Straddling two continents and effortlessly merging elements from both, Turkey is a cultural melting pot brimming with exciting cities and incredible landscapes. It’s a country that belongs on every traveler’s bucket list, but with all the ancient history, cultural diversity, and adventurous cuisine, is Turkey somewhere you can’t take the kids?
Fear not, Turkey and its coastal resorts have long-been family-friendly holiday destinations. Blue Flag beaches and warm Mediterranean seas, raucous water parks, and plenty of kids clubs to keep the little ones busy while you lounge by your hotel pool – anywhere you go there’ll be something for the whole family to enjoy.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to compromise on a bit of cultural exploration either, as even the bustling cities and desert regions have something to excite the fussiest of family members. Still not sure where to go? We’ve found the top 7 best destinations in Turkey for families so that you don’t have to. Let’s get into it.
Situated at the foot of the Uludag Mountains on the shores of the Marmara Sea, Bursa is a sizzling coastal resort and the fourth-most populous city in Turkey. Bustling metropolitan vibes set to the spectacular backdrop of rugged mountains and with plenty of beaches to explore, there is truly something for everyone.
The city is well known for its mosques and early Ottoman sites that mum and dad can enjoy, but Bursa’s historical landmarks also offer great educational experiences for children. Bursa is also nicknamed “Yeşil Bursa”, meaning “Green Bursa” thanks to its many parks and green spaces, and getting out into the great outdoors shouldn’t go amiss.
The flooded forests of Karacabey, or Longoz Ormanlari as they’re locally known, are a real highlight. The 5,000-acre area finds rivers, lakes, swamps, dunes, and forests merged into one, each bringing a unique ecosystem. There’s also Bursa Zoo for wildlife lovers. The small animal park is nestled in the Soğanlı neighborhood of Bursa next to the Botanical Gardens. The zoo is home to 700 animals and 100 different species from all over the world.
We also recommend Bursa’s Chocolate Museum, dedicated to the art of handmade Belgian chocolates with plenty of free treats to try along the way. Then you can work off the sugar high at Zipland, a modern trampoline park for kids of all ages.
Bursa experiences its best weather in the summer months when the seas are warm and the beaches are always busy. However, don’t write off the shoulder seasons either. Bursa plays host to two internationally-recognized festivals in October for theater and photography, and there are plenty of arts, crafts, and workshopping activities targeted at children.
The modern city is the third biggest in Turkey and the second-largest on the Aegean Coast, but Izmir is much more than an urban hub. Known as Smyrna in antiquity, it was founded by the Greeks then taken over by the Romans, and regenerated by Alexander the Great before becoming an important city of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.
Today, the sprawling archaeological sites are a big part of its generational appeal. Even the little ones will love running through the Agora of Smyrna, Izmir’s ancient city, and its sprawling Roman amphitheater, now an open-air museum. Or playing pretend inside the walls of the hilltop Kadifekale, affectionately known as the Velvet Castle, a well-preserved fort built by Alexander the Great that overlooks Izmir.
Elegant mosques and traditional bazaars punctuate the palm-lined boulevards. In fact, Turkey’s colorful markets are a great place to get the kids to indulge in a bit of the local cuisine, spurred on by the sensory overload of exotic smells and sights.
Still, sea-lovers don’t need to make compromises as the “Pearl of the Aegean” is surrounded by sumptuous beaches, from secluded swimming coves to adventure-packed sands with inflatable water parks and plenty of water sporting opportunities too.
Nestled on the southwest coast of the Anatolian Peninsula, Antalya sits at the foot of the Taurus Mountains and is Turkey’s largest city on the Mediterranean Coast. If you’re looking for all the luxuries of a Western European resort with year-round sun, low prices, and plenty of activities to keep the kids busy, Antalya is for you.
The yacht-filled harbor and nearby beaches are lined with large hotels complete with family-friendly pool areas and entertainment hubs. Antalya is known as the Turquoise Coast and the blue waters of its beaches are enough to rival Croatia’s sparkling seas. But Antalya is not all seaside fun. Remnants of its Roman past can be spotted all over the city from the old port to Hadrian’s Gate and Hidirlik Tower with its sweeping harbor views – all equally exciting attractions for kids as they are for adults.
Antalya is also home to one of Turkey’s biggest and most innovative theme parks, The Land of Legends, with its three separate themed zones, story-led pirate adventures, and aquapark. And just outside the city, families shouldn’t miss the Düden Waterfalls, a collection of cascading falls that tumble off a rocky cliff directly into the Mediterranean. You can even climb down a spiral staircase into a cave behind the waterfalls and swim nearby.
The bustling city of Turkey is the country’s economic, cultural, and historic hub. Lying in both Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait, thousands of years of changed hands and different ruling empires have left their mark on Istanbul and it is impossible to get bored in this vibrant metropolis.
The sprawling museums and art galleries host exciting activities for children of all ages in the summer months, including arts and crafts, painting workshops, and group games. There are also plenty of events like illusionist shows, pop-up puppet plays, and theater performances held all over the city.
Nevertheless, Istanbul’s historic quarter has something for everyone. Sultanahmet, as its traditionally called, is home to the bustling central square of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace Museum, the Cistern Basilica, and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum with a host of interactive exhibitions.
And for something a little different, check out The Prince’s Islands just south of the city and reachable by ferry. The cluster of 9 car-free islands is known for its horse-drawn carriages and ancient sites, like the 6th-century Hagia Yorgi Church on the largest and highest Büyükada Island. Büyükada is also covered in the pine forests of Dil Burnu National Park, but Istanbul itself has no shortage of green spaces itself.
Parks and green groves punctuate the metropole, and the forests and coastline that surround the city are perfect for outdoorsy families with plenty of hiking, cycling, and swimming opportunities.
Çanakkale is a city and seaport that lies on the banks of the Dardanelles – the strait that connects the north Marmara Sea to the southern Aegean. Safe and secluded swimming bays and jagged inlets that define the coast are perfect for swimming, with sugary white sands for some great castle-building opportunities. Still, Çanakkale is a dynamic resort with 15th-century sites and access to the Gallipoli WWI battlefields too.
The archaeological sites at Troy, including the ancient theater and towering Trojan horse structure are one of Turkey’s best historical attractions for children. There are also water parks, hiking trails, cycle paths, and campsites for adventure seekers
Within the grounds of the 15th-century Çimenlik Castle also lies the Çimenlik Naval Museum with real historical artillery and exciting exhibitions. And for slightly bigger kids, the Gallipoli Peninsula is a spectacular diving spot.
Cappadocia is one region in Turkey that proves you definitely don’t need water to have fun. It might be landlocked and miles from any beaches, but Cappadocia is undeniably exciting for any visitor and brimming with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The region is actually huge, but the popular Goreme valley is where Cappadocia’s postcard pictures of hot air balloon skies and fairy chimneys are realized. The balloon festivals are one of the biggest pull factors to Cappadocia and are incomparably exciting for adventurous children but bear in mind that most hot air balloons don’t permit children under the age of four to ride.
The unique lunar landscape with its volcanic vineyards, craggy canyons, and distinct rock formations also provides endless outdoor fun. Wild hiking, horseback rides, and even skiing in the colder months can all be enjoyed in Cappadocia. Little ones will also love the unusual accommodation options that punctuate the mountainside.
Civilizations have been living in caves in central Turkey since the Paleolithic era, and today, many of the hotels in Cappadocia offer cozy cave rooms and subterranean swimming pools that are perfect for families. Not to mention the fascinating underground cities that are open to the public all year round. These ancient caverns are sure to send your kids’ imaginations running wild.
Bodrum is a city that sprawls from Turkey’s southwest coast into the Aegean Sea on the Bodrum Peninsula. The city is ideal for sun-and-sea getaways and the picturesque twin bays offer spectacular views of Bodrum Castle, a medieval fortress built partly from stones from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The Mausoleum was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, completed in the fourth century BC, and although destroyed by an earthquake between the 11th and 15th centuries, the stones were reused in buildings all around Bodrum.
Bodrum is buzzing with energy and tourists throughout the summer months. The high season crowds still don’t steal from its authentic charm but visit in the low season, and the old town atmosphere is undeniable. From a cozy fishing village to a vibrant resort, Bodrum has certainly transformed over the years and it’s fast becoming the Saint-Tropez of the Turkish Riviera. Still, there are plenty of family-friendly hotels, aqua parks, and museums for kids to enjoy.
Bodrum’s waters also offer a host of underwater worlds of their own to explore. More than 4,000 square meters of Dolphin Park dominate Güvercinlik bay, perfect for boat trips and snorkeling excursions, while kayaking, banana boating, and parasailing opportunities engulf Gumbet Beach. There’s also the Museum of Underwater Archaeology at Bodrum Castle, exhibiting fascinating rare relics from ancient shipwrecks.
Is Turkey a good place for families?
Turkey might seem like a culture shock for some, but the Mediterranean-meets-Western Asian country is so diverse that there’s something for everyone. From sun-soaked summer resorts to ancient towns steeped in history and no shortage of outdoor adventures, the whole clan will be entertained.
When is the best time to visit Turkey for families?
Turkey has a delightful climate, with colder regions in the north but a sizzling coastline and year-round sun. The summer has the most desirable weather, with highs of 90 degrees all across the south and northeast, but the heat can sometimes be stifling and not ideal if you’re traveling with very young children. What’s more, Turkey is also the busiest from June to August with the highest accommodation and restaurant prices. If you’re visiting with the family, consider heading to Turkey in the Easter holidays or May half-term for plenty of sunshine and fewer tourists.
Which is the safest resort in Turkey?
Turkey is sometimes burdened with a bad reputation due to violent border zones and ongoing conflicts in nearby countries, but the tourist areas are considered to be very safe, especially for families. Dalaman, Antalya, Feyithe, and Bodrum are all unproblematic regions with killer beaches and very low crime rates. Petty theft can occur in busy areas, but keep a close eye on belongings at all times and you shouldn’t run into any trouble.