Souvenir shopping in Turkey is as cheap or expensive as you want but great fun because you can buy everything and anything. Famous things to buy in Turkey vary depending on where you go. For example, in Cappadocia, the pottery from Avanos town sitting next to the red river is famous. In Ephesus, the Virgin Mary statues depict the ancient city’s Biblical connection. However, before we start looking at souvenirs to buy nationwide, be aware of fake souvenirs and antique scams in Turkey.
For a long time, shops throughout Turkey, including Cappadocia and Istanbul, openly sold counterfeit goods. These fake products targeted many well-known Western brand names, including watches, handbags, sunglasses, and t-shirts. Most tourists in Turkey were happy to get virtually the same thing for half the price, and the fake industry grew into a multi-millionaire business. Understandably, though, brand names like Gucci and Nike got extremely mad. Hence, Turkey cracked down on counterfeit, branded items, so the availability is different from in recent years.
However, an example of counterfeit goods that don’t work well for the buyer is Turkish rugs and carpets. Fake Chinese factory-made carpets are sold as genuine Turkish. As a result, the buyer pays full price for something not even remotely authentic. When buying a carpet or rug in Turkey, do your homework and don’t make impulse purchases.
Lastly, in some places in Turkey, swindlers sell fake antique items as ideal souvenirs to take home. Please read my article here about counterfeit coins for sale at the ancient ruins of Ephesus, Saint John’s Basilica, and the Temple of Artemis in Selcuk. Taking antiques out of Turkey is illegal without written permission, which is rare, so avoid anyone selling antique carpets, coins, or artefacts from excavation digs.
Souvenir Shopping in Turkey: 14 Famous Things to Buy
1: Turkish Carpet and Rugs
Some people buy Turkish carpets or rugs because they like the patterns. Unfortunately, I know many individuals who purchased one while on holiday in Turkey because they couldn’t say no to the salesman. Turkish carpet sellers often work on commission; hence, the sales pattern and procedure are hardcore in your face. The seller says you are his best friend, so you get a special price. After 1 hour, he says the carpet is on hold for another person, but he likes you better, so he will forgo his integrity to sell the carpet. After 60 minutes, you buy the carpet out of pity because he says he struggles to feed his six children. He openly says this while wearing copious amounts of jewellery and using the latest mobile phone model. Remember warnings about fakes and barter over prices if you genuinely want one. Please don’t be shy because carpet sellers expect this, so they have already upped prices.
2: The Turkish Delight Experience
Sold everywhere in Turkey and in many different flavours, sweet Turkish delight is cheap and easy to pack but always check the use-by date when buying. Most souvenir shops in Turkey offer samples and sell special deals such as buy five, get one free. The best Turkish delight in Turkey comes from the Safranbolu Black Sea region. In Istanbul, though, make your way to Haci Bekar in the Eminonu district. The family of the man who originally invented Turkish delight for an Ottoman sultan still own the shop and turned the premises into a living museum.
3: Turkish Tea Sets
When tourists first land in Turkey, they have a stock of tea bags from back home. Without their daily fix of British or American tea, they break out in sweats. However, when they leave Turkey, they take home boxes of apple tea. Unfortunately, Turks rarely drink the beverage! Turkish tea is black, highly sweetened and drank from tulip-shaped glasses. Traditional black tea and the many different designs of small tea glasses with spoons and trays included are perfect souvenirs to take home.
4: Beautiful Nargile Pipes
The traditional nargile, also called a Turkish smoking pipe, originated from India, and found its way to Turkey during the grand Ottoman Empire. The unique variety of tobacco flavours, including apple, raspberry, and banana, make nargile pipes more of a social smoke than habitual. Make sure the shop wraps the pipe nicely to withstand the journey home from Turkey but otherwise, try smoking one in the nargile cafes or stores instead.
5: The Blue Evil Eye of Turkey
The most popular and famous souvenir in Turkey is the blue evil eye, also known as Nazar Boncuk. This souvenir is the most authentic culture item to buy from a store because Turks use it widely in their homes and offices and give them as presents to newborn babies. Souvenir shops sell the blue evil eye in many forms, including amulets, keyrings, bookmarks, jewellery, ceramic items, and lapel badges.
6: Shopping for Gold and Jewellery
Many people think gold is cheaper in Turkey, but the version is just higher carat than in other world countries like the UK. Gold is also a big thing because Turks give bracelets and coins as traditional wedding gifts. If you want something specific and don’t see it, shops tailor-make items. Shops in Turkey are called Kuyumcu, and in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, there are plenty of them. Just remember to bargain on the price.
7: Traditional Turkish Mosaic Lamps
Excellently constructed to a high standard and made from glass and brass, hanging Turkish mosaic lamps are eye-catching. The lamps are not ideal for lighting a room but perfect for setting an atmospheric mood. With various colours, such as emerald or ruby, prices are high, but skilled artisans create each lamp by hand. If you buy one as a gift, ask the shop or market to package the light well for safety in your suitcase.
8: Ceramic Souvenir Ideas
Turkish ceramics date from the 8th century, when Islamic art was the main reason for producing mosques’ wall and ceiling tiles. Since then, modern factory ceramics have outpriced the traditional handmade versions, yet places like Iznik and Kutahya still have a historical reputation as the best producers of the delicate art. Coming in bowls, plates, ashtrays, mini vases, plates and much more, carefully check your authentic Turkish ceramic piece because there is a high possibility that the ceramic souvenir was made in China. If you are in Istanbul’s grand bazaar, you will see many of these gifts for sale.
Copper has been a favourite household item for many centuries in Turkey. In some grand cities like Gaziantep, the shopping bazaar is still in full force, despite the trend of factory-made cooking pots and pans. Perhaps the most famous souvenir in the bazaar is Turkish coffee pots and cups. If they are authentically handmade, this is a pricey item to buy but worthy of quality artisanship.
10: Turkish Spices
This is personally one of my bazaar favourites. Buy Turkish spices separately or in small decorative boxes. They are easy to pack and last a long time. The spice bazaar of Istanbul is a great place to buy these but be aware of the saffron scam. Genuine Turkish saffron is hard to come by and extremely expensive; hence dried safflower is often for sale instead. The enormous Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is also excellent for its quality.
11: Turkish Coffee
This strong Turkish beverage has an acquired taste, so try it first. There is also an exact method using a cezve pot to prepare Turkish coffee, and Turks drink it out of specially made small cups. To complete the Turkish experience and replicate the taste, buy both and the coffee. Most bazaars sell the beverage as souvenirs or buy regular packets from the supermarket.
12: Souvenir Onyx Ideas
The Turkish landscape has an abundance of Onyx stone, and skilled artisans all over the country design pieces with style into chess sets, spice bowls, ashtrays, decorative bowls, bathroom fixtures, ashtrays and vases. Onyx souvenirs are pricey, but that is because they are purely handmade. Many workshops hold demonstrations to watch Turkish onyx masters at work. These artisans display intricate skills and have dedicated hundreds of hours to learning the trade, so the price of Onyx reflects this.
13: Stylish Leather
For jackets, belts, bum bags, handbags, and purses, leather is a good buy in Turkey because the quality is half the price of products back home. However, you need to know about Turkish leather workshops. Some local travel agencies price tours cheap because they take customers to organised leather workshops on-route. If someone buys an item, they earn a commission. This is disappointing if you don’t like leather because the detour takes up time that could be spent touring attractions. Check with the Turkish tour operator before buying tickets.
14: Lemon Cologne
Refreshing lemon cologne has many uses in Turkey. It repels mosquitos and eases the itching from bites. During the Turkish Seker Bayram festival, shops, markets, bazaars and street vendors offer cologne to customers. Buy lemon cologne from everywhere for a low price, so even if you are not souvenir shopping in Turkey, have a bottle handy for when you are travelling around. Other Turkish souvenir ideas include baklava, towels, olive oil, olive oil soap, and dried fruits to round off the list.
Also About Turkey
Guide of Places to visit in Turkey: When choosing the best areas to stay in Turkey for a trip aside from Istanbul, get ready for an avalanche of choices. Repeatedly called the grand bridge between East and West, I often say the country of Turkey is the world’s most beautiful place. Turkey’s remarkable ability to amaze is unlimited. The proof is in visitor stats that make Turkey one of the world’s most popular touristic destinations. To discover more about the best places to visit in Turkey, also browse through the rest of the blog. Articles and guides highlight the best Turkish sites, including Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, Gaziantep, and Ephesus. I also talk about lesser-known destinations to put on your bucket list and the culture, traditions, and food of Turkey.