We’ve had several requests to publish a Spain edition of our series about the best souvenirs to buy during your travels, so here it is! Our suggestions for great buys to bring home from Spain.
The Best Souvenirs to Buy in Spain
One of the most intense experiences we had during our trip in Andalusia, Spain, was a flamenco show we attended in Seville. I don’t know if it was the guitar, the singer’s low voice or the sound of castanets but we were fascinated! At the end of it we had goosebumps and I wanted to take some of that memory back home.
So, the next day, when we walked around Plaza de Espana and I saw someone selling souvenirs on the ground, I stopped to buy a pair of castanets. Called castanuelas in Spanish (little chestnuts), their sound is associated with Flamenco, the traditional dance in Andalusia. They are made of two pieces of wood connected with a ribbon. The two castanets in a pair are not identical and each one is used in the left or right hand, according to their purpose and the sound they produce.
The price for a pair of castanets in Spain ranges from 5 euro (for the kind bought on the street as a souvenir) to 150 euro (for the professional ones). I was not planning to dance with them, so I bought the cheap version. But sometimes, at home, when I miss Spain, I like to play with them and remember the surprising flamenco dance.
By Corina Preda, author of Another Milestone.
Ceramic Gecko Lizards
One of the best and most authentic souvenirs from the Spanish Canary Islands is the small painted gecko lizards. If you ever visit the island of Gran Canaria, you’ll see these animals all over the place in nature. In Spanish, they are known as El Drac. Notably, these are not only a Spanish national symbol, but also reflect the work of infamous Spanish architect Gaudi.
Generally, they are quite small and decorated with a Spanish-style mosaic. You can find gecko products in all sorts of colours: blue, green, yellow, you name it. Moreover, you can get them as a fridge magnet, a pendant or as a wall decoration. If you stumble into a museum gift shop or a souvenir stall, you’ll be able to find one there. Usually, the lizards are anywhere from 5-10 euros. A word of advice: purchase them in a museum shop. This way you’ll also support the local community. Besides, the ones at the museum gift shops are superior in quality.
I’ve bought one for the house which is mounted rather cheekily next to a door frame, and my kids also like to wear t-shirts with geckos on them.
Espadrilles aka Alpargarta
One of my favorite souvenirs to buy from Spain are definitely alpargata shoes. They also go by the name of espadrilles. Recently, they have become very fashionable worldwide but in Spain, they have been popular since the early 1950s. However, their roots go much further back to the 13th century.
Consisting of a coiled rope sole and a cotton canvas upper, the alpargata is Spain’s favorite summer shoe.
Even though there are many designer versions of the espadrilles shoes, they are usually considered as shoes of the “poor”. Indeed, original alpargata shoes won’t cost you more than 15€! However the more delicate the design or the more refined the material, the higher the price.
My favorite place to buy alpargata shoes is in Madrid. If you stay in Madrid city center, you are only a stone’s throw from the oldest alpargata shoe shop in the world: Casa Hernanz at 18 Calle Toldedo. Make sure to give yourself enough time as you will need to spend a long time in the queue before entering the shop. However, all the waiting time will be worth it as you’ll be the proud owner of artisan, original alpargata shoes.
I don’t like the heat too much which is why during the summer I always have a manual fan in my purse. To add some style, I prefer special fans, and one of my favorites is a hand-painted fan from Spain.
Spanish fans are famous worldwide – especially as they are an accessory for flamenco. They are one of the best souvenirs you can buy from Spain, as they capture the essence of the country. The prices vary, depending on the material used to make the fan (some combine textile with wood, others are wood-only), but in Madrid they usually range from 20 to 50 euros.
When choosing a fan make sure you test to see that it opens and closes easily and check the mechanism holding it together. For the textile ones, check to see that the material is in good shape especially at the edges.
A fun fan fact: the history of the fan goes way back to Asia and it wasn’t until the 15th century that Europeans brought them to the continent. Spanish fan craftsmen appeared in the 17th century. In both Europe and Asia manual fans have long been considered a luxury accessory, a way to flirt (depending on how the fan is held by the woman), a way to communicate (by writing messages on the fan itself), and, of course, an accessory to beat hot days or to incorporate into dance. While they are not so popular nowadays, they are still used by many people, especially as a practical accessory.
For meat-eating food lovers, Spanish ham (jamon) is one of the best things to enjoy when visiting Spain, and also makes a great edible souvenir to bring home. As with most things, quality varies enormously: from cheaper hams made from intensively-farmed, grain-fed pigs, to the highest quality jamón Ibérico de bellota made from acorn-fed Iberian pigs, cured 100% naturally, in the traditional way, and many grades in between.
You can buy either sliced ham or an entire cured leg to bring home. A whole leg of jamón Ibérico de bellota will run to several hundred euros, but less expensive (and still very tasty) hams can be bought from around 40 euros upwards. Sliced ham can be purchased in supermarkets and delis from just a few euros, but usually needs to be kept chilled for transport.
By Kavita Favelle. Find Kavey Eats on Instagram.
Andalucia, the Southern region of Spain, is the world’s largest producer of olive oil. As you drive along the motorways of Andalucia you will notice that all the surrounding hills are covered with olive trees. During my trip on Costa Tropical and to Granada, every time I went out for dinner, I was first served warm bread with a saucer filled with olive oil.
You can find good olive oil to buy as a souvenir at any gourmet shop in the major cities of Andalucia. There is a big difference between olive oil used for cooking and the oil used for eating on its own, so don’t buy the cheapest you can find in the supermarket thinking that it will be the same.
Usually a good bottle of olive oil will cost around 15-20 euros. If you think the price is high, remember that a bottle of olive oil will last for some time, as you will use only a little bit for each portion. Some brands to remember for your next visit to Spain are Autentico, Oro Bailen and Rincon Subetica. These olive oils are for dripping: to enjoy on warm bread, on a tostada (toasted crusty bread topped with chopped tomatoes) or drizzled on top of a simple salad.
By Joanna Davis , author of The World In My Pocket. Find her on Instagram.
The first time I tasted paella, the signature dish of Spain, it was home-cooked. I was staying with a local woman from Valencia, as part of a language study. She explained the whole process of cooking a paella to perfection and I absorbed all the information like a sponge. Needless to say, the dish was amazing and I tried to replicate it at home, but never cooked the rice to perfection.
When I revisited Spain, I decided a paella pan would be the perfect souvenir from Spain. I roamed the market and found several great options. Ranging from tiny, 2-person paella pans, to Guinness book record-breaking big ones. In the end, I went with a sizable 8-10 person pan which is quite big, but it fit in my bag, so I took it home!
Ranging from 20 to 200 euros, paella pans can cater to any budget. Usually the size and the finish of the handles determine the price. The best place to shop for a paella pan is at the markets in Spain. Valencia, Alicante and Andalusia are known for their paellas, but each region cooks its own version with different ingredients.
I use my paella pan almost once a month; it’s my signature dish when I have more than 2 friends over. I perfected my own recipe over time, and the pan does the rest!
If you thought that paprika originated in Hungary, you are not alone – I thought the same thing until I researched this popular spice several years ago. In fact, Columbus discovered capsicums during his explorations of the New World and presented them to Queen Isabel of Spain on return from his second expedition.
We take the name in English from the Hungarian word for ground capsicums because Hungary quickly became a major producer of the spice.
In Spain, paprika is mainly produced in two key areas. Murcia, in the South East, sun dries the peppers before grinding them into pimentón (as paprika is called in Spanish). In La Vera (in Extremadura) to the West, the peppers are more commonly dried over wood-fires, which impart a smoky taste; this smoked paprika is known as pimentón de la Vera, sold as smoked paprika in the UK.
As well as plain versus smoked, you also have sweet and hot versions. Paprika is easy to find in Spain, not only in delis but any supermarket or grocery shop. You can buy it in jars and foil packets, but I’m a sucker for the pretty tins that many brands offer.
By Kavita Favelle.
If you visit Granada in southern Spain, you must stop in at the Alcaiceria Market near the Granada Cathedral. An exotic bazaar selling everything from lamps to spices, this market is a great place to shop for souvenirs, as long as you are prepared to haggle.
Some of the prettiest souvenirs you can buy here are the colorful scarves you will see hanging in storefronts. In bright jewel colors or subdued hues, with intricate patterns or simple solids with subtle textures, you can find the gamut in scarves here.
Ranging in price from 12 to 25 Euros, the scarves look soft and silky. Many claim to be Pashmina, but I am not sure they are. They do look pretty though and I brought back several to gift and some to keep for myself. You’ll get the best prices if you haggle vigorously. Be prepared to walk away if you can’t talk down the price by at least 20 percent.
By Dhara, author of It’s Not About the Miles.
I always love to bring back unique souvenirs when visiting a new place: both for myself as well as for friends and family. When planning our visit to Granada, I had heard about a locally made taracea boxes and knew I needed to find them. On our first day in Granada we visited Artesania Morillo on Cuesta Gomerez 37. The little shop was filled with beautiful boxes of different sizes and shapes as well as other pieces. I fell in love with a colourful pencil holder, and the artisans were in the process of making an amazing chessboard when we visited.
The designs of the marquetry items are unique. Each beautiful creation is made with small pieces of different coloured natural woods, bone, tortoiseshell and other materials. A geometric design is initially drawn on the wood and the artisan fills the design with these beautiful colourful pieces. Despite the work entailed, the prices are surprisingly reasonable, varying depending on size. The items we brought home ranged from 10 to 25 euros each.
The taracea boxes make the perfect souvenir because they’re unique to Granada, reasonably priced, easy to pack and useful once you return home. I love my pencil holder, which sits on my desk reminding me each day of beautiful Spain.
A bottle, a couple of bottles or a box of six of the best known wines in Spain such as Ribera del Duero or Rioja, make for a great Spanish souvenir. Alternatively, bring back a box of some not so famous ones such as Ribeira Sacra, from my favorite Spanish region, Galicia.
Wine can be found everywhere in Spain. From small supermarkets to big malls, you only need to be over 18 to purchase it. In addition, it is fairly cheap, and you can find great wines from 5 or 10€. Just make sure to wrap it properly. You don’t want to ruin your souvenir before landing.
Wine is always best when shared so I’d suggest inviting friends over to rave about your holiday afterward. You can even select a few of your favorite pictures to show the small gathering at the same time. Enjoy!
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Find more posts on the best souvenirs to buy around the world.
Images contributed by authors of each souvenir, or used with attribution.
Please check the customs restrictions of your home country before your trip, so that you know which food and drink souvenirs you are permitted to import.