Leisure activities in Istanbul for solo expats and families

Things to do in Istanbul alone or with your family
Updated 2024-03-02 19:17

If you have just moved to Istanbul, whether alone or with your family, it's probably time to start exploring your new home and socializing. Here is an overview of the various leisure activities available for expats, especially kids.

Solo activities in Istanbul

Discovering art might be the best activity to do in Istanbul if you are all alone or have moved with your partner. Istanbul has the most vivid and energetic contemporary art scene in Türkiye, and it is developing more and more every year with young artists and new art galleries cropping up. Art galleries such as Galerist, Art On, Mixer are some of the best places to enjoy exhibitions and shows. The newly opened Juma at Karaköy hosts five different art galleries. Besides, the Istanbul Biennial is one of the most popular events in the city. It is organized by the Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation and takes place in September.

The Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair is another popular event that attracts visitors in large numbers. Being the first fair ever in Istanbul, it is growing every year with artists from Türkiye and abroad.

Art Week is a new contemporary art event that takes place in the heart of the city, Beşiktaş. It usually takes place in various old-style buildings in the Akaretler neighborhood.

Shopping and window shopping are interesting options as well. Wander through the historic markets of Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar to experience the vibrant colors, sounds, and smells. They are perfect for picking up souvenirs and trying local delicacies. Istiklal is always a kaleidoscope of activities. This bustling pedestrian street offers shopping, cafes, and historic sites. It's a great place for people to watch and soak in the urban atmosphere.

If you are searching for some peace and quiet, a solo cruise on the Bosphorus may be the perfect pick. You can also spend a relaxing day at Emirgan Park or Yildiz Park, which offer beautiful landscapes and tranquility amidst the city buzz.

Family activities in Istanbul

Turkish culture is very family-oriented, and this is perhaps why Istanbul is such a fun city for kids. There is lots to do in this big and busy city — and it all depends on what you and your family are interested in.

Historical and cultural exploration

If you are exploring Istanbul with older children, a visit to iconic sites such as Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace can be a great start. Hagia Sophia, with its impressive dome and intricate mosaics, tells stories from its time as both a church and a mosque. Topkapi Palace, the former residence of Ottoman sultans, is a treasure trove of artifacts, offering a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the Ottoman era. These landmarks are not only architecturally magnificent but also provide an engaging history lesson for the entire family.

Exploring the Basilica Cistern is like stepping into another world. There is a sense of mystery and wonder about this old subterranean water reservoir with its rows of marble columns and dimly illuminated passageways. It's a fascinating event that shows off a little-known aspect of the city's past to both adults and youngsters.

Parks and outdoor adventures

Emirgan Park is a perfect spot for a family picnic, especially during the vibrant Tulip Festival in spring. The park is a terrific area for play and relaxation with it brightly colored flower beds and picturesque pathways.

If you are looking for a quieter option, consider the Gülhane Parkı. It's a smaller park in the historical heart of the city, where you can also catch the Tulip festival with fewer crowds.

Miniaturk is an interesting park that showcases miniature replicas of famous structures from Türkiye and around the world. It can be fun for the whole family and a great way to learn about the local history and architecture in an interactive way.

Amusement and theme parks

Vialand (Istanbul Theme Park) offers a day full of excitement with a variety of rides and attractions for all ages. From thrilling roller coasters to gentler rides for younger children, the park has something for everyone in the family.

Aquarium and zoos

There are several interesting places in Istanbul where you can get closer to nature. One of them is the Istanbul Aquarium. It's a great place to visit with family that will take you on an informative journey through different aquatic habitats. You may also be glad to learn that the aquarium stresses the value of marine conservation.

Another relaxing and educational place to explore is the Darica Faruk Yalcin Zoo and Botanic Park, which combines a zoo with botanical gardens. It's a fun place to learn about biodiversity and the importance of nature conservation.

Museum visits

Rahmi M. Koç Museum is dedicated to transport, industry, and communications and is a treasure trove for inquisitive minds. With its interactive exhibits and historical collections, it's an ideal destination for families interested in science and technology.

Istanbul Toy Museum is a wonderland for children. It is home to an extensive collections of

toys from various eras and countries. It's not only a nostalgic trip for adults but also a magical experience for kids.

Madame Tussauds Istanbul is a famous wax museum and is a fun place for families to see lifelike figures of celebrities and historical figures. It's an entertaining way to interact with famous personalities from around the world.

A visit to the Istanbul University Observatory and Planetarium is an educational journey through space and astronomy. It's a fascinating experience that can inspire a lifelong interest in the stars and planets.

Art and creativity

Various cultural centers across Istanbul offer art workshops suitable for families. These workshops are a creative way for families to bond and explore their artistic talents together.

Exploring the street art in neighborhoods like Kadıköy and Balat is a vibrant adventure. It's an engaging way to appreciate contemporary art and creativity in Istanbul's urban landscape.

Good to know:

Consider getting the Istanbul e-pass to explore the city with your family. With the e-pass, you can enjoy streamlined entry to landmarks like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern, as well as engaging experiences like Bosphorus cruises and museum tours. Moreover, it often includes skip-the-line privileges, which save valuable time that would otherwise be spent waiting in queues.

Useful links:

Istanbul Kultur Turizm

RMK Museum

Istan Beautiful - Kids and family attractions in Istanbul

Istanbul E-Pass

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