Discovering Hidden Treasures – My Favorite Bookshops of Istanbul
Books have always been my passion growing up. Every time we travel, one of my favorite activities is to go book hunting. Between Saba and I, we always make sure we have at least one day in our itinerary reserved just to explore the local bookshops.
I love reading guidebooks & volumes on the region’s art, architecture, history and philosophy. I have a bad habit of splurging on books and buying way more than our airline luggage allowance.
Considering Istanbul is literally a city where east meets west, I was really looking forward to seeing what the city had to offer for avid readers. To my surprise, even though the Sultanahmet district of central Istanbul is lined with local bookshops, most of them have a very small section for local books in the english language.
That’s why when I walked into Galeri Kasyseri (in Sultanahmet) and Debnizelr Kitabevi (on Istiklal street), it felt like I had discovered a hidden treasure. Both shops offered rare and sometimes internationally unavailable books on Turkey, in an ambiance reminiscent of an ottoman sultan’s study.
Galeri Kasyseri (“BOOKSHOP”)
Located in heart of the Sultanahmet district, right behind the Sultanahmet tram station, Galeri Kasyseri is actually two shops located across the street from each other. The sign on the shops simply reads “BOOKSHOP”. Stepping inside felt like I had walked in to Aladdin’s cave of books on all aspects of Turkish culture (and that too in english).
The staff is very polite, helpful & informative. They let you explore the entire length of the shop at your own pace. I browsed the store for two hours & it still didn’t feel I had spent enough time. I bought books on the famous Ottoman architect Sinan, Ottoman architecture, Byzantium, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and Islamic weaponry.
The shop has a website but, sadly, does not cater to online purchases and neither can you browse through their titles online. Overall, the shop is very well maintained and managed, and I believe they are truly fulfilling their aim of the acting as an international window for Turkey.
I found this bookshop completely by accident. Nestled between fashion stores of Istiklal street, you could literally walk past this store without even noticing it’s there.
Walking in, it felt like I have traveled back in time to some Ottoman era library or study. The books are aptly displayed face first instead of being shelved and the dimly lit atmosphere adds more mystery to the aura of this store.
This bookshop has a special niche. It specializes in good quality replicas / reproductions of rare and sometimes forgotten books on Turkey. Most written by western orientalists and explorers, reproductions of these books are extremely impossible to find, and the originals are way too expensive.
The shop has a website and caters to online purchases with international delivery but is only available in Turkish language.
Even though I didn’t spend a lot of time in the store, I walked out with a book that I prize the most i.e. “Illustrations of Constantinople” by John F. Lewis: A 174 year old account of Istanbul in the form of sketches and lithographs.
I do plan to visit them again, the next time we are in Istanbul. Our trip to would be incomplete if we dont!