While we love, love, love shopping anywhere in the Balkans, shopping in Turkey is a special adventure that truly must be experienced firsthand.
Between haggling at the Grand Bazaar, awakening your senses at the Spice Bazaar, and perusing the antiques in Cukurcuma, you’ll find you never run out of amazing shopping opportunities in Istanbul, not to mention what you can discover elsewhere in Turkey. Here is our Turkey gift guide to help you decide what to buy in Turkey for souvenirs, along with our best Istanbul shopping tips.
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Our List of the Best Turkish Souvenirs
Whenever we put together one of our Balkan souvenir guides (see: Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia) we like to include a mix of keepsakes, practical items, gift ideas, local crafts, and (our favorite) the truly delicious. If you have any additional ideas, please list them in the comments. We always love getting new shopping tips and souvenir ideas from our favorite part of the world.
Turkish Tea Sets & Tea
As soon as I lay eyes on the tulip-shaped Turkish teacup, I am transported to Turkey in an instant. While Turkey has traditionally been a coffee culture, tea became a more affordable alternative after World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. You can pick up teacups, a tea set, tea, or even the traditional double-teapot used to make this unique style of tea so you can enjoy it back home. Shopping in Turkey almost always includes a cup of tea – so why not bring one back with you?
If regular tea isn’t your thing, you can opt for Turkish herbal teas like apple or rose hip.
Istanbul’s Famous Cats
The cats in Turkey are famous. You can’t go anywhere in the Turkish world without admiring how kind and adoring Turks are to their many (many, many, many) cats. Since you probably can’t bring a Turkish kitty home with you (though my friend Chris actually did take an Istanbul kitty back to Canada, which is clearly the best Turkish souvenir), you can pick up some cat-themed souvenirs from Istanbul in their stead.
Sampling this delightful dessert is something we suggest doing while in Istanbul, but the fun doesn’t stop there. You can pick up a box of Turkish delight practically anywhere, including at the airport on your way home. These boxes make perfect gifts for folks back home, especially coworkers or other groups who would love to share a taste from your travels. It’s one of the best gifts from Istanbul for acquaintances.
After admiring the Ottoman tiles in the Blue Mosque and the Tile Kiosk Museum, you might find yourself wanting to bring home something from this inspired artform. The tradition among the Turkic people dates all the way back to the eighth century, and there are many different motifs and techniques alive and well in Turkey to this day. Personally, I think it’s one of the best souvenirs from Turkey as it has such history and culture to it.
You can find beautiful handmade ceramic bowls, plates, vases, etc. If you’re worried about getting these home in one piece, many shops will help you by shipping them back home for you so you don’t have to worry about transporting them safely on your own.
If your love of Turkish raki is awakened during your time in the country, you will want to bring some of this anise-flavored liquor back with you since it’s not readily available everywhere. You can purchase some at the duty-free store if you’re flying carryon only, or check it in your luggage. This is another great gift idea for folks back home since they can get a taste of Turkey that’s not always available.
Artwork & Photography
If I have one souvenir addiction, it’s buying artwork wherever I go, and Turkey is a fantastic place for the amateur art collector. You can find framed prints and photographs for under $30 USD if you know where to look, and the art scene here is interesting and accessible. My personal favorite art galleries are all near the Galata Tower in Istanbul, though I have a couple favorites in Arnavutköy as well.
I’ve shopped for art in over sixty countries, so trust me when I say that the affordable art galleries in Istanbul are some of the best in the world and one of my favorite places to shop for souvenirs in Turkey.
Traditional Turkish instruments are a popular choice to bring home with you, especially for anyone with a musical bent. I’m tone deaf and can’t carry a beat, but even I love buying small drums in foreign countries.
Favorite choices for souvenir instruments include the goblet drum, also known as a chalice drum, the saz, or Turkish longneck lute, and the kaval, a wood instrument popular with shepherds.
Whether you intend to play your instruments or merely display them, they’re a great way to bring a bit of Turkish culture into your home.
If you’ll be spending time in Istanbul, make sure to check out the beautiful antique shops in Cukurcuma, especially those on Çukur Cuma Street. I typically want to bring home every single thing in every window display, which makes it difficult to shop sensibly. It also means you can’t go wrong since these shops are full of absolutely gorgeous antiques that are worth the hassle of figuring out how you’re going to get a green velvet chair back home with you (though a small mirror would be far easier).
Even if you just plan to window shop, you must make your way here. It’s so lovely we put this street on our Istanbul Instagram guide.
After spending a few days in Turkey, coffee enthusiasts will feel like leaving Turkey coffee culture behind is too much to bear. You can bring it back with you either by buying actual coffee or bringing back a Turkish coffee pot and cups.
A Nazar Boncuğu to Protect You From the Evil Eye
You’ll find these glass amulets for sale everywhere, but you may not know what they mean. This belief, dating all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman cultures (including those on the Turkish mainland) is that the amulet wards off evil. The amulet can also be referred to as an Evil Eye itself, but its purpose is still to protect the owner from evil.
While you may want one for good luck or protection, you are not alone. This symbol is now the most popular souvenir from Turkey. You can read more about this tradition and the meaning behind it here.
Turkish Carpets & Rugs
No one who ventures to Turkey fails to encounter a carpet salesman at some point. These beautiful crafts, also referred to as Anatolian rugs, make gorgeous keepsakes that serve a great practical purpose back home. Don’t worry about the difficulty of transportation, as most shops will help you ship it to your home so it’s waiting for you when you return from your trip. For many people, a rug is a must buy in Turkey, but don’t buy it too early in your ship and be prepared to shop around.
These make great floor carpets, but they can also be used as gorgeous wall coverings (which means they’ll probably last longer). If a full-sized rug isn’t in your budget, you can find many alternatives made of the pile-woven fabrics, like smaller carpets, cushions, and bags.
If you’re a fan of textiles, you can also explore Turkey’s gorgeous selection of traditional and modern fabrics.
Spices & Copper Spice Sets
Turkey is the land of spices, so much so that Istanbul boasts a separate Spice Bazaar that is an essential Turkish shopping experience. You can find almost anything you’d like here, but popular Turkish spices include sumac, paprika, and allspice. For souvenir options, you can bring back the spices, but you should also consider bringing home a beautiful copper spice set to store them in. The spice set will last far longer than the actual spices, but you’ll always think of Turkey when you spot it in your kitchen.
You’ll find Turkish and mosaic lamps all over the country, and you may find yourself wishing you had one in your own home when your trip is done. Well, fear not, as they are easy to find wherever you go. Whether you want to decorate your home with one or twelve, the hardest part will be picking out which design you want most when picking out this popular souvenir from Turkey.
Jewelry & Leather Goods
Jewelry is always a popular souvenir since its size makes it easy to transport and wearing it can give you a sweet reminder of your trip whenever you look at it. I have purchased several leather cuffs and other pieces of Turkish souvenir jewelry, and I find that they are always my favorite pieces to wear.
If jewelry isn’t your thing, you can always pick up a locally made leather wallet, purse, or other selection of leather goods. Leather is always a popular choice in Turkey since it’s far more economical to purchase here than in Western Europe or North America.
If you have a souvenir collection, like spoons, magnets, T-shirts, or other traditionally kitschy items, you’ll be glad to know that you can find these all over the city. Popular choices include imagery of Galata Tower or other city landmarks as well as Turkish phrases, nostalgia trolleys, and motifs from Ottoman tiles.
Our Favorite Traditional Turkish Gift Ideas
Since Allison and I have collectively visited Turkey nearly ten times, we have a lot of experience bringing Turkish gifts back home for friends and family. You can’t go wrong with Turkish delight or raki for anyone who would enjoy a taste of Turkey, and Turkish delight is an especially good gift option for coworkers and groups where everyone can enjoy one or two pieces.
Turkish Gifts for Her
If you are bringing back a gift for a romantic partner, you can (almost) never go wrong with some beautiful jewelry (provided you know the recipient’s tastes). Small ceramics, spices, and coffee and tea paraphernalia are also great choices.
On my first trip to Turkey, I brought back some knock-off handbags for relatives. While a hit back then, times have changed, and I wouldn’t be keen on bringing back a knockoff these days. Instead, I’d purchase something proudly made in Turkey, especially something made of beautiful Turkish leather.
Turkish Gifts for Him
Coffee, tea, and raki have been the favorites among the Turkish gifts I’ve brought back for male friends and relatives. Other great options include leather goods, and leather cuffs have proved quite popular.
Istanbul Shopping Tips
Since most trips to Turkey will include a stop in Istanbul, I’d be remiss not to share my favorite Istanbul shopping destinations and tips. This is by no means comprehensive, but it is a little bit of the wisdom I’ve picked up over five trips to the city, and includes some tips for where to find the best things to buy in Istanbul.
First, don’t skip the Grand Bazaar. It’s touristy, but it’s also not touristy if you know what I mean. Be prepared to haggle, but remember that these are professional hagglers you’re dealing with and don’t worry if they get the better of you. It’s the perfect place to buy Istanbul souvenirs, so don’t miss it. If you’re interested in exploring the Grand Bazaar more deeply, you can arrange to go on a Grand Bazaar tour. Check prices, reviews, and schedules here.
Second, don’t skip the Spice Bazaar. While less famous than the Grand Bazaar, where else would you want to go while in Istanbul to stock up on all those spices you want to bring back home?
Third, Don’t Miss the Shops Near the Galata Tower. Wondering what to buy in Istanbul that’s a bit different from the traditional stuff? Galata is full of hip art galleries and fun local shops like Amant Turc and Aponia, plus tons of cool music stores, making it my favorite place to really dig into an Istanbul shopping experience.
Fourth, You Don’t Have to Listen to that Rug Pitch. If it’s your first trip to Istanbul, at some point you’ll find someone trying to sell you a rug. You don’t have to buy it, and you don’t have to listen to the pitch. Politely exit the situation so you don’t waste your (or their) time. It’s not an essential Istanbul souvenir, and it is not cheap, so don’t buy one unless you want one!
Finally, You Can Pick Up Your Liquids at the Airport If you’re not planning on checking a back, you can buy all the raki you want at the duty-free shops in the airports. This way you still get to take it home with you. You’ll pay more than you will in the city, but far less than the cost of checking a bag (and worrying about it breaking and ruining your luggage).
Turkish Souvenirs Online
If you find you’ve made it home and regret not picking up something on your trip,or you found Turkish shopping a bit overwhelming in the bazaars, you can order Turkey souvenirs online and have them delivered. Popular options include Amazon and Grand Bazaar Shopping. Just make sure that your items are made in Turkey so it’s an authentic Turkish souvenir (even if you didn’t pick it up in Turkey per se).
Where to Stay in Istanbul
If you’re researching Turkish souvenirs as part of a trip to Istanbul, these are our favorite Istanbul hotels.
Accommodations in Istanbul offer a great value compared to other cities in Europe. Here is a general range of what we mean by each budget category:
- Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $5-12 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $40 for a double.
- Mid-range: Around $40-80
- Luxury: Around $100 per night or more
Budget: For a great budget-friendly hotel, you can stay in the single or double rooms at the Dreamers B&B. Colorful and cozy, the B&B boasts a fabulous location in Beyoglu, less than a kilometer from Taksim Square. You can explore all of Beyoglu from here, and then head to Sultanahmet when you’re ready to see the old city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Mid-Range: For an affordable, yet trendy boutique hotel, we recommend Peradays. It’s perfect for all Istanbul visitors, from first-timers to Istanbul veterans. The lofted rooms are generously large, so you can spread out and relax after a long day of sightseeing. They also have two cats that live here, Pera and Daisy, which you’ll be happy to greet after counting cats all day when out in the city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Luxury: Istanbul has no shortage of fabulous hotels, but we love Hammamhane, a boutique apartment-hotel that was originally a hammam, and the sister hotel of Peradays. Built in a historic hammam (Turkish bath), the suites are spacious and luxurious. Located in the heart of Cukurcuma, the antiques district, Hammamhane is within walking distance to art galleries, design stores, antique shops, and chic cafés. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Istanbul Travel Resources
Headed to Turkey? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First, you may want to get inspired by our selection of Istanbul travel quotes. Next, read our Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Turkey and local tipping customs.
If you’re still putting together your itinerary, here’s a great list of places to visit in Turkey to help you choose.
We have a neighborhood guide to Istanbul with a few hotel recommendations as well.
If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan bus, road trip, and itinerary guides.
Don’t Leave Without Travel Insurance!
Finally, make sure you always travel to Turkey or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Istanbul is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.