Christmas Gifts from Around the World

By: andrewbowman

December 2, 2010

With Christmas just around the corner, we’re in present hunting mode. If you’re on your way to any of our incredible destinations any time soon, our pick of unusual and original souvenirs could just help fill those stockings. Happy shopping…


San Francisco


Designer glass eyes from 826 Valencia

Designer glass eyes © 826 Valencia

The City by the Bay is full of weird, wonderful and kitschy goods, but 826 Valencia is something different altogether. This free writing centre for kids, co-founded by author Dave Eggers, doubles up as the Pirate Supply Store, stocking everything from eyepatches to mermaid bait. Recommended for curious kids of all ages.


Hong Kong


Longjin tea from MingCha Limited

Longjin tea from © MingCha Limited â„¢

Of course, you can get tea anywhere, but as one of Ming Cha’s slogans says “Not all teas are created equal”. The shop’s name means to ‘understand tea’ and their mission is to evangelise about the finest Chinese teas available in the world. Their shops in Hong Kong and Kowloon also stock great porcelain, glass and ceramic wares for your favourite tea nut back home.




Pencil dispenser from Museum of Useful Things

Pencil dispenser © Museum of Useful Things

In-between all the American history, high culture and great food, those who are Boston-bound would be well advised to visit the Museum of Useful Things. Delighting in the ‘beauty of function’, the practical items on offer celebrate simplicity and make for great gifts that people will actually use. How about a glass straw dispenser re-purposed for (and complete with) pencils?




Market Reds by Vanita Gopwani Comissiong at On The Wall Art Gallery

Market Reds by Vanita Gopwani Comissiong © On The Wall Art Gallery

You can’t bring the sunshine back with you, but a colourful canvas might be the perfect Caribbean keepsake. The On The Wall Gallery in Barbados’s Christ Church parish is a great place to view and buy vibrant works by local artists.




For many visitors, Japan is the ultimate destination for strange souvenirs: cute toys, comics, and unique accessories abound. For those not necessarily thrilled by cuteness overload, Tokyo’s Asakusa district offers a fantastic and equally odd alternative. Here you can pick up all sorts of realistic plastic food replicas like those seen in the windows of so many of the city’s restaurants.

Plastic display food in Tokyo

Plastic display food in Tokyo

Washington D.C


Lipstick pen set at the International Spy Museum Store

Lipstick pen set © International Spy Museum Store

While the Smithsonian Institution has nineteen of DC’s (and the country’s) greatest museums, the US capital’s coolest is probably downtown’s International Spy Museum. Best of all, they have a gift shop that’s well-stocked with espionage-oriented toys and trinkets. A pen that’s also recording device? Check. Camera watch? Check. Night-vision goggles? It’s all here.




Dragon cushion cover from Annabel Lee Shanghai

Dragon cushion cover © Annabel Lee Shanghai

Once you’ve visited the indoor market and loaded up on all the fake bags and watches your friends and colleagues have asked for, don’t forget to invest in some real Shanghai chic. Embroidered silk is the classic buy, but Annabel Lee’s modern take on the traditional craft is the thing to seek out for contemporary style lovers.




Anyone visiting Cuba will find an instant, inexpensive gift for teenagers and would-be revolutionary friends in the country’s 3 peso note, which carries the classic portrait of Che Guevara, international symbol of freedom.

Cuban 3 peso note with Che

Cuban 3 peso note with Che

For the best flight deals to all of the above destinations, visit