The 10 Best Souvenirs - From Athens to Zurich

The word souvenir comes from the French verb, “to remember.” We’re guessing they meant a thoughtful keepsake representative of a place’s history or culture, and probably not this this or that. Don’t let an airport kiosk snow globe tell the story of your adventure. Here’s a list of authentic mementos from some of our most popular destinations.

Swiss Chocolate

Moss/Via Flickr

1.     Zurich, Switzerland

There’s a reason Switzerland has the highest rate of chocolate consumption per capita in the world. While they didn’t invent the sweet confection, many argue they perfected it. For a sweet souvenir, pick up some sinfully rich chocolates at one of our favorite chocolatiers, including Teuscher, Spruengli and Truffe.

2.     Munich, Germany

Beer plays a central role in German culture and when it comes to steins, their pride flows like lager. This iconic drinking vessel earned its popularity back in the 1400s when sanitary measures were taken to combat the effects of the Bubonic plague. Germans added a hinged lid to prevent infected insects from taking a swim in their brew.  Over the centuries, stone and pewter became the materials of choice, and the word steinzeugkrug, German for “stoneware jug,” was shortened to “stein.” Visit one of the many flea markets throughout Munich for great prices.

3.     Florence, Italy

The capital of Tuscany is filled with treasures—from food and wine to antiques and jewelry. But before you leave town, pay a visit to San Lorenzo market to find rich, buttery leathers at a fraction of the price. Outdoor stalls line the streets here where the best price is the one you haggle for. Bags, jackets, belts and wallets come in all shades of brown, black and tan. Part of the fun is bargaining with the seller.

4.     Moscow, Russia

From Tchaikovsky to Tolstoy, artistic achievements have creatively expressed the highs and lows of Russian history. One of the most iconic symbols of the land is a nod to their art, history and culture—the nesting doll or matryoshka. This set of little wooden dolls dates back to 1890 when Vasily Zvyozdochkin carved them in his home. While you can find them throughout Russia, Moscow’s Izmaylovo Market offers a great collection of dolls with all different themes.


Alice Achterhof/Via Unsplash

5.     Amsterdam, Netherlands

While you might be tempted to outfit your friends and family in colorful wooden shoes, the trend isn’t likely to catch on back in the States. And if it did, would you really want to be responsible for it? Your best bet for a winning gift that is synonymous with the Netherlands is tulip bulbs. This Dutch emblem is found in colorful rows throughout the country and can be easily transported back home and enjoyed in almost any climate.

6.     Paris, France

Designer scarves, French wines, intoxicating perfumes … there are endless gifts we associate with Paris. While each one is iconic in its own right, choosing the right pattern, grape or scent as a gift can be challenging at best. Err on the side of caution and bring home a treat that gives friends a true taste of France: a box of delicious macarons. French Macaron cookies have been nationally acclaimed in France and are the best-selling cookie in pastry stores. Made of almond power, egg whites and sugar, these petite delicacies are often filled with chocolate panache to form a delicious cookie sandwich. Our favorite places to indulge in a box of treats are Pierre Hermé (on Rue Bonaparte in the 6th arrondissement) and Ladurée (on Ave des Champs-Elysées in the 8th arrondissement).

7.     London, England

Ask for a hot “cuppa” in London and you’ll find yourself sipping a delicious cup of tea. Tea’s aromatic loose leaves are steeped in British culture (sorry, we couldn’t resist) and in the U.K., you’ll find countless flavors of fragrant blends. Capture the essence of this traditional pastime with a tea strainer and a tea of your choosing. From English Breakfast to Earl Grey, half the fun is finding your favorite.

Spanish ceramics

Job Savelsberg/Via Unsplash

8.     Madrid, Spain

Spain’s beautiful ceramic tile work is tantamount to its beautiful architecture throughout the country. Bring home a splash of the rich colors and history with your own tiles. Sift through handmade works at local shops throughout Madrid like Antigua Casa Talavera. Located on Calle de Isabel la Católica 2, this small shop boasts authentic tiles, plates, jugs and other ceramics. Unlike most tourist traps, the pieces at Casa Talavera are one of a kind and never mass-produced.

9.     San José, Costa Rica

There are 78,000 coffee producers in Costa Rica, quenching much of the world’s thirst for the caffeinated beverage of choice. Its tropical climate, high altitude and mineral-rich soil prove to be a trifecta in growing bold, flavorful beans. Coffee tours are common throughout the country, but a good cup of coffee is never far from reach. If you’re not a coffee drinker but know someone (or everyone) else who is, we recommend a bag of whole beans from Café Brit or Café Doka. These two blends are native to Costa Rica and relatively easy to find.

10.   Athens, Greece

Savor the taste of Greece with a fine bottle of olive oil. Its history dates back to Greek mythology when Athena planted the first olive tree. It would come to bare a delicious oil used in food preparation, medicine and beauty. So popular was this liquid gold that the city was named in her honor where the first olive tree took root. There are plenty of places to purchase local purveyors, but we recommend Lesvos Shop (on 33 Athinas Street) and Masticha shop (on the corner of Panepistimiou and Kriezotou street).

Laura Hearn / Google+

Laura Hearn

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