21 comments on “Cool Istanbul with babies – Part 1, essentials

  1. Very good information!
    Yes, İ also have one, no more a baby now, but İ have faced the about all the obstacles with a baby in İstanbul.
    İ have found pushchairs very useless except in shopping malls, they take a baby and lots of shopping too. For walking and being outside İ had a carrier and a hip seat both very helpful!
    Shopping outside is more a no no, because so many shops have steps before you enter, are on a 2nd floor, or if it is a shop with more floors, not always an elevator is present.
    And as you mention the high sidewalks, İ have always thought that was for the heavy rainfall, so at least (as long as you do not need to cross the street), your feet are dry!

    Also the fact that the Turks so much like babies can be also a bit scary, a total stranger can come and take a baby out of your hand and cuddle it a bit. They like them so much they like to share some coke :-), so watch them carefully! And if you have relatives, aunties always know better than you, just say ‘yes’, at least that is what İ did. İ ended up with quite some chocolate bars in my bag, that were given by strangers. Keeping my child away from sweets was actually not that hard as the alternatives are abundant, lots of fruit all year around and as you say the simit with cream cheese is a real treat.

    • Oh yes Jeanne, I can deal with random people picking the babies up, even squeezing their cheeks but I don’t like them kissing the babies. Luckily less and less people are doing it these days. But the number of ice creams my 2 year old son was offered on the Turkbuku coast was unbelievable, and like you said completely unsuitable candy!

  2. Great first hand information as always. There are lots of questions on ‘the travel forum’ about taking babies to Istanbul but no one to answer with any real experience (even though some people try!). Now there is this thread that I can direct them to ;0)

    • Well it seems any attempt to direct people asking questions about babies to this blog is now blocked by ‘you know who’ Anyway, I still try to be helpful. Thanks Caro for the links 🙂

  3. Fabulous information, thank you!!! Extremely helpful as we plan our trip with babe next month. Where did you stay in Istanbul? I’m wondering if some hotels or apartments are more family-friendly than others. Great tip on the stroller/pushchair. I think we’ll bring along a very cheap and lightweight one (that may even strap to our backpack?) and keep her in the carrier most of the time.

    Was your little one exposed to spices and strong flavors before trying the food in Turkey? I’m tempted to test her palate beforehand…

    Can’t wait to see my 8-month-old get offered coke, candy and ice cream! In between strangers holding her and kissing her? Things I would never let happen here in Canada but I’m thinking I’ll just let it fly while I’m in another country & culture.

    • I’m so glad you found it useful!
      We stay at my parents’ place so can’t help with specific hotels. I only stayed in a couple of 5 star hotels for business purposes but they were not in Sultanahmet. I personally prefer to stay in apartments as it is so much more flexible. So we can wash bottles, keep milk in fridge, heat food up, cook basic meals, sterilize and also not have to go to bed as early as our baby!
      In Turkey the food is not very spicy, with the exception of a few kebaps from the southeastern of Turkey like Adana Kebap. Mainstream food is flavoured by herbs that my babies were very used to already like oregano, sumac, parsley, mint, dill. Many food like vegetable dishes also may come with natural yoghurt as sauce. Most meals have tomato and onions as base and many vegetables (if served cold) are cooked in olive oil. Most skewered meat (shish) will be marinated beforehand but won’t be ‘hot’ spicy. So as long as they eat tomato, onion and some herbs, her palate will not be too stretched. Oh and I am sure she will enjoy most of the milky desserts like Sutlac, muhallebi.

    • I traveled 3-4 times to Cesme with babies. Last time we stayed in Villa Saray in Ilica which is a serviced hotel with individual villas. I love Ilica but I am biased as I spent most of my summers there when I was a child.The Ilica beach is long and sandy, and great with babies. If you are facing the water, the stretch to the right of Sheraton Hotel is best. Cesme town centre is a bit busier but also more fun. Cesme is predominantly a Turkish holiday resort. Alacati is trendy and the Alacati beach great for surfing but the sand is not brilliant. Alacati is also very very expensive, London feels cheap in comparison and that is saying something. Aya Yorgi is a great secluded bay with a couple of beach clubs, I would recommend Paparrazi with babies, no beach (except a tiny one) but the service and food is excellent and the little bay is very picturesque. It has a very big grass area for the baby to enjoy.
      Altinkum beyond Cesme and Ciftlikkoy is another great beach.
      In Cesme eat Kumru, a local toasted sandwich, in a local chain called Sevki, there are 2 on Ilica waterfront! Oh and Pide (a kind of Turkish Pizza) in Dost Pide, open for over 30 years and I’ve been eating there ever since 🙂
      Have fun in Cesme!

  4. Another question for you: I’ve been warned against driving in Turkey as it can be dangerous on the roads. Did you feel unsafe driving with a baby in the car? We’re thinking of renting a car in Izmir and taking it no further than Bodrum or Pamukkale.

    • Well, it’s certainly different to driving in UK. But I’m not very well placed to comment as I learnt to drive in Turkey so I am very comfortable driving there. But you have to be very defensive and expect anything from anyone all the time. For example, buses and minibuses can stop on the side of the road at any time, without signaling, cars can stop on motorways, people may attempt to cross motorways, cars overtake in blind bends all the time, don’t stop at junctions, red lights, stop signs. A road work can appear out of nowhere with a very big hole in the middle of the road with very little warning, even during roadworks they allow people to drive in the ditch/potholed road without asphalt.(e.g. before Soke in the Izmir-Bodrum road this June – Turgutreis-Gumusluk road in July.
      Tips :
      * People tend to drive very close behind you, you literally can’t see their headlights, this is a very common habit and people think this is good driving, slow down and let them overtake you, however fast you get they will still drive like this
      * On the motorways always check your mirror for some very fast cars. I mean 125miles/hour large black cars (for some reason they are 99% black) they appear behind you flashing their lights and you wonder where they came from!!
      * When you are driving on a hilly road, if you see a slow lorry coming towards you be very careful and slow down as someone will overtake it in great speed, even though they can’t see the road or the road is too narrow. This is my biggest fear in Turkey and the cause of majority of accidents.
      * Watch out for pedestrians, animals on the side of roads
      * Watch out for minibuses (Dolmus) who stop to pick up passengers from roadside, they don’t have set stops and they are not really aware they are equipped with signals.
      * people love lane hopping, for no reason, whenever the other lane seems to be going marginally faster, even in heavy traffic they switch lanes, of course without signaling. This is not a very good tip but when I want to change lanes (and in UK I ALWAYS signal) I sometimes don’t signal and just jump into a gap as when I signal people interpret it as a challenge and they close the gap instead of letting me go. If I signal everytime, I would not be able to turn anywhere :-))))
      * oh and there are no roundabout rules, whoever is the more aggressive, has priority!
      * Try not to drive after dark, the dangers are doubled (or squared 🙂
      I know I painted a bad picture but if you are careful with the above points and expect the worst, it is not too difficult to drive outside the major cities. Be defensive but not timid, be assertive (which comes naturally after a few days) This style of driving is of course not unique to Turkey, I feel very much at home driving around Italy, especially in Sicily!!!

      I always think that when I have my babies in the car, I rather drive myself then let someone else that I don’t know take responsibility and drive in an undesirable way.

  5. hello kozano,
    its a pleasure to have been introduced to u by one of trip advisor’s Gonetothedogs. I really want honest opinions and fair reviews and ratings. Also i would like to benefit from your experience, as i have a 4 yr old and a 1 yr old. so here is the topic i posted on TA n i hope u can help me 🙂
    My family and I will be in Istanbul for the first time during November for 3 days, we have a 4 year old and a 1 year old. I’m concerned about the weather, like what I need to pack as far as clothes go. But most importantly, I don’t know whether to do the two daily tours (Istanbul highlights tour and the cruise with palaces tour) by oursleves using the headsets and booklets, or with a group tour. My husband thinks the kids won’t let us move right with the group and be able to listen to the narration and that we could probably do it on our own and at our own pace,walking from sight to sight and all. While I think it could be too hard to do the tours on our own, because we would have the stroller and we won’t be able to focus on reading or have our ears busy from the kids listening to the headsets, I also think it’s better to have a group to go around with instead of being on our own, keeping the transportations in mind of course especially with the cold weather. So I need the advice of the Istanbul experts especially from those with little ones like me :)Please help me!!!
    Thank you

    So if i can get ur take on hotels, restaurants and even tour companies if u think it’s the right choice for me, that would be awesome.

    thanks ahead

    Aya

    • Hello Aya,
      To be honest in Istanbul I can’t see the huge benefit of doing the major sites with a tour group as they are literally around 1 big square. Sultanahmet Mosque (blue mosque) is opposite Aya Sofya which is adjacent to Topkapi Palace.
      To learn more about these monuments and their history you can hire local guides at the gates, they have official badges and another advantage would be they don’t wait in the ticket line.
      The cruise sound more interesting, but again a quick commuter ferry ride accross the Bosphorous to Kadikoy, a lunch there and back on the same ferry (they are like every 30 minutes to 15 minutes depending on rush hour) which will give you great views of the Sultanahmet peninsula and a great chance for the kids to enjoy a ferry ride, feed the seagulls following the boat (pack some bread!) and they will not get too bored.
      November will be cold but not snow weather and not the middle of winter yet. November is rainy usually but can throw surprising warm sunny days, it is a lottery as Istanbul weather is very unpredictable. All Istanbul people dress in layers and are prepared. So for my 2.5 year old I would dress him in vest, sweatshirt, light cardigan and a padded raincoat with a hood if it is cold. I would not pack gloves or scarves for November. I also would not pack very thick wool jumpers and try to keep him warm with various cardigans depending on how warm it is. Same with my 1yo. For her I would pack a hat. For the ferry journey I would dress them their warmest.
      Please find tips about eating out on my blog, and sorry I can’t be too much help with hotels as we stay with family in Istanbul.
      Have great trip.

      • Hello Kozano,
        I want to thank you very much for your quick and detailed response. And I am sorry for taking more of your time for this. But how would I know how much to pay the guides? Or how to tip them?

        Thanks again,

        Aya

      • Hi Aya, I am afraid I cannot help with the guide prices. I think they are pretty standard but hope you can find information in travel forums and guidebooks.

  6. Thank you very much Kozano 🙂 My husband and I will take your advice and will do it on our own. Wish us luck 😀 But I can’t help feel confused by all the travel sites, they all give different “top destinations” as far as sight seeing goes. I even tried to post on a couple of them asking for suggestions for an itenerary and I got pretty much nothing. So I hope you can help me; we will be in Istanbul from Sunday night till Wednsday afternoon. We booked a B&B in Sultanahmet area. Will you please help me? I’d really appreciate it.
    Thank you one more time 🙂

    • I have never really been a tourist in Istanbul as it is my home town but I took many friends from UK to Istanbul. Main sites in Sultanahmet (old town) are Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Underground cisterns, Archeological museum, and these can probably be seen in 2 days. Then there is Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar not too far from Sultanahmet.
      If you then move the the other side of Galata Bridge (you are still in European side) there is the Dolmabahce Palace and Istanbul Modern museum. Then if you take the funicular up to Taksim then you can walk the length of Istiklal street and eat at one of the thousands of restaurants there, but make sure you explore the side streets as the main thoroughfare is somewhat standard and can get a bit boring. The other end of this main route is Tunel. You can walk down to the wonderful old Galata Tower, go up the tower for a view of the city.
      Then the two main areas left would be the European shores of Bosphorous (beautiful local neighbourhoods like Ortakoy, Bebek, Arnavutkoy and the Rumeli Fortress) and the Asian side (which is huge but a day there would be plenty and you can see Kadikoy, Moda, Baghdat Street and maybe Uskudar)
      If you are short on time you can skip the Asian side and Bosphorous shores and you can take a Bosphorous ferry up the Bosphorous and have a glimpse of the Bosphorous shores and have lunch at the northern end of the Asian side, Anadolu Kavagi.
      For kids I would also recommend the Rahmi Koc museum on the shore of Golden Horn which is history of industry, engineering, transport and a lot of fun. Close to Rahmi Koc museum is Miniaturk, a large park with miniatures of all important sites of Turkey and Istanbul and a very nice playground, great for toddlers and kids. All the above would take about 5 full days, with a young baby/todddler a bit longer. You can choose among these depending on your interests and mobility. This list is, as with others, highly personal but which I believe to be the main places to visit and things to do.

  7. Kozano, i am just rounding up my holiday in Istanbul but curious with the attention that my 5-mth old has been getting on the street of the city. It was my curiosity that made me search for Istanbul and babies which landed me @ your site. We have never seen a city where almost everybody is in love with babies. The men openly showing their affections as well. It is beautiful. They carried our baby, asked if they could take pictures, gave him gifts, even those who were not touching him would be looking at him and calling others to see a cute baby. We do not mind at all. Our only concern is that we would rather not have smokers cuddling and kissing him but that would be a tall order because there are a lot of smokers in this part of the world. Since you are Turkish, please permit me to use this site to say thank you to the people of Istanbul for the love and affection that they showered on our baby. God bless.

    • Aww, yes Turkish people, man or woman, old or young love babies. I still find it astonishing that even young Turkish men and even teenagers come and cuddle babies which is unheard of in London! I know what you mean about smokers, but as most people seem to smoke it is difficult to say no. I only say something if they kiss their hands and babies take their hands in their mouths all the time and I feel very uneasy. Glad you had a great time.

  8. Hello, we are about to go to Istanbul in May and my wife will be about 5 months pregnant then. I gathered from the “other” forum that you traveled there while pregnant 😀 Would you have any recommendations for an obstetrician or good gynecologist in the city? Any other tips or advices for expecting parents? Many thanks 🙂

  9. HI Kozano,

    I’ve been reading your posts on TA and following your blog for quite a while. The name I used on TA was SenoritaL. It’s always a joy to read your local insights of Istanbul.

    My husband and I spent 8 days in Istanbul over the 2010/2011 New Year’s holiday and loved it!!! We are again planning a trip to Turkey this winter but this time around, we have a new addition to the family 🙂 My baby daughter will be 10 months old by the time we travel, and we are still deliberating whether Istanbul will be an ideal holiday destination for the family. I am so glad I found your post regarding travelling with babies here!!! The information you provided is very helpful and answered most of my queries.

    One key concern I have is nappy changing when out and about. We are from Australia and parents rooms/nappy changing facilities can be easily found in shopping malls, department stores and tourist attractions. I believe it would be the same in London? How about Istanbul? Where can we find such facilities and whether they are clean, hygienic and widely available?

    Also, have you ever travelled to Cappadocia with babies? Would it be difficult to move around and visit sites with prams there?

    As for strangers cuddling and kissing the baby, is it OK if I gently refuse such approach (simply for security and hygienic reason)? Would it offend the well-meaning locals? What would be the best way to say “No, thank you”?

    Thanks a lot and looking forward to your advice 🙂

  10. Hi there! Thanks for posting. The info here is super helpful!
    I am travelling to Istanbul with my 7 month old and was wondering what to expect. He doesnt like the bababy carrier much, so I think I am in for a fix.

    Can anyone recommend a place that rents baby gear (A high chair – mostly).

    Thanks!!!

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