Do you still use print maps?

When I tell people I’m a cartographer they often question whether anyone still uses print maps. Although many people have smartphones and use pdf maps or gps apps, not everyone has one.

For everyday use I have a couple of map apps on my phone with offline areas downloaded so I don’t use too much data, but I also have a road atlas in my car. I don’t rely on my gps app to provide me with directions, rather I use it to tell me where I am and as a reminder of turns coming up when I am driving in an unfamiliar area. I use print maps to figure out my own route.

For travel I download a pdf map that’s georeferenced (from so I can use gps location on my mobile device in case I get hopelessly lost, since I like wandering aimlessly and enjoying my surroundings in a new city. I can also look at the map on my mobile device without standing out like a tourist.

But I always try to get a print map as well. I find it easier to see the big picture and since I walk everywhere it gives me an idea of how long the walk will be. I unfold the tourist print map and plan a walking route that takes me past interesting sights and tourist attractions.

well-worn map of Munich

well-worn map of Munich

Another perk of using a print map is that locals will often offer to help: in Athens, standing on a corner looking at a map and trying to figure out which way to go, a motorcyclist drove up to us and asked if we needed help. This happened a few times: sometimes the motorcyclist rode right up to us on the sidewalk! This is a great way to meet people and get advice from locals. People often go out of their way to help.

On a recent trip to Rome I enjoyed wandering through Mercato delle Stampe (an antique book and map market). I wonder if bibliophiles and cartophiles (people who like maps) are the same people. I love books and I love maps.

Mercato delle Stampe, Rome

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have maps hanging in my house and I have a large library, including some books of maps – I may have a problem 😉

archaeological map of Syria hanging in my library

archaeological map of Syria hanging in my library

Do you use print maps? How do you use them? Maybe you collect them as souvenirs or buy beautiful maps as artwork.

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