Go beyond the airport gift shop to find truly unique items and gifts.
Keyrings, postcards, and magnets make sweet souvenirs to buy and are often the go-to at the end of a trip, but memorabilia of greater sentiment and rarity can make for a better gift and a way to remember your travels by.
Bringing back a token from our holidays is like bringing back a piece of a place. Throughout my travels, I have collected items from various destinations to add to my home or to wear. Whether it’s art or pottery, clothing or jewelry, having something unique from your travels not only makes for a special souvenir but can also prove a thoughtful gift.
To tell a story to guests when asked about an item in your home or to share the origin of a keepsake when gifting a special souvenir allow us to retain and share wanderlust. Inspired by my own travels, here are some of the more unique and special items I’ve found that make for memorable keepsakes and gifts (and are infinitely more exciting than an airport keychain).
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Murano, Italy
Glass made on Murano Island in the lagoon of Venice is like no other. Vases, candlestick holders, glassware, and ornaments are handmade with delicate designs and exquisite colors, making its craftsmanship unparalleled. While Murano Glassware is world famous, each creation is unique, so any chosen item is of great value in both price and sentiment and an exceptional gift to bring home from Italy.
WHERE: Marrakech, Morocco
No matter how many times I visit, I cannot help but come away from Marrakech with some kind of ceramic piece. The decorative plates, bowls, and tea cups come in a range of fine designs, which display a great deal of love applied. Morocco, as a whole, is rich in culture, much of which is found in its handicrafts, so it’s only right to have a little piece of the culture come back with you. Wander through Jemaa El-Fna, the main square and marketplace of Marrakech, to find plenty of beautiful ceramics.
WHERE: Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is home to the world’s largest covered market, the Grand Bazaar, where just about anything can be bought. Furniture, accessories, spices, ornaments, the options are endless, making it impossible to come away empty-handed. I particularly fell in love with the calligraphy and miniature Ottoman paintings at Galeri Sufi owned by Zekai Dönerkan, who contributes to keeping a historic tradition and beautiful practice of calligraphy, alive.
WHERE: Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
There is a plethora of items to choose from when visiting Rajasthan, including pashmina shawls, sarees, spices, teas, pottery, and gorgeous gold jewelry. I found that the gold pendants in Udaipur are striking due to their fine craftsmanship in designs and icons that hold significant meaning. For example, Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god of beginnings and remover of obstacles, or Om, a sacred symbol of Hinduism known to represent the universe and to be the sound of creation when said as a mantra.
WHERE: Mijas, Spain
I love the leather bags in Spain. They’re so wonderfully made, strong, and sturdy, with pretty patterns engraved at the front. Mijas is a great spot to shop for bags, purses, or any leather goods in general, and since I bought mine ten years ago, it’s come with me on pretty much all of my travels.
WHERE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Brazil is a playground for crystals, many of which can be found in Rio de Janeiro. The city is particularly known for popular crystals like amethyst and citrine, as well as a few other favorites like rose quartz. Whether it’s clarity, prosperity, or abundance, lovers of crystals are familiar with the many properties crystals have, making them a great keepsake. Even if one is unfamiliar or not a believer, crystals make nice features in the home, whether as huge clusters and tumble stones or mini ornaments shaped like trees or animals.
Wooden Animal Carvings
WHERE: Nairobi, Kenya
Anyone visiting Nairobi will more than likely go on a safari. From the unspoiled landscapes to the incredible wildlife, safaris are one of the best opportunities to escape the digital world and admire the wonders of Mother Nature. A bucket list moment like this is definitely one to be treasured and can be done so through a keepsake such as a wooden animal carving. Not only would you be taking home a piece of Mother Nature, but you will be buying into a long-living tradition, a tradition that is a livelihood for many in Kenya with a great amount of passion and effort applied to each creation.
Books From Les Bouquinistes
WHERE: Paris, France
Since the 16th century, Les Bouquiniste, which are the outdoor booksellers of Paris, have been trading along the Seine River, selling used and antiquarian books. The charming book stalls add to the beauty of this Parisian landscape with books covering a range of topics like art, philosophy, and history and in various languages too. Picking up a book along the Seine River makes for not only a great souvenir but also a thoughtful holiday gift.
WHERE: Bangkok, Thailand
Did you know that Thai silk comes from silkworms? Fed a diet of mulberry leaves, the silkworms spin silk cocoons as they mature, which are then later woven on traditional wooden looms. The process of hand-woven silk consists of intricate work and a great deal of patience. It is this process and tradition that make Thai silk incredibly beautiful to look at and touch and one of the most desired souvenirs from Thailand, a souvenir largely available in the capital, Bangkok.
WHERE: Krakow, Poland
Often referred to as “Baltic Gold,” amber has always been the primary gemstone of Poland. Essentially amber is fossilized tree resin, formed as a liquid response to breakages in the trunk or branches of trees to protect the wood. The oldest amber of the Baltic region, however, traces back to an estimated 44 million years ago. Today, amber is said to have healing and positive energy, which makes it one of the most sought-after gemstones in Poland and can be bought as various pieces of jewelry like earrings, rings, and pendants. It is widely available in Krakow through stores and stalls such as Kraków Cloth Hall, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls within an incredible renaissance structure.
WHERE: Athens, Greece
You may or may not be religious or spiritual, but many can certainly appreciate the Byzantine and Christian art of Athens for its intricate designs and significance. Found as symbolic ornaments and paintings within churches, museums, and even along the streets of the city, religious art here deserves much admiration. As a result, religious pieces, whether small or large, are popular souvenirs throughout the city and make wonderful tokens from a trip to Athens.
Rugs & Carpets
WHERE: Isfahan, Iran
Rugs from Isfahan are some of the finest in the world. Due to their high knot density and elegant patterns, they are known globally for their exceptional quality. Woven with fine wool and silk, the tradition of making Isfahan rugs date back to the early 16th century, with some of the most expensive rugs ever sold originating from this city of Iran. They may not be the typical holiday memorabilia, but they’re definitely worthy of being within the home and make fabulous statement pieces.