Are you thinking about what kind of great Turkish souvenirs you’ll bring back from your travels? Well, you’re not alone, as last year, Turkey was the 8th most popular tourist destination in the world! Millions of tourists go to Turkey every year for a variety of attractions, from museums and historical sites to beautiful seaside resorts.
Of course, you’ll have no shortage of opportunity to buy some Turkish souvenirs for yourself or for your friends and family back home. From spices to desserts, lamps, ceramics, and rugs, you might find yourself in need of another suitcase before you head back home. Here are the best 13 souvenirs from Turkey you should add to your shopping list.
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The best souvenirs from Turkey will be things that relate well to the experiences you had during your trip. Don’t get too caught up on finding something truly unique and special, it may actually take away from the limited time you’re spending in an amazing country. Turkey is vast and so are the opportunities to buy Turkish souvenirs.
Buying something for yourself or a loved one? Friends or family? There’s something you can find for everyone. How about delicious dried apricots to serve as snacks for your co-workers, and maybe a tea set for grandma. A variety of spices authentic olive oil for that friend who loves to cook. You can never go wrong with desserts, who wouldn’t be happy with a box of baklava or Turkish delights?
Remember in the film The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe when Edmund agrees to betray his siblings in exchange for some Turkish Delight? Now, we’re not defending Edmund’s actions here, but we can definitively understand the temptation…
Turkish delights are a gelatinous sweet confection traditionally made of syrup and cornflower, dusted with icing sugar. They come in many variations, shapes, flavours, and sizes! You’ll likely eat of a ton of these during your time in Turkey, they’re widely available and very popular among locals and foreigners. Grab a box or two of your favourite variety before returning home. After all, what makes a better souvenir from Turkey than Turkish delights?
While we’re still on the topic of sweets, Baklava is probably the most famous dessert in Turkey, even surpassing Turkish delights. This tasty dessert is commonplace in dozens of countries across Caucasia, the Balkans, and the Middle East, but we know it originated in either Turkey or Greece (still a heated topic of debate today). But if you buy baklava in Turkey, you know you at least have a 50% chance of getting it right.
Baklava is made of filo with different types of nuts inside of it, with honey or a sugary syrup coating to make it sweet. Like Turkish delights, baklava comes in dozens of varieties, you likely won’t have the room to try them all during your trip. Baklava is quite literally sold everywhere, even at the airport on your way back home! Take some of your favourite varieties back home with you. Food is always an excellent gift, share some of the best tastes from your travels.
Spices make recipes come to life and as a cooking fanatic, this is my area of expertise. Colourful and vibrant spices are among the best souvenirs from Turkey. You can buy spices individually or in small premade decorative boxes, very convenient and easy to pack with a long shelf life. You should visit the spice bazaar in Istanbul, it’s a great place to buy a variety of different spices. Even if you’re not looking to buy spices, we’d recommend visiting the bazaar anyways just to take in the unforgettable aroma and atmosphere around them.
Important tip: You want a real Turkish souvenir so please be aware of the saffron scam! Real Turkish saffron is hard to come by and extremely expensive. Many of the versions you may find on the market are actually dried safflower. Sellers may be particularly persistent if you’re obviously a tourist. If you think you’re getting a deal which is too good to be true, then it probably is.
Turkey is the largest producer of apricots in the world. In fact, just the eastern province of Malatya produces more apricots than any other country in the world. With such massive production, it’s no surprise that drying apricots is a part of Turkish tradition which goes back centuries. Not to mention, they’re very reasonably priced! You may struggle when trying to figure out how many you can stuff in your suitcase before hitting the maximum weight limit (you definitely don’t want to pay those ridiculous overage fees at the airport).
Dried apricots are an excellent Turkish souvenir as they can stay fresh for months. It’s a great snack for you to hand out back home.
Turkey is by far, the largest consumer of tea in the world. Turkish tea, known locally as 'çay', has a long history going back centuries in Turkish culture. To put it shortly, it’s always tea time in Turkey. Tea is consumed in the morning, afternoon, evening, and even nighttime by many people. It’s an important part of the social culture as well, what better way to get to know someone, if not over a cup of tea?
Black tea is the most popular drink in Turkey, even more popular than coffee. Tea is often consumed hot, without milk, brewing all day in the traditional double teapots, all over Turkey. You’ll find people drinking tea in households, shops and social gatherings regularly. You may find yourself craving Turkish tea once you’re back home. You’ll often find tea sold right along with spices at the Turkish bazaars. Take some of your favourite flavours back home to share.
Coppersmithing has a special place in Turkish culture, dating back as far as 3000 BC. The art of coppersmithing is still alive in Turkish culture because master craftsmen not only produce traditional pots and pans, but they continue to develop new designs and products to suit modern needs. In some cities like Gaziantep, the copper bazaar is still in full force.
Hit the markets at the local bazaar and see what you can come across and be ready to haggle. You’ll definitely see copper spoon sets, sugar bowls, grinders, trays and more. We’d recommend you go for the Turkish copper coffee set. If they’re handmade and authentic, it will be a pricey item to buy. It may be well worth it for a timeless quality artisan coffee set. It also makes it one of the more practical souvenirs from Turkey to gift to any of your coffee enthusiast friends or family.
Turkish Carpets & Rugs
We recommend approaching this one with a little caution. While Turkey is famous for its authentic handmade carpets and rugs, no one who travels to Turkey fails to encounter an aggressive carpet salesman. If you’re interested in purchasing a quality carpet or rug, be prepared to do a little bit of research and shopping around.
Carpets and rugs are gorgeous Turkish souvenirs that can serve a great practical purpose back home. Most of the time you don’t even have to worry about transportation, most shops will help you ship it to your home address. These also make great floor carpets and wall coverings, they’d also last a lot longer on a wall, less contact with dirt! A large carpet or rug can be very expensive, especially handmade ones of quality, you could find cheaper and smaller alternatives made of the pile-woven fabrics, like smaller carpets, cushions, and bags. If you enjoy textiles in general, we also recommend exploring the gorgeous selection of traditional and modern fabrics in Turkish bazaars.
Jewellery & Leather Goods
You can never go wrong with jewellery as your Turkish souvenir, as it’s small, easy to carry, easy to transport, and usually not too expensive. It’s also something you can wear every day, so it serves as a great reminder of your time in Turkey. There’s no shortage of leather bracelets and cuffs, along with standard rings, necklaces, and earrings in the traditional Turkish style. everyone’s fashion sense varies, browse the markets and see if anything catches your eye. You may find some truly unique pieces.
If you’re not particularly interested in jewellery, you can always pick up a locally made leather wallet, purse, belt, or a variety of other leather goods. Leather is always a popular choice in Turkey, you’ll find it’s far more economical to purchase authentic leather goods here when compared to Western Europe or North America.
Mosaic Lamps & Lanterns
You’ll find mosaic lamps all over Turkey, and you may find yourself wanting one in your own home to remind you of your wonderful trip. Fortunately for you, they’re widely available in just about any bazaar or shopping centre. The hardest part of buying a mosaic lamp is choosing your favourite design, there’s a seemingly infinite amount available. One of the most popular souvenirs from Turkey, and for good reason. It adds a really interesting touch to an otherwise plain room.
Onyx Crafted Goods
Turkey has one of the richest deposits of Onyx in the world. Turkish craftsmen have taken full advantage of this beautiful stone, using it to craft vases, figures, jewellery boxes, spice bowls, decorative bowls, bathroom fixtures, ashtrays, and even chess sets. Onyx souvenirs are definitely not cheap, but that’s largely due to the fact that they’re handmade by skilled workers. Many workshops will even hold demonstrations where you can watch the onyx masters at work, a great experience even if you’re not looking to buy. These craftsmen have dedicated years to perfecting their craft, and the high price tag reflects that. A finely crafted onyx piece can last a lifetime, making it one of the more memorable Turkish souvenirs.
Ceramics Vases & Kitchenware
Turkish ceramics date all the way back to the 8th century, remaining very popular in modern-day Turkey. Ceramics were originally produced and popularized for Islamic art, being used extensively for walls, tiles and even the ceilings in the decoration of mosques. Many modern Turkish ceramics are made in factories, but handmade ones are still widely available on the markets with a little bit of digging.
You’ll find beautiful ceramic plates, bowls, and vases with a huge variety of colours and designs. Be sure to do a quick check for a ‘Made in China’ label, there are many fakes on the market as well. If you do find yourself bringing back a beautiful ceramic bowl or vase, be sure to wrap it carefully, they can shatter easily in your luggage.
Olive Oil & Olive Soap
The town of Ayvalık is famous for its olive oil, you’ll actually be able to see the dozens of olive tree groves if you visit the town yourself! Olive oil is used extensively in Turkish cuisine, it’s no surprise that the oldest olive oil facility in the world is located in Turkey. There are many different brands of olive oil available in Turkey. We’d recommend keeping an eye out for the family-owned olive oil company Kürşat, with a flagship store in Istanbul.
While we’re on the topic of olive oil, it’s a common ingredient in many natural beauty products. You can find some of the best handmade olive oil soaps in Istanbul. Local soap makers combine high-quality olive oil with other natural ingredients to create beautiful bars of soap for a variety of skin types. You may find these soaps work much better for you than traditional ones, they’re often much softer on the skin.
The nargile is simply a Turkish smoking pipe, you’ll find these in abundance in just about every bazaar. These pipes originated back in India, making its way all the way to Turkey during its popularization in the Ottoman Empire. This is the old school way of smoking tobacco. These pipes come in a variety of sizes and designs, with various quality and price points. Even if you’re not a smoker, some nargile pipes make an excellent decoration piece. It also makes a great gift and a Turkish souvenir if you have a friend who’s a hookah enthusiast. Be sure to wrap these carefully, as they can easily break at their narrow points.