Bodrum or Antalya: which is best for families?

Tristan Rutherford

Tristan Rutherford

What a choice! Bodrum and Antalya are thrilling seaside cities, bathed in sunshine, both a similar flight time away.

Boats bobbing in Bodrum's busy harbour
Boats bobbing in Bodrum's busy harbour © Monticellllo - Adobe Stock Image

What's more, Turkey's most family-friendly destinations have upped their game. Attractions, restaurants and kid-tastic hotels are next level. So which to choose? Speaking personally, at different stages and ages my three kids have loved bits of both.

Getting to Turkey: find affordable breaks for families of all ages to Bodrum and Antalya with Jet2holidays*.

A tale of two cities: Bodrum

Downtown, both destinations are compact and walkable. The cities of Antalya and Bodrum are packed with restaurant terraces, play parks and ice cream stops.

Let's start with Bodrum*. A century ago, tourism began when author Cevat Kabaağaçlı was exiled here as a punishment for seditious writing.

Yet Kabaağaçlı fell so in love with Bodrum's lazy promenade and azure sea that he stayed put, acting as a travel guide for Turkey's first holidaymakers.

Heading for the Museum of Underwater Archaeology
Heading for the Museum of Underwater Archaeology © Ozdereisa - Dreamstime.com

Bodrum is now a place of book-ish cafés and top museums. These include the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology housed in Bodrum's historic castle and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the latter is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Kids will love charging around both.

A tale of two cities: Antalya

Antalya* is far bigger than Bodrum. Yet no less historic. The Roman-era city centre was built in honour of Emperor Hadrian, who holidayed here in CE 130.

This old town area, known as Kaleiçi*, is now a pedestrian-only warren of weaving shops, tearooms and orange juice stands, each with spellbinding sea views.

And culture? Any child who has studied the Greeks or Romans will be blown away by the Antalya Archeology Museum. Gigantic statues of personalities from Alexander the Great to Zeus will dwarf viewers below.

Little tots in tow? Hit Sandland, one of the world's largest open-air sand sculpture museums. Your bucket and spade sand castle will pale by comparison. And speaking of sand...

Battle of the beaches

Listen, you're in Turkey, which has over 5,000 miles of coastline. The beaches everywhere are fabulous. Bodrum's beaches are quieter. Aside from the main town beach, try Akyarlar for empty sands and Gümüşlük for Ibiza vibes (think hammocks between palm trees and seafood served seaside).

Beach club on Türkbükü Beach, Bodrum
Beach club on Türkbükü Beach, Bodrum © Images & Stories - Alamy Stock Photo

For partying hit Türkbükü*, the local answer to St Tropez with hipster beach clubs to match, where Istanbul's elite come to play.

Meanwhile, Antalya's beaches are longer. My children particularly enjoyed the sandy beach at Belek*, which is backed by the fanciest family-friendly hotels.

However, Antalya has the best town beach. That's Mermerli, a city centre seaside strip where beach clubs are built above the Mediterranean. You can eat squid and chips then dive right in. I have even bribed my kids with this beachy treat after a hard day of carpet shopping.

Turkey's best resorts

Picking between the best kid-friendly hotels in Bodrum and Antalya is like choosing a favourite child. All are situated on fabulous beaches. Each one has top-drawer swimming pools with waterslides and play parks. So what's the difference?

Again, it all boils down to size. Bodrum is smaller and its resorts are more intimate. In the key hotel area of Gumbet*, Royal Asarlik Beach has a kids club, two kids pools and a private beach. My youngest child loved the peace and quiet.

Antalya, where the sweeping beaches take top spot
Antalya, where the sweeping beaches take top spot © EdNurg - Adobe Stock Image

Teens will be happy anywhere but they will certainly get their kicks in Antalya's mammoth family hotels. We're talking about places like The Land of Legends Kingdom Hotel*, which features in-room game consoles, an indoor waterfall pool and its very own water park.

On that level, Bodrum can't compete.

The taste test

Foodie families are in for a treat. Both Bodrum and Antalya are seaside cities with a verdant hinterland, where epic produce is matched by culinary skills. Inside the big hotels, guests won't be able to tell the difference between a seared sea bass or a gourmet lamb burger in either location.

Yet downtown there are differences. Bodrum cuisine is lighter. Expect recipes like kabak dolması (pumpkin flowers stuffed with pine nuts and mint) and ot kavurma (a zinging salad of wild greens).

Restaurants like Zahmetsiz Balik Evi, which has views over the fishing fleet in Bodrum port, raise local seafood to new levels.

Antalya has a heavier cuisine, which is best sampled in lokantas, or traditional inns. Here mums and dads can point to trays of spiced okra and squid salad, to be served at your humble table a moment later.

Fancier restaurants like 7 Mehmet flip ingredients like aubergine and swordfish into shakshuka and ceviche. You really can't go wrong.

In both cities visitors will find Efes, a tasty chilled pilsner, alongside Turkish wines and local firewater raki. Kids can grab freshly squeezed orange juice anywhere.

Family-friendly activities

By now you'll have noticed a trend. Bodrum is cuter and quieter. Antalya is bigger and bolder. The same goes for activities.

For a day of adventure in Bodrum, a family might book a snorkelling trip on a fishing boat. Or hire a Jeep to hit a lonely beach. Kids will love it all.

Inside the Antalya Aquarium
Inside the Antalya Aquarium © Arkady Chubykin - Adobe Stock Image

In Antalya, activities come with muscle. The Antalya Aquarium features a life-size aeroplane wreck. The Land of Legends theme park features the 62 m-high Hyper Coaster, which is as bottom-clenchingly terrifying as it sounds. In both destinations, there are enough activities to thrill a family of any age for a week or two.

Compare weather

Use the graphs below to compare weather conditions in Antalya and Bodrum. Find out more about the climate in Bodrum and the climate in Antalya as well as conditions across the country in our complete guide to the climate in Turkey.

Bodrum Coast vs Antalya Coast

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Days with some rainfall

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Monthly rainfall (mm)

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Sea temperature (°C)

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Made your choice? Browse the latest great value family escapes from Jet2holidays to Bodrum, Antalya and other resorts along the Turkish coast.

Jet2holidays: Low holiday deposits from £60 per person

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Bodrum & Izmir by month

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Tristan Rutherford

Tristan Rutherford

Tristan Rutherford is a multiple award-winning travel journalist based in the UK. When he's not travelling in the likes of France, Croatia and Turkey he's found writing about them for the likes of The Times and the Daily Telegraph. He also lectures in travel writing and leads luxury yacht tours of the French Riviera and Croatia.

Posted on Monday 12th February 2024 in: Asia Compare Europe Family Summer

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