Travel

The Very Best British Souvenirs, According to Locals

What to snag on your next trip.

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February  6, 2019

We've partnered with VisitBritain to bring you delicious ideas on what to do, see, eat—and of course, take home with you—in London, and beyond! Stay tuned for more travel tips to help you plan your very own British adventure.


While I actively dislike shopping when I’m at home in New York, whenever I’m traveling, it suddenly becomes one of my favorite activities. I never get tired of wandering through all sorts of foreign venues, from department stores to flea markets, boutiques to bookstores, grocery shops to pharmacies. Instead of a frantic chore searching high and low for something I need, browsing in a new city is an amazingly no-pressure way to soak up the local culture, interact with makers or shopkeepers, and get a first-hand peek at what’s cool in that particular place. I always end up cherishing the souvenirs I take home with me almost as much as the memories and stories behind acquiring them.

My first trip to London this past fall was no exception to my shop-till-you-drop-when-traveling rule; I had more amazing options to keep me busy than I could fit into my itinerary. (In fact, I walked away with so many gifts and goodies that I literally had to buy an extra bag for the trip home.) While I love my new hat and sweater spun from Scottish wool and my London-made gin, and my family loves all the British candy, tea, and jam I’ve bestowed upon them, I couldn’t help but wonder what very British souvenirs I might have missed. So to help me focus my shopping list for my next trip, I asked some locals for their best souvenir-shopping advice, for spots all across the U.K.

Photo by Jordan Kay Phillip

Their ideas run the gamut from must-try regional food specialties to knick-knacks for your display case to cozy accessories to wrap yourself up in. Check them out below, and let us know about your favorite British souvenirs in the comments!


Scotland

"This is going to sound very clichéd, but I have to say that one of the best souvenirs is tartan, like the checked scarves you always see here. Every clan has its own tartan and it has so much history. There’s something quite magical about tartan and it just says 'Scotland!!'" — Sumayya Usmani, cookbook author and Food52 contributor

"For me the ideal gift to return from Scotland with would be split into two parts: A wonderful bottle of single malt whisky, and a hip flask to fill it into for your favorite sporting occasion, hillwalking expedition, or simply for a walk with friends on New Year’s Day. You will find a multitude of styles of both readily available throughout the country." — Graeme Taylor, blogger at A Scots Larder and Food52 contributor


yorkshire

“Us Yorkshire folk drink more tea than any other county in the U.K. and we even have our own brand, Yorkshire Tea, so you could buy some of that, from literally any supermarket. Or, you could go to the Yorkshire Shop in my favorite building in Leeds, the Corn Exchange, and buy a whole manner of products made in the region.” — Edd Kimber, TV personality, food writer, and author of The Boy Who Bakes

"There is nothing that screams Yorkshire as much as Slingsby’s Yorkshire Rhubarb Gin, a locally produced gin crafted using rhubarb from the famous ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ and water from the natural Harrogate aquifer. It’s a gin like no other, and of course the best place to buy Slingsby’s is in their home town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire—also home to Betty’s, one of the most famous tea rooms in the world. Be sure to try out Betty's Fat Rascal scone while you’re there, wow!" Christopher Blackburn, “World Yorkshire Pudding Champion” and blogger at Yorkshire Pudd


london

“Every time someone visits me in London, he or she asks if we can go to an Ottolenghi restaurant (or I just take them to one anyway). So buying jars of Ottolenghi spices—especially harder-to-find ones like mahleb, Urfa chile flakes, or lemon-myrtle salt—as souvenirs is my way of bringing the experience back home in a neater, more giftable container than one of his cookbooks' recipes. For a more classic London souvenir (edible, obviously), I go to Fortnum & Mason and buy passion fruit curd, strawberry jam, or one of their signature tea blends, especially because the jars and tins are beautiful re-purposed as tech cable, pen and pencil, or spare change holders.” Nikkitha Bakshani, contributor and former Food52 editor

“Proper English tea is probably one of the best souvenirs from London! It’s the place for tea. We always go for Twinings. Oh, and flowers from Columbia Road Flower Market." — Tom Brown, chef of Cornerstone

“Whenever we visit my mum’s best friend in New York, we bring Yorkshire Tea and some packets of dark chocolate digestive biscuits or Hobnobs. Other great souvenirs would be golden syrup and Maltesers.” — Izy Hosack, cookbook author and blogger at Top with Cinnamon

“Maybe I’m biased, but I think Paddington Bear is a great souvenir! Paddington Bear was from the deepest, darkest part of Peru and came here. He’s my ultimate refugee bear! I like the spirit of the bear, and that he settled in and made the best of it. And very much like Paddington Bear, one of the things I love from the U.K. is jam and marmalade, which I discovered when I came here.” — Asma Khan, chef of Darjeeling Express


wales

"A traditional Welsh love spoon is the ideal souvenir to bring back from your trip to Wales. Originally given as romantic gifts, Welsh love spoons are wooden spoons hand-carved with intricate designs and symbols, like hearts, locks, and bells. Sometimes, the spoon will be engraved with a special wish or personalized with the recipient’s name. While these spoons aren’t really designed for use during eating, they look beautiful hung on the wall of any home. They can be bought from craft shops throughout Wales, but I recommend Castle Welsh Crafts on Castle Street, opposite Cardiff Castle." — Kacie Morgan, blogger at the Rare Welsh Bit

"A cross between a scone and a cookie, Welsh cakes are made from flour, eggs, butter, milk and spices before being baked on a griddle, sprinkled with sugar and served warm! If you fancy a Welsh cake (or five), then Tan Y Castell Bakery’s traditional Welsh cakes can be found in most U.K. supermarkets. Or, if you’re after something even more fresh and straight from the bakestone, then Fabulous Welsh Cakes in Cardiff Bay are, well, simply fabulous." @GreatBritishFood


cornwall

"A taste of Kern is a true taste of Cornwall—the milk is sourced from cows just a stone's throw away from the rural town where the cheese is made. You usually hear the term 'terroir' in relation to wine, but with artisan cheeses, terroir makes a huge difference. In each bite of Kern, you can really taste the land of Cornwall. Proof that the grass those cows munched on was lush and delicious!" Katie Quinn, cookbook author, video maker, and Food52 contributor

"I think one of the most special things you could take away from Cornwall would be a piece of sea glass weathered by the Atlantic and found on one of our many beautiful Cornish beaches. You can explore some coves to find your own, or seek out a local jeweler, like Sadie Jewellery, who creates beautiful necklaces and rings from Cornish sea glass and silver." Anna Clark, the Cornish Life

"The UK’s wine industry is taking the world by storm, with plenty of award-winning vineyards to visit for tasting tours. Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall boasts an array of delicious wines and picturesque views—cheers to that!" @GreatBritishFood

From London to Edinburgh, Cornwall to Yorkshire, there's so much to do, see, eat, and experience all across the United Kingdom. In partnership with VisitBritain , we're so excited to share our favorite unexpected discoveries to help inspire your very own British adventure. Follow along on Instagram to see what's going on across the pond at @Love GreatBritain and what Great Britain is eating at @GreatBritishFood.

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Cory Baldwin

Written by: Cory Baldwin

Food52's director of partner content Cory Baldwin has been an editor at food, travel, and fashion publications including Saveur, Departures and Racked.

3 Comments

Bonnie March 25, 2019
I purchase small items like keychains and miniature items often found by the checkout. I've got a pair of mini wellies, small Beef Eater, etc. and every year use these to decorate my Christmas tree. Each item reminds me of one of my trips, so as I put each one on the tree I can reminisce about my travels and hold the memories close.
 
Claudia T. February 9, 2019
That's a really cute comment on Paddington Bear :) you can find Yorkshire tea in some grocery stores here in the US. It completely changed the game for me when it came to tea - and milk with my tea. I'm obsessed. It's stained all my mugs, though.
 
Bronwyn February 11, 2019
Try giving the mugs a scrub with a paste of bicarb soda (baking soda) and a bit of water. It always makes my grandmother's teacups look as good as new!