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Going to Greece is an experience. No matter where you choose to go and how to spend your vacations, you will have a unique, wonderful time, see amazing things, be surrounded by wondrous history, and sample wonderful dishes from one of the best cuisines in the Mediterranean!
When you return, therefore, you should have tokens to show for it! Just like the country, Greek souvenirs are unique and distinctive. What’s more, the best things to buy from Greece come in a huge range and diversity, from the utilitarian to the ornamental- some manage to be both!
The best Greek souvenirs also make for excellent gifts for your loved ones and your friends, as they often are only found in Greece in their original, pure form, including the ones specifically made for tourists. It’s no accident that locals, too, buy Greek souvenirs because they simply are that good, and a great addition to any home, wardrobe, or pantry.
What, then, are the best things to buy in Greece?
What to buy in Greece – Best Greek Souvenirs
1. Greek Honey
The ancient Greeks called honey “ambrosia”- the food of the gods, such was their admiration for it.
Greek honey comes in many varieties, depending on where the bees forage. The best quality, premium type of honey is thyme honey. It is a deep golden, almost amber color, with a rich viscous texture that is like silk.
Greek honey is extremely fragrant, even if it is not purely of thyme, or it is pine honey or flower honey. Depending on the variety, the viscosity differs, but the taste remains a light, sweet, aromatic flavor you can’t find in any other kind! Use honey as a topping, spread it over bread and butter, add it in tea or milk, and enjoy its innumerable benefits to your health.
While you are in Greece, you can buy it in bulk at a lot lower prices than if you seek it out at home.
2. Olive Oil and Olives
Greek olive oil is one of the best varieties you could possibly have. Olive oil has been a staple in Greece since antiquity. It is thanks to the olive tree the goddess Athena gifted to Athens that the city still bears her name!
Greek olive oil has been called “liquid gold” and with good reason! Go for the “extra virgin” olive oil as that is the cream of the crop. Greek olive oil is aromatic, with a silky fruitiness and freshness that is certain to add flavor to everything you use it in.
In high profile, Greek restaurants olive oil is frequently served raw with toasted bread and oregano for dipping as an appetizer.
Greek olives, too, are considered of premium quality, and of the best in the world. They come in a lot of varieties, depending on the region they are harvested from. They have a range of tastes, from bitter and fruity to sweet, peppery, and tangy.
If you buy olives, try to buy a large variety rather than just one type. The most famous types of olives, and very popular with the locals, are the Kalamata black, Cretan green, Nafplion green (often stuffed with red pepper), the wrinkly Throumbes, and the ancient variety of plum olive. Taste them all!
3. Greek Coffee
Greek coffee is a staple of Greek breakfast as well as Greek casual morning and afternoon gatherings to chat and gossip! It is a very strong, aromatic fine grind that needs a specific narrow, tall pot called briki that can come in traditional copper or more utilitarian inox. The brewing is done over the open fire of a Bunsen burner or slowly over the cooker.
It is served in small cups called demitasse cups and is meant to be sipped slowly over talking, while the grounds settle. Greek coffee is ubiquitous in Greece, and it is the one thing to buy from Greece if you are seeking to bring home its flavors.
4. Greek herbs and spices
Greece is famous for its wide range of herbs and spices, many with medicinal or extremely beneficial effects to our health while being fragrant and tasty in tea, food, and scenting of other ingredients (such as olive oil, or sugar!). Some of these herbs can only be found in Greece at such a high level of quality, and a lot of the others will be too expensive at home, compared to buying them in Greece. Hence, they make the perfect souvenir!
Look out for Greek saffron (also called Krokos Kozanis), fresh or dried oregano, Cretan mountain tea, Olympus tea, marjoram, mountain mint (called ‘fliskouni’), red oregano, and stinging nettle!
5. Greek traditional pasta
Traditionally made Greek pasta are an unusual, but surprisingly tasty and a unique souvenir to buy. Made usually with wheat, eggs, and milk, this pasta comes in several types depending on the region and is considered a delicacy by the locals.
Look out for traditional sweet and sour trachanas, hylopites, striftades, gogkoi, and a lot more. There are many local terms for them, so make sure to browse and pick the ones that attract your attention, especially from Crete (but definitely get trachanas either way).
6. Greek sweets and confections
Greek sweets are a treat, no matter what type you choose to buy: usually made of crunchy phyllo and doused in syrup, or even honey syrup, they are made to delight in small bites. A lot of the sweets from Greece are a mix of the middle eastern, western, and ancient Greek influences over the eons, some dating as far back as Byzantium, or even earlier!
You want to try baklava, kantaifi, kourkoubinia, and ekmek (a considerably Hellenized version from the old traditional Turkish dish). You should also go looking for confections such as delights in many flavors (called loukoumi), many different types of halva, chocolate ‘olives’, koufeta (egg-shaped treats usually given at weddings, but available to buy in several flavors in choice Athenian places), traditional candy such as almond candy (called amygdalota), sesame pies and paste (called tahini), pasteli (sesame, honey, and nuts bars) and a lot more!
Last but not least, you want to look for the traditional spoon sweets: fruits preserved in sugar syrup and served with coffee on a teaspoon. They come in tens of different types, are of the most low-calorie and healthy options for a treat and won’t disappoint your cravings for something delectable at any hour!
7. Greek spirits and liqueurs
Ouzo is the most popular and ubiquitous spirit to have in Greece. Made from the distillation of neutral alcohol with aniseed, there are several varieties with a range of fragrances and deviations of flavor except the standard one. But there are a lot more to sample than just ouzo.
If you go for the strong stuff, then you want to try raki, tsipouro, and tsikoudia. Distilled from different types of pomace, they are very high in alcohol degrees!
If you value flavor, the best spirits to buy from Greece are rakomelo (raki mixed with honey and spices), Metaxa brandy (go for more than three stars), and mastiha ouzo.
There are also a lot of liqueurs to have, such as mastiha liqueur, Tentura, and Kitron, all with their unique distinct taste which you won’t find anywhere else.
8. Mastiha products
Mastic (or mastiha) is the product of the island of Chios, from its mastic trees. They are unique in the world, and mastic cannot be made anywhere else, though efforts have been made in the past! Mastic is extremely fragrant, with a fresh, flowery aroma that manages to be light and strong at the same time.
There are several products made of mastiha, and you should definitely buy souvenirs made of mastiha in Greece. Some of the most popular ones are of course the mastiha liqueur, mastiha ouzo, mastiha drops, and chewing gum, cosmetics and perfume, supplements and dietary elements, and a lot more!
9. Leather sandals
Wear the footwear the ancient Greeks and Romans, and even Byzantines would wear as the norm! In Greece you can find an astounding variety of historically accurate replicas of sandals from all historical periods, ready to wear. You can also find new, modern interpretations of various sandal designs, perfect for walking around the streets of Athens, at the islands, or the mountains in the heat of summer while your feet comfortably breathe.
Besides the leather sandals, there are a lot more leather products to have which you will only find in Greece! There are leather bags made with the traditional ancient method and decorated with the technique of burning and stamping, wallets and tobacco pouches with traditional leatherwork decorations, and more!
There is also a long heritage of leather clothing, especially from the north. If you are into that sort of thing, there are jackets and lush fur coats and hats for you to buy which enjoy worldwide acclaim.
11. Traditional and fusion clothing
Greek fashion is distinct, informed by the millennia of history and various powerful moments in it that defined who the Greeks are. So you can preserve that and take it home in the form of various types of traditional clothing.
You can buy a Greek fez, a fustanella or gold-embroidered jacket with wide lush sleeves, traditional flowy shirts, and embroidered aprons and skirts, and of course, you can buy the iconic tsarouhia: the shoes with pompoms, made of heavy leather and nails which the Evzones still wear when they guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They are legendary shoes that made it onto the feet of soldiers as recently as even WWI!
Of course, you can also go for the ancient fashions, and buy yourself a tunic or a dress in archaic styles, with the matching accessories.
12. Your standard t-shirts, hoodies, and hats
If you take a stroll through any of the highly touristy, flea-market streets, you will find a huge array of t-shirts, hats, and hoodies with various designs and patterns commemorating your visit to Greece. There is a lot that also gives a tongue-in-cheek message or goes for satire and irony, staples of the Greek culture as much as the love for antiquity and tradition!
13. Mati (Evil Eye) wards
The traditional superstition in Greece has it that you might get the evil eye if someone who is harboring deep envy or jealousy for you stares at you very intensely. If you get the evil eye, you might experience a lack of energy, low vitality, headaches, or even nausea.
A popular way to avoid it is to wear the ‘mati’ which is a design of a blue eye. You will find that in many different forms, like pendants, bracelets, earrings, wall ornaments, desk ornaments, and even worry beads. Purchase this souvenir from Greece as well as wishes for yourself and your loved ones!
You will find all sorts of jewelry in a wide range of precious or semi-precious metals, made in the style of different historical eras, from the age of Homer to the age of Lord Byron! Some of the most popular designs are the Minoan snakes, the archaic spirals and meanders, and Hellenistic and neoclassical patterns that will set you apart when you wear them at home!
15. Greek cosmetics
Greek cosmetics are internationally famous for the purity of ingredients and beneficial herbs, flowers, and other plants put to service of womanly (and manly) beauty! You can treat yourself to several products by Korres and Apivita, especially for cleansing, rejuvenation, protection, and skin-friendly makeup!
There are also olive-oil based beauty products, bubble bath, and fragrant soaps, so make sure not to miss out!
16. Greek worry beads (kompoloi)
The kompoloi (or worry beads) are a staple of Greek tradition. It is a string of beads tied together in a ring, often with a tassel at the juncture, loose enough so that the beads can be tossed and dropped along the string, making a distinct sound as you handle them.
There are a lot of kompoloi so ornate and made of such beads that they are museum pieces! You can get yours, usually made of amber beads, corals, or agate, on a silver or silk string. Make sure to opt for a handmade kompoloi, not an import.
17. A backgammon set
Backgammon or ‘tavli’ as it is called in Greece, is a huge part of Greek leisure. Greek men would play it in coffee shops and in the open air. The set consists of the wooden case, in which you play the game, often made with beautiful artistry, with inlaid wood and ivory, and the pieces and dice also made with fine materials.
A Greek backgammon set is a great souvenir to get from Greece, which you will use to have quality time with your friends as the games are easy to learn and fun to play!
18. Replicas of ancient artifacts
Another great souvenir to bring from Greece is, of course, a faithful replica of some of the most famous ancient statues, urns, reliefs, and even friezes that we associate with Greece.
There are several beautiful replicas, some to scale, others in smaller or bigger sizes, which you can take home with you of gorgeous artwork you saw in various museums and at archaeological sites.
You will find several types, with more or less accuracy, with the best ones being available in the various museum shops and those bearing similar certifications.
You can even have elaborate chess pieces and chess board sets, with representations of the Greek gods and heroes, and a lot more!
19. Greek ceramics and pottery
Especially if you find yourself in the Greek islands, you must buy a Greek ceramic or pottery made from the local workshops in the traditional styles and methods of old. You have a chance to get places, vases, water jugs, entire tea, and coffee sets, with exquisite flowery and other traditional patterns, all drawn by hand, making them unique to have.
You can also get a demitasse cup set for serving Greek coffee. Many are truly works of art, hailing in style from the medieval or ottoman times, and will make for a wonderful addition to your household.
20. Bouzouki and Greek instruments
The bouzouki is the iconic musical instrument of Greece, which makes the distinct sound we associate with the sound of Greece, especially in the 20th century. The bouzouki is the historical development of the ancient Greek pandura, and you can purchase one as a souvenir from Greece! You can also get its miniature brother, the baglamas, and other traditional Greek instruments that are prominent in the Greek musical heritage.
All of the bouzoukis and baglamades are crafted with love and have beautiful designs and patterns with alternating colors, inlaid materials like darker wood or ivory, and make for a great ornament in your home even if you don’t play.
21. Olive wood products
Olive wood is very rare. You won’t find it easily outside of Greece. It is also very sturdy, hardy, and beautiful in color, with honey tones and lots of water.
Products made of olive wood are made to last a lifetime, and by the nature of their material, they are unique. You can buy anything from cheeseboards to chessboards to bowls and cutting boards, to mortars and even serving and salad utensils to impress your friends at home.
22. Religious icons and items
Greece is highly known for the religiosity of its people. The sheer art that can be found in the form of religious icons and other religiously themed artifacts is simply astounding.
Especially when it comes to Byzantine iconography and silver work, you have the chance to take with you a token of Greece’s heritage and soul. Most of the religious icons and other items are handmade, and often the artist has made them while deep in prayer (especially in traditional gold-coated and silver icons).
Souvenirs for kids
There are several things to buy for the young ones! From tiny, cute leather sandals to embroidered clothing, t-shirts, and hats, but also a lot more! There are games you can buy with Greek themes, such as Playmobil sets, dolls and figurines featuring traditional costumes, and playsets of classic tabletop games made of wood.
Where can I buy Greek souvenirs?
If you are in Athens, your best bet is the areas of Monastiraki, Plaka, Exarheia, and Syntagma. There are plenty of streets dedicated to an extensive flea market, while Ermou street is the most commercial street of the capital. There and on the other side streets, you will find pretty much everything about what is listed here, and more!
Another great place to find quality souvenirs is the museum shops that sell art objects, jewelry, books, and great souvenirs for kids.
If you are in any other city, you should look for the tourist streets, but also ask your hotel or for information for specific shops specializing in each type of product so you can get more authentic items that will become that little bit of Greece to take with you!