My favorite travel souvenirs

//My favorite travel souvenirs

My favorite travel souvenirs

I like to travel light and keep my home clutter-free, but there are some keepsakes I can always find room for.

What do you bring home from trips?

When I look at the items I have brought home from various trips, I see one common theme: they come with a story.

Some I found by accident while looking for something else. Others were bought directly from the maker, who shared anecdotes about them. There are also those that remind me of a fun night out or exploring a particular neighborhood.

Here are some of my favorite souvenirs – plus how I found them.


I wasn’t looking for earrings in San Francisco’s Mission District. I had gone there to walk around, look at murals, and try a Mission-style burrito. But then a sidewalk sign in front of a small co-op gallery caught my attention. Not only was there an arts & crafts sale that day, but a few artists were present. My kind of shopping!

When I stepped inside, I was greeted by a jewelry maker, who then showed me her latest creations. Some of the earrings were unique in that only one pair of a given style had been made. I chose my favorite ones and walked out of the gallery feeling good about the purchase. I had a one of a kind, locally-made product and supported the designer directly. A win-win.

Another memorable jewelry story is from Montmartre in Paris. While trying to navigate the cluster of the area’s winding streets, I happened upon a store that sold items related to… letters.  I went in intrigued by the concept and to see what exactly could be found inside.

Among vintage volumes and home décor items, I spotted a bracelet made with pages from a book (as I found out later, it was “L.O.L.A.” by Claire Mazard). I had never seen anything quite like it, and it took me about half a second to decide the bracelet was a keeper.

Can you read… the bracelet?


I enjoy boutique shopping on the road, because it’s an opportunity to find designs that reflect local couture traditions and have a distinct look and feel. Italian and French fashion is especially appealing, and whenever I’m in either of the countries, a little shopping spree is in order.

During my most recent trip to Italy, I was lucky enough to stay close to great shopping areas (and have an expandable suitcase). The items I bought then are some of the nicest I own. I remember the € to $ ratio not being ideal for me at that time, but whatever I paid was worth it in the end.

Italian fashion in Paris


As an avid reader, I have bookstores on my to-do list in countries where I speak the local language (if I don’t, I’m still curious to see what people read around the world).

I either search for nonfiction about the place I’m visiting, usually culture and history books, or novels by local authors. Some finds would be hard to come by elsewhere. Others might be available online, but clicking around a screen doesn’t compare to browsing aisles of books in an actual store.

Going back home to Krakow means I get to stock up on books in Polish. The Old Town area has several long-running bookstores and the one I usually go to is Księgarnia Hetmańska in the Main Square, located inside a 14th-century Gothic building.

In San Francisco, I always make sure to stop by City Lights Books. This independent retailer-publisher has been around since 1953 and is known for publishing works by Beat Generation authors. I have brought back many paperbacks from there, including “California – A History,” and “San Francisco Stories.” And in Paris, I can’t resist a trip to the famed Shakespeare and Company for English language books about the city.

Books and coffee? I’m there!


Whether it’s going to used record stores or live events, music is a big part of my travels too.

One of the most beautiful performances I’ve witnessed took place in Barcelona, and I had found out about it by accident, after getting lost. It was a jazz concert at an intimate cellar pub, and the performer that night was a local band. When the music started playing, I knew right away that I’d like to bring it home. I ended up buying a CD from the band leader after the performance, and to this day I play it frequently.


Bringing bottles of wine home requires the most adjustment (having to check in the bag if you’re flying, or sometimes bringing an extra one), but it’s hard to leave a good wine tasting empty-handed. Luckily, many wineries can ship your purchases, and if you’re doing a road trip, the problem disappears.

I have brought excellent wines from Sonoma, California and southwestern Michigan. Each time I opened a bottle, it felt like a special occasion. I was reminded of my time at the vineyards – talking to the wine makers, touring the facilities, and learning the history behind signature releases. It doesn’t feel the same when you buy wine from a supermarket…

Sonoma Wine Country “crop”

What are your favorite things you’ve brought home from trips?

By | 2014-02-10T00:29:53+00:00 November 18th, 2012|STORIES|44 Comments

About the Author:

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.


  1. avatar
    The World Wanderer November 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    I am with you on the clothes, jewelery, music, and wine for sure! Always make sure to bring these items back with me. I have too many favorite souvenirs, but my two favorites are probably my kimono robe from Vietnam and my jade necklace from New Zealand.
    The World Wanderer recently posted..A Surprise Adventure in the Tree Tops.My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 18, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      Your souvenirs sound wonderful, Erin!

  2. avatar
    Miret November 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    There was this pretty jewelry shop in Barcelona. I totally fell in love with its rings and necklaces, and wanted to buy everything! Ended up with only two rings ;-)
    Miret recently posted..I want to “Go with Oh” to ViennaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 18, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Two rings is not a bad count! And easy to bring back… ;-)

  3. avatar
    Jenna November 19, 2012 at 12:17 am

    I love buying little things to bring back. I love your photo of that gorgeous shirt in Paris, and I think clothes make great souvenirs because you get to really use it and remember the place. Worth the price! I have an old post about ceramic mugs that I have bought all over (including Krakow), and soon I will be posting about a woman who makes beautiful jewelry in Florence. Her work reminds me of the bracelet in the above photo.
    Jenna recently posted..Language and TravelMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 12:31 am

      Clothes are wonderful souvenirs indeed! And you don’t have to wait to be home to start using them. :) I can’t wait to read about the jewelry maker from Florence!

  4. avatar
    Craig Zabransky November 19, 2012 at 4:04 am

    So true, so VERY true. Great post, one of my favorites on the site. And yes, I always bring back a small souvenir, and each does tell a story.

    As for clothes, I always tend to buy something functional… and then when I put on my cuff-links from Mexico or my boot from Argentina or my belt from South Africa I always think back to those adventures and smile. Plus another tradition I love to do is buy something small for my Christmas tree… so each year when I trim the tree… you guessed it.

    stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted..Sunset Sunday – The View of the Lake at Glimmerglass ParkMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Many thanks, Craig. :) I’m really glad you enjoyed the post!

      I’m with you on buying functional pieces. If you’re going to haul something home, you might as well get a lot of use out of it. It seems like you picked up some really niece pieces on your trips.

  5. avatar
    Clare - Holiday Addict November 19, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I love buying clothes and jewels as souvernirs! I bought some lovely clothes in Barcelona and Jerez in Spain. Wearing them now always cheers me up. I also buy silver earrings everywhere I go – my current favourites came from a little shop in a Greek village after my trip in the summer.
    Clare – Holiday Addict recently posted..In Fair Verona…My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Nice souvenirs, Clare! Besides bracelets, I go for earrings too. :)

  6. avatar
    Kieu November 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I use to collect shotglass but ran out of space. Now I’m into souvenirs you can wear – jewelry! Wine is next on my list if ever I get out of the carry on luggage phase. Haha
    Kieu recently posted..Favorite Eats in KyotoMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      I recently went to a place with carry-on, came back with checked luggage because of wine & chili sauce. But it was worth it! You ran out of shot glasses space? Haha, nice. ;)

  7. avatar
    Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke) November 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    As I mentioned on twitter, I collect miniature replicas of notable buildings and other landmarks that I acquire in the cities I travel to. (I’m actually a past President of the Souvenir Building Collectors Society!) Looking around at the mementoes in my office is a great way to be reminded of some of the awesome places I’ve seen (and they’re also great conversation-starters with my colleagues).
    Harvey (H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke) recently posted..H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, Week 7: a tablecloth in Cape TownMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Harvey. Thanks for stopping by here too. :) I would love to see a photo of your collection! I have a few miniature skyscrapers and they look pretty cool.

  8. avatar
    the lazy travelers November 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    we always try and buy items that will perfectly remind us of our trip. love the french bangle!!
    the lazy travelers recently posted..the romantic’s year full of thanksMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      Glad you like it, thanks! :)

  9. avatar
    TheTuscan (@AnyLatitude) November 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    My favorite things from abroad are the ones we use daily: my sunglasses from Emu Park, Australia, spray for my wife’s glasses from Toronto, clothes bought in China.
    Using them in our everyday life makes me feel still close to those places I took them from.
    TheTuscan (@AnyLatitude) recently posted..New South Wales attractions: Kiama BlowholeMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      I really like what you wrote about feeling close to the places we’ve visited. Each time I put the bracelet on, my mind wanders off to Montmartre. Those are beautiful moments. :)

  10. avatar
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) November 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Hey, I bring back wine – or have you not read my posts??? It has to be something unique for me to bring it back for me… From Paris, I prefer to bring back champagne truffles from Maison du Chocolat – they don’t occupy space at home because they don’t last long!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..Virginia is for lovers. History lovers!My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      You know, if you keep advertising amazing finds like champagne truffles, a surprise Atlanta tweetup might be in order! ;-))

  11. avatar
    Traveling Ted November 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    These days I rarely buy souvenirs as pictures are all I need; however, when I do pick up a souvenir I like for it to be useful instead of just for show. In Puebla I bought a talavera coffee cup. I love waking up late on Saturdays and pouring a fresh cup of coffee in my cup, remember Mexico, and work on my blog.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Discovering Rock Cut State Park and Lowden State ParkMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      Why didn’t I buy a cup like that in Puebla?… Awesome souvenir, Ted.

  12. avatar
    Leah Travels November 20, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Shopping! Yes…I love going into bookstores, especially old ones. There are certain books I collect and love finding them in various languages.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Three Things I’ll Miss about PragueMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      That’s a great idea – looking for the same book in different languages. I’ve only had Shakespeare in Polish and English, that’s about it.

  13. avatar

    […] this post is inspired by NYT’s article and Jetting Around’s recent post on souvenirs. Share this:EmailPrintTwitterFacebookPinterestLinkedInGoogle […]

  14. avatar
    Anita November 26, 2012 at 3:09 am

    I have a similar souvenir list. What I like most, are special shoes from vintage stores. I have now at home a pair of shoes out of every european city I’ve visited so far :-)
    Anita recently posted..Common Ground – Biennale Architektur 2012My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 26, 2012 at 3:17 am

      Shoes? That is really cool! My problem would be bringing them back, but if there’s a will… ;-)

  15. avatar
    Angela November 28, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    This is exactly my list of souvenirs (wine typically drank on location, however). I also love to collect journal entries from people I meet and make friends with on the road. Not exactly a purchased souvenir but a very sentimental one.
    Angela recently posted..If You Have Only 1 Day in BrightonMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Angela. What a great idea with the journal! It must be so nice to look at it, especially years after a trip. Love it.

  16. avatar
    Cassie | Ever In Transit December 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I do the same, I almost never buy souvenirs but when I do it is jewelry, books, food/wine/liquor, or clothing–the problem with that is even if I grow bored with it, it doesn’t fit, etc. I CAN’T bring myself to give it away :)

    When I was younger I would seek out independent record stores and bring popular local-language music home with me. When I went to Paris nearly 10 years ago, the day my friends went to the Louvre, I skipped out in order to scour the cities used record stores in search of French rock and hip hop. Some of those CDs, I still listen to a lot! I’ve NEVER regretted that decision! The Louvre will be there when I go back :)
    Cassie | Ever In Transit recently posted..Passports With Purpose 2012: Win a Dog-Friendly Weekend in Mendocino!My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around December 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      I love your Paris story, Cassie! And can totally relate. It took me 2 trips to Paris to see the Louvre and 3 to check out the Orsay Museum. As great as those museums are, I was happy to see a PSG game and tour gypsy jazz clubs. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  17. avatar

    […] include catching a gypsy jazz performance, stumbling upon a unique bracelet – one of my favorite travel souvenirs, buying crêpes from street vendors near the Metro, and enjoying panoramic views of […]

  18. avatar
    Vee January 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    I usually buy quality clothes that I would wear at home often, like a wool jacket I bought from New Zealand. Every time I wear it, I remember fondly of the Kiwis… oh, one time, I brought rare wines from Hunter Valley, Australia… the bad part was that I had to lug two bottles of wine around Australia for six weeks.
    Vee recently posted..Bellingen, NSW, AustraliaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 10, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Haha, I like your wine story! Must have been tough though, hauling the bottles and trying not to break them. Buying quality clothes is definitely a good idea. Thanks for stopping by, Vee. :)

  19. avatar
    Gina February 5, 2013 at 2:26 am

    I am with you on the jewelry and wine! I’m not a huge jewelry-wearer as I have a hard time justifying spending money on it, but if it’s from another country than I can totally justify it, plus I’m always happier wearing it since it’s full of memories. And of course wine is just common sense to bring home. ;)
    Gina recently posted..Monkey Wizard Brewery in Riwaka, New ZealandMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Hi, Gina. I understand where you’re coming from in terms of expensive jewelry… I’d rather buy plane tickets. But getting things on the road is another story. :)

  20. avatar
    Anita Mac February 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Love bringing home souvenirs that I can use again! I went through a phase of buying jewelry everywhere I went, but somehow that has past somewhat. Clothes and the occasional shoes that remind me of a trip still make it into my suitcase, but my favourite souvenirs remain the photos from the places I go and the people I meet!

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Hi Anita. Photos are by far my favorite souvenirs too! Hmm, not sure if I’ve ever bought shoes on the road! Maybe that needs to change. ;)

  21. avatar
    Karla May 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I do buy souvenirs everywhere I go!

    It does bring back great memories and I always make room for them at home!

    I try not to go nuts but I can’t help it.

    My favorites are shot glasses, I have a collection ;)
    Karla recently posted..Weekly Photo Challenge: From AboveMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around May 4, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      Cool about the shot glasses! I would never have thought, hehe. ;)

  22. avatar
    Gaye @ Pinay Travel Junkie June 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Oh I always, always buy souvenirs! Among my faves: A chess set from Peru with Incas vs Spanish Conquerors pieces, a huge area rug from Morocco, and a uhm, trilobite fossil also from Morocco.
    Gaye @ Pinay Travel Junkie recently posted..Nazca Lines, Peru (Or Those Lines That The Hubby Thought Were Crop Circles)My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Those are some amazing souvenirs!! Talk about unique finds…

  23. avatar
    Tara@Gypsy Shutterbug January 20, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Great souvenirs…anything with a story or memory attached to it means so much more than anything else for sure. Books (especially old or second hand ones I just come across), music, films,unique clothes, or handmade jewelry are always things I tend to want to bring back…they hold the most essense of a place I think.
    Tara@Gypsy Shutterbug recently posted..There’s something fishy about this pedicure….My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      Hi Tara. I really like your souvenir list – I should look into movies, that’s one thing I don’t really look for when I travel.

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