An exciting part of going abroad is buying souvenirs to take back home. Whether they are traditional, quirky, edible or purely for nostalgic memories, when you are on vacation in Turkey, the choice of souvenirs to buy is limitless! No matter where you go in the country, small souvenir shops sell a range of delights for yourself, friends, and family at home. The choice is overwhelming, so we have put together this list of countrywide and regional souvenirs to help you choose. We have also listed some helpful hints on buying them as well as the best places to go.
11 of the Best Souvenirs to Buy in Turkey
Sweet Turkish Delight
Sold in packaged boxes all over the country, Turkish Delight is cheap and easy to pack. The small jelly-like gums come in an array of flavours such as rose, nuts, cinnamon, lemon and more. Many shops have loose packages so you can taste before you buy but keep an eye out for the special offers of buy 2 and get the third free. For the best Turkish Delight, look for brands made in Safranbolu or if you are in Istanbul, go to the family shop of Hacir Bekir Efendi, who was the original inventor of the popular sweet.
Nazar Boncugu : The Evil Eye
By far, one of the most popular souvenirs to buy in Turkey is the evil eye, known as the Nazar Boncugu. Used to ward off bad luck, the ancient talisman, is not just a souvenir but used by many Turks in their cars, homes, and offices. Buy it in the form of keyrings, bracelets, badges, or trinkets to hang in the home and if you find yourself in Nazarkoy, a village of the western Izmir district, head to the workers shops, that are famous countrywide for the production of the evil eye.
One souvenir that needs careful packing, but is a delight to eat is baklava, a sweet blend of nuts, sticky syrup, and filo pastry, that is too much of an addictive lure for many. Traditionally served as a dessert or snack in Turkey, the best recipe and quality ingredients stem from Gaziantep in the southeast region. If you visit Istanbul though, seek out the Karaköy Güllüoğlu bakers, who only use nuts from Gaziantep and stick to an age-old family recipe from their ancestors.
Traditional Turkish Carpets
Anyone with an unlimited budget might consider buying a traditional Turkish carpet. Hand-made pieces of art that have taken months or in some cases, even years to create sell for a hefty amount. The shop will package and cargo it for you as well but be careful. Unfortunately, an influx of cheap, copycat versions from China flooded the market a few years back and tarnished its reputation because it is very hard to establish the difference between them and a traditional Turkish carpet. Don’t rush your purchase and enlist the help of an expert if you are unsure.
Clay Pottery in Cappadocia
The central Anatolian region of Cappadocia excels at red clay pottery, especially in the small town of Avanos sitting on the banks of the Kızılırmak (Red River.) For many centuries, locals have taken clay from the river and made household pottery items. Originally used just by housewives in the region, when Cappadocia became a touristic district, the sale of pottery objects went crazy. The best part about buying pottery in Avanos is that you are also welcome to sit down at the potter’s wheel and have a go yourself.
Tea and Coffee
Across the country, apple tea tops the list as a favorite souvenir but technically, it is just a gimmick because Turks always drink their tea black in small, tulip shaped glasses. Instead, buy the original version from the North-eastern Rize area that is the tea capital of Turkey. Otherwise, Turkish coffee and the traditional, small copper cup used to drink it, is a good alternative for caffeine addicts, but remember the famous countrywide proverb when tasting it. Turkish coffee should be “As black as hell, strong as death and as sweet as love.”
Spices have acquired a special place in Turkish cuisine. Lightly used, they add flavour to most dishes and considering the Turks dedication to spices, it is no surprise to see them sold in souvenir packages, especially in the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Turks like Pul Biber( red chilli flakes,) especially in their soups and also sprinkle Sumac (dried and ground red berries) on their salads but be aware of the saffron trap because most of it comes from Iran instead.
Dreamers hampering after fancy vibes from the exotic, eastern days of Laurence Arabia, will enjoy buying a nargile pipe. Sold in many different sizes, most people buy them purely for décor purposes, but you can also opt for the flavoured fruit smokes as well. On a side note, if you would like to try one without buying it as a souvenir, nargile cafés in most city centres, offer a night of exotic smoking at cheap prices.
Quality Leather and Gold
Leather sold in Turkey is of exceptionally high quality; so many shops in touristic districts make a roaring trade. Including jackets, skirts, trousers, purses, and wallets, the style and design are good enough to tempt most people. Likewise, another good buy in Turkey is the gold that is a higher carat. Jewellery shops go as far to even make your own design, buy gold or alter existing pieces. If you want to buy either leather or gold, get your bargaining head on so you can get the best price possible.
Mosaic Glass and Gourd Lamps
Look through any travel brochure of the Grand Bazaar and it will most likely feature pictures of mosaic glass lamps hanging from the ceilings of shops. They certainly are pretty but ask the seller to wrap it up well so that it does not break in your luggage. Otherwise, a favourite type of lamp in the coastal resorts is the gourd lamp, made from dried pumpkins or butternut squash and decorated with sparkling costume jewels.
Beautiful Ceramics and Copper
Lastly, ceramic bowls, plates, and vases, showcased on shelves in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colours stem from a craft that started in Turkey during the 8th century. Mainly becoming popular with the Sejuks, who spread its reputation during days of the Silk Road, they even made mosaic ceramic tiles to build their mosques.
By the late 16th century, the district of Iznik had proved itself to be experts at making ceramics and these days, that is the best brand to buy while in Turkey. If ceramics don’t interest you, then consider copper of which the best type to buy stems from the southeast region of Turkey, but it is widely available in places like the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul.
Further Reading: If you have already planned a visit to Turkey, you might like our list of daily tours in each region. From exploring famous historical sites to fun and exciting jeep safaris, we have listed the best things to do here. Alternatively, our Turkey Travel Blog has more articles about the culture, traditions, history and places of Turkey.