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The Smell of Books is in the Air: 4 Must-See Secondhand Bookstores in Istanbul

We all know Istanbul through its magnificent sceneries, rich cultural heritage, and of course, the amazing cuisine. However, is this all? Are there more beauties hidden in the streets of Istanbul that we might not be aware of as much? In this article, we explore four of the most beautiful secondhand bookstores in Istanbul together, where you can travel to new worlds between hundreds of books and vintage artifacts.

1) İmge (Kadıköy)

İmge is one of my personal favorites: I was at Kadıköy one day with a really close friend, where we spent the entire day exploring antique shops and secondhand bookstores. We stumbled upon İmge, and I was mesmerized from the first glance. My friend and I chatted with the owners a bit, and they were the sweetest.

(photo taken by the author)

Not only selling lots of books, İmge also houses a large variety of rare works: I checked out many old magazines and newspaper articles that had their publication dates on them. The owners told us to be highly cautious since the pages were extremely delicate. It was indeed a lifetime experience to touch and observe a piece of work that was published in the 1800s. The newspaper articles and signed pictures that belonged to the era of Atatürk amazed me the most. If you want to look at, or even buy pieces that are 100-200 years old while talking to the kindest owners, let your eyes search for İmge when you’re wandering around Caferağa!

2) Diyojen (Beşiktaş)

Here’s another personal favorite of mine: Diyojen, the bookstore that has a perfect smell of old books and really cool vintage music playing in the background while you get lost between all the amazing pieces of work. Or, should I say “bookstores”? Diyojen consists of two stores which are really close to each other. Both stores are full of stacks of books and audio tapes in various languages.

(photo taken by the author)

The range of works Diyojen offers is remarkably wide. While on one end of the store, you can find a newly published and well-known book, a record of a musician who was famous a really long time ago may greet you on the other end.

Next time you’re walking through Şair Nedim Street, walk a bit farther. Diyojen’s yellow sign and its colorful walls will definitely catch your eye.

3) Lamelif (Beyoğlu)

While Lamelif is a bookstore I haven’t had the chance to personally visit yet, an article I’ve read about the story of how it was established had a major effect on my understanding of social classes in our country. The owner of Lamelif, Oktay Çetinkaya, came all the way from Adana before he created this magnificent bookstore:

(photo from

Çetinkaya’s mother was a beggar while his dad was dealing with addiction problems. He could only complete his elementary school education due to poverty, and he started working next to a bodyworker. To earn a little more money, he needed to find old items that he could sell. He came across many paper collectors as he wandered around the streets, and eventually decided to become one himself. He started collecting papers and old books, selling them to secondhand bookstores. One day, he made a decision which he didn’t know then that was going to turn his entire life around: he was going to read a book that he found in the trash.

Starting then, he started to gather the books he collected in the place where he stayed with his friends. As his collection grew over time, he decided to open his own secondhand bookstore to sell his books: a bookstore that is no other than Lamelif.

(photo of Oktay Çetinkaya from

“I don’t perceive my story as ‘unbelievable’, because I know people who reached better places from worse situations,” says Çetinkaya. His story and his beautiful store Lamelif are reminders to us that even extremely challenging obstacles could be overcome, and it’s never too late in life to do something.

Lamelif is open to everyone in Cihangir, Beyoğlu who are interested in either the many antique works or chatting with Çetinkaya about life.

4) İnat (Beşiktaş)

I always stop by İnat whenever I’m wandering around Beşiktaş. The vintage ambiance inside is fascinating from the first moment you enter the store. Withal the various books and other works, one of the aspects that renders İnat unique is the broad variety of music products it offers: they sell lots of old records and audio tapes of various genres.

(photo taken by the author)

Shoutout to music enthusiasts! The rare tapes and records of İnat are waiting for you in Beşiktaş — somewhere extremely close to Diyojen — to listen to them :) These four stores are only a several of the beauties hidden in the streets of Istanbul — we live in a city that is so rich both historically and aesthetically, though we barely realize it. Either you identify as a “book lover” or you’re just looking for a distinct shopping experience, these four bookstores are absolutely worth a look-around!

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