Souvenir Shopping and Ideas for the Best Things to Buy
Many tourists enjoy souvenir shopping in Turkey. If you are looking for ideas of what to buy, take delight in knowing you have a huge choice from cheap and cheerful to luxurious and culturally favorite items.
Every day but more so during Turkey’s main tourist season from May to October, souvenir shops across the country make a roaring trade from millions of travellers arriving via air, sea and road.
Sellers are ingenious with what they put on their shelves. Some culturally significant items allow you to take a little piece of Turkey home with you, while other items like keyrings, t-shirts and postcards suit practical people. We have loads of suggestions of souvenirs to buy, but if you plan to buy something expensive, you need to know how to haggle.
How to Haggle for Souvenirs in Turkey
A cultural tradition is to haggle over expensive items, like Turkish carpets or leather goods, both of which are favourite souvenirs to buy in Turkey. The aim of haggling is to get a better price, and it can be a long drawn out process involving lots of cups of black tea and small talk. The first step is to ask for a price. It will already be overinflated because the seller expects you to haggle.
Respond with a price that is 50% to 40% lower. The seller has no intention of accepting and will respond with comical banter that he has a family to feed and expenses to pay but he will quote another lower price, which you will counteract, and the process continues until you both reach an agreed price.
Warning About Antiques
Given Turkey’s illustrious history, antique souvenir shopping is popular. However, before you buy anything old, precious or worth any value, you should know about antique laws in Turkey. If the item you are buying is more than 100 years old, you will need a certificate from authorities. Failure to get it can result in severe penalties and even imprisonment.
When it comes to faking it, Turkey ranks highly as a worthy contender. In most coastal resorts, small shops openly sell phoney brand name shirts, trainers and bags. Unfortunately, the art of faking it has also made its way into the souvenir shopping industry.
At one stage, in the popular resort of Selcuk, locals stood outside well-known attractions such as Ephesus or Saint John’s Basilica claiming they had found ancient coins which they wanted to sell. Local police targeted guilty culprits, but unfortunately, they had already claimed some victims that paid over the top for a piece of metal.
Fake carpet made in machine factories in China are also openly sold. Dishonest sellers say they are authentic and handmade, but If you want to buy a proper Turkish rug, employ a trustworthy guide to help you.
So, as well as carpets, leather and antiques, what other souvenirs can you buy?
Ideas for Souvenir Shopping in Turkey
1: The Blue Evil Eye: Nazar Boncugu
By far the most popular souvenir sold in Turkey is the amulet evil eye. Believed to ward off evil spirits, it also takes pride of place in, many shops and homes across the country. You can buy it in many forms including plates, hanging amulets, keyrings, postcards, necklaces, bracelets, badges and much more.
2: Sweet Turkish Delight to Melt in Your Mouth
The delicate aroma and sweet taste of Turkish delight often lures tourists, to buy many boxes. If you are in Istanbul, head to the Haci Bekir shop for the original version, invented by their family five generations ago in 1777. Otherwise, Safranbolu is another destination credited with making the best Turkish delight in Turkey.
3: Must Have Turkish Spices for Your Pantry
Turks use many spices in cooking and incorporating them into your own dishes is a culinary adventure for your taste buds. Places like the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul are ideal places to buy them, but souvenir shops throughout Turkey also sell them in small and decorative boxes. Be sceptical of any souvenir shop selling pure Turkish saffron because it is hard to come by.
4: Turkish Tea and Coffee
Did you know Turkey is the world’s largest consumer of tea? As the country’s national non-alcoholic beverage, locals drink thousands of glasses every day. Tradition says to drink it black, with loads of sugar in small tulip-shaped glasses.
For the best Turkish tea, look for packets coming from Rize and made by Caykur and certain shops also sell hamper packages with glasses included. Otherwise, Turkish coffee is less widely consumed but its distinct taste firmly ranks it as a famous global beverage. To make it, you will need to buy a “Cezve”, which is small enough to fit in your suitcase.
5: Iznik Ceramics and Ottoman Nostalgia
Finely made ceramics, from the northern port of Iznik, are highly respected in Turkish culture because of their aesthetic excellence, and reputation as favoured artisans of the now-defunct Ottoman dynasty.
Many ceramic factories open their doors to the public, so you can watch artisans make your vase, plate, cup or bowl. If you buy from standard souvenir shops, check underneath to make sure it wasn’t made in China because that defeats the purpose of clever souvenir shopping in Turkey.
Further Information for First Time Visitors to Turkey
- For money, getting around, transport and talking with locals, our list of apps for travelling around Turkey makes each day so much easier.
- Visiting places for the first time is daunting, but our list of costly mistakes to avoid, let you know how to save money while travelling.
- Unfortunately, there is a lot of false hype about Turkey. Learn about common misconceptions to ignore when visiting the country.