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Turkish Souvenirs: What To Buy In Turkey
Few European countries, maybe even the world, can match Turkey when it comes to shopping, bargaining, haggling, eating, and indulging in the finer things in life. Shopping in Turkey is not something you do to get items—it’s an experience on its own, it’s an activity.
Visitors can find a wealth of typical Turkish souvenirs all around the country, in every popular tourist destination in Turkey, and especially in the bustling markets of Istanbul and Izmir.
When looking for the best souvenirs in Turkey, you must buy them from local shops. Buying from locals is a good idea for two reasons. It supports local businesses, craftspeople, and artists, while you get genuine and authentic Turkish products, which are often handmade.
Can you buy souvenirs from Istanbul Airport
Yes, but they are expensive! The Turkish delight they sell in the airport isn’t fresh or cheap! You’re far better at doing your shopping in the markets in and around the city than waiting until the last minute. This is especially true if you want to buy Turkish delight.
Where to buy cheap souvenirs in Istanbul
You’ll find countless small souvenir shops around Istanbul, including in Sultanahmet; however, this is where you’ll spend more. Avoid Taksim for souvenir shopping too, and instead, go to places like Besiktas and Kadikoy. You’ll find less in the way of full-on touristic shops, but you will find local and authentic items you can take home.
What can’t you take home from Turkey
As long as you stick to your duty-free limits, you can take most things home with you. However, foodstuffs, such as fresh food, meat, cheese, etc., will be flagged up when you arrive at the airport.
You should also be very careful if you buy loose tea from any souvenir shop. Of course, it’s tea, and it tastes like tea, but it looks like something else entirely – especially apple tea, which tends to look a little white and powdery. If you’re buying tea, you’re best to get it in a labeled box so you don’t get too many questions at customs. You don’t want misunderstandings when you’re trying to get home!
Is it reliable when a shop says they’ll ship to your home address
If you spend some time finding a reputable and trustworthy store, then yes, it’s entirely reliable. Items such as carpets are often shipped to overseas addresses with no problems at all. But don’t just jump for the first store you see; take your time to ensure you don’t have a bad experience. It is also a good idea to google the shop name – to see how many (if any) complaints are made about the store not honoring the shipping requests.
Is it best to pay by card or cash
If you’re bargaining, you will need to pay by cash. Yes, they have card machines, but asking to pay by card won’t win you any fans. However, if you’re in a regular store with set prices, you can pay by card or cash with no problems.
Is card payment widely accepted
You’ll be able to pay by card in all large stores, cafes, and restaurants in Istanbul, most of these in other locations. However, it’s worth carrying some change to pay for small items as not all tiny shops accept cards or don’t want to accept them.
Are ‘genuine fakes’ worthwhile
You can get some fantastic fake bags, hoodies, trainers, etc., in Turkey, but check the quality before committing to buying. If it’s a reputable store with good quality items, the shopkeeper won’t mind you looking closely at the thing, checking zips, etc.
I was shocked at how real the fakes looked, I never purchased any, but on my flight home to Zagreb from Istanbul, I saw many “YSL” and “Louis Vuitton” bags slug over the shoulders of the passengers.
Best Souvenirs From Turkey
Traditional souvenirs from Turkey adorning your living room as part of your kitchenware, or showcased on your souvenir shelf, are much more meaningful than collecting kitschy, mass-produced products.
Whenever you look at, use, or even consume—if you buy tea or coffee, these Turkey souvenirs, they’ll be able to take you back to your wonderful time in Turkey immediately. The word “souvenir” is, after all, French for “memory.”
If you’re wondering what to buy in Turkey, continue reading to see the best gifts from Turkey you can get, from carpets and pashminas to spices, soap, and ceramics.
Easily one of the most popular products made in Turkey is carpets. You can find these quintessentially Turkish crafts throughout the country. During your vacation in Turkey, you’ll probably meet a carpet salesperson, but remember to ensure you’re buying authentic products. (Plenty of knock-offs go around on the busy markets.)
Also known as Anatolian rugs, Turkish carpets make for a fantastic souvenir. Although they are by no means cheap things to buy in Turkey, they’re high quality and will last decades. And, of course, they’ll look amazing on your living room floor—or even as a unique wall cover.
Since full-size Turkish carpets are too big to carry in your suitcase, many carpet businesses in Turkey will ship your carpet to your home.
Pottery From Cappadocia
If you’re looking for unique regional Turkish gifts, consider buying a clay pottery product in Cappadocia. This is one of Turkey’s most famous and spectacular places to visit, so why not commemorate your time there with a traditional homemade pottery item?
You can find locally made pottery in Cappadocia in many shops in the area, while you might even have the opportunity to try making your own pottery!
Turkish Tea Set
While coffee is Turkey’s more traditional hot beverage (see below), tea has become increasingly popular since World War II. You can find all kinds of tea in many shops, markets, and bazaars, from regular black and green teas to herbal teas. Apple tea is a favorite.
Because tea is, of course, a consumer product, you’ll eventually run out of it. For a longer-lasting souvenir from Turkey, it’s a good idea also to buy a tea-making set, which includes the typical tulip-shaped Turkish tea glasses and a teapot.
Few things are so ingrained into Turkish culture as coffee. Drinking coffee is nothing less than a ritual in this country, and lovers of the black beverage will find themselves in absolute coffee heaven here.
If you relish your regular cup of coffee, don’t leave Turkey without a bag of Turkish coffee. This is easily one of the best things to buy in Turkey, whether for yourself or those coffee enthusiasts in your life. Additionally, a real cup of Turkish coffee is made in a traditional Turkish coffee pot, so get one of those, too.
The crafting of stunning ceramics in Turkey dates back to the 8th century and grew into a massive industry during the heydays of the Silk Road. Needless to say, they’re one of the most traditional Turkish handicrafts you’ll find in the country.
In fact, mosaic and painted ceramics became such a characteristic part of Turkey culture many mosques were decorated with them. You’ll see them, for example, at the spectacular Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a great place to shop for Turkish ceramics, but you’ll also find these beautiful products in many souvenir shops across Turkey.
If you’re looking for Turkish household items that double as souvenirs, traditional ceramic plates, bowls, or mugs are lovely things to buy in Turkey. Just keep in mind that because the products are handmade, there may be minor differences in their colors and patterns if you want to buy a set of plates or bowls.
Firca Ceramic Selcuk
The Firca Ceramic store (and workshop) is a must-see when visiting the town of Selçuk, not far from the ancient site of Ephesus! This historic spot is famous for its beautiful and intricate ceramics. The skilled artisans here create truly one-of-a-kind pieces that are perfect for gifts or your own home. You’ll be amazed by the colors and patterns on display when you step inside.
If you’re lucky enough on the day, you’ll find Mehmet ready and available to show you how he makes the pieces from clay – and he may even let you try to hand it like he let my sons. Even if he isn’t there working, you have to ask to go downstairs to view the glow-in-the-dark ceramics.
I purchase this bowl from them; though it does not glow in the dark, it does look special in my kitchen. Be sure to haggle for the best price – it’s all part of the fun!
The Evil Eye/Turkish Eye – Nazar Boncugu
Everywhere you go in Turkey, you’ll see the Evil Eye. It is easily one of the most widespread Turkish items you can find. With its dark blue background and teardrop-shaped white, light blue, and black eye, this ancient glass talisman was used in Turkish culture to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.
So technically, contrary to what the name might imply, the Evil Eye is not evil at all, but it’s instead a very good thing. While this has become one of the most ubiquitous and popular Turkish souvenirs, it’s also still used by many people in Turkey, who keep it in their cars, offices, and homes for good luck.
You can buy the Evil Eye in many forms, from keyrings to badges and bracelets. They are cheap and make great good-luck gifts from Turkey, especially as a Christmas stocking stuffer.
Whether you smoke them or not, water pipes are one of the most incredible Turkish items to buy as a souvenir. Known as “nargile” in Turkish, water pipes or hookah pipes are as big a part of Turkish culture as coffee, spices, and grilled food.
And you don’t need to be a smoker to appreciate the craftsmanship of making a traditional Turkish water pipe. Many of them are absolutely beautiful and make for an amazing decorative piece in your home.
Every time you look at your decorative “nargile,” you’ll remember where you bought it and maybe even how proud you were to have successfully negotiated the price.
Many countries worldwide have their national alcoholic drink; in Turkey, that’s raki. This anise-flavored liquor is available in nearly all liquor stores and most grocery stores, but you may save some money by picking up a bottle at the duty-free area at the airport.
This is a great Turkish gift idea for people back home, especially since this typical Turkish liquor might not be easy to find in other countries. Don’t forget to get a bottle for yourself, too, though!
Turkish Bath Towels
If you need an extra towel for the beach or shower, you can easily pick up a Turkish bath towel in many of the markets. While highly practical and superior in quality, these bath towels from Turkey are also fantastic souvenirs. You can continue to use it at home after your trip! Authentic Turkish bath towels are 100% cotton, dry quickly, and lightweight and compact.
Tips for caring for your Turkish
Turkish cotton is lauded for its durability and strength, with softness and absorbency increasing over time when cared for properly. Before using a Turkish towel, let it soak in cold water (e.g., a bathtub) for 12 hours, then wring out and hanging it dry to make it softer and more absorbent.
When washing the towels, be sure to machine wash in cold water with similar colors and tumble dry on low or medium heat – using too much heat can cause the cotton thread to become brittle and reduce softness.
Avoid bleach and fabric softener, as the former will change colors while the latter decreases absorbency; instead, use 1 cup of vinegar once every month to naturally kill bacteria.
What’s better Turkish or Egyptian towels
Turkish and Egyptian cotton towels differ in absorbency and drying speed in the end. While both kinds of cotton offer long, absorbent fibers, Egyptian cotton tends to be more absorbent and slower to dry; Turkish cotton is slightly less absorbent and quickly dries.
Turkish Olive Oil
Turkish olive oil is made from the olives that are grown in the country. The oil has a smoother taste than those from Italy or Greece. It is also very dense and has a high smoke point. Turkish olive oil is ideal for use in salad dressings, marinades, and baking. It can also be used for frying or sautéing. The oil has many health benefits, including reducing inflammation and cholesterol levels.
Buying Turkish olive oil as a souvenir gives you more than just a delicious oil. You’re also getting a piece of Turkish culture and history. Turkish olive oil has been produced for centuries from various olives, including the native black Izmir olive.
Buying Turkish olive oil is a great way to support local producers and get a taste of the country’s culture. It makes a beautiful gift for foodies and cooks, and it’s sure to be enjoyed by anyone who loves good-quality olive oil.
We found Turkish olive oil in the tin when we were souvenir shopping in Izmir. After wrapping it in a think jumper, I was confident that it would have less chance of breaking than the glass jar olive oil option.
Authentic Gold Jewellery
Compared to many other countries, the price of gold in Turkey is low, and the quality is exceptionally high, with higher carats on offer. You’ll find countless jewelers no matter where you and they will spend time talking to you about what you want and showing you options. You may also be able to have your own piece designed.
If you’re looking for a piece of jewelry and you’re heading to Turkey soon, certainly wait until you’ve been and look if you can find a higher quality piece at a lower price on your travels. You can also try bargaining for a lower price.
Best Gifts From Istanbul
You can find numerous typical Turkish souvenirs throughout the country, but the best shopping in Turkey is in Istanbul. This sprawling city, spread across Europe and Asia, is home to several huge markets.
If you’re wondering where to buy souvenirs in Istanbul, places like the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market are chock-full of shops and stands selling everything from spices and soaps to clothing and candy. Below, you’ll find the best souvenirs to buy in Istanbul.
Arguably one of the most famous things to buy in Turkey, Turkish delights are fantastic to bring home from your trip and share with your friends, family, and colleagues. They come in a variety of tastes, from gummies to filled with nuts or fruit. This traditional Turkish candy is a cubed and colored jelly, making for a fantastic dessert or treat.
You can find many Turkish delight vendors at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Buy a box or two filled with Turkish delights for the people back home. Often, you can sample them before you buy. You might even be able to negotiate a lower price if you buy in bulk.
While roaming the many shopping options in Istanbul, I saw over and over teal blue-colored bowls, and I really wanted plates to use for desserts and salads at my table. After much wandering, I finally found a store with six – I wanted eight, but alas, no one had them in this size. Score. So, now these are my new dessert plates. I also managed to score the matching meze platter set to boot. One delighted shopper here.
Although you can buy spices in numerous places in Turkey, nothing compares to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. When wandering around these sprawling indoor marketplaces, you’ll immediately notice the scent of spices and herbs floating through the air.
Spices are essential to Turkish cuisine, as they are to cooking worldwide. Good seasoning is paramount whether you cook meat, chicken, lamb, fish, seafood, or even when grilling vegetables. You’ll find every spice under the sun at Istanbul’s Spice Market and Grand Bazaar. There might not even be a better place on the planet to buy fresh spices than here.
So yes, as far as famous things to buy in Istanbul go, spices are absolutely on the list. Also, consider purchasing a nice copper spice set to store your spices in.
Book About Turkey
If you’re planning a trip to Turkey and want to learn more about the area before you go, buying a book is a great idea! If you did not, buying a book when you arrive is also great. There are plenty of titles to choose from; we always do this on arrival at each new country to get more out of the trip and look for new things to experience when you’re actually there.
Chess Board Set
When in Turkey, be sure to buy a chessboard set as a souvenir! Not only are they beautiful and intricate, but they make for a great addition to any home. Chess is a popular game in Turkey, so you can find sets of all different styles. You will find the perfect set whether you want something traditional or more modern.
You can find Ottoman-style hand-painted chess pieces at the markets that are truly unique and exciting souvenirs from Turkey. They are perfect for any chess enthusiast and make a great addition to any collection. The intricate designs and beautiful colors will impress anyone who sees them. These pieces will surely be a conversation starter and add a touch of luxury to any home.
My ten-year-old son loves to play chess, and he spotted these Ottoman vs. Crusaders pieces at the Arasta Bazaar in Istanbul. He begged for them and ended up using his Christmas money to buy them – with the help of his Dad, negotiating the best price.
One of the most played games in Turkey, backgammon, originated in the Middle East almost 5,000 years ago. It remains extremely popular to this day. During your time in Istanbul, you’ll almost certainly see locals playing backgammon in cafés.
You can buy your own backgammon set in souvenir stores, and you might be surprised by how delicately and intricately the boards are designed and crafted. Some of them are real masterpieces of craftsmanship, making them one of the best traditional Turkish gifts and souvenirs to buy.
In addition to Istanbul’s numerous food products, there are also various beauty and health items that are excellent Turkish souvenirs. One such item is handmade soaps. These locally made soaps represent the centuries-old wellness tradition of Turkey’s hammams.
Olive oil soaps are made with premium-quality olive oil along with other extracts. Other such soaps are rose and donkey’s milk. You can find these soaps and many different beauty products at Istanbul’s Spice Market.
While strolling through the bustling Grand Bazaar, easily one of the best places to shop in Istanbul, you’ll see typical Turkish lanterns dangling from the ceilings of many shops.
These mosaic glass lamps are one of the classic Turkish souvenirs to buy. They come in countless varieties, colors, and designs; your biggest challenge will be picking the one you like most. (You can always buy more than one to decorate your house.)
You can find these lanterns and lamps in many Turkish souvenir shops, but one of Istanbul’s covered markets is the most convenient place to buy one. Remember to ask the vendor to wrap it up properly to prevent it from breaking during transport.
If you’re looking for wearable souvenirs from Turkey, it doesn’t get much better than a pashmina. These authentic Turkish scarves are made with a combination of silk and cashmere, making them incredibly soft and durable.
Make sure to visit several places while shopping in Istanbul for pashminas. They come in many colors, price points, and/or fabric combinations. You’ll find pashmina vendors at the Grand Bazaar and on the streets of Sultanahmet. You can also buy a pashmina in other destinations in Turkey.
Are you still wondering what to buy in Istanbul? The last item on our list, although certainly not the least, is Turkish leather. Leather is significantly cheaper in Turkey than in much of the Western world, so relatively speaking, it may be one of the most inexpensive things you can buy in Turkey.
Most leather items in Turkey are handmade, meaning nothing is the same. You’ll get your unique piece of leatherware, whether it’s a jacket, wallet, belt, bracelet, or purse. This is undoubtedly a fantastic Turkish souvenir idea.
Tips For Bargaining In Turkey
Let’s be honest; bargaining or haggling doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It feels awkward, and you wish the vendor would tell you a price you can pay. But in many markets and bazaars, that’s not how it works!
If you want to bargain like a pro, remember these quick tips:
- Take your time: If you’re buying something significant, like a carpet, browse a few different shops to get a sense of what people are asking for before you go in there and start your bargaining. This also helps you find the best quality
- Always seem a little uninterested: Don’t show that you really want to buy something or that you’re feeling eager. The vendor will put the price up because they know you like it! Be cool
- Choose what the item is worth: But this has to be what it’s worth for you. That’s the best starting place
- Ask for a price first: When you decide to buy something, ask the vendor for a price first. If they say, “what do you want to pay?” keep pressing them for a price. If you go first, you might end up paying way over what the vendor initially expected. Let them make the first move
- Ask for a discount for bulk buys: If you’re going to buy a few items, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount
- It’s OK to walk away: If you’re not getting a reasonable price or you’ve changed your mind, it’s perfectly OK to say, “thank you, I need to think about it,” and then walk away. You’re not obligated in any way
Hopefully, this long list of Turkish souvenirs has helped you decide which gifts from Turkey you’d like to bring back from your trip. Again, the Turkey shopping experience is a highlight of any visit to the country, so take your time, browse and bargain, indulge, and enjoy!
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