Here’s a collection of souvenirs you can buy during a trip through Europe.
Andorra, VAT-free so far, has been a popular destination for shopping for everything upscale – electronics, jewellery, perfumes and high end fashion.
Just one thing – Swarovski crystals. More things – Sacher Torte, Lebkuchen, dessert wines, schnapps, pumpkin seed oil. Art lovers can add Gustav Klimt posters, calendars, notepads and handcrafted wooden Nativity scenes to their collection.
· Balkan Peninsula
If you had to pick just one souvenir from Bulgaria, it would definitely have to be a vial of essential rose oil. You can get it in traditional wooden dolls or decorative wooden bottles.
· Baltic States
Glowing amber in different shades from the Baltic Sea is shaped into decorations and neat jewellery, widely available throughout the region. You could also pick up some Estonian marzipan, which is available in various shapes and Laima chocolates from Latvia.
In Belarus, straw is elegantly crafted into various shapes and dolls, which make good gifts. Belarusian linen is also of high quality, with interesting designs.
Belgium is where Tintin comes to life, and a comic souvenir is a must. Also on the must-buy list are pralines, originally made by Neuhaus. Belgium has a huge range of strong, exotic beers, only some of which are exported. Take your pick of the finest, you may not find it elsewhere. Belgian laces, very pretty with intricate patterns and impeccable finishing, make breathtaking dresses and veils.
If you find yourself in Netherlands, a pair of Dutch wooden clogs, tulips, and blue and white Delftware would be great additions to your home collection. You can also get miniature windmills, which are dainty and look lovely.
Luxembourg produces ethereal crystal, but it is the cuisine, influenced by France, Belgium and Germany that is the real revelation for travellers. Ardennes ham, black pudding and plum tarts are real delicacies, and worth carrying if you live a short flight away.
Handicrafts has been a traditional industry in Cyprus, with artisans producing pottery, jewellery and beautiful embroidery. Halloumi cheese is a Cypriot speciality which is great for barbecues back home.
France is a gourmand’s delight, and if you have an epicure for a friend back home, you will be spoilt for choice. Reblochon cheese, Herbes de Provence, Armagnac and the range from Bordeaux may require an extra backpack. For someone with a sweet tooth, the Laduree macaroons and gourmet chocolates are a real delight. Perfumes, Laguiole knives and exquisite Puy lace make expensive but memorable gifts.
Souvenirs from Germany are the best and the wurst. Take home a cuckoo clock from the Blackforest as an archetype of German precision. Classic beer steins are a favourite with all, and Edelweiss pins and Hummel figurines are cute and small enough to tuck into a corner of your handbag.
Statues of the Greek Pantheon are easily available and very “touristy” buys. Also ubiquitous are the owl souvenirs – the owl being associated with Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom. Most Greek households also display Matia (evil eye), which travellers really fancy.
In Ireland, you can get a piece of the Auld Sod or Irish soil to take home and also Shamrock seeds to create an Irish corner in your garden. Take away an Aran sweater and Whiskey to continue experiencing the Irish warmth at home. If you have extra luggage space on the way back, you may consider a Guinness tankard and Shillelagh.
Buy a food basket, you’re in Italy! Fill up with Limoncello, Vinsanto, Cantucci, Tradizionale Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Panforte. A fashionista’s paradise, you can find ties, scarves and high boots to suit all wallets. Balance out a David apron with rosaries from the Vatican or Renaissance memorabilia. A trip to Venice is incomplete without buying a Murano creation and a Venetian mask.
If you cannot afford to get caviar for all, despair not. Kazakh handmade felt camels and yurta are incredibly cute and surprisingly inexpensive. Leather whips (kamchi) and saddle bottles are other gifts to consider.
Liechtenstein has interesting souvenir postage stamps – take one for the memory. Pottery and Balzner marble sculpting are traditional arts here, with a huge range of creations to choose from.
Handblown glass and filigree silverware are Maltese must-haves.
Ceramics, rugs and woodwork here have a distinctive Moldovan touch. Moldova is also known for its wines.
A Dala horse, or soft stuffed moose are instantly evocative of Scandinavia. Another piece for the mantelpiece would be a Swedish angel chime or a Toikka bird. Reindeer hide from Sweden or a cozy Norwegian sweater will keep you warm for several winters. Puukko knives and handwoven ryijy rugs are traditional Finnish memorabilia. Last but not the least, don’t forget to buy some surstromming for your enemies back home.
The Portuguese love their port wine, but their green wine, Madeira and Ginjinha are also worth a mention. The ubiquitous azulejos are also beautiful souvenirs.
Finding mementos in Romania are really easy for a Dracula fan. But if you are not one, you can choose from the traditional vibrant artwork – Bucovina Easter eggs, Horezu pottery and plates and carved wooden figures from Maramures.
The nesting Matryoshka dolls are intriguing and alluring, appealing to people across all ages. Traditional handcrafted Birch boxes and intricately painted Lacquer boxes are fine examples of Russian workmanship. Jewelled Farberge eggs are exquisite and worth splurging on. Vodka was once upon a time a parallel currency in Russia, and is available in interesting bottles – even one shaped like an AK-47! A warm ushanka, though available widely in most cold countries, is also a good gift from here.
For the connoisseur of fine food, Slovenian salts from Primorska are a real delight. For the foodie, you can also pick some Prsut, traditional Slovenian wines and schnapps. If you are looking for something more lasting, delicate lace from Idrija is perfect for coffee tables. The dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana, and several souvenirs around this can be found in souvenir shops.
In Spain you can find premium leather at reasonable prices, so go in for a leather jacket or handbag, or a more traditional bota for holding liquor. Mantillas and capes are also interesting gifts to consider. Delicate Lladro porcelain may require some handling with care, but you can definitely throw in a box of delicious rabitos anytime. If you make the trip to Toledo, you definitely have to buy one of those famous swords and steel jewellery. If corny is your style, then go in for a Barca t-shirt.
Switzerland produces peerless army knives, watches, chocolates, cheese and well, tennis players. Swiss army knives from Victorinox are widely available and the best. You need to set aside a few hours if you love fine watches, the extensive collections are exquisite (and expensive!). You could also buy an elaborate cuckoo clock if watches are not your thing.
Ward off evil with a charming blue nazar, which every household here displays. Turkish carpet weaving is an ancient art, perfected over centuries to produce opulent designs. Boxes of Turkish delight and apple tea are available in every corner, make sure you load up on these. Sculpted onyx vases and bowls can also be easily found, and lend a very ethnic and unique buzz to your home.
Pick a basket of Pysanky – traditional painted Easter eggs. Straw has been traditionally used in Ukraine for creating adornments, which are widely available. Straw bells are believed to bring good fortune, and also sit pretty on a Christmas tree.
· United Kingdom
The souvenir shops in London are always awash with the Union Jack and its colours. Pick a replica of the iconic red telephone booth or a double decker bus. An English breakfast tea box with a cosy is perfect for tea junkies. You also must pick up one of those tacky tourist staples, such as a replica of Big Ben or a I Love London shot glass.
If you are travelling through the Visegrad, you will have a hard time picking out just a few items from the myriad beautiful displays. Czech crystal is flawless, and Moser and Ruckl are highly famed for their production. If you are on a food trail, you have to pick some excellent Czech beer, Hungarian wines, Polish honey, Tokaji, Unicum, palinka, sliwowica, zubrowka, Torun gingerbread and paprika. Amber from the Baltic Sea is abundantly available in the region, and jewellery made from it is inexpensive and striking.