. Daughter loves a brand. And if Daughter can get a name brand without the name cost she will. With hidden doorways and tiny exotic shops the Bazaar is a mini city in itself and getting lost in the labyrinth and chaos of the Bazaar is part of its charm, especially for kids. Hint: I make a visit to the Bazaar a scavenger hunt. Deciding beforehand what “souvenir” Daughter wants she has to locate the treasure and barter with the shopkeepers. Originally it was to practice her Turkish but now it is to bag a bargain!
The walls were started by Emperor Constantine in 324AD and extended around the city to protect its people from invasion. They were often attacked but when you are standing at the bottom looking up that these walls you wonder how on earth they were breached – and they were breached – notably by the Fourth Crusades and the Ottomans. Start at Yedikule Fortress and you can walk for hours along or beside these gorgeous ancient walls. Best of all – it’s free! Hint: There are so many other things to do along the way with parks, shopping and secret laneways. Daughter would happily walk for hours and not complain (well not often anyway).
I clearly recall the first time I took Daughter here. She was agog with its grandeur, its size and its colour. It was unlike anything she had seen before. Entering the dome of the mosque she quietly watched the faithful at prayer – again so different to anything she had seen before. After leaving the mosque we sat in the walled garden and talked about Islam giving her the opportunity to learn a little about their beliefs and lifestyle. Hint: Returning home we purchased ceramic tiles and created our own masterpiece along the same styling as those seen at this iconic destination.
At 5 Daughter had dreams of becoming a princess and living in a palace and she insisted that we visit Topkapi Palace. Unfortunately her idea of a palace did not coincide with what she viewed at Topkapi and we only ever visited the Palace that one time. I did, however, take her to Dolmabache Palace the next day. This was definitely a more romantic Palace and more to the liking of a 5 year old who expected grandeur and pomp. Hint: Viewing this Palace from the Bosphorus gives us an idea of its size and amazing architecture. Cruising the Bosphorus is also another day trip in itself so give yourself lots of time. At 11 Daughter’s interests have changed so Dolmabache Palace is no longer on our list. This has been replaced with a trip down Istiklal Caddesi. Why? Shopping, of course. Istiklal Caddesi is also great with its historic tram. Don’t forget you need a card to ride it, they don’t accept cash.
Bonus: Don’t miss the Whirling Dervishes at the Hocapasa Cultural Centre. Daughter’s first experience watching that was enough to bring tears of laughter. She was mesmerized and, upon returning to our hotel, tried as hard as she could to whirl and twirl but spent most of her time falling on her bum.
Children love to explore and to learn. I think empowering your child to do the research gives them more appreciation and understanding of their surroundings. Daughter is extremely lucky to travel to such destinations but if she does not learn about them, their history and their story, then there is no point in taking her there. Frankly it would be a waste of my time and my money.
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Great post 🙂
Lovely post. I can understand why my friends were always taking their holiday there.
What a brilliant way to teach your daughter different traditions, history and backgrounds.
Great post. What spectacular places to visit! Definitely makes me want to visit Turkey. Like RIGHT NOW! 😀
5 things doesn’t even begin to cover this city, it should be 500 things!
Amazing! Ah, I can feel the travel bug stirring!! 😀
Those are all great things to see and do. My wife and Is till would like to tour Domabahce Palace at some point. And I have yet to go inside Suleymaniye Mosque. I’ve only seen it from the outside.
If I lived in Istanbul I wouldn’t know where to start! Way too many choices. We’ve just booked again for June – I wonder what we will find this time?
I love that challenge that you’ve created for trips. I am taking my younger sister on her first trip out of the US this summer and I think we will have to do the same. She’s in high school but I think it would still be fun.
The last scavenger hunt through the bazaar was for Dr Dre Beats. RRP at Media Market in Mersin 600TL – bazaar 60TL. She found them too! I think any teenager would approve of Dr Dre Beats something blah blah – they are the in thing I am told.
I have recently started following your blog,(found it through AYSU LOVE blog) I have read a few of your posts, and find them very informative, witty, honest and sometimes hilarious, especially the post about making turkish tea. Your daughter is very beautiful, and i am sure brings you endless moments of pleasure, enlightenment and pure happiness. My daughter has been my greatest, most precious gift and i learn from her pearls of wisdom every day.
We have both visited Turkey 7 times over the past 3 years, and have some wonderfull memories to treasure, especially of Eastern Anatolia, Cappadoccia, Urgup, Gerome and living in a typical Turkish Village, surrounded by apple orchards, and a nearby lake where we went fishing.(but no rod) Hmmm. We were the first English people to visit the village and it was a real eye opener observing their customs and way of life.
One of my regrets is that when we were in Istanbul awaiting a connecting flight from Kayseri to Antalya we missed all of the places that you mention above. What a travesty,. We must return to visit them some time in the future i hope.
Good to hear from you Jan. My daughter is an angel . . . And sometimes she is not lol. We are looking at going to Cappadocia during the school holidays so I expect a 5 things in Cappadocia will follow. Thanks for your voice, look forward to hearing from you again.
I love the 5 destination idea…I tried that with the boys and they stopped at one…gladiator school. We have a ways to go lol
Super post. Istanbul is for everyone. Nice to know you and your daughter had a good trip. Keep posting your adventures with your little one.
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Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all people you
actually understand what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked.