Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City

15 Nov

If you are planning a trip to Istanbul anytime soon and love history, culture and architecture; then you have to pick up a copy of “Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City” by Hilary Summer-Boyd and John Freely. This is a not your standard guide book and nor does it talk about what to see, do or where to eat in Istanbul. Instead, through its 23 walking routes (strolls), it takes you on a journey through Istanbul’s history, its people, its battles, the rulers and their idiosyncrasies, the myths and folklore, the stories of various old structures that survive (at times for more than a century) to share their tales, and so much more.

I discovered this book only on my last day in Istanbul but decided to read it instead as a historian’s perspective to this city. And totally loved it. Even though I had walked aimlessly quite a bit all over Istanbul and thought I had seen pretty much everything there was to see, after reading this book I realized I had just seen a very small piece of this city’s vast history and architecture. The book starts with a quick snapshot of Istanbul’s history and then through various walks talks about various mosques, churches, baths (hammams), fountains, museums, libraries, palaces, aqueducts etc to see, the architectural details to notice and stories associated with these buildings, how these buildings have changed over the course of their lives, people who built them and their stories, etc etc. While reading this book you can actually visualize the building in front of you (I also used google wherever possible) and imagine them in all their former glory and splendor. I also realized how multicultural Istanbul was and still is with a mix of Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews, etc and how the architecture differs for each of these areas. You also read about the Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, Ottomans and how each one of them left their own unique mark on the city. For me it was re-discovering and loving Istanbul all over again and in an entirely different way.

One concern I have with this book is that its slightly dated. It was written in the 70s and the updated version is from 2010 (nearly 9 years ago). So not sure if there are any changes on these routes since then. Additionally, you need a lot more time to be able to explore the city in this manner and I am not sure how many people have that much time on a holiday for a single city. But these are questions I would love to get an answer to for myself when I am Istanbul next with this book.

All in all, I totally recommend this book to anyone visiting Istanbul. The authors clearly love their city and their love is infectious; it catches up with you as move through these pages and start knowing the characters of this city. I so hope that someone writes about my city, Mumbai someday like this.

Have you read any book that explores a city in such a unique manner? Do share these names in the comments section below.

37 Responses to “Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City”

  1. Sheree November 15, 2019 at 16:35 #

    Thanks for the tip


  2. Bon Repos Gites November 15, 2019 at 16:41 #

    A great travel tip! Thanks for sharing. I unearthed a similar books year’s ago about the old Hill Stations in India and wish I’d read it before visiting haha


    • getsetandgo November 15, 2019 at 16:47 #

      Wow.. can imagine all the nostalgia in those books 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bon Repos Gites November 15, 2019 at 16:50 #

        Hehe, it wasn’t as old as your Turkey guide, think it was from the early 90s but she’d done her research and offered some decent suggested walks.


      • getsetandgo November 15, 2019 at 17:17 #

        Nice 👍🏻

        Liked by 1 person

  3. alpineanomalous November 15, 2019 at 18:03 #

    When I was younger, I played the drums. My cymbals of choice were Turkish and made by Avedis Zildjian. Easily the best sounding cymbals in the world.–74444

    Visiting their factory in Istanbul would make an interesting stop when visiting Turkey.


    • getsetandgo November 15, 2019 at 18:32 #

      Wow.. this is so unique… Would love to see this on my next visit to Istanbul 🙂


  4. arv! November 15, 2019 at 19:47 #

    Walking through the less traveled routes definitely reveals a different side of a city. Thanks for highlighting this book.


    • getsetandgo November 15, 2019 at 22:09 #

      Yah.. this is my favourite way of exploring the city 😊


      • arv! November 16, 2019 at 06:57 #



  5. medinavie November 15, 2019 at 21:59 #

    Thank u for the like! 🌻

    Liked by 1 person

  6. m11bna November 17, 2019 at 02:35 #

    Definately will try and get my hands on a copy, my fave city Istanbul ♥️


  7. Seeking Wonderful November 19, 2019 at 18:43 #

    Will need to check out this book. I love Istanbul, it is such a magical city and there is so much to see and do.


    • getsetandgo November 20, 2019 at 08:06 #

      So agree with you. We spent around 5 days here and still feel that we hardly saw anything. Can’t wait to revisit soon 😊


  8. Helleren Gregory November 19, 2019 at 22:58 #

    We were just there a few months ago, now one my favorite cities!! Hope you were able to scroll down my blog for the pictures from Istanbul. My son’s wife is from Turkey and we went to see her family there.


    • getsetandgo November 21, 2019 at 11:31 #

      Hi, thanks for visiting my blog…. Loved your posts and so agree with you on Istanbul.. Can’t wait to revisit it myself..

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Creativecorner November 20, 2019 at 18:31 #

    I came across your blog after you came to mine and left me a like. You have an exhaustive collection of blogs and I am so glad you documented all your travels. We went to Turkey this year and concentrated on just Istanbul and Cappadocia. It’s such a huge country that to do justice to it, we would need another trip. Not sure if it would happen but this book is a good suggestion. There are so many places that I will never go to in the physical sense but I look forward to them coming alive while a good book or a piece of writing. So thank you for this one .


    • getsetandgo November 21, 2019 at 11:49 #

      Thanks for visiting my blog and the kind words… Love the way you have written about visiting a place through books.. I do the same whenever I am unable to travel and yearning to be somewhere else… We too realized how big and diverse Turkey is while planning our trip there, and so hope to be able to return the parts we were unable to visit this time 🙂


  10. Creativecorner November 20, 2019 at 18:32 #

    Apologies for the typo. I meant coming alive ‘with’ and not while.


  11. clare November 23, 2019 at 16:43 #

    Thanks for the like


  12. Govardhan November 23, 2019 at 19:36 #

    Reblogged this on Vijayagiri views.


  13. thewonderer86 November 25, 2019 at 14:06 #

    Great tip. Wish I’d had this when we were in Istanbul.


  14. The Silly-Savvy Salopian November 29, 2019 at 13:48 #

    You’ve made me want to go there! Might have to wait a long time, though, i.e. need to write a bestseller first!


  15. Mary Smith December 2, 2019 at 00:52 #

    This sounds like a great book to take on a trip to Istanbul, maybe reading some of it before arriving. I’ve only visited Istanbul once for two days, loved it and hope to go back one day.


    • getsetandgo December 2, 2019 at 10:34 #

      I spent 4.5 days in Istanbul but still feel that there is so much more left to see and do… Can’t wait to return 🙂


  16. ashok December 5, 2019 at 12:02 #

    Oh oh wish had known earlier
    I was in Istanbul last month only 😝


  17. authorstephanieparkermckean December 20, 2019 at 20:26 #

    Looks like a great book! Well done.


  18. joyrootsdeeper January 14, 2020 at 13:22 #

    Someday, I hope to visit this place, too. Thanks for sharing and for liking an article in my amateur blog. Cheers!


    • getsetandgo January 14, 2020 at 15:40 #

      Thanks and I hope you can visit Turkey soon 🙂


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