Istanbul is a fantastic city for shopping, with oodles of gift shops, boutiques and iconic places like the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. But what items are truly worth making space for in your suitcase? Here’s a curated list of twenty-one unique Turkish souvenirs. These aren’t just things I’ve seen while window shopping. I’ve bought everything listed below (some of them several times) for myself or as gifts for family and friends.
This is your ultimate guide to shopping for Turkish souvenirs in Istanbul.
Turkish Delight (Lokum in Turkish) is chewy, colourful and sweet; you’ll see gorgeous logs of it forming jewelled pyramids in shop windows throughout the city. Lokum comes in two delicious styles: simple sugar-dusted cubes in flavours like orange, pomegranate, mint and rose. And there’s also a more gourmet version, filled with hazelnut cream or pomegranate studded with bright green pistachios and rolled in rose petals.
Lokum is the most requested Turkish souvenir by my family and friends. I can’t return to Canada without a few boxes of it in my luggage.
WHERE TO BUY: Visit Ali Muhiddin Haci Beki, Istanbul’s oldest Turkish Delight shop. The original location is near the Spice Bazaar, with another shop on Istiklal Caddesi. Hafiz Mustafa has multiple locations throughout the city, many in tourist areas. Premium quality and gorgeous packaging make their products highly giftable. And while you’re picking up lokum, also try their excellent pistachio baklava.
A fun-to-eat sugary treat, the recipe for Pişmaniye dates back to the 15th century. It’s called Turkish cotton candy because of its melt-in-your-mouth texture. The most popular flavours are Sade (plain), Nar (pomegranate) and a decadent chocolate dipped version. Each box contains multiple fluffy mounds of pulled-sugar candy. Pişmaniye makes a terrific gift to bring back for kids.
WHERE TO BUY: You’ll find boxes of Pişmaniye at any shop around the Spice Bazaar selling Turkish Delight and in many grocery stores.
Turkish chocolate Bars
If you like wafer-style chocolate bars, Istanbul will be your paradise. There’s the classic Ülkeler Çikolatı Gofret, a childhood favourite of many Turks. But my favourite is the Eti Karam Gurme Bitter Çikolatalı & Kremalı. Rich chocolate cream, thickly layered between wafers and dipped in dark chocolate. A few other chocolate bars you might also enjoy are the Eti Bidolu and Dido Trio. Chocolate bars are inexpensive Turkish souvenirs and are a unique treat to share with friends back home.
WHERE TO BUY: Easy to find in street kiosks, corner stores and grocery stores.
Cinnamon, cumin, mint and oregano are frequently used spices in Turkish cuisine that you likely have at home. But here are a few Turkish flavours that may be new to your palette and would make a terrific gift for a foodie friend.
PUL BIBER: With a mild smoky heat, Pul Biber is a staple in all Turkish kitchens and is routinely found on the dining table beside the salt. This flaked red pepper can be used as an ingredient or a striking sprinkled garnish with a kick.
URFA BIBER: Also called Isot, it is a chefy ingredient with incredible flavour and a touch of heat. The irregular flakes are sweet and smoky and have a deep reddish-purple hue. Urfa Biber adds a little extra oomph to pretty much everything.
SUMAC: Tart and tangly, sumac is a pretty wine-coloured spice. Dust its citrusy flavour onto salads, hummus, grilled fish, or popcorn.
ÇÖREK OTU: It looks like black sesame seeds and is often sprinkled on savoury baked goods or used in salads providing crunch and toasty onion flavour.
OTTOMAN SPICE BLEND: A versatile blend of popular Turkish spices, it’s got a bit of everything, tartness, a bit of heat, and a little smoke. The exact combination varies slightly depending on where you buy it, but it’s guaranteed to add delicious flavour to grilled meats, soups, stews and even pasta sauce.
WHERE TO BUY: The iconic place to buy spices in Istanbul is the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. Tuğba also sells an excellent range of spices, nuts, chocolate, coffee and other sweets. The staff is super friendly and always offers free samples. Check out their shop across the street from the Beyazıt tram stop on the T1 line.
Turkish wine isn’t top of mind when most people think about Türkiye. But recent archeological findings show that Anatolia may be the world’s original wine region. Today, there are many Turkish wineries and some excellent wines to sample in Istanbul. A bottle of wine made from one of Türkiye’s local grapes is a Turkish souvenir you can sip post vacay while looking at your photos.
SUVLA WINERY: Based in the Gallipoli Peninsula, Suvla cultivates native grapes like Öküzgözü and international favourites like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Suvla Blush is a lovely summer wine made with native Karaskız grapes and pairs well with seafood and cheese.
NIF BAĞLARI WINERY: Nif Bağları is a family-owned estate winery based in Kemalpaşa-Izmir. Their wines are of excellent quality and absolutely delicious. For white wine lovers, try their fruity Solaris. But if you prefer red, go for their Luz, a Shiraz-Sangiovese blend.
KAVKLIDERE WINERY: It is one of the oldest and largest wineries in Türkiye. It originated in Ankara but now has vineyards across the country. While they offer a Premiere Series, their entry-level wines are easy to find at grocery stores and even little corner markets. Yakut is a dry red blend that is tasty and inexpensive.
WHERE TO BUY & TRY TURKISH WINES: Comedus is a terrific little wine shop and deli in Beyoğlu, just down the street from the Pera Palace Hotel. La Cave, also in Beyoğlu, offers many Turkish wines and top-notch international favourites. Large grocery stores like Migros and CarrefourSA also have good wine sections. But smaller locations (like Migros Jet) might not carry wine or only sell entry-level offerings. Most restaurants in Istanbul carry a selection of Turkish wines, but if you want a casual drink with mezes, try Solera, a cozy wine bar in Beyoğlu on Yeni Çarsi just off Istiklal Cd.
Anise-flavoured raki is slightly sweet and made from twice-distilled grapes. It is also referred to as Lion’s Milk and is enjoyed on a night out with mezes and seafood. Its potency can be tamed by diluting it with water and ice, turning it a milky white. Two brands that would make an ideal Turkish souvenir are Yeni Rakı and Beylerbeyi.
WHERE TO BUY: Grocery stores like Migros, CarrefourSA, and corner stores.
Tulip Tea Glasses
Tea (çay in Turkish) is the most popular drink in Türkiye. The average Turk drinks over 1,300 glasses of çay per year. But they don’t drink it from teacups or mugs but from beautiful tulip-shaped glasses. Turks like piping hot tea, so the small tulip glasses are frequently refilled, showcasing the tea’s reddish hue.
WHERE TO BUY: Buy fancy tea glasses with etchings or gold decorations from the Grand Bazaar or Turkish souvenir shops in Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu. But if you want the simple everyday glasses found in Turkish homes, pick up an inexpensive set at Sok (Türkiye’s discount grocery store, often found in tourist areas) or Migros.
If you’re a coffee lover, then this purchase is a no-brainer. Coffee was first introduced in the 16th century to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, who adored a potent brew. Turkish coffee is finely ground, has a rich aromatic flavour, soft velvety foam and a unique brewing method. It’s not brewed but boiled by mixing coffee grounds with water and sugar if you like it sweet. It’s strong and served in small ceramic cups like espresso but unfiltered, so the coffee grounds settle to the bottom. After drinking, you can turn your cup over and attempt to read the patterns to discover your fortune.
WHERE TO BUY: The most famous coffee roaster is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. You can line up with the locals and purchase freshly ground beans at their shop outside Spice Bazaar. You can also buy it pre-packaged at virtually any grocery store or small food shop.
Copper pans are beautiful but oh so expensive. If you’ve always wanted one, this is your chance to buy one at a reasonable price. You’ll find lovely hammered copper pans with bronze handles, available in many sizes. But that’s not all; you can buy a Turkish coffee pot (cezve in Turkish), a pitcher, platters, mugs and much more, all made from gleaming copper.
WHERE TO BUY: You’ll find the best prices and the greatest selection in the tiny shops on the narrow street around Eminönü and just outside the Grand Bazaar.
Turkish Tile Trivet
If you fall in love with the beautiful İznik tiles that adorn the Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque, consider buying an “İznik-style” tile trivet. These easy-to-pack Turkish souvenirs will remind you of your vacation while protecting your table from a hot pan or casserole.
WHERE TO BUY: Check out the shops at the Arasta Bazaar near the Blue Mosque. You’ll also find these tile trivets for sale at the Grand Bazaar and local gift shops in Sultanahmet.
Adana-Style Kebab Skewers
You’ll need to pack these long, flat skewers in your checked bag because they look like small swords. But their shape allows you to wrap ground meat around the metal and grill it over hot coals. These semi-fearsome skewers will be a big hit at your next barbecue or an excellent gift for your favourite grill master.
WHERE TO BUY: Look for them at the same shops that sell copperware.
You’ll find a plethora of Turkish ceramics, from mugs to vases and all sizes of bowls and platters. Decorated with stylized tulips, roses and even peacocks, inspired by the tiles from the Ottoman Sultan’s pavilions at Topkapi Palace and the city’s most famous mosques. I especially love the colourful little bowls, perfect for dips or to hold jewellery.
WHERE TO BUY: Check out the Red Apple Art Gallery in Sultanahmet, close to the Gulhane tram stop. You can also visit Bazaar Ali Baba inside the Grand Bazaar or Iznik Collection & Tiles at the Arasta Bazaar.
The nomadic tribes who settled in Türkiye have been weaving rugs since Neolithic times. Turkish carpets, also known as Anatolian carpets, are beautiful pieces of art and history that you can walk on. Highly durable due to a unique weaving technique called the Turkish double knot, a handmade Turkish carpet will last for generations. While in Istanbul, someone will try to sell you a carpet; consider visiting a carpet shop an essential part of your time in the city.
WHERE TO BUY: I have five Turkish carpets purchased at the Red Apple Art Gallery from Yusuf. Mention his name to get the best price. Also, suggest that you sign up below for my FREE “Ultimate Istanbul Shopping Guide,” which provides in-depth advice and tips to help you buy the Turkish carpet of your dreams.
Vintage Kilim Pillow Cover
Want to add instant pizzazz to your home? Regardless of your aesthetic, a kilim pillow cover is one of the most stylish Turkish souvenirs to tuck into your luggage. With bold geometric patterns and a wide range of colours, you’re guaranteed to find one that will look fabulous in your home.
WHERE TO BUY: Most carpet shops also sell kilim pillows. Or visit Turkish Modern in Beyoğlu, a fabulous little boutique with pillow covers and other unique Turkish souvenirs.
A Turkish towel is both beautiful and versatile. They are soft and super absorbent because Turkish cotton has extra-long fibres. Turkish towels are perfect for the beach, the bath or as a sarong. It can also double as a travel blanket. Lightweight and quick-drying, Turkish towels are available in various colours and patterns.
If you love make-up and discovering new beauty finds, then a visit to Golden Rose is a must. This Turkish cosmetics brand has been around since 1938. I’m a big fan of their Glow Kiss Tinted Lip Balm, Brow Color Tinted Eyebrow Mascara and Satin Smoothing Fluid Foundations (SPF15)
Rosewater can be a game-changer if you want to keep your skin looking beautiful and radiant. And it’s easy to incorporate into your daily beauty routine. Türkiye is one of the world’s two main growing regions for the Rosa Damascena, which is wonderfully fragrant and used to create fine perfumes and beauty products.
To learn more about Turkish Rosewater, check out this post, Rosewater, the Ancient Beauty Secret for Glowing Skin.
WHERE TO BUY: You can buy Rosewater at any pharmacy or Gratis. Gülsha Ultimate Rosewate, Gülbirlikk Rosewater, and Otaci Hydrating Rosewater Toner are three excellent Turkish brands.
Hamam Soap & Kese
Visiting the hamam for a Turkish bath is a must-try experience while in Istanbul. After your bath, you’ll feel incredibly clean and very relaxed. Then return home with a traditional exfoliating glove called a “Kese” and a fragrant bar of hamam soap to replicate the experience. Together they make a thoughtful yet inexpensive gift.
Backgammon is an ancient game. Based on archeological evidence, it’s 5000 years old. Played by Egyptian Pharaohs, Ottoman Sultans and still today on the streets of Istanbul. A stunning backgammon set makes a great Turkish souvenir for that person in your life that has everything.
WHERE TO BUY: In the shops around the Galata Tower, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar.
During the 16th century, oil lamps with coloured glass shades appeared in the Ottoman Empire. These beautifully coloured mosaic lamps (now electric) are still sold in shops throughout Istanbul. If you dream of buying one, but your country’s electrical plug and voltage differs from Türkiye (Type F&C plugs & 220v), shop for this Turkish souvenir early in your trip. You’ll find that many shops will rewire for your home country with a few days’ notice.
WHERE TO BUY: Many shops across the city are filled with these colourful beauties. But if you want the greatest range of styles and colours, suggest shopping at the Grand Bazaar.
Allegedly, a nazar boncuğu can protect you from curses, especially those transmitted via a glance or evil eye. But the good news is that clusters of cobalt blue glass-eyed protection amulets hang in every souvenir shop in Istanbul. Inspired artists use the motif to embellish everything from coffee cups to t-shirts to pillowcases. You can also drop a couple of thousand liras to own a bejewelled eyeball pendant or dangly bracelet.
WHERE TO BUY: Street kiosks on Istiklal Cd. or around the Galata Tower. It’s also worth visiting Aydan Öner İstanbul, a fantastic boutique in Beyoğlu. Another terrific shop is Halt, located very close to the Galata Tower, which sells unique mugs, plates, candles and other excellent Turkish souvenirs to bring back for your friends and family.
Happy shopping! Undoubtedly, you’ll find so many amazing Turkish souvenirs while in Istanbul. You might even need to buy another suitcase. But no worries, you’ll find inexpensive luggage at shops all over the city.