When I was assigned an article on Istanbul and Antalya I could not begin to imagine what I was about to discover. Antalya holds in itself a whole crossroads of civilizations, whereas Istanbul envelopes visitors in the richness of its culture and heritage.
There are already numerous books that explain in full detail everything you need to know about the Turkish heritage, artistic features or the construction style of the Blue Mosque or the Roman Theatre of Aspendos. Therefore, this article is to help families with children enjoy their trip to Turkey to the fullest, telling you about the experiences and adventures that my family and I had during our trip.
Istanbul, a family destination
If you are planning a family trip, Istanbul is an ideal destination. It is true that on trips with children you have to balance activities that are probably boring for them such as visits to monuments, with other fun activities, but on a trip to Istanbul there are places that you can not miss, such as the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, which can be great fun for the kids. It also has some exhibition rooms that may arouse their interest: the room showing arms of the different armies of the Ottoman Empire, the kitchen with all its utensils and the treasure room holding one of the world’s largest diamonds. I am sure that your kids will not be bored. Istanbul has many attractions and interesting places, but it all depends on how many days you have and how accustomed your children are to seeing monuments and enjoying art.
Shopping at the Gran Bazaar
This is a safe and lovely place that should not be missed. You can find anything here, from street vendors to the most luxurious boutiques, but if you are partial to shopping or easy to convince, you will surely overspend. It is very important to watch the price of everything that is being sold to you. However quick we are mentally changing currency, the bazaar vendors are much quicker than we are, so if you try to confuse them and get a better price by changing currency, it won’t work, they are faster.
If you finally give up and are willing to purchase, for about £12 you can find small suitcases with wheels to put everything in.
If the Gran Bazaar overwhelms you by its size, the Spice Bazaar is an option for small gifts and inexpensive purchases. There are also a few jewellers’ shops. If you are knowledgeable about gold and jewellery, you can find good bargains, but if you are not, like me, it is best not to venture there.
Istanbul for kids
If you think that Istanbul is only for seeing monuments, shops and other adult activities, think again. As well as all that, there are places especially dedicated to kids.
The Toy Museum, one of the best and cutest in the world, is located in the Asian section of the city. This museum still has not been included in the usual tours and excursions offered to tourists, but if you request it, the kids will love you for it.
Another place meant for kids is the “Miniaturk”, the Miniature Park of Turkey. This is a small themed park where you can see miniature reproductions of all of Turkey’s monuments. There are also reproductions of some of the country’s uniquely beautiful natural areas, and some constructions that, although they are outside of what is now Turkey, were built by Turks in the different countries that were under its Empire.
Without a doubt Istanbul is a city to see, to live, to feel and to visit. After getting to know it for a week, you are left with the desire to return and see it in more detail, especially with the kids.
Outdoors in Antalya
Antalya is in the Turkish Mediterranean region, it enjoys more than three hundred days of sun per year, and so is an ideal place for a nice holiday with the family and, especially, for outdoor activities such as swimming, water sports, hiking or horseback riding. If there is a coastal region that is best visited in Autumn, that is Antalya.
The area is eminently maritime and its beaches are famous throughout Turkey. The Turkish coasts are seeing an increasing influx of recreational boats and small passenger yachts; all types of vessels and mini-cruisers can be seen, handled by fishermen who in the tourist season change the tuna fish for tourists.
There is great interest in the preservation of Antalya’s natural resources. The Düden waterfalls are an amazing sight, even during dry seasons. The Higher Düden waterfalls are formed by a park with semi-caves, and the falls of the outlet are on an impressive cliff over which the water gushes. All of the rocky formations and practically unexplored caves that are dotted along the coast are quite interesting to explore and, although I am not a diver, I have friends who are, and they consider these coasts a wonderful place to enjoy.
Turkey has been in the middle of every important historical event. All of the civilisations have been through it, when they did not originate from Turkey. Alexander the Great, Constantine, the great Turkish sultans, the Ottoman Empire, the Hittites, the Persians, even Iraq and Iran border with Turkey.
In Antalya we can visit mosques, archaeological museums, Roman theatres, etc. Even if it is unfair to highlight a single monument, my favourite was the Roman Theatre of Aspendos. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I was fascinated, in addition there is a spectacular Roman bridge and an aqueduct that looks as if it had been recently inaugurated. The truth is that it was one of the constructions that most impressed me.
In short, Antalya and the whole Turkish Mediterranean region is a very interesting area, just becoming a popular tourist attraction, and the autumn and spring months are the best time to visit and enjoy all of its charms.
It is true that if you have never travelled to a Muslim country, the first time that you hear the call to prayer, you are a bit surprised. But as my eldest son commented: “it’s like the bells on churches”.
On the second night of our trip our guide, who saw that we had eaten lamb in the four previous meals and that we would like to vary a bit, took us to eat fish in a typical fishing neighbourhood. It was a very homely area, packed with bars with showcases full of fish. Our guide ordered a “tasting menu” and we enjoyed squid, fried fish, salad and grilled prawns. We also tried the typical national drink, Raki, which is similar to anis but the Turks drink it with their meal, mixed with cold water.
Interesting for the kids’ learning experience are the guide’s explanations at some of the monuments, it is a way to make them see that the trip can be educational and fun at the same time.
Kids in Turkey
Kids are always well received and well treated, therefore travelling with kids to Turkey is easy and pleasant. However, it is very important to keep an eye on them at all times. There is a downside to Istanbul: traffic, you have to be careful with the kids, as most Turkish drivers do not heed the traffic signs. Turkey is also a country where children are free to go out and about, it is common to see children between 8 and 10 years old playing in the street, and this, for example, means that the hotel mini-clubs in Turkey are much more permissive than in Europe, kids can come and go as they please, without the parents having to collect them.
Tips when eating
When eating out, be careful with the spices in some dishes, because the kids might not like them. We advise you, depending on how the kids take to hot spices, to be more or less insistent on this matter when eating in Turkish restaurants. In Antalya they go a bit easier on the spices than in other areas, possibly because they use more fish. The main ingredient in traditional dishes is the area’s delicious fish, both sea and river fish. Regarding meat, lamb is another thing to take into account. In Turkey and all that part of the world, lamb is mostly mutton. It is an older animal and the flavour is a bit stronger. Keep this in mind when ordering for the kids, because the meat will have a stronger taste.
How to get there: the easiest transport is by airplane. Turkish Airlines operates daily flights from London (Heathrow and Stansted), and Manchester to Istanbul. United Airlines and British Airways only fly from Heathrow.
Language: you will not have any problems. English is the country’s second language, as well as German. Currency: New Turkish Lira: ₤1= 2,45 Turkish Lira.
Electricity: 220 V 50 Hz
Climate and clothing: the climate is usually mild all year round. In summer, very light clothing, a jacket for the evenings, especially in the interior. In winter take warm clothes and it is best to carry an umbrella.
Time difference: +2 hours
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