Istanbul with Kids Round 2: Galata Tower, Whirling Dervish House Museum, İstiklal Cd, Spice Market, Playgrounds, and Old Book Market

Back in November, we took a last minute trip to Istanbul for a long weekend. We got in to Istanbul Friday night after school and work, and left Monday morning. We duplicated some things the kids and I had done in August that DH had not seen and did a few new things too!

To see all the posts about Istanbul, go here.

We stayed at an AirBnb in Beyoğlu/Karaköy, near Galata and very near the Galata Bridge and Karaköy Ferry terminal. We liked it. Convenient location and nice apartment. 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Not much for the kitchen, so don’t plan on cooking. I still prefer the area over near the Blue Mosque if it’s your first time in Istanbul. But this area was nice too, especially if you like shopping and restaurants.

Saturday morning we did a quick breakfast at our apartment (we brought food) and headed out to Galata Tower to get there before the tourists all arrived! Galata Tower has some great views of the city and some interesting museum displays. The kids particularly liked the model of the city and the interactive flying video. The area around the tower has shops and cafes.

From there, we headed to İstiklal Cd and enjoyed window shopping. We went into the Galata Whirling Dervishes House Museum (Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi). It’s a historic lodge and garden. The building itself is gorgeous and then there are displays on the whirling dervishes and art work on display. Doesn’t take too long to visit and worth a stop in if you’re in the İstiklal Cd area.

We decided it was time for a break and a snack! We went to Galleria Vitavien, which is both an ice cream shop and a cafe. It has upstairs seating, which makes it more spacious than it appears at first. It has AMAZING macaroons, which is DD’s favorite treat. We also tried Sahlep for the first time. Sahlep is a hot drink served in the winter months in Turkey. We somehow missed it our first winter, and our second was mostly on lockdown due to Covid! Sahlep is now one of my favorite hot drinks. It is essentially hot milk, sugar, and sahlep powder. Sahlep powder is ground orchid root! It is a thickener and acts similar to corn starch. It’s also used in Turkish Dondurma (ice cream) to make it thicker and chewier than US ice cream. Sahlep and some macaroons on a chilly day were awesome!

We wandered İstiklal some more. We tried to go to Olea Pizzeria, which friends recommended. But it was closed despite Google Maps saying it would be open. But we’d promised the kids pizza, so we backtracked down İstiklal Cd some more and found Pizzeria Pera, which had wood-fired pizza and was delicioius. The kids loved watched the man make the pizzas.

Now it was time to head across Galata Bridge to the Egyptian Spice Market. The kids and I had been here in the summer, but DH had not (he was in Istanbul fewer days than we were due to his work schedule). We love samples and seeing all the sweets!

By this point the kids are earned some play time! We had about a 30 minute walk and went to Fatih Memorial Park. This park is actually touching 2 additional parks. Each has a playground, so we rotated between them. They’re not amazing playgrounds, but they were a decent break. One had a ton of stray dogs. They were chill, but all over the place. I did like how the playgrounds have old statue and building pieces scattered around and had ancient aqueducts right near by.

Next up was Sahaflar Çarşısı, the second hand book bazaar. It is mostly all Turkish books. We did find 2 books in English the kids wanted and DD bought a notebook that was a nice large size with a drawing of Istanbul on the front and had blank pages. Then we strolled through the Grand Bazaar (had been there in August as well) and headed up to the Blue Mosque area. We stopped for a drink and some fruit at Kybele Hotel Cafe and then wandered the outside of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. It was getting real chilly by then! We took a few photos of The Stone of Million for my mother-in-law, who loves math! This pillar was once part of a 4th-century monument used to measure distances to Byzantine Empire cities.

We ended the day at the 360 Panorama Restaurant, which we’d eaten at in August as well. This time we sat inside as it was cold and they had no outdoor heaters (many restaurants do have heaters for outside).

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