While Greece, like most other destinations in the world, has its fair share of tacky souvenirs like fridge magnets and t-shirts, it also has plenty of great products that make thoughtful gifts as well.
If you’re looking for a gift to bring back home to your family, friends, house sitter, or just for yourself, here are a couple of our suggestions.
Baklava is a sweet, crunch dessert that’s made from layers of filo pastry, chopped nuts, and then either syrup or honey. If you’ve never had it before, you’re in for a treat! Baklava is one of Greece’s best dishes and, if your flight isn’t too long, it’s perfect for bringing back home as a gift.
Although most people will know what you’re talking about when you say Baklava, it actually has several different names in Greece: masourakia (in Chios), zournadakia (in Crete), samousades (in Lakonia), pourakia (in Rhodes), and baklavou (in Lesbos).
Baklava is made in several Mediteranean countries including Turkey and Lebanon. Greek Baklava traditionally uses honey and walnuts, while Turkish and Lebanese Baklava is more likely to be made from pistachios and syrup.
Although it’s definitely not the healthiest snack (the diet starts tomorrow, it’s okay!), Greek Baklava is probably marginally healthier than other varieties since it doesn’t use pure sugar. Marginally.
You’ll find Baklava for sale throughout Greece, and it’s definitely worth trying it in a few different places before deciding where to buy from. If you don’t have time to try them all, or if you just want to go straight to the best, head to Belle Vue or Maxim – both of these in Athens.
Love it or hate it, Ouzo is a popular souvenir to bring back from Greece. You’ll find Ouzo for sale at every convenience store and supermarket in Greece but, if you’re visiting Athens, the best place to go is Angelo the Ouzo King. Angelo’s shop is located in Plaka, and he claims to have more brands and varities of Ouzo than any other shop in the whole of Athens. So, if it’s Ouzo you want, he’s definitely the best person to speak to!
Like most drinks, be it Port from Porto or Sherry from Jerez, most people assume that all Ouzo tastes the same. It doesn’t: like all alcoholic drinks it varies in sweetness and in strength. The best way to find out what you like is of course to speak to an expert.
If Angelo isn’t able to convince you on the Ouzo, consider picking up a bottle of Greek wine instead. Most people have tried Italian, Spanish, French, and even German wine, but Greek wine often gets forgotten about. This is strange when you consider that Greece has been making wine for millennia, far longer than countries like Australia, South Africa, and the United States have.
But although Greece doesn’t have the same wine-making reputation that some of its European cousins enjoy, there are plenty of great Greek wines– perfect as a gift for someone else or, even better, to yourself.
Look out for varietals like Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Athiri, Malagousia, Moscofilero, Roditis, and Xinomavro, the Greek equivalents of grapes like Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
Greece may not be world-renowned for wine, but it’s definitely known for its olive oil. Greece has been making olive oil for thousands of years, possibly even as far back as the Neolithic period, and today it’s one of the world’s top three producers of olive oil.
When buying olive oil, especially olive oil that you’re bringing home as a souvenir or a gift, there are a couple of things to look out for like color and clarity. Olive oil typically comes in either a green or golden-yellow color. One isn’t necessarily better than the other: green olive oil is typically an early harvest olive oil while the yellower olive oils have been left to ripen for longer. Some olive oil will also have sediment in it or look cloudy, but don’t worry: this isn’t necessarily an indicator of a subpar product.
Taste and smell is another major factor that will help guide your purchase. Most supermarkets obviously won’t want you sampling their wares, but if you visit a small deli there’s a chance that they’ll be able to help you out.
Pantopoleion tis Mesogeiakis Diatrofis in Athens is one such place. This small deli opposite the old stock exchange has thousands of different bottles of olive oil from more than two hundred different producers.
Taste is often a matter of preference: some people prefer the more bitter taste of the green olive oils while others prefer the milder, fruitier taste of the yellowish olive oil. If you’re not sure what to buy, three brands to look out for are Protolado Statir, Astarti Exclusive, and Moria Elea Monovarietal Manaki.
Unless you’re familiar with traditional Greek music, there’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of a bouzouki before. A bouzouki, and in particular a Greek Bouzouki, is a long-necked lute that has a similar appearance to a Turkish Saz. It usually has eight strings although traditionally it only had six, much like a normal guitar.
A bouzouki doesn’t come cheap, with prices starting at several hundred Euros, but it makes a fantastic gift for that special musician in your life.
Did you pick up any souvenirs or gifts in Greece? What did you get? Let us, and other readers know about your shopping experiences, by leaving a comment below.