10 Unmissable Bookstores in Istanbul
There are surprisingly many independent and boutique bookstores in the bustling metropolis of Istanbul. Some even carry languages other than the Turkish language. English translations of Turkish authors are available but a larger market exists for Turkish translation of English books, both popular and the classics.
Popular chain stores such as D&R, Remzi, Red Cat Bookshop and Nezih mostly cater to the Turkish audience with an impressive collection of books, journals and magazines. In these stores, one can find a tiny section of English bestsellers and popular magazines as well. Moreover, the bookstores carry classic English literature that is read by students studying English, especially at the university level.
However, it’s the independent and smaller bookshops in the city that offer something more, especially for travellers and expatriates living here. Smaller boutique bookstores in almost every part of the city offer a refuge for booklovers. If you plan to stick around for more than a vacation, then Istanbul a lot more to offer to book lovers.
Vintage manuscripts, second-hand books and Ottoman-era document copies are fairly easy to discover at the second-hand books near the Grand Bazaar, for instance. Antiques, maps and manuscripts from 100 years ago or more can be discovered if you have some time to spare on your travels, for instance.
Some bookstores have built up a reputation for offering something different and unique. Let’s explore some of the best bookstores in Istanbul.
Robinson Crusoe 389
Robinson Crusoe or Rob389 is an institution in the bookshop scene in Istanbul. Booklovers who’ve lived in Istanbul since the mid-90s until the early 2000s consider it their favourite bookstore with walls and walls of stacked books.
Unfortunately, it had to close a couple of times since then given economic reasons, the shop moved in 2014. Given its great reputation and the well-known wood and steel façade it once had, it’s still in operation, however. It now operates out of a small branch in Galatasaray and another branch at SALT Galata.
At SALT Galata, the store operates out of the ground floor of a historical building that used to be an Ottoman bank and now is a museum. The building is also an art gallery, a cafe and has a well-stocked, multi-lingual library.
It’s possible to find a wide selection of foreign language books and magazines. The New Yorker, for example, is sold here. A good selection of journals, periodicals, guidebooks, journals and stationery items can also be found here. They regularly organize book meets and author reading events.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 10 AM AND 8 PM
ADDRESS: ASMALI MESCIT, SALT BEYOĞLU, İSTIKLAL CD. NO:136 D:1, 34433 BEYOĞLU/İSTANBUL; SALT Galata, Azapkapı, Bankalar Cd. No:11, 34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
TRAMWAY STOP: GALATASARAY; karaköy
On the same street as Rob389 in Galatasaray, there’s a hidden gem of a shop, with stained glass windows and a double stairway: Homer Bookshop. It claims to be the country’s largest publisher of English-language books and has been in operation since 1995.
It operates out of a stone building in the historical district of Pera, now Beyoğlu reflects the atmosphere of the bookshop’s emphasis on history and archaeology. The independent academic bookstore focuses on the humanities, carrying a large selection of archaeology, literature and history books on Turkey and Byzantium.
Occasionally, the shop sells a surprise selection of books wrapped up as a gift – “A blind date with a book” – hung outside its doors for those willing to give them a try. The basement/first floor is for children’s literature, the middle floor leading up from the small double staircase is focused on Turkey and the top floor is for archaeology.
If you’re passing Istanbul, then you can buy books on Istanbul’s history and culture as a souvenir here. The shop also publishes its own books, has a good selection of children’s books and operates out of 4 different branches.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 10 AM AND 7:30 PM
ADDRESS: TOMTOM, YENI ÇARŞI CD. NO:52, 34433, 34433 BEYOĞLU/İSTANBUL
TRAMWAY STOP: GALATASARAY
Minoa Books & Coffee
Booklovers will love Minoa where you can read and drink its brasserie-style cafe. The three-storey bookshop in Araketler has other branches in Maslak, in Nişantaşı and Levent. It’s a much-loved bookshop that offers something calm in the busiest neighbourhoods of Istanbul.
According to its website, around 40,000 books, periodicals and even comics in both English and Turkish, on design and culture are available. Stationery and home decor products can also be found.
Emphasizing the importance of design and visual merchandising, the shops’ interiors and decors are no surprise — it’s perfect! Last year, the shop even organized an “Alice in Wonderland” tea party workshop.
A small garden offers the right atmosphere alongside lemon trees. It’s a perfect way to get lost in a book with a good coffee/tea in hand and some snacks. If you’re staying in the Beşiktaş area, then a few hours spent here is time spent well. Then, discover the attractions that are within walking distance, such as Dolmabahçe Palace or the Maçka Park.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 8 AM AND 12 midnight on weekdays, 10-12 midnight weekends
ADDRESS: VIŞNEZADE, SÜLEYMAN SEBA CD. 52/A, 34357 BEŞIKTAŞ/İSTANBUL
ferry STOP: BEŞIKTAŞ
When you enter the iconic Denizler or Bosphorus Sea bookstore, you are hit with nostalgia in this sepia-tinted shop. Specializing in maritime history, in particular, many antiques are sold here, for instance. Spend some time browsing the many framed historical scenes from medieval Istanbul leading up to the top floor.
Rare books, engravings, manuscripts from a by-gone era and maps are waiting to be discovered here, albeit at a much higher cost. While it’s not your typical bookstore with affordable goods, it’s worth a visit if you love historical artefacts and rare books. It offers something unique in Istanbul given its offerings. More importantly, the bookshop still carries on while the world outside on Istiklal street charges forward in its urban transformation.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 10 AM AND 7:30 PM
ADDRESS: TOMTOM, İSTIKLAL CD. NO:199 D:A, 34433 BEYOĞLU/İSTANBUL
METRO STOP: ŞIŞHANE
Carrying a rich variety of English books, Pandora claims to be Turkey’s biggest bookshop.
A bright and spacious shop, foreign books and new titles can be found on the top floor. It also operates 3 other branches, one at the prestigious Koç University. University textbooks in all categories and for different departments are sold.
Pandora offers its patrons the special order system for books that are not in stock or available. They are willing to find unstocked books at no extra cost. Moreover, they offer Turkish titles at a discount and imported books from abroad, a service not offered by their competitors.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 8.45 AM AND 8 PM
ADDRESS: Halaskargazi, Vali Konağı Cd. No:5, 34371 Şişli/İstanbul + 2 others
metro STOP: osmanbey
Flip through hundreds of comics in this geeky paradise with its floor to ceiling shelves. A huge selection of manga occupies a big part of the store. Moreover, local and international comics along with translated copies in Turkish are available here. The store also publishes its own translations for comics such as Daredevil, Titans, Flash and Star Wars, for instance.
The store has four different branches: two in Istanbul, and one each in Izmir and Ankara. What’s more, the shop operates an amazing online store. Take a sneak peek inside the comics before buying and ordering them. It’s the attention to detail that sets Arkabahçe apart!
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 10 AM AND 20 PM
ADDRESS:SINANPAŞA MAHALLESI ORTABAHCE CADDESI NO:10/1 BÜYÜK BEŞIKTAŞ ÇARŞISI, D:1. KAT, 34353 BEŞIKTAŞ/İSTANBUL
ferry STOP: BEŞIKTAŞ
Fil Books is a colourful bookshop-cafe hybrid in the hip neighbourhood of Karaköy, close to the Galata Tower. Enjoy some sweet and savoury snacks and a coffee/tea alongside books on photography, art, photography theory and criticism.
The two-storey space with bright interiors, swinging chairs, a sofa and an outdoor patio in matching colours offers something fresh. In the neighbourhood, there are tons of other cafes and shops but its the shop’s cyan blue calibre pipe that the main visual focal point throughout the entire space.
On the other hand, Fil means elephant in Turkish and it features heavily in the design of the bookstore’s logo, plates and tables. On the top floor, lounge on the sofa or in the swinging chairs with a book and a hot drink.
Focusing on photo books and artist’s publications, the bookstore hosts workshops and pop-up events as it also has dedicated workshop space. Additionally, a wide selection of independent publications, children’s books and zines can be found alongside small decorative items and accessories. They also carry some great cakes so make sure to also give them a try!
Occupying a prime corner of the neighbourhood just opposite the Virgin Mary Central Orthodox Church, the bookshop is owned/operated by a photographer. Later, take a stroll in the Karaköy neighbourhood which is chock-full of small independent boutiques, cafes and speciality sweet shops. There’s also a hammam available.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 10 AM AND 11 PM
ADDRESS: KEMANKEŞ KARAMUSTAFA PAŞA, ALI PAŞA DEĞIRMENI SK. NO 1, 34425 BEYOĞLU/İSTANBUL
TRAMWAY STOP: tophane
Nail Bookstore & Cafe
Overlooking the intersection of two streets in the neighbourhood of Kuzguncuk, Nail Bookstore is a charming bookstore. It’s also a books publisher and hosts author events and workshop. It’s a must-visit if you’re in the area, lying further north on Istanbul’s Asian half.
Located in a 19-century triangular building, with round bay windows in the top floor. Inside, cosy reading nooks near the windows are lined with cushions and pillows. The walls on this bookshop-cum-cafe are adorned with portraits of famous artists such as Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali, for example.
Enjoy a cup of coffee while you catch up with a book in one of the nooks with jazz playing in the background. Alternatively, people-watch by grabbing a table outside the building on the sidewalk in this neighbourhood of colourful buildings on the Asian side of Istanbul. Be sure to check it out on your next visit to Istanbul!
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 9 AM AND 7 PM
ADDRESS: KUZGUNCUK, İCADIYE CD. NO:32, 34674 ÜSKÜDAR/İSTANBUL
FERRY STOP: KUZGUNCUK
Envai is a cute bookstore/gift shop hybrid. The shop is situated in posh Bebek, right in front of the area’s Starbucks. It carries a mixture of second-hand and new books, gifts and knick-knacks. Take your time here before you head over to one of the neighbourhood’s restaurants nearby for a well-deserved Turkish breakfast. Indulge in a treat at Baylan, the same confectionery from Kadıköy operating another branch here.
Copies of Cornucopia magazine and publications by Yapi Kredi Publishers are often on display at the shelves. Moreover, a range of coffee table books, bestsellers and non-fiction can be found on one wall. On the other wall, you can find ceramic art and crafts and art by local artists. Some antiques and old editions of books, jewellery and postcards offer more variety.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 10 AM AND 7 PM
ADDRESS: BEBEK, CEVDET PAŞA CD. NO:57 D:B, 34342 BEŞIKTAŞ/İSTANBUL
FERRY STOP: BEBEK
Beyazıt Sahaflar Market
Not far from the Sultanahmet and the Grand Bazaar is the Beyazıt Second-Hand Booksellers Market, called the Sahaflar Çarşısı in Turkish.
The bust of the very first Ottoman publisher/printer Ibrahim Müteferrika keeps a watch over the market. The place used to be a Byzantine-era market that dealt with paper and manuscript publishing. Unfortunately, the market is not what it used to be but it’s still a fascinating place to find some rare finds.
The booksellers here including the famous book shop, Dilmen Books, cram their tiny shops top to bottom. Their shelves are stocked in a large variety and at low rates — second-hand novels, religious books, plaques and copies of the Quran, for example.
Look around the small stalls and appreciate the history of the market. Spend some time here browsing some old manuscripts, old coinage or rare maps, for example. Later, take a walk in the historical streets and explore the neighbourhood with a variety of mosques and complexes. The market sits near the Beyazıt mosque complex and the Beyazıt Public Library with beautiful interiors. After that, head over to Sultanahmet area with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia is less than 15 minutes away.
Furthermore, there are other similar secondhand sellers in other parts of Istanbul such as the Beyoğlu Sahaflar Market, Imge Sahaf in Kadıköy or Fahrenheit451 Recycling in Galata, where you’ll find the city’s famous fish sandwiches.