Our 3 Days in Istanbul (With Kids)

Blue Mosque, Istanbul 2018
(View of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or the Blue Mosque, from a rooftop cafe!)

I had quite a few emails and messages from people asking questions about travelling with 3 kids to Istanbul.

So I answered a few common questions and included our 3.5 day itinerary (what I planned vs. what we actually did!)

Did we feel safe?

Yes. Absolutely. The tourist areas are very tourist-friendly. The locals are very friendly and hospitable!

There were lots of police in the tourist areas, but they were dressed casually (shirt, jeans and a police vest), not full-blown army/military uniform.

Currency and Exchange Rate?

Turkish Lira. Exchange rate is AUD 1 = TL 3 or 4

Food and eating out was very cheap. One morning, we ate a hot breakfast at a touristy cafe and we fed a family of 5, including 2 Turkish breakfasts, 2 omelettes, a side of bread, 5 drinks… for about AUD $30 .

One evening, we had a delicious Turkish dinner for a family of 5, including pizzas, seafood, meat grills, salads, drinks and desserts… and the total was about AUD $48.

How was the AirBnb?

It was fantastic. We booked with a “Superhost” in a 5-Star rated apartment with 2 bedrooms with a great kingsize tv bed each, lounge room, kitchen (sleeps 5 people), situated about 5 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque (which is pretty much THE top rated thing to see in Istanbul) and it cost us around AUD $500 for 3 nights.

What’s to see there?

Lots of beautiful historical mosques, buildings, museums, great river views. Lots of cool streets and districts, affordable places to eat,

A wonderful combination of Eastern and Western culture.

When is the best time to go?

Turkish summer is July/August and apparently can get very (very!) hot. We aimed to go slightly before (in June) or slightly after (September).

What should I wear?

My husband and boys wore t-shirts, jeans or shorts. I wore t-shirt with comfy jeans, culottes, or a midi skirt most days.

If you visit a big/famous mosque, they have helpers who look you up and down to judge if you are dressed appropriately, then they provide scarves, elastic skirts (for women and men!), and little plastic bags so you can take off your shoes and carry them with you.

Istanbul Basilica Cistern
(Inside the Basilica Cistern, ancient underground water storage. Photo taken by my husband.)

Our 3.5 day itinerary for Istanbul

We focused our trip in ‘The Old City’ area, or Sultanahmet District, where the majority of all the historical sights were. We booked ZERO tours, because I already did lots of research, I wanted to see specific things, I already knew the history – and with kids, our plans were bound to change, so I didn’t want to be stuck on a 4 hour tour. Our kids were aged 15, 13 and 9 years old during this trip.

Day 1

– Arrived 8am in the morning (Sunday) after flying for 17 hours from Australia.
– Drop off luggage at the Airbnb. Breakfast at local cafe.
– Took a walk around the Sultanahmet Square and Sultanahmet Fountain and saw all the big sights from the outside eg. Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Hagia Sophia, other museums and enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere. We ate food from street vendors and did a lot of people watching.
– We visited the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art and bought 5 Museum Passes (5 day pass) for TL 125 each – this was a tip I read from a few travel guides: to buy the pass a day before, in the evening, to skip the queues for the next morning.
– Our kids were very tired, so we had to head back for an early night.

Day 2

– Up early for breakfast at Sultanahmet Square.
– Morning walk to see Gülhane Park (next to Topkapi Palace), went to see Topkapi Palace. We already had the Museum Pass, so we skipped the enormous queues, it was so good.
– Lunch at Seven Hills Restaurant (roof top) with amazing views of the city!
– Went to see the Basilica Cistern (ancient underground water storage).
– Went to see the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque).
– At 6pm, we walked from Sultanahmet Square to the Grand Bazaar for shopping and dinner. Took us about 20 minutes to walk there (we loved this so much, the small streets were so colourful and full of local shops and activity!)

*We did this whole day by walking!

Day 3

– Up early, first in line at 8:30am for the Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya (totally worth it to be early!)
– Walked to see the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
– Took a tram to north of the river, Karaköy tram stop
– Walked around Karaköy to Galata Tower.
– Had lunch at another rooftop cafe, Konak Restaurant in the Galata area.

(I planned to visit Taksim Square, walk around Taskim Gezi Park, or walked back over Galata Bridge in the evening, to the Suleymaniye Mosque, then to the Spice Bazaar — but our kids were too tired! Ambitious much?)

Day 4

– Breakfast at Sultanahmet District. The kids were tired and not feeling great.
– We checked out of Airbnb. Went back to the Hagia Sophia to take more photos.
– We ate and walked around to do some souvenir shopping near Sultanahmet Tram Stop / Basilica Cistern, where there were lots of shops and cafes.
– Then we left for the airport at 2pm for a 5pm – and we *just* made it to the plane because of the bad traffic!

On hindsight, we could have seen a LOT more sights and did more stuff.

I would have loved to have seen the Walls of Constantinople (saw it zoom by through a taxi window!), Suleymaniye MosqueHagia Irene, Taksim Square, Spice Bazaar, Dolmabahce Palace, or maybe a Bosphorus River Cruise… but we couldn’t fit it around the kids and their energy levels.

But that’s ok! It was still a fantastic trip, and we all rate it as one of our coolest trips ever!

What I Wore: Silk Wrap Blouse

Grana Silk

Before setting off on holiday, I had a number of client meetings where I couldn’t simply wear the old “jeans and a tee” combo.

Had to look a bit grown up and professional yo!

Anyway, I found the perfect top for the task.

This Grana Silk Wrap Front Blouse is just beautiful and in the league of “nice fancy tops” to wear out for day to night.

The style is simple, but I believe I could dress it up to the max for an evening party too.

Grana Silk

It’s a very lightweight silk, suited to warm weather, with a lovely drape and silhouette.

It’s super versatile too –  great to wear with any kind of pants or skirt. The style notes suggest you can wear the top tucked or untucked, but I prefer it tucked in, and bellowing at the waist and wrists.

The very unique cross-over wrap front has a fold at the bottom hem, which when left untucked, is a bit exposed for me. As there is only ONE button that closes the wrapped bit, and can show off your bra and belly.

You might have to peek at the product page to get more of an idea. But when it is tucked in, it is fine!

Grana Silk

I’m wearing the size XXS and it fits perfectly at the shoulders, arm length and chest. I’m usually a size AUS/UK 6.

It fits and drapes so well, that it instantly looks smart and polished – which is what I love about it.

Definitely a keeper!

Discount Code

If you’re keen to give it a go, do use my special code “karenxgrana” at the checkout to receive 10% off and free shipping. Unfortunately, it is only for new customers.

Also wearing Lovers and Friends skirt, Aquazzura heels, and Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag.

How Reading Enhanced My Travel Experience

Karen at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

4 months before we visited Istanbul, I started reading history books and listening to history podcasts about Istanbul. I wanted to read a fiction novel too, but I ran out of time.

I had heard that reading a novel set in a city, before you went to the city, was thing.

I never quite understood how reading could enhance my travel experience… but I get it now!

I read about all the significant Emperors of Byzantine/Constantinople/Istanbul (from 300 BC!) their career highlights and low lights, their life story, their wives and children, the current state of the city, the mood of the people, their political alliances, why they decided to spend money in a certain way and build certain buildings…

Then to actually SEE those buildings, their remnants, the city and the streets in which they walked… it made me feel like I was visiting old crazy friends and seeing their handiwork.

It made me feel like a time traveller and a possessor of secrets.

It added so much depth to everything I saw.

I absolutely loved how all the places I visited was brought to life by the stuff floating around in my head and heart.

I felt connected, empathic, humble, small. I felt like a little speck in the timeline of life.

And I had sooo many pinch-me moments and spine-tingling moments that went well beyond “wow that’s so pretty”.

I’ll definitely be doing this again the next time we travel to a new city.

(My next travel wishlist is Italy and Greece!)

Here’s to a lot more reading and travelling soon!

Acne Studios Musubi Mini Bag

Acne Studios Bag

YES it’s my birthday month!

I’m currently away on holiday, but before I left, as a bit of a splurgy birthday gift to myself, I picked out this gorgeous Musubi Mini Bag by Acne Studios via Shopbop.

I love that it’s a bit different and sleek with clean and minimal lines.

I also loooove the twisted knot detail, inspired by the traditional Japanese obi sash.

In fact the name itself, “musubi” means decorative knot and there are hundreds of obi knot styles out there. I tried to find the exact name of the knot used in this bag, but I couldn’t work it out. It does however, look similar to a martial art obi knot (which is a more basic/functional knot, rather than decorative, thus a bit cheeky for the designers to use), but hey I could be wrong.

Acne Studios Bag

I love how the designers use the smooth leather to create a soft, folded structure (that looks like cloth) for the handbag.

I also like using the top handle, so it can look like a bucket bag.

The large shoulder straps (which are removable) make it feel like a sturdy satchel bag, but it’s super light overall.

Karen and Acne Studios Musubi Mini Bag

It’s a great small size for me – not mini at all.

It’s dimensions are height 22cm x length 16cm x depth 16cm.

It fits my purse, phone, beauty pouch, keys and even a small book or compact camera. The leather is strong and stiff enough to hold the weight of all my stuff, without buckling or warping the shape of the bag.

I’m a big fan of Acne Studios and their minimal style, so it’s a complete win for me.

This mini black version is currently all sold out and hopefully is restocked soon. There is a Red Mini Musubi available here, and the regular size version Black Musubi Bag or Tan Musubi Bag.

(Or you could pop over to Acne Studios online to check out the whole Musubi range.)


Hi from Istanbul!

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hi everyone!

After months of planning, my husband and I dragged our kids across the globe to visit Istanbul!

I was so nervous at first. We were set to arrive on the day of the Turkey’s national elections; Australia had released a “Please reconsider your reasons for going to Istanbul” warning, and after reading about all the news reports, past riots and unrest in the area… aaah, I had such a big sense of dread and regret. Buuut you can’t live life afraid of all the what ifs.

So once my husband and I got over that… we were SOOOOO excited about going. Our kids? Not so much, as they knew nothing about the city.

Lots of people asked, why Istanbul?

Both my husband and I have always wanted to go see the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

I learned about Iznik ceramic tiles from the Ottoman Empire when I was in art school. And my husband has been interested in military history since he was a youth.

We both knew the city was full of history and culture, and that it was a little different to the other destinations in Europe.

I actually thought we would visit when we were old and retired. I wasn’t planning to take the kids along! But we just thought, Oh what the heck, let’s go!

An Extra Special Trip

This holiday is also a special birthday present for me… because I’m celebrating my big 40 this month! Woohoo!

Wow doesn’t time fly?! I remember celebrating my 30th not long ago.

Anyway, we’re spending some time in Istanbul, then heading over to Edinburgh, Scotland and the West Coast of Scotland (where my husband’s family is from).

Will be sharing heaps of updates soon!