A guide to the best original souvenirs and gifts from abroad.

Deborah Mistry


Look beyond the tacky, mass produced displays of key-rings and t-shirts and the cliched bottles of olive oil and handmade soap and you can still find some lovely, original or useful souvenirs and gifts abroad. Here are some suggestions of things to look out for:


Think arrays of pastel coloured kawaii writing sets from Asia, handmade marbled paper from Italy or retro-style exercise books with Hindi writing from India, there is so much cool stationery abroad, and it’s both useful and light and easy to pack! 

Korean pastel kawaii stationery

Things in pretty tins and packaging

I still treasure a little mint green liquorice tin I bought in Venice nearly twenty years ago and use it to store beads. Sometimes you don’t really know what you are getting when you buy food products abroad, so you might as well choose whatever has the best packaging!

Pretty pink Italian sweet tin

Christmas and Easter decorations.

If there is one place is your house which has room for kitsch it might just be your Christmas tree! Especially if you are anything like me and have an eclectic mix of Christmas decorations each with their own memories…why not add some holiday memories too? And of course, they don’t even have to be kitsch (although I do treasure my plaster blue and white church from Santorini!), you can find classy ones too.  

Indian star Christmas decorations

Austrian easter egg decorations

Cook books.

Easier and safer to transport than ingredients! Cooking dishes from your travels is also a fun way to bring back holiday memories. 

Souvenir Greek cookbook you can buy everywhere in Greece



The smallest souvenirs possible! If you are sick of the sight of the same arrays of jewellery in every souvenir shop, or simply can’t make up your mind, how about just buying a couple of the locally produced beads? I have always thought how cool it would be to make a bracket, or necklace with beads you have collected from all around the world. I also know a bride who had her engagement ring made from cut gems her and her fiancé and bought on their travels, combined with family stones. 

Iridescent beads for sale in Petra, Jordan

Small textiles.

I have written here about some of the shawls and scarves I have found abroad, but normally I prefer to look for little things, like unusual ribbon (I found a gorgeous tulle one with blue embroidery in Madeira), lace motifs (I have a ballerina from Venice and my initials from Bruges) or napkins or placemats with embroidery which can be cut out and sewn onto something. 


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