Turkish Souvenirs – help yourself (and others) with a memento of your trip to Turkey

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What Turkish souvenirs will you bring home with you?

The internet is full of lists of top ten, eleven best or simply must buy Turkish souvenirs from your trip to Turkey. Carpets, apple tea and nazar boncuk are high on the list, but I can’t fit any more Turkish carpets in my house, apple tea is something only tourists drink and I have a nazar in every bag, purse and pocket I use. For me, the best souvenirs are ones that remind me of a special moment I’ve experienced in Turkey or a purchase that directly helps make a tangible difference to the people who made the item I bought. With these criteria in mind, here are some of my recommendations.

Turkish coffee makes a tasty souvenir!

I like Turkish coffee but my preferred brew is a strong cup of Arabica coffee, with a dash of milk and a spoonful of sugar (a big one). After a long period of trial and error I settled on Mehmet Efendi Kurukahveci’s Colombian Filter coffee. It works equally well in a French Press or an espresso pot. There are two Mehmet Efendi Kurukahveci outlets in Istanbul, one in Eminonu and one in Kadikoy and many supermarkets sell their products too. Take home a small bag of their traditional Turkish coffee or one of their other blends and be transported back to Turkey every time you savour a cup.

The best Turkish souvenir for those with a sweet tooth!

No summer mangal or dinner with friends at my place is complete without a dish of nar ezmesi, diced tomatoes and sweet white onion basted in nar ekşisi, sour pomegranate sauce. Nar ekşisi has a slightly sweet taste which suits me fine as I have a decidedly sweet tooth. A small bottle of this pomegranate sauce travels well, as does a box of Haci Bekir lokum (Turkish Delight in English). It’s my present of choice when I go to visit family and friends outside Turkey. I usually buy two boxes, one as a gift and one to share with my husband.

A very special Turkish souvenir!

If you’re looking to mark a special occasion with a truly unique gift, a one-of-a-kind hand-painted leaf designed and painted by Nick Merdenyan is perfect. He realises his designs in paint and gold leaf on silky smooth Dieffenbachia leaves that have been dried between the pages of thick books. In the beginning he just painted Turkish miniatures, but over time he began to incorporate different cultural and universal beliefs into his designs. He calls his art works ‘Leaves of Tolerance and Peace’ and you’ll find him surrounded by antiques and art tucked away in the Grand Bazaar. If you have the time and the budget he can produce special orders on request.

Handcrafted Turkish souvenirs
It's hard to choose just one!

I’m a big fan of going to the hamam and a convert to using a traditional hamam peştemal as a towel, beach wrap, throw, and just about anything I can think of. Jennifer’s Hamam located in the Araştırma Bazaar in Sultanahmet sells peştemal woven on old-style-shuttled looms. The fabric is produced using natural materials such as certified organic cotton, linen and silk and all the artisans are Turkish, weaving in Turkey. Peştemal are eminently practical as well as beautiful and make great presents.

... as does a Nahil bunny.
A Nahil doll makes a lovely gift ..

Olive oil soap, Turkish coffee cup sets, pumice stones and cotton towels are all popular items to bring back from Turkey as gifts for loved ones or for yourself. If you buy them from Nahil*, located in a small street towards the Taksim Square end of Istiklal Street, you’ll be helping women with limited means improve their lives. Nahil is the retail outlet of KEDV, a foundation established in 1986 with the aim of mobilising the experience and expertise of poor women in participatory and need-focussed programs. It provides women with business and product development services as well as micro-credit and marketing support. Nahil also sell a great range of children’s clothes and gorgeous toys, prefect for spoiling the munchkins in your life.

In addition to Nahil, there are other small non-government organisations in Turkey selling items made by Turkish and displaced Syrian women. In order to keep costs down and guarantee as much as the profit goes back to the women who make them as possible, these items are mostly sold online. Where they have physical outlets the name and location is provided.

... to zip up travel wallets.
Visit Cop(m)madam for anything from funky pencil holders ...

In Turkish, “çöp” means “garbage” and “madam” means the same as the French word we use in English. “çöp(m)adam” translates literally as Garbage Ladies, who take garbage and turn it into something fashionable and fun. It started as an experimental project in Ayvalik on the Aegean coast, then received sponsorship from Sabanci University and Unilever. Women who have never worked outside the home before are employed in çöp(m)adam. They annually transform 6 tonnes of material that would otherwise become waste into cool and useful items, sold in their Ayvalik workshop, in boutiques like Karinca in Istanbul, Turkey and abroad.

Whatever you choose to buy, I know the most valuable Turkish souvenirs you’ll take with you from your trip tare the wonderful memories, experiences and new friends you make.


Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip to Turkey

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.


*Nahil also have stores in Şishane, Istanbul, Izmir and Mardin

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  1. i follow your blogs and comments.i Like this website.We are the best quality manufacturer about Souvenir&Gifts industry in Turkey.Our geopolitic position is so nice for transporting to products.Just imagine.Enjoy in Turkey.

  2. I couldn’t resist buying two, yes two, Turkish rugs when I was in Kusadasi in 1986 and I carried them with me up the west coast to Istanbul, back through Greece (as the only English speaker on a bus to Thessaloniki) and then on all my various train trips westwards to London for Christmas. A month later they were back in my parents’ home on the northern beaches of Sydney and they are still with me in the home I rent in Melbourne now. https://lifeincamelot.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/one-november-in-turkey-part-2-or-remembering-on-remembrance-day/

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