What better way to relive travel highlights than to display souvenirs in your home. From decorative to kitsch to practical – souvenirs are like the physical manifestation of our travel memories.
In this post, 19 people share how they’ve enriched their homes with their favourite travel souvenirs, bringing back memories from adventures abroad every time they see their souvenirs on display.
Maureen from Life on the Mediterranean
One of my best memories growing up was seeing a collage of paintings on the wall at my uncle’s house. He lived in France during WWII, and one wall was completely covered with different-sized pictures, each with an elaborate meaning.
Once I started travelling, I said one day I’d do the same. Now, when people come to my home, they say it looks like a gallery. I have paintings from London, some abstracts, street scenes from Paris, a few silks and some nudes.
One set in particular I enjoy are handmade tapestries I bought off of a local street vendor in one of those crowded, filthy streets in Mumbai, India. They are 2.5 x 4ft and could easily be stuffed in my suitcase. Two olive ones are hanging on my wall. One rests at the top of an armoire, and the 4th I use as a makeshift table covering. I get compliments on them all the time.
Postcards from Hawaii
Justine from Wanderer of the World
When travelling, my partner and I are always on the hunt for souvenirs that will either help us to decorate our home, or that can be displayed in the main rooms of our house.
My most favourite souvenir has to be a couple of postcards we picked up in Hawaii within the Visitor Centre at the Volcano National Park.
The postcards each have an uplifting (and amusing) poem on them. The turtle version, (particularly the lines: “Be a good navigator” and “Be well travelled”), is significant to us as we’re both huge fans of travel, while the volcano version reminds us of where we actually bought them.
Although they’re only cheap postcards, I bought a couple of silver frames to keep them in so no-one need ever know they only cost us a few cents!
And this may be a little embarrassing to admit, but we’ve hung them up within our guest bathroom… everyone always needs a little bit of reading material in this room, huh? Whenever we have guests over, they almost always comment on how much they enjoyed the poems!
Rashmi and Chalukya from Go Beyond Bounds
We bought the mask from Venice, Italy. The Venetian Masks are originally from Venice but every other tourist city in Italy sells them.
For us, the most significant souvenir from any trip is just the pictures but if we buy an item it has to be something which would have touched our hearts on first sight. We have a very small collection of souvenirs, a couple of magnets and collector boxes. When wandering the narrow alleys of Venice we came across several small and big shops selling these colourful masks decorated with laces, beads, features and we couldn’t resist buying one to take back home.
We display it in our living room it one of the lovely memorabilia of our visit to the wonderful trip to the ‘City of Canals’ – Venice.
The ultimate fridge magnet collection
Patrick Muntzinger from German Backpacker
Because I’m travelling a lot, at some point I decided to get a souvenir from every place and I felt that souvenir magnets would be the perfect choice. These magnets are cheap, easy to carry and available everywhere! I started collecting them about five years ago and have an impressive collection of at least 300 magnets, which I display on two big magnet board in my room. With this, I basically have the world on my wall with all those nice memories from my trips. For me, this is the perfect souvenir since it also doesn’t take very much space and basically sums up all my trips and travels in the last years and I will keep adding magnets in the future.
Dawn from Five Lost Together
When we were in Kyoto, Japan with our kids we visited lots of shrines and temples which the kids quickly grew weary of. For a more kid-friendly activity, we visited the International Manga Museum where you can have manga-style caricatures drawn by manga artists for a really reasonable price. Not only was this a great activity to do with the kids, but it was also the perfect souvenir to bring home to remember our trip to Japan. They are now proudly displayed in our home and every time I see them I appreciate how the artists captured each of their personalities.
A handwoven rug
Ruth Johnston from Exploramum
After a crossing the Bosnia and Herzegovina border, we found our car winding through the mountains of Serbia.
It was getting cold and we discovered most places were closed for the winter, but just as it became dark, my son and I found a small campsite with wooden huts run by an elderly man. He promised us a home-made breakfast in the morning as we tucked ourselves into our humble log ‘valet’ for the night.
In the morning I admired an old handwoven rug he had hanging and through an interpreter, he told me his grandmother had made it. He offered it for sale and I sent it back to Australia. We travelled on around the world for four more years before we finally have a home base. It now takes pride of place on our lounge room floor.
North Korean postcard
Sharon from Simpler and Smarter
When I went to North Korea last year on an organized tour, I could not help but stock up on many of its unique souvenirs. Some of these were North Korean postcards which are replicas of propaganda posters you can see many places in the country. I keep this one on our fridge.
It was truly one of the most fascinating experiences of my life and seeing the postcard reminds me how different life can be for some people on this planet compared to my life in Australia. I’m still trying to reconcile everything I heard and felt when I visited this country and this is a daily reminder for me. It is also a reminder of how amazing it is to travel outside of my comfort zone and to keep doing it.
Stephanie from Ethno Travels
I’m giving each room of my house the atmosphere of a country. This way, even when I’m not in Asia, I feel a little bit as if I’m there. My kitchen is Japanese, my bedroom is Chinese, my living room will be Indian, my guest room also. Although the downstairs flat has an African style, I showcase there my favourite travel souvenirs: some of my dokras. These bronze statues are made by the Tribal people from Bastar district in Central India. Not only each statue is unique as the mould is broken to get it, but it’s also my tribute to these people I fell in love with. As I rent this flat for holidays, it’s the perfect way to showcase this unique Tribal art. If you want to know more about this part of India, you can read my guide to Chhattisgarh here.
Gong from Sabah, Borneo
Heather from Conversant Traveller
We’re the sort of people who should start taking empty luggage on holiday just so we can bring back our impressive haul of souvenirs. We have to purchase something in every country we visit, and the items seem to get more ridiculous with each trip. One of my personal favourites is our Malaysian gong which we haggled hard for on our trip to Sabah in Borneo a couple of years ago. At the time we didn’t consider how we’d get it home (we had to discard some of our clothes and most of our footwear to make room for it!), or quite what we’d do with it when we did. Yet we don’t regret buying it. Now sitting proudly in our hallway, the gong is quite a talking point and even used to summon guests for dinner when we have people staying over.
Traditional folk art plate
Amanda from Not a Ballerina
I lived in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, for a year, teaching business English in various companies around the city. At the time it was just emerging from the Cold War and western tourists had started to come in bigger numbers, so the souvenir market was just beginning to take off. I especially loved the traditional folk arts and this plate is even more special because I didn’t buy it myself – the students from one of my favourite English classes all pitched in and bought it for me as a farewell gift. They’ve all signed their names on the back! It hangs in my kitchen and I see it every day and reminds me of one of those very special times in my life when I was really exploring the world and learning new things every day.
Owen from My Turn to Travel
I started collecting country shot glasses when I was in University. At first, I tried to get one from each city I went to, but I realize that’s too many and some cities do not have personalized shot glasses, so I switched to country instead. Country shot glasses can usually be found at the airport, souvenir shops or artisan markets. In less touristy places, it requires some searching. I thought shot glasses suit me as university life was all about drinking and partying (and some studying), and if I have friends over, I could use them too. It’s practical! There’s a problem with collecting fragile items though; a few of them broke during my one-year backpacking trip around South America. Collecting shot glasses isn’t suited for long backpacking trips. Right now, these shot glasses are proudly adding colours to my display shelf – along with alcohol bottles collected throughout the years.
The Taj Mahal
David Hutchison from Paid Surveys Fanatic
I’ve amassed a number of souvenirs from my travels which I keep together on a shelf. Most are just replicas of monuments and it can be fun when people walk over to them and say “Oh, you’ve been to Italy?”
One of my favourites is of the Taj Mahal.
I bought this from a souvenir shop in Agra just after visiting the Taj Mahal. I’d seen a few for sale but they were overpriced, so I asked a rickshaw driver where I could find a cheaper one and he drove me to a store where I was able to buy it ½ price. I was probably still overcharged, but it didn’t matter.
I’d always wanted to visit the Taj Mahal ever since I did my sixth-grade assignment on India. After years of seeing it in pictures, it took me a few moments to appreciate the beauty when I saw it with my own eyes and I knew I needed a way to cement that moment – the figure did that for me.
It now lives front and centre on a shelf surrounded by tacky souvenirs, although it’s made of marble so does look slightly less tacky than those around it!
An intricately carved water buffalo skull
Julia from ipse wilderness
This is an intricately carved water buffalo skull from Ubud in Bali, Indonesia, which I bought at the end of a 4-month trip a couple of years ago.
I love it for its arresting fusion of delicacy and brutality. It’s rather spooky, but also beautiful; a haunting combination, which delights me every time I look at it.
I have hung it in my study, next to my desk, where it really stands out against the pale green wall. I added fairy lights inside the skull, twining them around the internal bones, so the lights shine out from behind the lacework. I love working in this room, surrounded by art from my travels, because it inspires me and keeps me motivated, always planning the next trip.
A Japanese jug
Sarah from Fabulous Futons
I found this jug in a flea market at Shitennoji Temple, Osaka Japan. At the time, it was a nice find that suited my budget for a decorative piece. Since then, this piece has always found itself in a prominent place in my home. Its simple look works with any interior. Somehow it has survived many moves and small children. At the moment it lives on a shelf in my kitchen where I see it every day. Something bought on a whim has become my favourite souvenir because each time I look at it I am taken right back to that rainy day in May at the beautiful temple with the quirky market. I remember the smells, the quality of the light and the crowds of people. I remember the enjoyment of the day.
Lola from Miss Filatelista
I’ve been travelling full-time and living out of a backpack for over three years so understandably I don’t hold onto many travel mementoes beyond my memories and photographs. Usually, I’ll buy a handmade piece of jewellery from an NGO or cooperative, or sometimes I’ll even get a tattoo to commemorate my time in a special place. I do however have favourite souvenirs, and they have a special significance to me.
I’ve always been drawn to the Hindu God, Ganesha, but it wasn’t until I lived in India that I started to learn about his powers of overcoming obstacles and bringing good fortune. The symbolism of Ganesha matters deeply to me, especially as a traveller who often has to overcome hardships on the road. I was living in Jodhpur, India and the owner of one of my favourite shops gave me a tiny golden Ganesha statue, about the size of a penny. I keep my Indian Ganesha on me wherever I go as a talisman. Fast forward a year and I am in Thailand, a Buddhist country that doesn’t have a large Hindu community. However, as always, I kept seeing Ganesha statues everywhere. I enjoyed this and started to question Buddhist monks about Ganesha significance in Thailand. Some new-age Buddhists worship Ganesha, who is given the name Phra Phikanet in Thai, and see the God as one who brings wealth and success.
This brings me to when I received my second Ganesha statue. I was in an amulet market in Chiang Mai when I was gifted another tiny gilded Ganesha. It was explained to me that it’s important for creative people to carry Ganesha with them. I was astonished that they happened to have chosen the deity that means the most to me! I carry these two Ganesha images with me always and believe in their power to protect me as I travel around the world. Someday when I plant some roots somewhere they’ll be the first two items I bring into my home.
Andy Warhol Queen Elizabeth tray from Buckingham Palace
Kirralee from Escape with Kids
Decorating my home with holiday souvenirs is better than having a shelf full of photo albums. Seeing and using these mementoes on a daily basis brings back such wonderful memories. After all, the joy of travel is partly in the anticipation and reminiscing, not only in enjoying the trips themselves.
I fell in love at first sight with these Andy Warhol designs. My tray is an affordable piece of artwork, a souvenir of what was a wonderful visit to the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, as well as a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, a person for whom I have much admiration. It also serves a practical purpose in my home by storing the TV remotes.
But most of all it’s a colourful bit of fun!
Sandy from Sleeps 5
We’ve purchased a snow globe from souvenir shops in five of the places our family has travelled in the last few years. They are fun, cheery reminders of vacations. Without having any clear decorating concept in mind, we simply started with one snow globe and repeated that purchase on some of the subsequent trips. Three are from New York City, where each of our kids picked one out.
In each, the city’s main attractions are depicted with tiny structures and figures in the globe’s liquid and around the base, which includes the city name. The snow globes are displayed year-round in a decorative tray on our family-room table.
The most recent is from Barcelona. We didn’t realize until we returned home that it is substantially larger than the rest of our snow globes. We decided the size difference could symbolize the very special occasion of our anniversary trip to Spain!
Art as a souvenir
Stephanie from History Fan Girl
Finding the perfect souvenir can be a challenge, but one thing I love to do is to go to local art galleries. I avoid the tourist art shops that are overpriced and schlocky, and instead, I like to find art galleries that are innovative and aimed at promoting the local arts community. It can be a bit of a pain to bring the pieces back, but it’s worth it knowing that I have a souvenir that truly means something to me and will last much longer than your typical souvenir. In addition, it’s a great way to ensure that your travels beautify your home instead of cluttering it up.
A wooden giraffe
Elaine and David from Show Them The Globe
As we pulled out of camp on our first ever game drive in Sabi Sands, a neighbour of Kruger National Park in South Africa, we stumbled upon a pair of giraffes enjoying a snack in the trees. The mother and baby meandered across the road ahead of us and we instantly fell in love: it was at that moment that our addiction to African safari was born. We finished up our trip in Cape Town and a wooden giraffe caught our eye as we shopped for souvenirs. I carried it proudly through the airport sharing knowing glances with the other travellers in possession of their very own bubble wrapped memories of every shape and size.
From lions roaring across the Okavango plains to a cheetah stalking for prey to wild dogs loitering in the afternoon sun, we’ve seen many magical sights in the wild but that first glimpse of the giraffe family still remains one of our most special safari moments. It’s one we think back to every time we spot our 3-foot wooden giraffe in the travel corner of our home!
Decorating your home with souvenirs
Souvenirs are a great way to blend your personality with travel memories. What souvenirs do you have decorating your home?