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Finding the perfect souvenir is serious business, whether you’re looking for a loved one or yourself. After a while, souvenir shops all seem to stock the same items—it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.
But souvenirs should be so much more than a quick afterthought at the airport. Finding the perfect item to commemorate a hard-earned vacation and incorporate into your decor at home, or even an element to add to your desk at work, is an easy way to put a smile on your face. While this list doesn’t cover every single destination around the world—that would be quite the list—it does offer some suggestions for 25 popular destinations around the globe, from Paris to Cape Town. If anything, it might give you some inspiration to ditch the keychains and opt for something a little more personal.
Some of these items you’ll find in tourist hot spots, others you won’t. One thing is for sure: You’ll have a great time finding the perfect souvenir.
This blue-and-white pottery is recognizable around the world. The way it’s made is truly special: Each piece is crafted from clay coated with a tin glaze after firing, giving it a distinctive look. At one point, there were 33 different factories creating this pottery, but today Royal Delft is the only one remaining. You can find this pottery in shops around The Netherlands.
Buy it here.
Supa Dupa Incense, Bali
Scent is strongly associated with memory and what better way to transport yourself back to your trip than with some local incense? Supa Dupa is a Bali-based incense company that uses local ingredients. It’s often used for daily rituals, and “Temple Spice”—a blend of herbs, oils, nuts, flowers, and spices—has become a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
Buy it here.
Straw Hat, Bangkok
You’ll find locals hiding from the sun under large, straw hats. Head to one of the many floating markets around the city to find your favorite. While they’re worn daily without any kind of adornment, you can find hats with embroidered elements for a bit of added pizzazz, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Piece of the Berlin Wall, Berlin
Full disclaimer: There is no real way to tell if you’re buying an actual piece of the Berlin wall. There’s only so much of it to go around! But at the Berlin Wall Memorial, you can visit the shop which has pieces of the wall for sale. If anything, it’s a great story to tell—and that’s what souvenirs are actually for, anyway.
Batik Paintings, Cape Town
There is so much beautiful art that comes from local artists in Africa—think soapstone carvings or handmade beads—but the batik paintings are especially riveting. Often depicting traditional scenes and local wildlife, head to a market and ask around. If you’re lucky, you may find an artist willing to create you a custom painting.
Thyme Honey, Crete
Greece is known for producing honey infused with all kinds of flavors, but the subtle taste of thyme is one of the most popular. One producer, Saviolakis Family, collects thyme locally from a mountain region in Western Crete called Leka Ori, which is known for its flavorful thyme.
Buy it here.
Bohemian Glass, Prague
Also known as Czech crystal, Bohemian Glass is collected for its ornate patterns. This style of glassware has been around for hundreds of years and was originally used by royalty in the Middle Ages. Today, you can find it stores all around Prague. Traditionally, the glasses were color-free, but you can now find “stained” Bohemian Glass in shops.
Turkish Coffee, Istanbul
You’ll be thanking yourself every morning with this souvenir. After being ground, Turkish coffee is boiled with sugar, giving it a sweeter taste than the coffee you’re probably used to. Head to one of Istanbul’s many cafes to find a few bags to bring home and enjoy.
Chulucanas Pottery, Lima
Chulucanas is a region in Northwest Peru and the locals create incredible pottery. Today, you can find their artwork in shops across the country. Chulucanas pottery is known around the world for its beautiful patterns, which are applied after the piece has been shaped and fired. The potters dip the almost-finished piece in liquid clay and use different patterns to remove the liquid clay where they want the designs to show up black. To get the rich, dark hue, the kiln’s fire is stoked with mango leaves. Each piece is smoked four separate times to get the traditional coloring. After the piece is removed from the kiln, the artist will chip away at the excess flat to reveal the negative space design.
Luxurious Teas, London
Sure, tea may not seem like an exciting souvenir, but London offers so many specialty tea shops you can’t experience in other places around the world. For a truly luxe experience, head to Fortnum & Mason. Today, they offer much more than tea—you can also find wines, coffees, and spirits—but the variety of teas is overwhelming. From a traditional Royal Blend to the not-so-common Bloody Mary Tea, there’s something for every sipper.
Buy it here.
Summer Shoes, Madrid
Otherwise known as espadrilles, you can find these summer shoes in every style and color through the markets of Madrid. And you won’t just find tourists picking up these shoes—come the warmer months, locals stock up as well. They come in all kinds of materials, from leather to canvas. Head to Casa Hernanz off of Plaza Mayor to pick up a traditional pair, but you’ll likely be met with a long line out the door. Don’t let it scare you off. They’ve been making shoes since 1840 and they certainly know what they’re doing.
Ras El Hanout Spice Mix, Marrakech
You won’t regret asking for the Ras El Hanout mix from one of the many spice markets in Marrakech. What it is: It’s the traditional spice mix of North Africa. It translates to “head of shop,” meaning you’ll never go wrong with this mix. Each shop has its own special mix, making this the perfect thing to bring home and share with loved ones.
Mole Paste, Mexico City
While we’re on the topic of authentic ingredients, don’t leave Mexico without buying yourself some mole paste. Sure, your homemade mole may not tastes as good as the real deal you’ll enjoy on vacation, but getting quality mole paste will get you that much closer. This would make the perfect gift for the friend who is always hosting dinner parties.
Voodoo Doll, New Orleans
You can’t walk very far without hitting a voodoo shop in New Orleans. Whether or not the shop is owned by actual voodoo practitioners, the voodoo doll offerings cover a lot of bases. You can find a doll promising everything from a happier home life to new romance.
Vintage Coffee Cup, New York City
If there’s one thing most New Yorkers will agree on, it’s that you can’t start the day without a cup of coffee. Bodegas, shops, and food carts used to have one thing in common: the paper coffee cups depicting Greek-inspired lettering boasting “We Are Happy to Serve You.” These aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, but you can buy a ceramic version from the MoMA Design Store in SoHo. Relive your trip to the Big Apple every time you enjoy your morning coffee.
Buy it here.
Ginja and Chocolate Cups, Obidos
There’s a small town in Portugal called Obidos that’s home to a beautiful castle and an especially delicious history when it comes to drinking. Ginja is a liqueur made by infusing sour cherries with alcohol—usually brandy—and sugar. It’s traditionally taken like a shot in a small, chocolate cup. While it’s best to purchase Ginja in Obidos, it’s offered all around the country. It’s the perfect cultural experience to bring home to friends. Just make sure and pack the chocolate cups in your carry-on to avoid any damage.
Gummy Candy, Oslo
Norway does a lot of things right, but one of the best parts can be found in a grocery store: The candy aisle. You’ll find gummies in all flavors and shapes, from neon orange frogs to hot pink feet. Grab a bag and fill it up for a souvenir that will last you the entire plane ride home.
It’s impossible to think about Paris without images of freshly baked bread and croissants floating into your mind. Another thing Paris does really, really well: Macarons. Ladurée may be the most famous spot to pick up some sweets, but there are so many bakeries paying homage to this French staple. Check out La Maison du Chocolat for a French meringue take on the classic (which feature a softer shell) or Pierre Hermé, a pastry chef known to release macaron flavors in seasonal collections.
Moss Salt, Reykjavik
When you think of Iceland, you’re more likely to think of wool blankets and sweaters than salt. But Icelanders do a lot of creative things with the soft, moss that surrounds them. Not only do they put it in beer and skincare products, but you can also buy special moss salt. It gives the mineral an earthy kick that tastes great sprinkled over any meal.
Custom Calligraphy, Shanghai
You can find plenty of calligraphy shops in the People’s Square area, but you may also have some luck asking shop owners where you can find a calligrapher who will create custom work. Remember: Calligraphy isn’t limited to paper. You can also find this beautifully written language on silk if you’re looking for something truly special.
Dala Horse, Stockholm
These ultra-traditional tchotchkes are painted in every color of the rainbow, but the red horses are seen as the most traditional. These wooden horses are a nod to when men would spend their days working in the forests—they would whittle these horses during their downtime and bring them back for the village’s children to play with. Later, they became a source of income as people began to carve and sell them to travelers passing through.
Kit Kats, Tokyo
We’re not talking about the usual chocolate Kit Kats. In Japan, you can find a whole new world of flavors that aren’t available in the United States. From green tea and apple to Japanese sake and wasabi, the options are seemingly endless.
Venetian Mask, Venice
You can buy a Venetian mask in most souvenir shops lining the streets of busy cities in Italy, but head to Venice and check out Ca’Macana for the ultimate experience. There, you can even design your own mask.
This isn’t your grandma’s lace. The art of making lace in the area dates back to the Renaissance, but you’ll find a whole plethora of modern designs on your trip. Croatian lace is a bit thicker and you can find both organic shapes and geometric patterns. Fun fact: Croatian lacemaking was added to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Europe in 2009. There are three different cities in Croatia known for their special take on the craft: Hvar, Pag, and Lepoglava. In Hvar, you can find lace made from agave leaves, produced only by the nuns in the city’s convent.
Zurich should be a required visit for chocoholics around the world. Not only is it home to some of the world’s most famous chocolatiers, the scent of chocolate from the factories blow off of Lake Zurich in the winter. (Try and name a more idyllic scene—we’ll wait.) Use your search for souvenirs as an excuse to take some of the tours through the main factories: Confiserie Sprüngli, Lindt, Max Chocolatier, Confiserie Teuscher, and Honold.