The best Spanish souvenirs and gifts
1. Bullfighting posters and memorabilia
Cliched but still the most popular souvenir to take back home from Spain. Bullfighting originated in Andalucia, so I would ideally buy bullfighting souvenirs in Seville or Ronda, close to the most historic and original bullfighting rings.
The bullring museums of Seville and Ronda are the best places to buy bullfighting memorabilia. Las Ventas gift shop at Madrid is also a great option. You can check their online shop to have a preview of items available.
2. Toledo Steel Knife
To win a war, army generals know they need great warriors and the perfect weapon. In medieval times, armies relied on Toledo swords made from the extraordinary hard Toledo steel. Even Japanese Samurais used Toledo steel. Today, they are the most popular souvenirs ( but they can cost couple of hundred Euros.)
Ideally, you should buy Toledo Steel gifts and souvenirs from Toledo! But at Madrid, shops opposite the Prado also have authentic Toledo steel souvenirs. Just be careful of custom checks in your home country when bringing in swords.
3. Flamenco dresses and fans
When you visit Spain, it is almost an unwritten rule that you must buy flamenco related souvenirs and gifts. My suggestion is to buy flamenco dresses (polka-dot skirts, dancing shoes, castanets) from Seville. If dresses do not appeal to you, buy flamenco fans, especially the hand painted wooden ones, even if they cost a little more. You will find them at the Flamenco museum at Seville but for the best ones head to Flamenco y Mas on Calle Perez Galdos 32,Seville.
4. Gaudi souvenirs from Barcelona
Gaudi inspired jewelry - rings and necklaces are popular gift from Spain (especially Barcelona). Casa Batllo and Casa Mila (La Pedrera) have great gift shops where you can find a range of Gaudi inspired souvenirs. Sagrada Familia does not have a proper gift or souvenir shop; so plan your purchases at the other famous Gaudi buildings
When I get back home from Spain, I make it a point to carry bottles of Sherry to distribute as gifts. Everybody seems to love them. Not everyone knows that for a wine to be called Sherry it needs to be made in the Sherry triangle of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria. You can choose from dry styles of Sherry - Fino (Manzanilla), Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso. A great idea is to take an empty bottle to a tabanco sherry bar, and have them fill it straight from the barrel for 5 euros.
6. Cava and Wines
In many upscale bars and restaurants around the world, Cava has started to make its mark. Cava is the Spanish Champagne. La Rioja region has some of the best red wines in the world. La Rioja wineries are the best place to buy cava and other Spanish wines. Don't bother buying wines or cava in a city store because they sell the mass consumed stuff available all over the world.
7. Paella Pans
Paella is easily Spain's biggest export. Paella traces its origin to Valencia and Albufera. You must buy an authentic Paella pan as a keepsake from its place of origin. Resist the temptation to buy them from the department stores.
8. Bota Bags
Bota bags are traditional wine bags made from sheep skin. They make great gifts to give to your friends back home. If you want to invest in a high quality bota bag for yourself, you should go to a 'botería' (bota bag workshop) where you can also watch as they are made.
Madrid has a boteria at Calle del Águila 12, 28005, Madrid, La Latina district. Remeber, black bota bags are the real thing.
9. Mantilla Shawls
The lace shawls used by the best professional flamenco dancers and high society women in Andalucia, are one the most expensive souvenirs you can gift to yourself. The best ones are available at Seville.
10. Ceramics and Pottery
Ceramics in Spain has been part of the tradition for centuries.For the best range, buy in Seville from shops in Triana. For porcelain, Lladro is obviously the best. The factory and discount outlet in Valencia is worth a half day visit.
11. Damascene jewelry
Damascening is the art of inlaying precious metals like gold or silver into an oxidized steel background. As a souvenir, a damascened article is a must-buy when you visit Toledo.
12. Jamon Iberico
Spain's Jamón Ibérico is the most famous cured ham in the world. Authentic Jamón ibérico comes from black Iberian pigs bred in the Iberian Peninsula.
It makes for a great souvenir to take back home but in some countries, it is illegal to import ham. Check rules of your country before you buy. If you can take them back as a gift, you should buy Jamon Iberico in Huelva, Salamanca or the Alpujarras. It is only in these places that Iberian pigs are bred.
13. Olive Oil
Spanish olive oils make a great souvenir. Not many know that Spain is the largest producer of olive oil. Some of the world's finest olive oil is from Spain. Jaen in Andalusia is the centre for Olive oil production in Spain and also the hub of "oleoturismo” — olive oil tourism. Make sure the olive oil is from Jaen.
Did you know that 70% of the world's saffron comes from Spain's high Castilian plateau known as La Mancha. Saffron was introduced to Spain by the Moors during their occupation of Spain. A bit of Spanish history is packed in every strand of saffron!
Shops around the Granada Cathedral have the cheapest saffron in Spain. You can also buy from gourmet foods counter at El Corte Ingles. Look for 'Azafran D.O. la Mancha' mark of authenticity.
My Spanish souvenir recommendations are:
Paella Pan as a souvenir
It is a great idea to buy a Paella pan as a souvenir or a gift from Spain. Carbon steel is the most traditional material for Paella pans, while enameled steel is easiest to maintain and practical. Pans start at 10 euros for the small ones.
An authentic paella pan is round, shallow, and with a large diameter. Paella pans are not supposed to have a lid. The larger the Paella pan, the thinner the layer of rice, which makes it taste more delicious.
You can buy Paella pans at department stores all over Spain, along with ‘arroz bomba’ the rice used to make Paella.
Flamenco Fan souvenirs in Seville
Flamenco fans are available in all souvenir shops; but if you happen to go to Seville buy a Flamenco fan on your visit there. They could cost as low as 5 euros for the roadside stall variety and go up to 100s of euros for the intricate handmade designs.
Here is an interesting article about the way fans became part of communication in traditional Spain.
Souvenir Bota Bags
Typically Spanish in origin, the bota bag is a goatskin turned into a container. A boat bag was traditionally used by Spanish peasants for carrying wine and other liquids. The bag is referred to as "bota de vino" in Spain.
A bota bag is a great souvenirs or gift from Spain as it is practical and commonly used for carrying wine on trips without spoiling it. Authentic boat bags cost 25 euros and upwards.
Madrid has an authentic boteria (boat bag maker) at Calle del Águila 12, 28005, Madrid, La Latina district, where you can watch the bags being made from scratch.
Saffron as a gift from Spain
Saffron is the best souvenir to buy if you are short of luggage space. Granada and Malaga have the best saffron but you can buy it everywhere in Spain. It is an essential ingredient of Paella.
You must know that saffron is very expensive and costs about 20 euros per gram in Spain. It costs multiples of that outside Spain. You can never go wrong with a gift of saffron from Spain.
Ceramic tiles and other items
Spain is famous all over the world for their azulejos or ceramic tiles. The ceramics are the best in Seville and if you are in Seville go to Triana district to buy the real thing as a souvenir!
You can visit the workshops in Triana that make the ceramics. Prices start at 5 euros and go into the hundreds. Of course if you don’t go to Seville you can also find authentic ceramics all over Spain.
Jamon Iberico (also called Pata Negra)
The famous Spanish cured ham Jamon Iberico is a Spain in every bite. Jamon Iberico is best had with melon, washed down with sangria or even beer. If you are in Madrid buy Jamon Iberico from the Jamon Museum. This is a great gift or a souvenir in every bite!
Be aware that pata negra is Jamon Iberico by a different name.
Bullfighting poster souvenirs, personalized
A traditional looking bullfighting poster with your name on it in the space for the matador, is a great souvenir or gift from Spain.
These posters are inexpensive and can start at 5 euros, going up to the hundreds for original fight posters.
Note that these posters will not be available in Barcelona as easily as in Madrid or Andalusia when’re bullfighting is still a sport.
Souvenirs and authentic gifts from Spain
Here are some handy tips as you hunt for the perfect souvenirs to take back from your vacation in Spain
Do not buy jamón ibérico
Jamón ibérico are excellent as a souvenir. However, it is illegal to bring any pork products into the U.S.
The same restriction holds true in many countries. If you do buy gourmet ham as souvenir, it is possible that customs department will just toss it out.
Do not buy Olive Oils
The reality is that more olive oil is produced in Spain than in Italy. Spain produces about 45 percent of the world's olive supply as against only 20 percent from Italy. Also Spanish olive oil is different from that of Italy.
However, thanks to 'Godfather' film and book, it is Italy that is strongly associated with Olive Oils. I once bought the best olive oil brand from Andalucía region of Spain and gifted it as a souvenir only to be told that they were looking for something more Spanish!
Wines from Spain
Spanish wines (Rioja, Malvasia wine from Canaries, Cava - Spanish champagne made in Catalonia and Sherry) make a great souvenir. Before you buy bottles of wine, remember that one person can bring one liter into the U.S. duty-free. Additional quantities has to be declared and are subject to duty and Federal excise taxes. At the time of writing, the duties are not too high.
Airlines will not allow wines in your carry-on luggage. Wine bottles has to be in your checked luggage. If you are taking more than three bottles, consider buying a wine suitcase.
It may sound cliched, but Bullfighting memorabilia is still the best Spanish souvenir. You can buy poster print reproductions either at Seville or in Madrid. If you looking for something more authentic, hunt for bullfighting memorabilia in El Rastro market, Madrid. You can also consider buying sword and cape in the Gran Via area and ask them to ship to your residence.
You can buy Gaudi memorabilia at the well equipped gift shop at Casa Batlló. If you want a heads up on what is available, browse at their e-store. If you buy them online, they will even ship the memorabilia to your residence.
FCBarcelona has more than 3,000 different gift items. You can browse them at the huge store at Camp Nou stadium or any of their other stores in Barcelona.
Real Madrid has also many stores across Madrid.
Famous things to buy in Spain - important info (Shawls and Gaudi)
Know all options before you buy Shawls
The famous Mantones de Manila have various versions. The original Spanish mantilla shawls are handmade, of lace and silk. They are expensive and start at a couple of hundred euros each. The really good ones could go to 2000 euros. Calle Sierpes in Seville has the most beautiful mantons. You can buy the mantilla (full square shawl) or Pico "medio-mantones" shawls which are triangular.
Avoid buying online souvenirs from Spain
I am not a fan of buying souvenirs online if you are already going to Spain. You don't know what you will receive in the mail. If your reason to buy online is shipping convenience, then my suggestion is to buy your souvenirs in person, and ship them ahead to your home country. The Spanish postal service is my top recommended option to do this. Make sure you insure the contents.
Important TIPS to buy souvenirs in Spain
When to go souvenir shopping in Spain?
Local shops in Spain are closed in the afternoons, so go when they open around 10am or at 5pm. Of course all department stores (like El Corte Ingles) are open through the day. Note that in smaller cities of Spain the shops may be close from Saturday afternoon all the way through till Monday morning.
Best cities for buying souvenirs in Spain
Ideally buy all your souvenirs at the city you are flying out from - Madrid and Barcelona have souvenirs from all over Spain. If you must buy a special, very local souvenir midway during your trip in Spain, be prepared to carry it with you all over the country until you leave Spain.
Best places in the city to buy souvenirs in Spain
If you want to be efficient and take no chances in your souvenir shopping:
- go to department stores like El Corte Ingles, in big cities.
- focus your shopping on the high street or main street stores, in the smaller cities and towns.
Don't forget the flea markets and food markets of Spain for souvenir hunts!
Flea Markets in Spain are a great place for authentic souvenirs.
Madrid has The Rastro flea market every Sunday on Calle Ribera de Curtidores in Madrid every Sunday. Also, Plaza Mayor has a Sunday flea market.
Barcelona’s best flea market is Mercat del Encants on Placa de les Glories Catalanes. There is also one on Las Ramblas.
Spanish Food markets are the best place for food related souvenirs
Barcelona food markets - La Boqueria or Santa Caterina.
Valencia food markets - Mercado Colon or Mercado Central.
Malaga - Mercado de Ataranzas.
Madrid - Mercado San Miguel.