As well as the fabulous art exhibitions at this refurbished Ottoman power station (see Modern Istanbul,p 32; bullet 7), the Museum of Energyhas a Play Zone with machines, buttons, and games galore designed for ages 4–14 (although adults like me will love it too). Create magnetic sculptures and even your own electricity, then take a closer look at huge turbine generators dating back to 1911.
Kids can mess around in the Switch Gear Room, where the original connecting cables distributed electricity to the whole city; it’s not interactive – so no danger of them fusing Istanbul. @1 hr. Eski Silahtarage Elektrik Santrali, Silahtaraga Mahallesi,Kazim Karabekir Cad 1, Eyüp. 0212 444 0428. www.santralistanbul.org. Admission free. Tues–Sun 10am– 8pm. Free shuttle from Atatürk Kültür
Merkez (Taksim); boat from Eminönü to Eyüp; bus 44B or 47 from Eminönü.
If you want to see Istanbul’s best landmarks close up, this outdoor museum is the place where a few strides (even for little people) take you from Galata Tower to the Blue Mosque via Dolmabahçe
Palace. As well as 45 models of Istanbul’s best-loved monuments plus 15 from the old Ottoman Empire and the Egyptian pyramids, the toy train is ideal for small passengers to weave their way around the park. An indoor exhibition recreates the World War II battlefields of the Dardanelles, complete with machine-gun fire and bombs, while the playground, giant Much of everyday Istanbul life is a kid’s paradise, from watching fishermen on Galata Bridge to its world-class muse- ums. The locals adore kids, so don’t be surprised when grown men coo over your baby. The list below is too much in one day, so pick and choose from these highlights to suit your children’s ages and interests. All museums have family-friendly cafés and many of these places can be reached by boat, especially the Haliç (Golden Horn) Ferry Line, an attraction in itself. START: Shuttle bus from Atatürk Kültür Merkez, Taksim Square. chess set and lovely café make it a great family trip. @1–2 hrs. Imrahor Cad, Borsa Duragi Mevkii, Sütlüce. 0212 222 2882. www.miniaturk.com.tr. Admission 10 YTL. Mon–Fri 9am–7pm; Sat and Sun 9am–9pm.
Boat from Eminönü or Eyüp to Sütlüce; bus 47 from Eminönü or 54HT from Taksim.
3- Rahmi Koç Museum.
Kids can jump aboard a Douglas DC-3 (1942) plane, gaze at huge anchors and explore a plethora of
cars ranging from Formula 1 and 1908 Model T Ford to a 1961 German Amphicar. Timed tickets can be
bought to enter the submarine. This private collection of Turkey’s great industrialist Rahmi Koç (b 1930) also houses sawmills and lathes grinding into action when you enter the workshop. I love pressing the buttons on the ‘How Does it Work?’ exhibits to watch the mechanism in a cutaway car or domestic washing machine. At weekends, ride the diesel train along the Golden Horn and the traditional Carousel. @90 min. 27 Haskoy Cad, Haskoy. 0212 369 6600.www.rmk-museum.org.tr. Admission 10 TL adults; 5 TL students/children. Submarine 4.5 TL, 3 TL. Tues–Fri 10am–5pm; Sat and Sun 10am–7pm. Bus 54HS from Taksim.
4- Istiklal Nostajic Tram.
This one-carriage red tram trundles along Istiklal Caddesi between Taksim and Tünel, a favorite with visitors, and locals avoiding the mass of pedestrians. Originally running along the 19th-century Grande Rue de Pera (Istiklal’s previous name) until taken out of service in 1961, it was restored and re-introduced in 1990. Grab a window seat for a street-level view for the 1.6km journey, taking about 10 minutes, with a stop halfway at Galatasaray Lisesi (see Neighborhood WalksIstiklal Nostajic Tram running down Istiklal Caddesi.
p 52). Kids will love the driver’s constant clanging of the original bell to shoo the pedestrians out of the way. Use your akbil (transport token; see Savvy Travelerp 164) or pay the driver. @10 min. Trams run from Atatürk Monument (Taksim Meydanı) to Tunel Meydani, every 5–8 mins; 9am–11pm. Ticket 1 TL.
recreating the battle scene and, from the same era, the unbelievably thick chains placed at the entrance
of the Golden Horn. Kids will love the dazzling Ottoman gold-plated armor and Yemeni daggers. People gather for the 3pm Mehter performance, the uniformed Janissary band (out-door in summer, indoor in winter) of the pompous band that led the army into battle (see box section below).
Harbiye. y0212 233 2720. @90 min. (inc Mehter). Admission 3 TL adults; 1 TL child; extra for camera,
video. Wed–Sun 9am–4.30pm;
Mehter band 3–4pm. Metro: Harbiye.
5- Dondurma stalls.
You can’t miss the traditional dondurma(icecream) stalls dotted along Istiklal— originally from the city of Kahramanmaraş, and thicker, stickier and stretchier than normal ice cream, thanks to extra ingredients like mastic and sahlep(starch from orchids).
Sellers are usually clad in traditional Ottoman costume garb and entertain all when churning it out into the cup or cone. Istiklal Cad. $.
6- Askeri Müzesi (Military Museum).
The army has a major role in Istanbul’s history—modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (see History, p 170) was previously an army general—and this well laid-out museum celebrates military history from Ottoman to present day. Highlights include the Hall of the Conquest of Istanbul,
7- Kale Çay Bahçesi.
Recharge before exploring Rumeli Hisari Müzesi at this popular tea-garden at the fortress’s base for sloppy Turkish omelets, walnut cake and toasted sandwiches, with of course glasses of tea and plenty of soft drinks. 38 Yahya Kemal Cad. 0212 257 5578. $.
Thurs–Tues 9am–4.30pm. Bus: 25 or 40E from Besiktas; 559C from Taksim then 10-min walk.
8- Rumeli Hisari Müzesi (Fortress of Europe).
This 30,000m2landmark fortress overlooking the Bosphorus has old walls and watchtowers, fabulous for scrambling around especially as it’s surprisingly quiet (it also closes oddly early, even in summer.) Built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452 in only four months (don’t we all wish for builders like that?) it lies opposite his Anadolu Hisari (Fortress of Asia) on the narrowest part of the water, as the Sultan
planned for his siege of Constantinople in 1453. Its three sturdy towers, 12-sided flag tower, and rows of canons dating back to Süleyman the Magnificent make great exploring, though hold on to little ones if you’re climbing rough steps up the walls.
Look out for the amphitheatre, venue of occasional concerts in summer, and take in the views of the huge cemetery from Zaghanos [email protected] Kulesi, the southwestern tower. @90 min.
Yahya Kemal Cad, Sariyer. 0212 263 5305. Admission 2 TL.
The amphitheater at Rumeli Hisari still holds performances today.
9- Galata Köprüsü (Bridge).
One of Istanbul’s great landmarks (see Best in One Dayp 10), this makes a lovely end to the day. From
the bridge, watch the row of fishermen cast lines, peering optimistically into murky waters below.
Children can check out their pots of bait (usually maggots) and their catch of tiny fish. Breathtaking views take in ferries cruising up the Haliç (Golden Horn), the mêlée of people crowding into Eminönü’s markets, and spot-lit mosques at night. This is one of my favorite places to hear the cacophony of sounds of azan (call to prayer) from a myriad mosques. Bridge joining Eminönü to Karaköy. Any bus to Eminönü; tram: Eminönü or Karaköy.
10- Eminönü fishing boats.
Bobbing on Eminönü’s waterfront are several huge ornamental fishing boats, offering fresh fish cooked by elaborately dressed attendants. Feast on cheap balik ekmek(fresh fish in bread) with salad, or a corn-on-the-cob with a cool drink. This is an unbeatable people-watching spot for all ages. Eminönü pier, west of Galata Bridge. $.
Hub of fishing on Galata Bridge.
The world’s oldest military band, the Mehter accompanied the Ottoman armyinto battle to instill confidence and, ideally, strike terror into the enemy. These days, various bands perform marches and
recitals in full Ottoman costume at the Azkeri Müzesi (daily), weekly in Eyüp(see p 58) and Dolmabahçe Palace(see p 20) plus other special events, still using traditional Turkish instruments including zurna(reed instrument) and davul (large drum). Its stirring style and beat are thought to have influenced European classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn—although they presumably didn’t have to evoke the terror of their Ottoman counterparts. Mehter – Band of the Ottoman Army