I am the kind of person who sees bookstore visits as an essential part of any of my holidays. For me, Paris without Shakespeare and Company, Porto without Livraria Lello & Irmao, or Maastricht without Selexyz is just “meh”. You should walk not only around the streets of a city but also around the pages of a book taken from a bookshelf of one that city’s best bookstores. To touch those bookshelves is like touching the soul of the city. No doubt, the design of a bookstore, in addition to the range of the books in it, is a charming factor that determines our “book stop” in any city. You may be a tourist or a foreign inhabitant in Istanbul and you may not know where your “book stop” in Istanbul is yet. But, luckily we have some clues for you. Here is the list of five charming bookstores which are worth seeing in Istanbul:
1. Robinson Crusoe 389
Robinson Crusoe 389, was one of the most historical and characterful bookstores of İstiklal Caddesi, established in 1994. For two decades, it maintained its uniqueness and become a “memory venue” thanks to its perfect harmony with the historical building in which it resided. However, this harmony broke down last summer. RC389 was evicted since it couldn’t pay the inflated rent. The closing of an independent bookstore is always sad. However, the good news is RC389 moved to two new locations; in Salt Galata and on Yeni Çarşı Caddesi You can enjoy both its marvelous design and almost peerless variety of books (in many languages and categories) there.
Where? SALT Galata, Bankalar Caddesi 11
AND Yeni Çarşı Caddesi 34A, Galatasaray
When? Mon-Sat 09:00-21:00; Sun 10:00-21:00
2. Denizler Kitabevi
Do you know that many sailors read a lot? Turgay Erol, owner of Denizler Kitabevi, is one of such sailors. He has bought a lot of books from many harbors he navigated. And he lastly dropped anchor on İstiklal Caddesi. Denizler Kitabevi, with no doubt, is one of the most well-known sahafs (second-hand bookseller) in Istanbul. If you are looking for antiquarian books on navigation or military history, maps, 19th or 20th century posters, engravings, you are at the right address. Denizler Kitabevi, with its traditional atmosphere and 20th-century interior, is perfect for being your safe harbor.
Where? İstiklal Caddesi 199, Beyoğlu
When? 10:00-20:00 daily
3. Turkuaz Sahaf
Since 2001, Turkuaz Sahaf has been the right address for those who are in search of early editions of novels by Pierre Loti or history books by Tamara Talbot-Rice. Turkuaz Kitabevi is known for its impressive collection of foreign language titles (English, French, and German), and rare books in Ottoman Turkish and Armenian. You can also find unique maps, engravings, stock certificates etc. for your collection.
Where? Gazeteci Erol Dernek Street. Erman Han 3rd Floor Beyoğlu
When? Mon-Fri 09:30-18:30; Sat 10:00-15:00
4- Simurg Kitabevi
“The only escape from the miseries of life are music and cats…” says Albert Schweitzer. We add the books and tea to the list. If you are one of us, Simurg Kitabevi is calling you. It opened in 1988, and since then, Simurg Kitabevi has become the premiere address for those who are especially interested in Turcology, and in many other fields. The store is technically on the fourth floor. But on the third floor, they have a fine collection of English-language fiction and you should also ask to see it.
Where? Kalyoncu Kulluğu Street. No: 13/4 Beyoğlu
When? Mon-Sat 09:00-19:00
5- Patika Kitabevi
Patika was founded in 2003 in in the upscale Nisantasi district in Istanbul. They specialize in Turkish and English limited editions, rare, out-of-print and collectible books, as well as new books. It wins the heart of bookworms with its coziness. You can select your book or magazine and settle on the big communal table in the middle and enjoy your book with the company of delicious coffee/tea and desserts from the mini café inside.
Where? Abdi İpekçi Street, Nişantaşı Milli Reasürans Pasajı (The Passage of National Reassurance) No: 43/57
When? 07:30-21:00 daily
Treat these five as just the beginning. If you want to discover more, then these five provide the perfect starting clues. If you have any questions or comments about bookstores and sahafs in Istanbul or want to share your favorite bookstore – what we call a “book stop” in Istanbul, feel free to drop a comment below. I will be happy to help!
And now for something completely different…
If you’re a book lover staying in Istanbul for some time you might want to check out Book Serf. This innovative website allows like minded readers to share books. You simply upload images of the books you have to lend. If someone wants to borrow one, they contact you and you meet up in a cafe or somewhere to make the exchange. Two weeks later you meet again for the book to be returned. This allows you to have a good chat about the book and you might even make some new friends along the way.