The Palace served as house for Ottoman Sultans and also administrative and educational centre for governmental sections about 400 years.
By 1850s, the palace became inadequate to the requirements of ceremonies. Therefore the Royal family moved to Dolmabahçe Palace, which is located by Bosphorus in Beşiktaş district of Istanbul.
However the royal treasury, the Holy Relics of Prophet Muhammed and imperial archives preserved at Topkapı Palace.
In early 1922, the Ottoman Monarchy was abolished. By the order of The 1st President of new Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk converted the palace to a museum by 1924. Today more than three million visitors in a year come to see Topkapı Palace. Most of the rooms had been renovated, but still you can find closed sections as renovations still goes on. Museum exhibits the imperial collections of Ottoman Empire, archives, Holy Relics, extensive collection of books, shows how the Imperial living.
On the original construction plan Mehmet II, planned 4 main gates which were surrounded by highwalls. Each gate is opening to a courtyard which are incrementally restricted to enter.
Here is the list of gates and courtyards that I suggest you to follow on your family travel with kids to Topkapı Palace:
1st Courtyard/ Outer Courtyard
The Imperial Gate welcomes you to the first courtyard of Topkapı Palace, as you see the welcoming golden words above your head in arabic alphabet. Any unarmed person could enter through the Imperial Gate. It had been ideal place for Imperial ceremonies and processions as well as traditional Turkish sports tournaments such as "Cirit" ( pls read as "Jeered") as it is the largest of the courtyards.
Here you can visit second largest church of Eastern Roman Empire, Hagia Irene was built on a very ancient temple which is left on your left handside.
You will see the Gate of Salutation with its two grand towers, which leads into palace, has become icon of Topkapı Palace symboling the Ottoman State.
2nd Courtyard/ Council Square
This is the court of administrative center of Topkapı Palace, where all official visitors and court members can enter. Official representation and ceremonial grounds for state governance had been held at this courtyard. Here you can visit Imperial Council, Tower of Justice, Outer Treasury, Imperail Kitchens, Gate of Felicity buildings.
3rd Courtyard/The Inner Palace
This courtyard is kept like a palace, when the gates are shut it is imposibble to open. Upon entering the Felicity Gate, you will see the Audience Hall which at first built in 15th century. The grand vizier of Sultan can come to this side of the palace to present the issues of Ottoman state.
The most charming spot at 3rd yard of Topkapı Palace is Enderun Library, which is considered as the masterpiece of architecture of the Tulip period.
Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force, Sultan Mehmed II Pavillion, Treasury Ward, Pavilion of the Holy Mantle, Ağalar Mosque are places that you can visit at 3rd courtyard.
4th Courtyard/ Marble Hall
A gorgeous Turkish traditional architecture and paysage is waiting for you here. This is the Royal Hall, where Sultans lived their daily life. Here you can find flower gardens, marble pool, and wonderful view of Golden Horn and Marmara Sea. This area is the favourite side of Topkapı Palace in my view with pavilions, tulip and rose gardens, the Iftar Gazebo and Mosque of the Hall. I have to add here that when we visit the Topkapı Palace, we directly walk to this section with kids. This is the only part my husband and I like because of the glamorous panaromic view of palace and gardens that kids can enjoy the style of palace living .
Harem apartments were where the Sultans lived together with their families. Harem contains 300 rooms, nine bathhouses, two mosques, a hospital, dormitories and a laundry. On basic plan of Harem consists of main courtyards surrounded by rooms, pavillions, service buildings and living quarters. This is mostly where I admire most with the mosaic tiles, the rooms and those historic wooden doors. Let me stay here forever please....Some parts are still on renovation, I hope one day we can all visit there.
Here are some local moms tips on your family visit to Topkapı Palace museum with children:
The best season is spring and fall because the museum is located on a hill top, where there is always wind. This had been the reason Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror for the decision on constructing Topkapı Palace here.
Sorry but baby cars are not allowed in exhibition halls.
At the exhibition hall of Holy Relics, you have to obey a dressing code which is refraining from shorts, mini skirts, tiny tops or straples clothing. You can take a large wrap with you and cover your body with it, this will be useful especially on your visit at summer. No one will ask for cover to small kids...
Mostly long ques will be waiting you at ticket desk at 1st courtyard of Topkapı Palace. Therefore I suggest you to have your tickets via online or use your museum pass to enter, it will be more wise as kids will not be patient as we are.
If you want to visit Harem and Hagia Irene, you have to buy seperate tickets for both places. You cannot enter these places with museum pass either.
There are cafes and restaurants in each courtyard of Topkapı Palace. However the best ones, "on my own taste of course", are "Sütiş" which is a cafe like a bistro at 1 st courtyard, and the other is at 4th courtyard is "Konyalı Restaurant" which is I most adore because of its magnificent view. Additionally if you dont want to have anything here, but eat something more traditional I suggest you "Sultanahmet Köftecisi" which is located on tram road stop of Sultanahmet. Here is the link on google map, try here ;) you will like the meatballs as these had been served to Sultans before.
If you visit at summer time, please make sure your kids wear hats and sunscreen too. Also you can bring your own food and drink which you can eat at gardens. This will be much enjoyable because your visit can last around 5 hours with the kids.
How can Families Get to Topkapı PalaceTopkapı Palace located at historical peninsula of Istanbul in Sultanahmet district. It is forbidden to drive any motor vehicles here. Therefore I suggest you to use public transportation or by hop on hop off tours.
For public transportation take tramway from Eminönü or Kabataş and stop at Sultanahmet station. Also it is better to use Istanbul Pass for public transportation. You can buy from any bus station or ferry ports.
Google maps: Please visit the link for Topkapı Palace
Topkapı Palace Museum is notable of its architecture and the imperial collections exhibited in several sections as well as the history of Ottoman culture. On your visit to Topkapı Palace you will have the chance to see arms and weapons, Chinese and Japanese porcelains, cooper and gold kitchen utensils, imperial treasury, glassware and porcelain collection, pavilion of Holy Mantle and Holy Relics, portraits of sultans and many many more...
I hope my article will be helpful on your visit to Topkapı Palace with kids. If so please do share on socail network that more families can have good times in Istanbul! Have a great time in Topkapı Palace friends ;)