Last week, we shared four gift ideas that focus on original designs and stand apart from uninspired destination t-shirts and typical souvenir shop bric-a-brac. But if you’re looking for something a bit more classic, here’s a list traditional souvenirs that don’t compromise quality.
Three towns in Croatia are famous for their traditional lace: Pag, Lepoglava in northern Croatia, and Hvar. Each type of lace has its own look, but lacemaking in all three locations has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Pag needlepoint lace, or paska cipka, is perhaps the most well known of the three.
It typically follows an intricate, circular pattern. Today, this centuries-old art is passed down by expert lacemakers who teach year-long courses. Lace is sold at many specialty shops and markets, but beware vendors who sell several identical lace pieces – these are likely manufactured. Handmade lace is incredibly intricate, and each piece is unique.
For generations, artisans have crafted traditional wooden toys in Zagorje, the hilly region north of Zagreb. From soft willow, maple, beech, and lime wood, local men carve whistles, rocking horses, miniature furniture, and other whimsical items, and the women decorate them with ecologically friendly, brightly colored paint.
The toys made today are almost identical to those crafted 100 years ago. Like handmade Croatian lace, wooden toys from Zagorje are on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, and they recently made the Daily Mail’s list of six things you must do in Croatia. Look for them at regional markets.
Yet another cultural product inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List, gingerbread – and specifically licitar hearts – has become a symbol of Zagreb and the surrounding region of northern Croatia. Traditional licitars are entirely edible, made from sweet honey dough infused with spices and skillfully decorated with vibrant red icing.
Often, a message of love or friendship is inscribed on the heart. The tradition of decorating licitars dates back to Middle Ages, after European monasteries began making gingerbread. Though they are especially popular during Christmastime, you can find licitars at souvenir shops and markets all year long.
In Croatia, you can find lavender in everything from chocolate to fragrant beauty products. Croatian skincare company Ulola, for instance, makes a creamy and completely natural lavender and tea body butter and a rosemary, sea salt, and lavender exfoliant. You can also purchase pure lavender oil, known for its healing properties, or aromatic dried lavender.
For a super travel-friendly souvenir, pick up some lavender sachets. These handy pouches of dried flowers make great gifts, and when you open your suitcase after arriving home, the sweet scent of lavender will send pleasant holiday memories through your mind. The island of Hvar is famous for its lavender fields, but you can find lavender souvenirs anywhere on the coast, in specialty shops and markets.
Croatia is known for a number of culinary products. Each region has its own delicacies that you’ll doubtless come across during your travels, and any of these would make a wonderful gift for the foodie in your family.
If you’re still drawing a blank, you can’t go wrong with one of Oleoteka Uje’s high-quality, handmade products like jam, capers, or olive paste in cute, travel-sized packaging. Their Brachia olive oil comes in a beautiful bottle that would add elegance to anyone’s kitchen. Award-winning Chiavalon olive oil is another gift any cook would be delighted to own.
For something a little different that chefs of every skill level can put to use, head to Nin for some sea salt from the Roman-era saltworks.
Souvenir hunting for someone with a sweet tooth? Choose some sweet treats from one of Croatia’s many chocolatiers, and keep your eyes peeled for traditional fig cakes, or smokvenjaci, and packages of peppery paprenjak cookies. You can purchase both at Bakina Kuca, a Zagreb-based souvenir shop that specializes in Croatian delicacies, but they’re also available in specialty shops and often at markets across Croatia.
Hungry after all that shopping? Find your best dining options with Like Croatia’s Good Restaurants app, available on iTunes now!