Travelling with children in Turkey

Turks adore children, and Turkish families tend to take their children with them wherever they go, thinking nothing of letting them run around restaurants until the early hours. In this sense, the country is a great place to visit with kids. And, of course, the coastal resorts offer a generally calm, warm sea and have pools, beaches (and sometimes water-parks) aplenty. On the down side, the number of play areas and children’s attractions lags far behind Western Europe.

Turks have an uninhibited Mediterranean attitude toward children. Don’t be surprised to find your child receive an affectionate pinch on the cheek by a passer-by, often accompanied by the word maşallah, which serves both to praise your offspring and ward off the evil eye, while waiters will sometimes unselfconsciously pick a kid up and waltz them off into the kitchen to show their workmates, often accompanied by cries all around of “how sweet” (“çok tatlı”).

With a few honourable exceptions (eg Miniatürk and the Rahmi M. Koç Industrial Museum in İstanbul, and minicity in Antalya), there are few attractions aimed specifically at younger children, and few museums have kid-friendly displays or activities. And for buggy-pushing parents, the uneven surfaces and metre-high kerbs of the average Turkish pavement (where there is one) are a nightmare. For older kids there are plenty of outdoor activities on offer – kayaking and windsurfing at some coastal resorts, for example, and whitewater rafting, mountain biking and canyoning in the hinterland.

Turkish food should appeal to most kids – what’s köfte but a (very) tasty burger, pide a pizza without the tomato paste, and gözleme a stuffed pancake? Maraş ice cream is just as delicious as Italian gelato and comes in myriad flavours. In general, restaurants are very welcoming to families – just don’t expect highchairs. Disposable nappies are widely available from supermarkets and the larger bakkals.

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