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Istanbul is a big city that has been an important link to the East for many years, blending elements from Arabia, Africa, and Europe uniquely throughout Turkey. This blend is especially seen in the souvenirs you can find.

The more you travel away from your own country, the more unusual and interesting the souvenirs seem. This includes food and drinks with special ingredients not available back home. In this post, we will let you discover all the best things to buy in Istanbul.

Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

1. Nazar Amulet

Nazar Amulets Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

Anyone who was on holiday in Turkey has probably noticed a special symbol several times. We are talking about the so-called Turkish eye, the Nazar amulet. These little pieces of jewelry in the shape of blue eyes are a kind of mystical lucky charm and are said to protect against the evil eye. In an area where dark eyes are said to have predominated, blue eyes were long associated in popular belief with evil magical abilities. The blue pendant of the amulet, on the other hand, forms a kind of counter-magic and is therefore modeled in the shape of an abstract human eye and is popular all over the world.

The Turks use Nazar amulets, for example, over front doors, but also on the rear-view mirrors of their cars or as jewelry on necklaces or bracelets. A Nazar amulet is an original and authentic souvenir from Turkey and at the same time a decorative accessory for the home.

2. Turkish sweets

Lokum Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

Turkey is famous for its amazing sweets. Most popular are Lokum or Turkish Delight are bite-sized pieces of a soft and sticky mass made of sugar and starch that has been flavored with nuts, almonds, pistachios, or fruit juice.

It is no longer possible to trace when or where Lokum was first produced. The first reports supposedly date back to the 9th century. According to legend, the current version goes back to an Ottoman sultan of the 18th century who is said to have treated the ladies of his harem to the delicious morsels.

3. Spices

Spices Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

Oriental spices are now also present everywhere in the world. Nevertheless, holidaymakers always find unfamiliar smells and tastes in Turkey’s bazaars. With a small selection as a souvenir, you can bring a piece of the Orient home with you. The range of spices ranges from well-known flavors such as cumin, cinnamon, mint, or sesame to exotic and expensive variations such as saffron. The best thing to do is take a stroll through one of the traditional bazaars and put together a small selection to try.

Spices were one of the most important trade goods in the Ottoman Empire in the Middle Ages and early modern times. Indian and Chinese spices reached Europe via Constantinople and made the city rich – at least until the Portuguese found a sea route to India.

4. Pottery & Ceramics

Ceramics Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

Ceramic and clay crafts are another branch of craftsmanship that is particularly widespread in Istanbul. So if you’re not necessarily on vacation on the south coast, but rather in the interior of Turkey, you’ll come across such goods at one market or another. Pottery from Cappadocia, for example from the famous city of Avanos, has a special flair. The Kizilirmak, the longest river in Türkiye, flows there. From this, the clay is obtained for wonderfully designed clay pots, which are still made using traditional craftsmanship.

When it comes to ceramic goods, taking them with you is not so easy. There are now many souvenirs from industrial series production here. But if you want to bring an individual plate or bowl as a souvenir, you should take a closer look. Real handwork always shows inaccuracies, such as a brush stroke that has slipped.

5. Copper and brass tableware

Brass Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

In addition to ceramics and clay, many everyday objects were made from copper in the Ottoman Empire. In particular, dishes and jugs or special equipment such as the Caydanlik tea maker were made from inexpensive and flexible metal and were often artistically decorated. The traditional Turkish coffee set also consists of a cup, a coaster, and a lid made of copper or brass. The ceramic cup is then placed in the metal cup so that the hot drink stays warm for longer. A set like this is the ideal souvenir from Turkey for all coffee lovers.

Incidentally, it was the Ottomans who brought coffee to Europe in the first place. The raw material originally came from Ethiopia to the city of Mecca. From there the drink began its triumphal march and, with the Ottoman siege of Vienna, finally found its way into the coffee houses that became legendary there.

6. Pestemal

Pestemal Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

One of the things you should do in Istanbul is a visit to a hammam. These traditional oriental steam baths are not only healthy and soothing but also pleasing to the eye thanks to the rich decorations. Anyone who goes to a hammam is usually given a light and very absorbent cloth for the duration of their stay. This is a special hammam cloth called pestemal. These pure cotton towels can also be purchased there and are practical souvenirs for men and women alike.

Incidentally, the original purpose of the hammams was the so-called ghusl, the great ritual ablution, to eliminate the state of great ritual impurity. In addition, ghusl was generally recommended before every Friday prayer.

7. Hookahs /Nargile

 Hookah Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

Thanks to the popularity of shisha bars in major European cities, oriental hookahs are now at least as well known everywhere as in Turkey. Nevertheless – or precisely because of this – a hookah is one of the best things to buy in Istanbul. If you ask the dealers for a nargile and not a shisha, you will make the locals very happy.

The Turkish water pipe is called Nargil and is one of the typical symbols of Ottoman everyday culture. These can be bought almost everywhere in Istanbul. However, you should also be careful with obvious bargains here. Not everything that looks typically Turkish comes from there. Although shishas are now considered typically Turkish or Arabic, they began in Persia or northern India. From there they spread as a particularly social form of tobacco consumption both towards southern India and towards the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

8. Oriental carpets

Carpets Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

Carpets from the Orient have long been extremely popular with Europeans and therefore continue to be a suitable souvenir. However, caution is advised in many markets: sometimes these are inexpensive copies from China and not genuine handcraft from Turkey. Real Turkish carpets are not cheap. However, it is worth bargaining in the bazaars. The concept of haggling, which is relatively unknown to us, is part of trading here. So if a carpet originally costs 500 euros, it will probably end up selling for 300 euros.

Turkish – or Anatolian – carpets have been part of the region’s cultural heritage for centuries. The art of carpet weaving here is even far older than Islam. However, today’s carpets usually show clear features of Islamic art, such as finely crafted borders or patterns such as those found on prayer rugs.

9. Raki

Raki Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

What would be a better holiday souvenir than the Turkish national drink Raki? The aromatic aniseed schnapps are an integral part of Turkish cuisine and therefore ideal as a souvenir. When mixed with water and ice, Raki takes on a milky color and is therefore also called Aslan Sütü – lion’s milk.

Raki is a distillate made from grapes, which is then mixed with anise and distilled again. The spirit, which has a strength of up to 50% by volume, is drunk not only as an aperitif but also as an accompaniment to meals. This is one of the reasons why vacationers are recommended to dilute it with water and lots of ice.

Alcoholic drinks containing anise probably originated in Asia Minor and spread to many regions in Europe. A bottle of Raki as a souvenir could therefore be well received by friends.

10. Board Games

Backgammon Best Things To Buy In Istanbul

One of the most popular board games in Turkey is Backgammon, which is called Tavla here. In addition to dice, the players need a matching game board with the characteristic points. These are often beautifully decorated, made by hand, and are therefore ideal as souvenirs. If you like to play or know someone who likes backgammon, you can’t go wrong with a real Tavla board from Turkey. Maybe such a nice souvenir will even encourage you to try out this ancient game. After all, the Romans liked to play it 2,000 years ago.

Board games with dice are many thousands of years old but are not necessarily true forerunners of backgammon. However, the Roman Duodecim Scripta was similar enough to be seen as the ancestor of today’s game. In the Middle Ages, the successors spread across the entire continent – for example in Turkey as Tavla.

Best Places For Souvenir Shopping In Istanbul

Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Baazar)

Egyptian Bazaar
Egyptian Bazaar

Egyptian Bazaar market dates back to 1660 and is named after the spices that were brought from India via Egypt. This market has all the herbs and spices under the sun as well as dried fruits and all kinds of Turkish delight and Turkish coffee.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar

Just a kilometer from the Spice Bazaar is the Grand Bazaar, a 15th-century market hall with over 4000 shops selling all types of gold and silver jewelry to traditional hand-made ceramics, antiques, traditionally patterned scarves and kilims (carpets). Here you can practice negotiating, which is a useful skill in Turkey. It’s best to browse a bit first without looking too interested, then ask the shopkeeper for a price and if it seems too high, put the item down and walk to the door, the price will drop!


Arasta Bazaar
Arasta Bazaar

The best place to find handcrafted items is around Sultanahmet. Visiting the Arasta Bazaar behind the Blue Mosque is like traveling back in time to the Ottoman period as you explore the shops selling carpets, textiles, jewelry, pottery, and spices.

Street markets

Best Things To Buy In Istanbul
Kadikoy market

Istanbul, like other cities in Turkey, has regular street markets every day of the week, but the most famous and most visited by locals and tourists is the historic Tuesday market in Kadikoy, which sells textiles and clothing as well as delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re looking for designer clothes at great prices, the Thursday market in Ortaköy offers all of this, as well as cosmetics, home furnishings, and more. Feriköy Organic Market takes place on Saturday and offers certified organic fruits and vegetables, cosmetics, honey, and jams.

Shopping malls

Emaar Square Mall Istanbul
Emaar Square Mall

There are over 200 shopping malls in Istanbul, selling hundreds of different designer brands at varying prices. The largest and among the best shopping malls in Europe are Emaar Square Mall, Istinye Park, Kanyon, Cevahir, and Viaport Asia, to name a few. There is more than just shopping, these huge complexes offer various cafes and restaurants, cinemas and theaters, aquariums, amusement centers, playgrounds, bowling alleys, and much more.

Laws & Rules – what is not allowed?

Not everything you like is suitable as a souvenir from Turkey. There are certain restrictions as to what things should not be taken on the plane. Violations can result in severe penalties. Although we do not offer final legal advice on import and export with this article, we will briefly present the list of prohibited souvenirs here.


It is not allowed to export genuine antiques or archaeological finds from Turkey. So if you happen to find a very old-looking object on the beach or near a ruin, you should leave it to the local authorities. This also applies to coins or antique carpets that are at least 100 years old.


The export of weapons is severely restricted. This applies not only to modern firearms but also to antiquarian objects such as sabers, daggers, or old pistols. These things are occasionally offered at markets or in antique stores but are not suitable for export outside the country and therefore not suitable as souvenirs for loved ones at home.


In principle, it is not forbidden to take shells collected on the beach home with you. However, customs officials may assess these shells as antiquarian valuables when leaving the country. Then again, attempting to take someone out of the country is punishable. It is better to buy shells as a souvenir, keep the receipt and present it at the border or the airport if necessary. So you are on the safe side on your return journey.

Customs regulations and value restrictions

In general, there are a few restrictions to consider when leaving the country. For example, alcoholic drinks may only be exported up to a volume of five liters. A maximum of ten packs of cigarettes are permitted. Even souvenirs have a value limit of the equivalent of 1,000 US dollars . Anything above that must be declared as trade in goods.