Souvenir Shopping in Istanbul

Forget about fridge mugs and magents when shopping for souvenirs in Istanbul, the main draws are jewelry, carpets, and boutique wares, with Turkish lamps, meerschaum, isnik pottery and calligraphy prints also being popular.

For centuries Istanbul has been a principal center for trade and commerce. and is a perfect shopping arena for handcrafted and unique wares. Your eyes will not know which way to look with such an abundance of vivid colors and contrasting textures.

Top Souvenirs to Buy in Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar along has about 4,000 shops that offer close to 550 years of shopping experiences. Here you can find treasures and souvenirs that are by no means ordinary.

Simple items like towels and textiles, should also not be overlooked, as they are many a reason why the Silk Road was so popular. When you add on copper coffee pots, ceramics and antiques, you’ll simply overwhelmed with the number of options available to you.

1. Jewelry

Designer jewelry is one of the biggest draws in Turkey. The jewelry is locally produced with various inlays and is an inspiration from Ottoman jewelry dating back centuries. Jewelry is at the top of the list of handcrafted products. Their jewelry makes wonderful gifts but you must use care when shopping. Some of the glittery bangles are only costume jewelry, so make certain you are in a well-established shop and that you test for quality before purchasing.

2. Carpets

Turkish carpets and rugs have been around even before Marco Polo’s time in the 14th century, and are known for their bright rich colors and deep pigmentation. Kilim is a woven flat carpet with bold geometric patterns. In the past, these carpets were cheaper, with many thinking they were too thin to last. Today, with their brightly colored designs, they can be more expensive, now considered high quality, and no longer inferior.

Other rugs offered are created with silk threads and knotted by hand. Many display the Holbein design, which had been developed during the reign of the Ottoman Empire and is often portrayed in paintings from the Renaissance.

Remember to always bargaining before paying for anything, especially carpets which have  large commissions for the sales person.

3. Boutique Wares

There are many small boutiques located in Istanbul that cater to more modern tastes but are all mostly handmade. This will excite the avid fashion-minded shopper with so many clothes, purses, shoes, jewelry, and accessories to choose from. Featured are Turkish designers as well as well-known international designers from all over the world. Many of the shoes offered are made in Turkey. Crowed stalls are usually a good sign, especially if the crowd is full of local shoppers.

4. Antiques

Surrounded by so many individual countries, Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures, offering a veritable wealth of goods from all over the globe. You may inquire as to the origin of an item before purchasing, especially if you want an original relic from Istanbul.

5. Meerschaum

Meerschaum is a fine white claylike mineral that is composed of hydrous magnesium sulfate for the scientific minds out there. it is often called “sea foam,” and found primarily in the Black Sea region. Used most often to make pipes, figurines, and jewelry can also be found formed from meerschaum. Because exportation in its original form is banned, Turkey is one place, among a few, where you can find it. Purchasing a trinket made from meerschaum would be a truly unique souvenir.

6. Isnik Pottery

Turkish pottery was created to mimic the pottery of the Chinese but developed into unique patterns and styles by the hand painting of Iznik craftsman. Some ceramics have a unique style depending on the artist and many have geometric patterns. These patterns are often combined with flowers such as roses, hyacinths, and most often tulips. Over the centuries, bright colors, glazing, and firing using different techniques have created a wide variety of handmade Turkish pottery.

7. Coffee Pots

You can also find a wide assortment of fresh teas and Turkish coffee at the markets of Istanbul. Authentic Turkish coffee pots are called cezue, and are made of a single sheet of hammered copper. They are quite small and allow you to savor your coffee when at home along with memories from your holiday.

8. Towels

Turkish towels are another excellent buy and will easily fit into your suitcase when traveling home with your treasures. Turkish towels are not like regular fluffy cotton towels. Peshtemal are created from 100% cotton, thinner than terry towels, and are strongly made from high-grade fiber. Even with their thinness, they are extra absorbent and dry swiftly. They are usually sold in white but sport brilliant designs. Taking a Turkish peshtemal home will also help you relive your Turkish bath experience.

9. Textiles

Turkish textiles can be bought right off the bolt if you are someone who sews and loves creation. If you are not the artistic type, do not dismay, plenty of pillows, dresses, and scarves are in abundance. It’s hard to choose between the designs, colors, and fabrics. Some may be hand-painted, which is called yazma, or embroidered. Pashminas are the very famous Turkish scarves that are often made from silk or cashmere. These are somewhat cheaper than those made from pure silk. All pashminas are made so well they will appear like new for years to come no matter the price. The hardest part in purchasing textiles will be deciding on fabric, pattern, and bright vibrant colors. Keep in mind that defolu means faulty, but bargains but can be had for the most minor of imperfections.

10. Calligraphy Prints

Often adorned on walls or ceilings of mosques in Turkey are calligraphy writings. These appear to be geometric designs and patterns but are actually writings, most often quotes from the sacred book of Islam, the Quran. These are a truly unique and different treasure of a souvenir to show off back home and a wonderful memento of your vacation in Turkey.

11. Turkish Delights

Many of the foods found in Istanbul are easily packed and transported back home to be shared with family and friends. If you are a candy lover, be sure to seek out the very popular lokum, otherwise known as Turkish Delight. It is available in a wide variety of flavors, which shop keepers will permit you to sample, allowing you to purchase your favorites to enjoy at home.

12. Spices

If you plan on recreating some delectable Turkish dishes, they will never taste the same without authentic spices such as dried spearmint, mint, black, and red pepper, and cumin.

13. Raki

Another beverage that you can take along is, raki, known as Lion’s Milk. This is the Turkish National drink and is an anise-flavored liquor.

14. Jams and Spreads

A staple of Turkish breakfast, jams and spreads will help satisfy your sweet tooth. Turkish honey and delightful preserves of sour cherry, fig, quince, apricot, and even rose can easily be packed into your travel bag.

15. Dried Nuts and Fruits

Nuts and dried fruits are also readily available and make great snacks when touring the city or to munch on at home while reminiscing about your vacation in Istanbul..