Almost every time I visit somewhere new, I make sure that part of my research pre-trip is on local specialties that would make good souvenirs or gifts. Sure, you’ve got your magnets, postcards, cheap bracelets, keychains, and mugs (a personal favorite of mine).
But let’s be honest: you’re looking for something much more special than that. You know you’ve found the perfect souvenir when, every time you look at it (or taste it), you’re transported back to a specific place and time.
Istanbul is one of those places that offer unique souvenir or gift options you have to explore. So here’s a list of what to buy in Istanbul if you want something truly special to remember your trip.
More Istanbul tips: A Food Tour on Istanbul’s Asian Side
Not probably where you thought I’d start, right? I’m actually really allergic to a lot of scents, so have never been a big perfume person. But before my first trip to Istanbul I was doing some research and ran across a perfumerie recommendation from Rick Steves. Housed in the Spice Market, Arifoglu is a well-known shop in Istanbul (they have a few locations) and they have dozens of different scents.
I went there in search of my “signature” scent and was not disappointed. I’ve fallen in love with Flowers of Istanbul, and since I initially only got a small vial, I’m going to make sure to buy enough to keep me smelly pretty when I return in a couple months.
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Ceramics of all types
“I’m not into ceramics,” I said…
I literally ended up having an entire carry-on duffel filled solely with carefully-wrapped ceramics. True story.
If you ask me what to buy in Istanbul, this would be my standard answer. I bought a stunning serving platter with a puzzle-style set of small serving bowls on it, as well as a bunch of coasters, a pretty mug for my mama, and a beautiful teal glazed decorative ceramic pomegranate. It’s not possible to resist the gorgeous colorful patterns and affordable prices. Don’t even try.
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Turkey’s food is to die for. I’ve written an ode to it here. And sadly the best of it (baklava, doner kebabs, etc.) won’t travel well. But there are a few things that are fairly unique and you should make sure to stock up on before heading back to the airport.
The honey we found on the Asian side was amazing. Look for the store Honeyci, and make sure to get some of their premium stuff (which you can see them sealing in action below). All kinds of tea and dried fruit are also available, as well as all the Turkish delight you can handle (which I am NOT a fan of…).
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Yes, these are food too, but they deserve their own mention. The spice selection and prices are insane in Turkey. It’s tempting to stock up on everything, but really you should focus on spices you can’t get easily where you live, or that are significantly cheaper. For instance, I bypassed things like curry and turmeric, but did get biryani spices (YUM), “chicken spice”, “beef spice”, and saffron (which is crazy expensive in the States).
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A beautiful scarf, or Turkish linens
Admission: I completely failed at this. The scarf I’m wearing here was brought from home, but I get a chance to rectify my mistake in the next few months with not one, but two, trips to Turkey. I’m not a linens person myself, but am a sucker for a nice scarf or pashmina, and since you’ll need this for entering mosques you should look for a beautiful or unique one to take home as well.
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What must-buy items did I miss in my list?? I’m headed back next month so let me know!