If you find yourself on holiday in Croatia, wanting to take a little piece of the country back home with you, what should you buy? Here, we go through the top souvenirs from Croatia that will always have you remembering your wonderful holiday!
As to where to buy these items? Your best bet is to head to one of the open-air markets in the town or city you’re staying; the market stalls sell a wealth of items, from assorted food and drink to clothes to souvenirs, toys and more. Much of the stuff found there is hand made or homegrown. Beyond that, many coastal towns and cities and speciality shops or delis that sell beautifully made and packaged items, be they food or other. Ordinary supermarkets can also be handy if you’re in a rush; you can certainly pick up the food items mentioned below here. Even airport shops (although that’s leaving it a bit late!) will also sell a variety of these souvenirs, including the food items.
Top Souvenirs from Croatia – Food and Drink
Sheep’s Cheese from the island of Pag
Cheese-lovers will be delighted to find that there’s a cheese item that we recommend you buy as a souvenir of Croatia! In particular, it’s cheese made from sheep’s milk; this hard cheese has a distinctive aroma and taste, and crumbles in the mouth delightfully. Sheep’s cheese is also another item that Pag (mentioned below, in connection with lace in Croatia) is famous for.
The Gligora Dairy from the island of Pag is a producer of sheep’s cheese – Paski sir (Pag cheese) – and this product, as well as its other cheeses, can be found in numerous food shops/supermarkets across Croatia. However, Gligora also operates a number of small deli shops where you can purchase their cheeses. We’d recommend you pop into one to see all the tasty items they sell!
Pršut (Croatian prosciutto)
This amazing thin-sliced, air-dried ham is aged for a minimum of 12 months, often much longer. Sealed in vacuum-packed packaging for freshness when opening, this again would be easy to transfer to your own country. Purchase with some cheese (mentioned above), perhaps some wine or liqueur too, and you’ll get yourself a tasty Croatian tapas-style meal at home!
It is possible to buy packets of pršut from supermarkets, but you may like to enquire at speciality producers, local to where you are staying, to purchase something a bit more special.
Alternatively, there are other salamis that would also be suitable to pack to take home. The very tasty kulen from eastern Croatia is our recommendation.
Croatian wine, perhaps once looked down on, is receiving more and more rave reviews from around the world. In fact, it’s relatively easy to obtain a bottle or two (or more – we know how it is!) in your own country, from wine importers or even in ordinary supermarkets. Obviously, wine is a pretty heavy item to pack in your suitcase, but you may want to take home a couple of bottles of something that’s really taken your fancy during your time in Croatia – a Dingač, a Pošip, a bottle of Malvasia or Graševina… This may especially be the case if you’ve toured some of the wineries in Croatia and enjoyed a wine tasting.
Another fine Croatian foodstuff to pack into your bag is a bottle of locally-produced olive oil. Some of Croatia’s olive oils are long-standing award winners, especially those produced in the region of Istria. As well as touring wineries, you can often tour or stop at olive oil producers to taste and pick up a bottle of your own. Again, these can also be picked up in shops, whether in a speciality food store or even just a supermarket.
Some kind of liqueur or brandy – sljivovica, maraschino, travarica, kruskovac…
Whilst on your holiday in Croatia, it’s likely that you’ve sampled some kind of traditional (usually fruit) liqueur. It may well have been ‘forced’ on you as the aperitif at a restaurant, or perhaps you’ve visited someone’s home and they brought out a home-made version for you to sample.
The best known alcoholic fruit drinks in Croatia are sljivovica, a plum brandy, and maraschino, the liqueur made from the marasca cherry. The Zadar-based company Maraska produce maraschino and plenty more liquers besides – search for their dimpled, pretty bottles in shops and supermarkets around the country. Badel is another major alcoholic drinks producer in the country and, again, their products are also easily found. However, you may prefer to purchase items from smaller producers, local to where you are staying. You may even be lucky enough to be gifted a bottle of home-produced liqueur!
Slightly more unusual liqueurs and brandies to bring back include kruskovac, pear brandy; travarica, a herbal brandy; medica, which is honey-based, and orahovac, which is made from walnuts.
Pelinkovac is a very, very traditional Croatia liqueur and is certainly a typical Croatian drink. Made from wormwood, it is not too dissimilar to jägermeister, so if you like that, you’ll like this!
If you really want to bring home something different, see if you can find nettle brandy. That will impress/horrify your friends! (But trust us, it’s perfectly reasonable to drink, albeit quite strong!)
Many a traveller chooses to bring back home a sweet treat, whether for themselves or to share with family, friends or even work colleagues. (What a nice person you are.) The most famous confectionery company in Croatia is Kras, founded in 1950 although with origins back to 1911. (Hence the year in its logo!) Top choice, we would say, is their Bajadera sweets – individually (and rather beautifully) wrapped layered nougat. Another option would be their Griotte, made from Mediterranean sour cherries and dark chocolate.
As with liqueurs and brandies, there are also plenty of smaller producers of chocolates in Croatia. You may prefer to purchase some sweet treats from them.
Top Souvenirs in Croatia – Decorative items
Lacemaking in Croatia has existed for many centuries and is an important part of the culture of the country. So much so that Croatian lacemaking was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009. Many of the lace items produced have wonderfully intricate patterns and designs, and would certainly make a wonderful souvenir to take home from Croatia. Lace from the island of Pag is perhaps the best known. If you visit this island, you can even tour the Pag Lace Gallery to learn more about the techniques used to make lace.
Lace products can be purchased throughout Croatia – take a look in one of the open air markets to see if any of the stallholders are selling lace.
The island of Hvar is famed for its lavender production, and small, wonderfully scented and prettily decorated pouches are sold in many places, both on the island and elsewhere in Croatia. This would be an excellent, fragrant souvenir of Croatia to take home with you – and, again, would make very welcome gifts as well, I’m sure. Lavender products are also commonly sold – think soaps, oils and similar.
If you’re particularly into this exceedingly pretty herb, you can tour the lavender fields on Hvar in summer. The best months for doing so are in June and July – ask at a local agency for details. Additionally, a Lavender Festival is held each year on the last weekend of June in the village of Velo Grablje; here, the harvest of the herb and products produced from it is showcased.
As with Croatian lace-making, mentioned above, the traditional manufacture of wooden toys of the Hrvatsko Zagorje region was added to the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List in 2009. The process of making the wooden toys is something that has been passed down over many generations since the 19th century; local raw woods including willow, lime and beech wood are carved into specific shapes, then painted in bright colours and decorated.
These hand-crafted toys make wonderful gifts for the younger members of your family; just their presence in any playroom is a warm and colourful addition! They are very well made and should last for many years to come; in fact, they may well be passed down to future generations. The wooden items are also are much more environmentally-friendly than the usual piles of plastic that kids tend to accumulate. There are only 50 or so different forms sold, but you will likely be able to find something to delight the younger ones – we’ve personally got a horse and carriage set and a kind of hammer-whistle hybrid.
Check out local open-air markets where you’re staying to see if these toys are sold.
Top Souvenirs in Croatia – Clothing
A cravat or tie
Did you know that Croatia invented the necktie? Well, okay, not the necktie but the cravat…which is essentially what modern ties have evolved from, right? The cravat came to prominence in 17th century France, where Croatian mercenaries were based, fighting in support of King Louis XIII. They wore these unusual neckbands, much to the admiration of the French…and the cravat became popular. The name stems from the Croatian word for Croat(s), which is hrvat as well as the French word, Croates.
These days, you can purchase high-quality modern neckties in Croatia. The Croata brand has stores in a number of Croatian towns and cities, especially in Zagreb.
A checkered clothing item
Red and white checks and Croatia go hand-in-hand, right? They certainly do if you’re a football fan! If you are, you may consider taking home a national team football jersey which you can dig out for international footballing competitions. If not, no problem – the Croats like to produce plenty of other checkered clothing items besides! (I’ve even got a Croatian checkered baby onesie in my possession, so even the youngest don’t have to miss out on the fun!) Pick up a trendy t-shirt, a scarf or a stylish hat and you’ll certainly always remember your holiday as well as standing out from the crowd.