Istanbul with Kids: Galata Tower, İstiklal Cd, and Dolmabahçe Palace

Our 2nd day in Istanbul (and first full day), we decided to cross the Golden Horn and head into Galata. The Golden Horn is the body of water that comes off the Bosphorus Strait just north of the Sea of Marmara. It has several car bridges and the one we took also has pedestrian paths.

We started our day heading back downhill to the Egyptian Spice Market and strolled through it, before crossing to the bridge. Pro Tip: There is an underground walkway that gets you under the busy road that parallels the Golden Horn. It is near the exit from the Spice Market and you’ll see people heading down and under.

You can cross the bridge at the upper car level on a wide sidewalk, or go down and walk along the lower level that has restaurants. We did the upper level. Once across, we strolled through a street filled with auto repair parts and then started the uphill hike to Galata Tower (5th Century). The tower of course is on a high point and we had to get all the way up from sea level. It was about a 40 min walk from our AirBnb and about 22 from the Egyptian Bazaar. We got our tickets and were there not long after opening when there were few people. Our MuseKarts got the kids and me entry.

You ride the elevator up to the top and then walk your way down the tower. Getting to the highest level requires one flight of stairs up. The tower was way cooler than I thought it would be. Along with 360 views from the top level, as you work your way down, each floor has exhibits. We saw artifacts, photography, a 3D model of the city, etc. There was even an animation thing where you pretended to fly across the Golden Horn. Definitely get there before the crowds for the best experience and shortest wait (we had 0 wait).

From Galata Tower, we wandered 6 minutes to İstiklal Cd (Street), which is well known for its wide, pedestrian friendly street with tons of shops. It is not quite a mile long. We didn’t do many stops, aside from a quick Turkish Delight purchasing and to pop into a historic church. We ended at Taksim Square, which was busy and packed with shops. I gather it has quite the nightlife. We ate at Kitchenette and enjoyed our meal, a bit of A/C and the bathrooms. Lunch for 3 adults and 2 kids was 390 tl with tip or about $45.

Our next destination was Dolmabahçe Palace. It was about 22 minute walk from Taksim Square (AND downhill!). The line to get in was LONG. The Musekarts only got us entry to part of it (Harem section was covered, but not the Selamlık or men’s area), so we all needed tickets. Definitely recommend getting there early when possible. There are also no bathrooms in the palace and you’ll have to go at the Dolmabahçe Mosque just outside the entrance.

The palace grounds were massive. It is extremely ornate inside and a lot of walking. Kids and I went through at their pace and then hung out outside waiting for my inlaws. It was a pretty water view. There is a the Harem area and the Selamlık area (we did both), plus several other museums (we didn’t do those). We spent quite a while there and didn’t even see everything.

Once we left there, we decided to do a taxi back to the Galata Bridge at the Golden Horn. It was hot, the sidewalk was right by a busy road, and the kids were beat. We definitely got ripped off (no meter!), but it was worth it. We then walked across the bridge and had ice cream outside the Egyptian Spice Market. From there, we wandered back home, stopped at a grocery store, and had dinner at home.

Overall, 5.5 miles of hilly walking to the sites, not counting all the walking within the massive palace grounds or down the stairs of the Galata Tower.

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