Would you be surprised if we told you that one of the most family-friendly places we have visited in the world is Turkey? We spent an eventful two weeks in Turkey with a baby, a toddler and our older child.
During our two-week Turkey itinerary, we explored three very different parts of the country: Istanbul, Izmir, and Cappadocia, with the first stop on our grand adventure being Istanbul.
In this article we share our itinerary for visiting Turkey with a baby and toddler, including all the best places to visit and the best things to do in Turkey with a baby or toddlers.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Turkey with a Baby or Toddler:
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Getting to Turkey with a Baby or Toddler
There are many airports you can choose to fly into. The flight tickets we purchased had us coming into the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. Regardless of where you fly into, we recommend taking a taxi or Uber to your hotel or Airbnb. Driving and parking in Istanbul is a bit difficult to do considering the millions of local residents living there.
Taking a taxi was the most convenient option for our family of five, but prices for fares are all over the place making it worth it to ask multiple drivers what their trip to your destination will cost. While we did use Uber, the drivers typically charge more than what the app shows, so it’s best to confirm the price with your driver before you get into the car.
Read more: Uber with a baby or toddler
Istanbul with a Baby or Toddler
Istanbul, the historic city that straddles two continents, is a vibrant and captivating destination that’s sure to leave visitors of all ages mesmerized. And while traveling with young children can be a challenge, there’s no need to let it hold you back from exploring this magical city. With a little bit of planning and some patience, you can create a family-friendly itinerary that’s both enjoyable and educational for everyone.
Where to Stay in Istanbul with a Baby or Toddler
We chose to stay in an Airbnb close to the Galata Tower in Istanbul. We loved having a kitchen, and it just felt a lot more comfortable for our family of five to stay in rather than a hotel room with limited resources.
Here are the best things to do in Istanbul with a baby or toddler:
Exploring the Hagia Sophia Mosque
The Hagia Sophia Mosque, originally built as a Christian church in 537 AD, is a stunning architectural masterpiece that’s sure to impress even the youngest visitors. The soaring dome, intricate mosaics, and towering minarets create a sense of wonder and awe that’s hard to replicate anywhere else.
To make the visit easier with a baby or toddler, we recommend arriving later in the evening to avoid the cruise crowds as well as the heat. Since it is a cruise port, the line to get in can be several hours long, whereas when they all leave around 5 pm, the line only takes a few minutes. We also packed a few snacks and water bottles to keep everyone fueled and hydrated. While strollers are not allowed inside the mosque, we wore the Ergobaby Omni Mesh 360 carrier to carry our little boy comfortably while exploring.
Travel Tip: Be sure to check the hours of operation and ticket prices in advance, as they can vary depending on the season.
Admiring the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is another iconic landmark that you cannot miss while visiting Istanbul with toddlers or a baby. Named for the blue tiles that adorn its interior, this mosque is a stellar example of Islamic architecture and design.
To make the visit more engaging for our children, we downloaded an audio guide and let them follow along with the commentary. We also took our time to explore the surrounding gardens, which provided for a peaceful respite from the busy city streets.
While the mosque was under construction while we were there, we were still in awe of the beauty of it all.
Travel Tip: Dress modestly and bring a scarf or shawl to cover your head and shoulders, as it’s a strict requirement when visiting mosques in Istanbul. We saw guests turned away who were not dressed to the standards of the mosque administration. The Blue Mosque does provide them for use, but only for that Mosque. The others require you to bring your own.
Shopping at the Grand Bazaar
No visit to Istanbul is complete without a trip to the Grand Bazaar, a sprawling maze of shops and stalls that sell everything from spices and textiles to jewelry and souvenirs.
While navigating the crowded alleys with a stroller can be a challenge, the vibrant atmosphere and colorful displays are sure to captivate young minds.
To make the visit more manageable, we brought the Ergobaby carrier for our baby. Be sure to hold toddler hands in this busy place. This is a great spot to let little ones choose a few items to take home as mementos of their trip.
Travel Tip: Bargaining is a common practice at the Grand Bazaar, so be prepared to haggle until you reach a price you’re happy with.
Ascending the Galata Tower
The Galata Tower, a medieval stone tower that offers panoramic views of the city, is a great spot to take in Istanbul’s beauty from above. The elevator ride to the top is quick and easy, and the viewing platform provides ample space for everyone to take in the sights.
Since we were visiting Galata Tower with a baby, we wanted to avoid crowds and long lines. We visited the tower early in the morning and packed a few snacks for a picnic breakfast with a view. Our little ones loved spotting the landmarks we had visited earlier in the trip from a new perspective.
There is a shop right across from the Galata Tower called Viyana Kahvesi Kuledibi that serves the most delicious dessert called San Sebastian. It’s a creamy cheesecake drowning in fondue-like creamy chocolate sauce. For obvious reasons this delicacy is a must-try while in Istanbul. We recoomend trying this near the end of your trip; otherwise you’re eating it every day. You’ve been warned.
Travel Tip: If you’re visiting Galata with a baby or toddler, bring a baby travel carrier, because strollers are not allowed inside the tower.
One of the characteristics of Istanbul that make it especially special for kids is how kind and generous the locals are. Babies are all widely considered to be a huge miracle from God, and actively treated by everyone as such, which is a little different from typical American culture. In fact, our baby was constantly having his little cheeks caressed by old women and men in their twenties alike, being told “Mashallah”, which is a prayer of gratitude to God for the blessing of a healthy child. It was beautiful and an experience we will never forget.
In addition to how sweet everyone was to our baby, our two other boys were constantly being gifted little trinkets and treats. For the entirety of our time in Turkey, the children were treated with those special gifts. While we were at a Turkish rug presentation, they gave our kids glasses of warm apple tea, and while we were stressing about them potentially dropping their little shot glasses or spilling the tea on the gorgeous rugs, the presenters were quick to reassure us that it’s a part of life and that people are more important than things.
Izmir with a Baby or Toddler
If you’re looking for a mix of beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and natural wonders, a road trip through Turkey’s Aegean coast is exactly what you need. Starting in Izmir, one of the country’s largest cities, renting a car here is much more practical than in Istanbul.
We rented from an inexpensive option, Goldcar, and had a great experience with them. We explored the nearby coastal town of Cesme before heading inland to discover the breathtaking Pamukkale salt terraces, the ancient city of Hierapolis, and soaking in the warm, legendary Cleopatra’s Pool.
We usually travel with the Wayb Pico car seat, which is a great option for any family traveling babies or toddlers. It’s a foldable and portable, yet extremely sturdy, car seat that gives us peace of mind when driving while also not adding much weight to our luggage.
Here’s a glimpse into our recent road trip along the Aegean coast, and some tips to make the most of your adventure:
Relaxing in Cesme
After landing in Izmir, we rented a car and drove about an hour to the beautiful coastal town of Cesme. Known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning beaches, this charming town is the perfect place to unwind and soak up the sun, which was much needed after all the walking in Istanbul. The warm sandy beaches are perfect for a few relaxing days with babies and toddlers.
We stayed at a cozy Airbnb close to a boardwalk that we walked every evening while we ate our cheap but delicious gelatos. We spent most days lounging on the sand, swimming in the Aegean Sea, and exploring the nearby towns of Alacati and Ilica, known for their quaint streets lined with boutique shops and cafes.
We were in Izmir in October, it is considered the off-season. It wasn’t as hot as it would have been in the summer, but we felt very comfortable in the warm waters.
Travel Tip: If you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to book your accommodations and rental car in advance, as this is a popular tourist destination.
Discovering Pamukkale Salt Terraces
After a few days of relaxation, we hit the road and headed inland to Pamukkale, home to one of Turkey’s most iconic natural wonders: the Pamukkale salt terraces. Formed by mineral-rich thermal springs that cascade down a series of terraced pools, this surreal landscape is truly awe-inspiring.
We spent the morning exploring the terraces and dipping our feet in the warm, mineral-packed little pools.
We explored the ancient city of Hierapolis, where we marveled at the well-preserved ruins of this once-great Roman city.
Travel Tip: Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring swimsuits and towels if you plan on getting into the pools.
Swimming in Cleopatra’s Pool
The last stop on our Aegean road trip was the famous Cleopatra’s Pool, a series of thermal pools believed to have been visited by the legendary queen herself. Legend has it that Cleopatra was so taken with the beauty and healing properties of these pools that she ordered them to be transported to her palace in Egypt.
We spent the afternoon swimming in the warm, turquoise waters and taking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The mineral-rich waters are said to have healing properties for the skin and body, making this a perfect place to relax and rejuvenate before heading back to Izmir.
Travel Tip: There is an entry fee to access the pools, and it can get crowded during peak tourist season, so plan accordingly.
A road trip through the Aegean coast of Turkey with a baby or toddler is a great way to discover some of the country’s most beautiful natural and cultural treasures. With a rental car and some planning, you can explore at your own pace and create a personalized itinerary that suits your interests and needs. From relaxing on the beaches of Cesme to marveling at the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, and swimming in Cleopatra’s pool, there is something for everyone along this stunning stretch of coastline.
Cappadocia with a Baby or Toddler
If you are looking for a unique travel experience that will leave you absolutely speechless, then Cappadocia should be on your bucket list. Located in central Turkey, this region is famous for its extraordinary natural landscapes, fairy chimneys, and cave hotels.
Here are our best tips for visiting Cappadocia with toddlers or a baby:
Flying into Kayseri and Renting a Car
We flew from Izmir to Kayseri and rented a car again to explore the region. The drive from Kayseri to Cappadocia is about an hour, and the scenery along the way is breathtaking. As we approached Cappadocia, we were greeted by a landscape dotted with unusual rock formations and “fairy chimneys”.
Renting a Cave Hotel in Goreme
This is a must-try experience for anyone planning to stay anywhere near Cappadocia. We stayed in a multi-room suite built into the rocks in the charming town of Goreme, which is known for its unique underground cities.
Our hotel was carved into the side of a cliff and featured cozy rooms with traditional Turkish decor. Our boys loved knowing their bed was once a grape press to make wine. This was a major highlight from the entire trip, and we won’t spoil the magic for you by over divulging what it was like.
Travel Tip: If you plan on staying in a cave hotel, book in advance as they can fill up quickly during peak tourist season.
Exploring Uchisar Castle and Goreme Open Air Museum
The first day, we visited Uchisar Castle, a fortress built on top of a hill that offers panoramic views of the region. We then headed to the Goreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site that features rock-cut churches and frescoes dating back to the 10th century. Running around and exploring the nooks and crannies of this city was surprisingly one of the most popular and exciting activities of the whole trip to our 3 and 6 year old. Our baby probably enjoyed it too but didn’t tell us much about it.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, because there is a lot of walking involved in exploring the open-air museum.
Watching the Hot Air Balloons
You wouldn’t skip the Eiffel Tower while in Paris. In the same way, missing out on watching the hot air balloons while in Goreme would be a crime. We decided against booking a flight inside the hot air balloons, since our two youngest boys (3 and 1) were too young to join. We did not by any means feel like we missed out by just watching them float by in the morning.
At some points we were close enough to have been able to reach up and touch them. We spent two mornings watching them in different locations, and they were both magical experiences. For the best views, you can use the Maps Me app, because vantage points are indicated within those maps.
Cappadocia is a unique and magical destination. With its stunning natural landscapes, unique rock formations, and cave hotels, it’s a destination that offers something for everyone. From exploring Uchisar Castle and the Goreme Open Air Museum to watching the hot air balloons at sunrise, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in Cappadocia with a toddler or a baby.
Final Thoughts on Turkey with a Toddler or Baby
Visiting Istanbul, Izmir, and Cappadocia with a baby or toddler can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. These three destinations offer a unique mix of history, culture, and natural beauty that can captivate both kids and adults alike.
While traveling with babies, toddlers and young children can have its challenges, there are plenty of family-friendly activities in Turkey to enjoy. Whether it’s exploring the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque in Istanbul, relaxing on the beaches of Cesme in Izmir, or watching the hot air balloons float across the sky in Cappadocia, there’s no shortage of things to do and see.
With careful planning, patience, and a sense of adventure, visiting these three destinations with young kids will create lasting memories for the whole family.
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