The 11 Souvenirs Locals Would Tell You to Buy

Don't get stuck with kitschy T-shirts and keychains during your next trip.

We love getting great gifts from travel just as much as we love bringing back chic mementos that remind us of a particular destination. 

Sometimes, the specific market or location of purchase weighs more heavily on nostalgia—that epic night market tour in Thailand or the macaroons that nod to the chic cafe we visited every morning—and sometimes the design or craftsmanship is the pride of the souvenir. Whatever the reason, these mementos are meant to be reminders and even serve as travel inspiration for future adventures. We've scoured the streets of our favorite cities to come up with these tasteful, local and decadent souvenirs.


E. Dehillerin storefront in Paris

Paris: Cookware

When in Paris, eating isn't just a necessity: It's a privilege. What better souvenir than a tool to help recreate favorite French dishes back home? For the crème de la crème, visit E. Dehillerin—the iconic kitchen shop where Julia Child would load up on copper pots and other cooking utensils—for your next adorable French-made whisk, copper cooking set or other kitchen gadgetry.

For other cookware options, traverse everyday Parisian neighborhoods, concentrating on the outer arrondissements. Extra discounts can be had during les soldes—the city-wide winter and summer sales events—during January and June, annually.


London Underground map from early 1900s

London: Underground Map

You can't really get more British than the London Underground, and while tea comes as a close runner-up for the perfect souvenir—even though it doesn't originate in Britain—the top pick for a London souvenir should be a London Underground map. The complex, sprawling Tube system is beloved by Londoners and tourists alike. Some of the most highly coveted versions of the map are prints of the 1990s "Great Bear" map by Simon Patterson, sold at the London Transport Museum and a close look at this version will show the major stops and stations renamed for famous poets, scientists and political figures.


Stall of paprika for sale in Budapest, Hungary

Budapest: Paprika

In Hungary, the capsicum annuum peppers used to make paprika have been harvested and ground for hundreds of years, making Hungarians masters of incorporating the spice in so many of its globally recognized dishes. While paprika was once only a seriously spicy concoction from the New World made with a kick of heat, newer growing methods have also produced a sweeter pepper—credited to genetic science, in part, but also Hungary's cool climate—used to make a range of paprika from ultra spicy-hot to a sweeter, more palatable blend. The Central Market Hall in Budapest offers packaged paprika at more than a few stalls.


Stall selling amulets and small sculptures at a market

Bangkok: Amulets

While night markets and outlet stores are full of cheap clothing and accessories aimed at tourists, Thai people flock to local markets, including the amulet market in Bangkok. While Buddha eschewed the practice of carrying amulets, locals swear by their talismans even with the divine dismissal of the idea. In a range of colors, sizes and deity reflections, the amulets are thought to bring a host of good fortune, wealth and other benefits to the owner.

Ironically, amulets that feature the iconography and image of Buddha and senior Buddhist monks are some of the most popular types of amulets. Most amulets at local markets in Bangkok start off as cheaply as five to 10 baht—roughly 50 cents.


Heath Ceramics bud vases against a black background

San Francisco: Heath Ceramics

Mid-century, American pottery company Heath Ceramics is our one-stop-shop for a tactile and stylish San Francisco souvenir. The company was started in Sausalito, California, by the Heath family in the 1940s and then purchased by Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey in 2003. Petravic and Bailey opened new stores in the Mission District and expanded the brand with a tile-making factory and several storefronts. The company grew, literally, out of Edith Heath's hands into a holistic, local business that now serves San Francisco and home goods connoisseurs from around the world.


Man sells artwork at a public market

Rome: Paintings

In a city that prizes its reputation of home to thousands of masterpieces from the Vatican to worn street murals, Rome is a perfect place to shop for art whether it's a print from a national gallery of art—shake a paintbrush in Rome and you're sure to land on a national gallery of history, design or art—or a street vendor at one of Rome's many bustling markets.

Avoid high-priced, low-quality work that sometimes shows up around famous attractions and flea markets, but if the piece is genuine and relatively well-priced at a market or on the street, don't be afraid to try haggling. For more formal art purchases, credible art galleries like Monitor and Macro host shows for talented, young upstarts and well-established Italian artists alike.


White eyeglasses

New York City: Fashion Accessories

New York City is one of, if not the, pinnacle of fashion, second only to Paris: Why not cash in on all the trendsetting styles in the Big Apple and bring home fashion-forward souvenirs? Saks Fifth Avenue is one of the first stops in New York City for a range of fashion finds, but don't shy away from fabulous, made-in-New-York finds like Colors in Optics shades or closet candy from Alice + Olivia. For the most devout fashion worshippers, New York Fashion Week is held annually in September and features local and global tastemakers' best new creations.


Margaret Mitcheel House & Museum

Atlanta: 'Gone With the Wind'

The charming South, full of gutsy heroines and dashing Southern gentlemen, came to life for millions in Margaret Mitchell's epic novel, "Gone With the Wind." What most people don't know is that Margaret Mitchell crafted the work at her home in Atlanta, that now serves as a museum to the woman behind the creative endeavor. Tour the Midtown abode that showcases letters, furniture and more from Mitchell's life and pick up a copy of the book for the bookworm on your list—or yourself—from the location where the tale was crafted.


Fish-shaped chopsticks rest and chopsticks on a white counter

Tokyo: Chopsticks

Take home a culinary tool that's used daily in Japan: chopsticks. The blunt-ended skewer pairs can be bought in bulk or from specialty shops like Ginza Natsuno or in kitchen-centric shopping streets like Kappabashi Street, where tourists are few and Japanese chefs come to stock up for their own kitchens and restaurant wares.

Chopsticks are easily portable, usually created from sturdy materials and can be purchased in any color of the rainbow with nearly any design at nearly any price point. There are three main type of chopsticks, so knowing the difference is imperative: the longest are for serving, next longest are for men and a shorter version are available for women. Also keep in mind that wielding the chopsticks in certain ways, along with placement, can be offensive in Japan if not careful.


Old New Orleans rum bottle with a cocktail

New Orleans: Old New Orleans Rum

For a truly unique souvenir from the Big Easy, a bottle of Old New Orleans rum hits the spot. The liquor is crafted within New Orleans at Celebration Distillery, owned by famed local painter James Michalopoulos. While Michalopoulos' iconic New Orleans architecture paintings are collector's items in themselves, a bottle of Old New Orleans rum is not only the highest-rated rum in the country, each bottle also features one of the owner's works of art on the back label.


Stuffed dates on display in a store

Dubai: Stuffed Dates

Dubai is a shopping paradise. Dozens of malls, bazaars and markets have solidified the city's image as a mecca for all things consumerist. While trinkets can be had all over the city by the hundreds, sampling local cuisine will always please our palettes. Look for stuffed dates—a local specialty—in restaurants and shops across the city. Dates are seen as a decadent treat throughout the Middle East and have been for decades. Find elaborately packaged boxes available in the ultra-popular Dubai Mall or peruse luxury selections at stores like Bateel or Nadiya Dates. Filling selections typically include ground nuts and citrus pieces.

Jamie Jackson
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