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Are you getting ready to depart for a well deserved vacation? Perhaps you’re already at your destination, enjoying the holiday of a lifetime. Either way, chances are that you’ve spent some time thinking about souvenirs, and the sort of mementos or keepsakes that you can bring back home to present to friends and loved ones. If you’re still not sure what to buy, or can’t yet find something that best encapsulates your time away - don’t worry!
You’ll find plenty of ideas in our souvenirs guide, which is brimming with original gift and trinket ideas. We’ve listed the best and most unique souvenirs to bring back from 20 different destinations across Europe and beyond.
Algeria has been a popular holiday destination for French tourists for several decades, but due to out of date safety fears and a lack of external promotion, the country attracts fewer visitors from the United Kingdom and the United States. Nonetheless, Algeria has a diverse landscape and lots to offer travellers, as well as many unique souvenirs, traditional handicrafts, and cheap gift ideas.
Berber carpets, wooden and metalwork antiques, ceramics, and leather goods are all popular examples of the type of handicrafts typically produced in Algeria. Perfect for refreshing your home’s interior, you’ll find affordable rugs, collectables, and decorative pieces within local markets and stores. Leather goods are a popular alternative, if you already have enough cushions and coasters, with various accessories and bags to suit most tastes.
You’ll find plenty of jewellery stores in Algiers, typically offering traditional Algerian silver necklaces, rings, and earrings. Algerian jewellery is usually handmade, and many pieces are unique ‘one-offs’, making them a wonderful gift idea if you’re shopping for someone special, or even just looking for your own small keepsake to remember your trip by.
If you want to bring back a traditional Algerian outfit, or at least part of one, you might want to consider a Karakou. The Karakou is a typical Algerian wedding outfit worn by women, which looks similar to an embroidered jacket. The style originates from the city of Algiers, but you'll find these in local markets all around the country.
For the most functional souvenir possible, you could bring back a range of Algerian food and drinks to gift to family and friends. We recommend olive oil, dates, and of course spices such as turmeric, black cumin seeds, saffron, or Ras-el-Hanout. Make sure these are kept securely sealed in decent packaging or bags, and that you’re allowed to import them into your home country.
If you decide to spend a few days in Belgium, you shouldn’t have any trouble bringing back unique keepsakes and mementos from your trip. Yes, you’ll find the predictable yet delectable chocolate pralines that Belgium is recognised for, but you’ll also find quirky Manneken Pis replicas, board games that take you back to 15th-century Bruges, and pictures of ugly Belgian houses. We suggest purchasing:
Named after the city of Brussels, this lace is made up of numerous intertwining threads. It’s often used to make handkerchiefs, tablecloths, and parasols. Brussels lace is well known for its delicacy and beauty. It was originally made from the finest spun linen thread, which was spun in dark damp rooms to keep it from becoming too brittle. Only one ray of light was allowed into the room, and it was arranged so that it fell upon the thread. Antique pieces aren't cheap, as unfortunately it's now a dying artform.
“Manneken Pis” basically means ‘little pissing man’, and it’s the name given to the 61 cm tall bronze fountain sculpture in the centre of Brussels, which depicts a young boy urinating into the fountain's basin. Due to it’s relatively small size, you will find many scale reproductions of this unique Belgian symbol for sale in Brussels.
Belgium is famous for its beers, which vary from pale lagers to amber ales, lambic beers, Flemish red ales, sour brown ales, strong ales, and stouts. Unsurprisingly, Belgian beer makes a great souvenir, even if you’re not the biggest beer lover yourself. Why not take a few bottles home? You’re sure to find someone who will appreciate it, as any beer lover would count his or her lucky stars to have you for their Secret Santa.
With its striking coastlines, cosmopolitan cities, and diverse jungles, Brazil is a pretty exciting country to visit. Even if you’re only passing through for a few days, there’s no better way to remember your trip than to pick up a few exotic items that can only be found in Brazil. Due to its impressive size and the variations between the different states, souvenirs from Brazil can differ more than most might think, but we’ve listed the most popular:
A huge variety of gems and stones can be found in Brazil, which are widely used in the production of jewellery and sculptures. Most tourists opt for types of quartz, namely amethyst, citrine, rock crystal, and agate, but you can also purchase precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds, and rubies, plus decorative rocks.
Every February, Brazil celebrates Carnival, a famous festival held across the four days before Ash Wednesday.The Carnival festival is the most popular event of the year in Brazil, and represents a last chance to party and over indulge before the fasting period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. If you’re lucky enough to take part, you’ll have the perfect opportunity once the Carnival is over to grab a samba headdress or costume.
Football might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Brazil, but music also plays a large role in Brazillian culture. Take the opportunity to bring back a traditional musical instrument such as a banjo or a mandolin, which, even if you don’t play, make for interesting home accessories.
Brazil is a major producer of Cachaça, an alcohol based sugar cane, which is little known in Europe. It’s similar to rum, but sweeter in taste. Brazil is also famous for nut production, although you may not be able to take these home. Check with customs! And of course Guarana and Açai, the much hyped superfoods, can be found everywhere. You’re simply spoiled for choice when it comes to food products in Brazil.
If you’ve left home in search of a romantic mountain getaway, or an adventurous trek through the Canadian wilderness, souvenir shopping might not be on the forefront of your mind. Canada, however, is full of unique products and a surprising number of traditional handicrafts that are ideal for bringing back memories, or as gifts for your loved ones.
Ice hockey is Canada's national sport, and we strongly recommend that you make the time to go to a game, as you won't be disappointed. While you’re there, you’ll find a wide choice of clothing and accessories (sticks, shuffleboard, helmets ...) for sale, which simultaneously celebrate the sport and the country. Of course these would make perfect gifts for a friend or family member who's fond of the sport, but don’t underestimate the decorative power of these objects, even if you’re not much of a winter sports fan.
Unique to Canada, these sculptures were originally manufactured by the Inuit people. Made from piled stones, they are assembled to resemble a human body, and were used for navigation in the frozen north. These days you will mostly find replicas, as well as objects which use the Inukshuk sculpture as a form of logo.
Of course, maple syrup and smoked salmon should be on the top of your list, as these are the most essentially Canada foods that you’ll find anywhere. There are also a large number of derivatives for sale, such as salmon jerky, which is a kind of Canadian jerky alternative made from dried pieces of salmon. Aside from these, we also recommend that you consider bringing back ice cider or wine; spirits that are made from apples and grapes harvested after they’ve been frozen, which gives them a unique flavour.
Chile is a fascinating holiday destination for nature lovers, due to its bountiful natural parks, and the perfect retreat for those interested in history and the mysteries posed by Easter Island. During the late 20th century, Chile was largely associated with its oppressive ruling regime, however the country has worked hard to cast aside the shackles of the past and open itself up to tourists. In terms of souvenirs, Chile is primarily known for premium wines and colourful crafts, and its main exports are copper, fruit, fish products, paper, and pulp. If you’re looking to buy Chilean souvenirs, we recommend:
A turquoise coloured stone, found in large quantities across Chile. Lapis lazuli is Chile’s national stone and holds a special place in its national culture. The Incas and other pre-Columbian people mined and carved this stone for thousands of years, well before the arrival of Europeans. And, as you would expect, this material is still used in all sorts of traditional handicrafts and handmade gifts; especially in jewellery and in sculptures. You’ll find Lapis Lazuli in Chile at almost any artesian stand or jewellery shop.
When thinking of traditional Chilean clothing, the Huaso, the typical outfit worn by Chilean cowboys, first comes to mind. It consists of a straw hat and a jacket for men, and for women, a bright dress with several flounces. Aside from cowboy clothes, you can also purchase ponchos and a wide range of clothing made from alpaca wool.
Pisco, a type of grape liqueur that can also include additional fruit such as lime, mango, or even avocado, is the most popular type of alcohol in Chile. You probably won't find it in bottleshops back in your home country, so take advantage while you can! If you have a friend or family member that enjoys sweet treats or trying new beverages, Pisco could be a wonderful personalised gift idea.
China has always been a land of invention and innovation, which makes it easy when it comes to purchasing gifts. For centuries, China was ahead of other nations when it came to developments in science and technology, astronomy, and mathematics. The Chinese invented paper, the magnetic compass, printing, tea, porcelain, silk, fireworks and gunpowder, among other things. You won’t be able to bring the last two suggestions home, so instead we’ve listed:
Baiju is the most popular type of distilled spirit made and consumed in China. It’s a strong liquor made from cereals, sorghum, and sometimes rice. You can buy a bottle in most places, from FamilyMart to a specialty bottle shop. Please note, this spirit is usually sold in variations that are between 28 and 65% pure alcohol, so make sure you consume Baiju in moderation!
You will find a lot of silk clothing for sale in China, both in the markets and in department stores. It’s often sold at very attractive prices, compared to in Western countries, so you can see this as a great opportunity to add a few new pieces to your wardrobe. Alternatively, if you’re looking for more traditional souvenirs, you can buy something that reminds you of China, such as the ceremonial Pienfu, Changpao, or Shenyi.
Made by the Warrior (Huili) brand, these sneakers are a famous Chinese symbol. Warrior shoes have largely resisted 'westernisation’, and put performance and durability at the forefront of design. You can pick up a pair for approximately $15.00 - $20.00, which is an absolute bargain. The company’s most successful design, the WB-1 basketball sneaker, has remained unchanged for more than 40 years. Talk about a unique Chinese souvenir!
A beautiful backdrop for any holiday, Colombia is an excellent choice for a week away in the sun, or as the starting point for discovering South America. But what about Colombian souvenirs? Columbia produces all sorts of agricultural products, from coffee to bananas, sugarcane, cocoa beans, oilseed, and panela, to shrimp and cut flowers. None of which are great to store in your suitcase! Instead, we suggest:
Nearly 80% of the emeralds in world circulation come from Columbia, making Bogota the ideal place to shop for these precious stones. If the price of gems typically exceeds your budget, you might be able to haggle for some small stones. Similar to diamonds, very small emeralds fail to command the same high prices that larger stones sell for. If you pick some small gems, you might be able to get the seller down to a more affordable price.
These bags are very popular in Colombia, which make them a great authentic and practical souvenir. Wayuu bags are handmade crochet bags, which are crafted by the largest indigenous artisan population of the Americas, the Wayuu tribe. Weavers employ a combination of crochet and weaving techniques to produce these beautiful bags, and typically use traditional motifs.
Okay, so not an actual bus, but a ceramic replica Chiva bus, which has become one of Colombia’s most iconic souvenir exports in recent years. Visitors will find them for sale in just about every market in town, and sizes range from small pocket-sized buses to large table-top ones. They’re often colourful in their design - covered in images of coffee bags, bananas, and pots and pans, just like the real versions.
Part of any trip to Egypt involves travelling to the souk’s for souvenirs, to remind you of the memories made and shared there. These mementos are often brought back as gifts for loved ones, to make them feel like they were remembered, and somewhat part of the experience. Since Egypt is home to many ancient monuments and cultural treasures, there are plenty of keepsakes that showcase the country’s individuality. Here’s what to bring back from the land of the pyramids:
It’s difficult to write about Egypt without mentioning the pyramids. You’ll find many small reproductions while in cities such as Cairo, but if you want to purchase something a little more unique or original, you could opt for a reproduction canopic jar, a type of vessel which was traditionally used in the mummification process to store the organs of the deceased.
What’s more unique than sending a postcard made from papyrus to a loved one? Papyrus was the paper used during the ancient Egyptian period, and was made from the pith of the papyrus plant. Of course, the scrolls sold nowadays are replicas, but many can look quite authentic. Papyrus scrolls differ in size and have different designs and shapes printed on them, from battle scenes to religious iconography, to the Hieroglyphic alphabet.
The Jalabiya is a typically Egyptian garment worn by women as well as men, so you won’t have much trouble finding one in the country’s many souks and souvenir stores. Although you may not find many Egyptians wearing them in Cairo, you will find people in rural areas still wearing them.
If you enjoyed sampling Egyptian cuisine while on holiday, why hesitate to bring the essence home? You can stock up on spices in the bazaars, as both fresh and dried coriander, cardamom, chili, aniseed, bay leaves, dill, parsley, ginger, cinnamon, mint, and cloves are all commonly sold.
The United Kingdom is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and produces millions of (sometimes tacky) souvenirs to cater to visitors. Instead of picking up tea towels with Prince Charles’ face pictured on the front, t-shirts with Big Ben prints, or souvenir fridge magnets of buses and mailboxes, consider bringing back something a little more special. Depending on which counties or cities you visit, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to purchase unique souvenirs and gifts.
Marks & Spencers food halls are almost an institution in the United Kingdom. Nearly every British person will have enjoyed a Colin the Caterpillar Cake or a Percy Pig sweet at some time or another. You can’t visit the UK and avoid trying a packet sandwich from M&S, or picking up a box of their chocolate biscuits. Just be warned - Marks & Spencers sandwiches are so popular that they often sell out well before lunchtime. If you’re looking for a more ‘out of the box’ souvenir, do what the British do and head to M&S.
Tea is truly a symbol of English culture, and very light to pack in your suitcase! There are numerous different varieties for sale in the UK, alongside a range of cakes to accompany them. If you’re after something that packs a little more punch, you could always bring back a jar of Marmite, a form of special molasses that is spread on bread, or a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. Although to be honest, you’re probably safer sticking to the tea!
If you can’t leave London without picking up one of these, we won’t judge. Hundreds of thousands of little double-decker buses, Big Bens, and Palaces of Westminster are sold every year. On the the plus side, these small items are largely representative of the country's main symbols, and will fit in your carryon luggage without issue. Not one of the most unusual gifts, but always appreciated.
This sort of souvenir is sold all over the world, but remain surprisingly popular. You’ll have no trouble finding t-shirts, bags, and pens with “I Love London” stamped on them somewhere. Should you venture to cities such as Bristol, Manchester, or Birmingham, you’re sure to find the local versions for sale there too.
Germany may not be the most exotic destination listed in this article, but a visit to this popular European nation presents plenty of opportunities to bring back some interesting and unique souvenirs. Germany has a rich culture steeped in tradition and history, not to mention plenty of shops and markets filled with intricate hand-crafted toys, tasty sweets and treats, and unique festive ornaments. The country’s shelves are stacked with some of the best mementos and trinkets that you can find.
German Christmas markets draw in millions of visitors every December, with their glamorous fairs and nostalgic stalls. You can view the twinkling lights, mountainous Christmas trees, sip on mulled wine, and purchase the odd decoration or two. Granted, Christmas decorations might not be the most useful souvenirs for eleven months out of twelve, but the hand blown glass examples can be beautiful, and the wooden angels are highly collectable.
If you’re purchasing clothes for a man, opt for Lederhose, a kind of short dungaree, traditionally made of leather and which stops a little above the knees. For women, instead opt for a Dirndl, the traditional Bavarian peasant dress. It consists of a corset, a skirt and an apron. Don’t forget to get the matching hats!
If you’d like to bring back some German gastronomic specialties, we have two main suggestions: beer and chocolate. Not only is Germany renowned for the quality of its chocolate, but it’s especially well known for the huge range of beers that you will find there. If you don’t mind the odd tipple, or you know a beer lover, then a gift box from a local brewery is the ideal souvenir. Sure, they will disappear quickly, but nothing prevents you from keeping the bottles!
For many first-time travellers, going on vacation to India can be as unsettling as it is satisfying. You’ll discover a completely new culture, and undoubtedly experience a degree of ‘culture shock’. Luckily, there’s no need to travel around the entire country to find a unique piece of India to take back home. You’ll find that the lanes and markets in cities like New Delhi offer an eclectic selection of souvenirs, making it easy to find something that represents the essence of India.
Woven carpets are a great example of Indian craftsmanship, and stand out as an ideal representative piece to mark your travels. Carpets and rugs can easily be rolled up and transported, which means that you should have no trouble bringing one back home. You will find an excellent selection of handmade rugs and carpets sold in local markets and stalls, both in terms of colours, patterns, and prices.
Silk Saris are the traditional garment worn by Indian women. Made with intensive labour and often brilliant handwork, colourful Saris are both a unique piece of Indian culture and a beautiful souvenir to take back home. In contrast, Indian men were the Kurta, a type of loose collarless shirt. Both can easily be purchased in markets and stalls, and prices differ depending on the quality of the garment, the level of skill involved, and amount of labour that went into its manufacture.
You will find all sorts of gold and silver jewellry in India, and often at attractive prices. Indian jewellery is made using an extensive range of intricate patterns and beautiful designs, with styles that range from trendy to traditional. Just be aware that if you’re purchasing gold jewellry, much of it will be plated. Always check before purchasing, or stick to trusted stores if you’re unsure.
Among the local specialties that we recommend, tea is the easiest to find and transport home. You’ll find various tea blends in India, often brewed to perfection with mixes of herbs and spices like cardamom and cloves. Try as many different varieties as you can during your vacation, and then take the ones you like back with you, as enjoyable tokens of India or as gifts to share with friends.
As the birthplace of many religions, Israel is an ideal country for a relaxed vacation or a spiritual pilgrimage. Trips to Israel are often filled with culture, history, sightseeing, and food, but there’s always time to make room for a little shopping. Whether you’re looking to create the last memories of your Israel adventure, or stock up on gifts for your friends and family back home, you’ll find plenty of specialised gifts and classic souvenir items that are well worth making some extra room in your luggage for.
Diamonds are one of the pillars of the Israeli economy and you will find them everywhere! The diamond exchange in Israel is the largest in the world, and it's known to export over $7 billion worth of diamonds on a global scale. Most high-end stores sell local diamonds, which is a good place to start if you’d like to leave Israel with a sparking souvenir. If your budget is tight, you might get lucky and find some smaller stones for sale.
Of course there are cosmetics for sale everywhere, but the examples that you can find in Israel are particularly unique. Many Israeli cosmetics contain minerals that are sourced directly from the Dead Sea, which are known to improve the health and wellbeing of your skin. Taking a day trip to the Dead Sea is a great way to experience the spa-like effects of the water and mud first hand, and pick up a few Israeli souvenirs while you’re there.
Israel is a major producer of olive oil, and also of wine. Among the most famous Israeli wines, we recommend you try a couple of different bottles sourced from the Galilee and the Negev Judean Hills. If you’re a fan of sweet products, you can always opt for dates or honey instead. And finally, there are many traditional spices used in Israeli cooking, such as Za’atar. Za’atar is a great gift idea for food lovers back home, as it's inexpensive and easy to pack.
The list of things that you can purchase while in Italy is endless, and differs from region to region. Many travellers ask what are the best souvenirs to buy from Italy, but we think the answer largely depends on where you want to do your shopping and what you like best. The two main types of Italian souvenirs are artisan handicrafts and local food, and this, you’ll find all over the country.
Food might come to mind first when you think of Italy, but fashion will surely be a close second. Don’t hesitate to venture into some of the more famous Italian stores and stock up on things like designer bags, sunglasses, shoes, jackets, and suits. If the price tags at Valentino, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace make your eyes water, head to stores such as Germano Zama, Mariella Burani, Sandro Ferrone, or Ermenegildo Zegna for men, and Marella and Luisa Spagnoli for women.
When it comes to food and alcohol, Italy has a lot to offer. You certainly won’t suffer from a lack of choice. And you will certainly have to make choices, as you will not be able to bring everything back home with you! Olive oil, mozzarella, parmesan, cold meats, or risotto rice are all examples of national specialties that you can safely store away in your luggage. Of course, wine lovers will be delighted with the huge variety of vintages sold at very attractive prices. If you want something a little stronger, go for a bottle of Limoncello.
One product Italy is specially well known for is leather - you can find all sorts of leather goods and clothing carried in different markets, shops, and department stores. Italian leather is always high quality and will last a long time - as long as you take good care of it! Why not pick up a new jacket or pair of boots? If you’re short on packing space, there’s always small items like luggage tags or belts.
Wondering what to buy whilst in Japan to bring back as gifts for family and friends? With so much on offer, from novelty gifts to traditional handicrafts, you shouldn’t have any trouble picking up one or two souvenirs on your travels. From candy to kimonons, traditional knives to anime, Pokemon toys and arcade game prizes, there’s plenty to eat, experience, and purchase in Japan.
The Yukata, a light summer version of the kimono, is a popular souvenir from Japan that many overseas visitors like to purchase. During the summer months you can find them for sale everywhere, even in major supermarkets such as Aeon or Ito Yokado. If you’re short on time, you can pick up Yukatas with traditional Japanese designs in UNIQLO stores. Even if you don’t see yourself wearing one while out and about, they serve well as pajamas, and are reportedly very comfortable.
Omamoris are a form of Japanese amulet that you can buy in shrines and temples. They are unique to Japan, and make a perfect gift if mounted onto a bracelet or necklace. They’re said to provide various forms of luck or protection, and can be used to ward off bad luck. You’ll see them used in all cities across Japan, and can easily be spotted on bags, hung on cell phone straps, and over car mirrors.
Bento boxes are a typical Japanese accessory, used to store meals in a well organised and aesthetically pleasing manner. You will find some variations for sale that also come with a set of chopsticks, plus additional accessories like small molds to help form seaweed or eggs into the perfect shape. These can be packed inside suitcases with ease, and are a great example of practical souvenirs that won’t just gather dust when you bring it home.
Sake is a traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice. Unlike wine, in which alcohol is made by fermenting the sugar found in fruit, sake is instead produced by a brewing process that is more akin to that of beer. The Japanese gently warm Sake in a small earthenware or porcelain bottle before consuming, and then sip it from a small porcelain cup called a sakazuki. A souvenir that should be enjoyed in moderation!
Although the word ‘souvenir’ is closely linked to ‘overpriced tat’ in many places, there’s still nothing better than picking up unique and extraordinary souvenirs, to hand out to family and friends back home. With its rich, diverse history and colourful blend of cultures, influenced by ancient civilisations such as the Aztec and Maya, as well as by European colonisation, Mexico is a great place to find items that are inexpensive and a little different. Here are our favourite options that won’t leave you with buyer’s regret:
The molinillo is a Mexican-style cooking whisk, mainly used for the preparation of hot drinks such as hot chocolate. Pair this with some handmade Mexican chocolate, and it’s the ideal gift to give to your friends. Or you could always buy two, and keep one for yourself for the preparation of your own sweet treats.
For a souvenir that is different, but inexpensive, and at the same time completely iconic, you could get a Mexican wrestling mask. Mexican wrestling has a well-rooted folklore, and its brightly colored masks make original decorations to bring back as a souvenir of your vacation. You can choose from all sorts of designs, from animals to superheroes, or go for a classic and buy the mask of El Santo.
Most people are familiar with the symbol of the Day of the Dead, a skull decorated with flowers called Calvera Catrina. You will find this logo on an incalculable number of souvenirs, from t-shirts to ashtrays, which can all be picked up from a growing number of markets and speciality stores.
Mole powder is a good example of a culinary specialty that you can bring back as a gift from Mexico. To find it, head to any of the indoor markets in Mexico City, such as the Mercado Medellín, and you’ll find vendors selling bewildering quantities of freshly ground mole powder. If you have the opportunity, consider bringing back some fresh vanilla, since it's one of Mexico’s biggest exports, as well as coffee beans, and chocolate.
While it’s true that you can buy almost anything while travelling in Morocco, your choice of souvenirs will very much depend on where you visit to the country takes you. Different goods are produced in different regions, and the locals advise that it makes no sense to buy the wrong item from the wrong place. Argan oil for example, will be much more expensive if you buy it in Tangier, and potentially of worse quality than if you sourced it from Agadir. Nevertheless, Morocco is a shopping paradise, and you’ll find ample gifts and original souvenirs to bring home.
Argan oil is produced exclusively in Morocco, so it's worth bringing some back with you. It is famous for its hydration and anti-aging properties, but can also be used for cooking purposes. Argan is grown in the southern regions of the country, and the oil is extracted from roasted seeds. As there are two types of argan; cosmetic and culinary, you’ll need to specify which sort you’re after.
Even today, morococan leather is still made in the same way that it was first produced, hundreds of years ago. The famous tanning souks of Fez are one of the most photographed sites in all of North Africa and the techniques used there have hardly changed. You’ll find that the souks are brimming with leather goods, and you’ll have no problem finding belts, shoes, wallets, and bags. If you have good negotiating skills, try haggling in the souk for souvenirs to acquire some inexpensive gifts. The price of leather goods depends on the type of leather used, whether it's goat, camel, sheep, or cow skin, the quality of the work, and the overall look of the item itself.
The traditional Moroccan costume worn by both men and women is called the Djellaba. It’s a form of comfortable, woven throbe that will help you to endure the warm, humid climate a little easier. You will find a wide variety of them for sale in the Moroccan souks, which you can try haggling for. Slippers also form part of the traditional Moroccan outfit, and you will find them for sale everywhere, in diverse patterns and colors.
Moroccan rugs and carpets have earnt a very good reputation over the centuries, for their quality and for their beauty. Let yourself be seduced, you will not regret it. There are dozens of different styles and price ranges available. And even the most expensive rug purchased in Morocco will be far less expensive than if it were bought in a Western country such as the United States, United Kingdom, or Australia.
Moroccan cuisine is excellent, and as long as you’re exploring this fascinating country, why not take the opportunity to stock up on spices so that you can make delicious and authentic tagines once you get home? Ras Hanout, coriander seeds, saffron or even turmeric are all essential for a good Moroccan tagine. A word of advice if you’re a novice in the kitchen; the best spices to buy in Morocco are the spices that you think you will use when you get home. If you’re not sure, stick to well known and loved favorites such as cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and white pepper.
While a trip to Russia is not for the faint of heart, it’s a good way to explore a different culture, try new cuisine, and learn more about the country’s long and troubled history. In terms of souvenir shopping, Russia is well known for its folk crafts and wonderful works of religious art, both of which make a nice gift. No matter which area you travel to in this country, you’ll find valenki, matryoshka, balalaikas, samovars, and ceramics. Every region has its own distinctive features and unique handicrafts, so you’re certain to find a selection of interesting gifts to bring back from Russia.
These famous Russian dolls, or matryoshka, make an excellent souvenir or gift idea evoking Russia. The name originates from the word Matryona, which was a common female Russian name many years ago. You will find a wide variety of these wooden dolls for sale in stores and in markets. You can either opt for a more traditional design, or something more modern, painted to the likeness of a famous politician or football player. If you’re staying for more than a few days, you can also order a customised set of Matryoshka dolls based on photographs of your individual family members.
These will be of little use to you if you live in a warm region, but fur coats, shapkas, and even fur lined boots are all typical examples of Russian winter clothing that you can find for sale in the country. For those back at home, you can buy garments with the infamous hammer and sickle logo embroidered on. They might not be to everyone’s taste, but they are unmistakably Russian.
Birch bark is a material widely used in Russia for making handicrafts such as jewellery boxes. It is often cut in such a way as to reveal patterns that will remind you of your travels in this great country. Birch is the symbolic tree of Russia, and there are several museums dedicated to the use of the material. Make sure you check with customs authorities before purchasing one, as you won’t be able to import untreated wood into countries such as Australia.
It’s impossible to mention local Russian specialties and avoid naming vodka, a true national symbol. If you are not a big fan of the vodkas found for sale in your home country, do not be discouraged from trying local varieties, as Russian vodka often tastes smoother. Besides vodka, there are many other gift possibilities at your disposal, if you’re shopping for food and drinks, like caviar or chocolate. Russian cuisine is rich in both history and in carbs, so there’s plenty of products to try and to bring home, such as bread, cakes, sweets, and dairy, and of course kvass.
Only a few hours away from countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, Spain is a popular holiday destination for many Europeans. It’s home to some incredible architecture, fascinating history, and gorgeous sandy beaches, as well as some distinctly original gifts and unusual products. Each town and city offers a variety of different souvenir shops with an array of items, perfect to recall a wonderful vacation. Some items are considered to be kitsch by the locals, so those looking to avoid items that were originally manufactured in China, should consider:
Traditionally worn by Spanish flamenco dancers, these figure-hugging dresses have a ruffled skirt and sleeves to add to the effect of the famous dance. While the dresses are identified with Andalusia and its famous flamenco culture, the design actually originated with the Romani people in the 19th century. The dresses can be pricey, but they do make a great gift idea for lovers of dance. To complete the style, add in a traditional Spanish fan.
If you have the opportunity to visit the walled city of Toledo, you’ll soon find that it is impossible to escape the number of souvenir stalls and shops selling blades of all sizes and shapes. This is largely because Toledo is historically renowned as a production centre for steel and swords. Toledo knives are an original gift idea and easily customisable, since the vast majority of sellers will offer you the opportunity to have the blade engraved. Just ensure that you pack the knife carefully inside your checked baggage on your return. You certainly can’t carry these items in your hand luggage!
No trip to Spain is complete without trying the local cuisine and specialties. Whether you're on a short city break in Barcelona or Madrid, or you've travelled a little further to enjoy a countryside or coastal retreat, you’ll find that Spanish food is full of flavour and character. There are also plenty of products that you can bring home for friends and family, including Serrano ham, olive oil, or Touron, a type of confectionery made with delicious honey and almonds.
South Africa is a well known and frequented holiday destination, due to its contrasting mix of vibrant and exotic landscapes. From nature reserves to beaches, lush winelands, breathtaking clifftop scenery, and picturesque lagoons, there’s something for everyone in this sun-soaked country. But what should you bring back to remember your trip by? Why not consider:
Johannesburg is also known as the city of gold, which presents the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, and purchase a souvenir while out sightseeing. If you don’t fancy buying jewellery, you may want to consider purchasing a gold coin bearing the image of Nelson Mandela. Coins bearing Mandela’s image and name are highly popular gifts in South Africa, making them a perfect souvenir or gift idea.
Alongside precious metals, South Africa is also famous for its diamond industry. Ever since the Kimberley diamond strike of 1868, South Africa has been a world leader in diamond production. Of course these are not inexpensive mementos by any means, but you can find smaller gems which are sold at lower price points. While the price of diamonds increases exponentially, the greater the size, smaller diamonds are much more affordable.
Biltong is a typical South African treat, which remains particularly popular with Afrikaners. It’s similar to jerky, and made using dried beef, which is then seasoned with vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and occasionally chili. Just make sure that you check the customs regulations in your home country before packing away several bags of Biltong in your suitcase. Not all countries will allow you to import this product, or may want to inspect it when you arrive at the airport.
Recognised for their warrior culture and victorious battle strategies against the British, the Zulu tribe is still very much present in South Arifcan life, culture, and politics, and you’ll find many replica Zulu weapons for sale within the country. It’s unlikely that you’d need to use a Zulu shield upon your return home, but it is a great decorative object that could add a bit of colour or interest to most living rooms. At worst, it would still function as an interesting talking piece.
If you watched the 2010 Football World Cup, then you’re likely to be familiar with this (incredibly) noisy horn. The vuvuzela is the perfect gift for children, who have a lot of space to place outside, or family members who aren’t so keen on their next door neighbours.
The last country on this list is Thailand, a popular destination for many overseas tourists due to its affordable accommodation, low food/drink costs, warm climate, and its sandy beaches. The Land of Smiles is also a renowned shoppers paradise. There are street markets, floating markets, night markets, and the world-famous chatuchak weekend market. In fact, Thailand produces an impressive selection of products, foodstuffs, textiles, ornaments, gifts, and other remarkable items that can all be purchased cheaply and easily. But which original gifts should you bring back from your trip to Thailand?
You’ll find many different items of silk clothing for purchase in Thailand, sold at prices much lower than those that you will find in Western countries. Thailand is famous for its silk, and for many it’s a must-buy item when visiting. From colourful scarves to bags, tops and pants, to large bolts of fabric, Thailand offers a wide variety of beautiful silks. The degree of choice on offer is immense, as there are multiple different styles available in an infinite number of bright colors.
Thailand has large sapphire deposits, which has given rise to a strong jewellery industry. The country is also one of the top 10 manufacturers of jewellery in the world, proof of its know-how, craftsmanship, and technical expertise. If you are travelling on a tight budget, but still want to bring back a couple of pieces of jewellery, then set your sights on braided fabric or leather bracelets, which are mainly intended for the thousands of backpackers who crisscross the country.
Boxing is the national Thai sport of choice, especially the Muay Thai variety. If you are going to see a match, why not buy a pair of shorts as a souvenir? Even if you don't box, we have no doubt that you will find these useful for wearing around the house or in the gym. It’s also an original gift idea for a loved one who practices the sport.
Thai cuisine is enjoyed all over the world. If you are going for a walk through the floating markets, consider stocking up on spices, sauces, and curry powders, in order to bring home a little of what makes Thai cuisine so special. Sauces and spices make wonderful souvenirs, and are available nearly everywhere. There’s also a good selection of commercially packaged spices for sale in the duty-free shops at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Be sure to follow all the appropriate customs regulations, and declare these as ‘foodstuffs’ on your way home.
And that completes our list of unique souvenirs from around the world! Have we missed anything? If you can think of an essential or special gift idea that’s absent from our list, get in touch with us at The Travelling Souk via email. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.