Poland is the 6th biggest country (in size) in the European Union and has many long and beautiful traditions which results in unique handicrafts and products, some of them can be found only here.
As a native Polish, I know (and use) many good quality Polish products which are made in the country. The items I’ll present here are often bought by Polish people for themselves or as a gift for their friends or special occasions.
In this post I will give you a list of 17 traditional and authentic Polish souvenirs which are appreciated, bought and kept in houses by Polish themselves.
The best place to search for traditional Polish souvenirs is in big cities. You will find there many galleries, food specialty shops and souvenir boutiques with wide range of products. If you’re looking for handmade items made of wood, glass or textiles you may want to check CEPELIA which is an acronym for The Central Office of the Folk and Art Industry. Many artisans from different regions of Poland sell to Cepelia their products (often traditional and typical only for the specific region) so they can deliver the handicrafts to larger number of tourists in bigger cities which naturally receive more visitors.
Even if certain products are typical only for specific regions (for instance amber comes mainly from around the shores of the Baltic Sea in Northern Poland, sheep wool garments are mostly produced in the South close to the mountains); you will not encounter much problems with finding most of traditional souvenirs in major Polish towns (Warszawa, Kraków, Wrocław, Gdańsk, etc.). I suggest to do your main shopping in the cities since you will find there larger amount of boutiques which ensures bigger variety.
Some of the souvenirs I mention in this post are items produced by famous, long history brands which are well appreciated in Poland. In this case you will find in bigger cities the boutiques of the specific brand selling their products.
Finally, for food recommendations, you can always go to some Polish food specialty shops, however many of the products are available in bigger supermarkets or fancier food chain stores.
I mentioned many times that it’s better to do your major shopping in bigger cities, however I absolutely don’t discourage you to get your souvenirs in small towns and villages when you explore some Polish regions. Buying locally, you directly support the artisan (it’s more profitable for them to sell without third parties) and local business often get better prices (often small towns are much cheaper in Poland), and the item bought in the particular place will bring you memories of the specific region you visited.
- Amber. Amber is also called ‘Baltic Gold’.The Baltic region possesses biggest known deposit of amber, in fact more than 90% of the world’s amber is from Baltic region. This gemstone is very popular to be used to make a jewellery and decorative objects such as lamps, statues, cutlery or used as an ornament for various objects. Practically every Polish woman has a jewellery piece containing amber. If you search for a unique piece of jewellery or accessory which contains the stone which rarely appears in the other regions of the world, then a souvenir with amber is a good choice. For good quality amber pieces I recommend going to official jewellery boutiques and galleries. Practically every bigger jewellery chain store will have a wide range of amber products. Amber comes naturally from around the shores of the Baltic Sea in Northern Poland, but the gemstone is so popular among Polish people that you will find the items containing it being sold all over the country. To ensure quality and avoid fakes, don’t buy from the street vendors. Preferably choose shops where certificate of authenticity can be provided.
2. Bolesławiec pottery. Products from Bolesławiec with its characteristic folk design is appreciated by the customers from all over the world, the pottery pieces are very popular in Poland, Germany and Austria but you can also found them in boutiques in the South Korea! The ware is produced in a polish city in Lower Silesia from the beginning of the nineteenth century till today and has not changed its original unique character. Each piece of Bolesławiec pottery is hand-painted or stamped. In this way, each product is original and unique in its own way. Most of Polish families have at least one piece from Bolesławiec at home. They pottery is also often handed as a gift. You will find Bolesławiec pottery in all bigger cities in Poland. You can also order some items from their online store. For bargains, you can visit their factory store in Bolesławiec if you’re around.
3. Włocławek faience. The tradition of the production of faience in Włocławek dates back to 1873, when the first factory was opened. At that time, plates, bowls, sets of kitchen containers, breakfast and dinner services, as well as a large range of faience accessories began to be produced. The company had many ups and downs but since few years regains its position on a Polish market. The products are characteristically decorated with multi-colored floral motifs, turning utilitarian items into works of art. Many Polish families have pieces from Włocławek, often passed from previous generations, my mother usually drinks her morning coffee from Włocławek cup and bought her first service 30 years ago. If you search for a good quality, subtle floral motif faience items, then go for Włoclawek. The ware can be found in specialised shops selling Polish porcelain, pottery and faience in bigger cities, as well as in boutiques offering artisanal souvenirs and folk themed items.
4. Chodzież porcelain. Chodzież is one of the oldest brands of Polish porcelain. Its origins date back to 1852. One of their most famous patterns is Iwona with the classic relief shapes emphasized with floral embellishments enriched with gold. The dinnerware of Chodzież is of very high quality and often passed in the family to next generations. They also offer many modern collections so you can find the pieces which suit your preference. If you search for high quality, good design porcelain you should also check products from Ćmielów,Lubiana,Bogucice and Kristoff. In the portfolio of mentioned brands you will find both more traditional as well as modern collections. If you plan to complete your own service, Polish porcelain offers very good value for money.
5. Polish mid-century modern design. If you like mid-century modern design, then Poland has a very interesting offer of furniture, graphic design and accessories. In fact, mid-century modern era lasts approximately until mid mid 1970s, when Poland was under Soviet sphere of influence. As far as design is concerned, the isolation from the western trends, Polish projects were truly unique and original, the limited access to resources and materials resulted in furniture and accessories being functional and durable. If you’re looking for mid-century well designed objects, Poland is a very good place to search around. You will find these kind of objects in antique stores, also in the flea markets (in the flea markets you will find rather pieces for renovation). Interestingly, some independent producers decide to renew the manufacture of some of the iconic models (especially armchairs such as famous RM58 model) so in fact you can buy a brand new furniture which has identical features as the models produced decades ago.
6. Felt slippers. This is a souvenir from the mountain region where locals protect their feet from cold wearing comfortable soft felt slippers lined with a sheep wool inside. In Slavic countries it is customary to change your daily shoes to slippers when entering home (your own but also when you’re guest). Poland is known from their high quality felt slippers made 100% of wool felt. Wool is a natural insulator that regulates your body temperature, keeping your feet warm in winter and dry in summer. This material is also very flexible so it quickly adjust to the shape of the owner’s feet. Alternatively, for warmer months, you can purchase very comfortable and light leather slippers which are also very typical for mountain region in Poland. You will find a huge choice of slippers in the towns located close to the mountains, practically every souvenir stand in the main mountain resort Zakopane offers it, but you will find in all bigger cities in souvenir shops. People from all over Poland buy these products for comfort and functionality.
7. Salt lamp. This is a souvenir coming from Kraków region. Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines located near Kraków excavated from the 13th century and produced table salt continuously until 2007, making them one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines. Nowadays, both salt mines are opened for visitors and are great tourist attraction as they have hundreds of kilometers of galleries with artworks, underground chapels and statues sculpted in the salt making it fascinating adventure for adults and children. Polish rock salt crystal lamps are a unique souvenir and are made from the salt from the Polish mines. In fact, the lamps are the modern version of traditional salt lamps that were serving the salt miners over the centuries during their work. Nowadays, the lamp of course run on electricity, and is a unique piece of art as there is never two identical lamps. They produce cosy warm light and there are some studies which indicate beneficial effect on human health when lit up in the room. You will find the lamps in the stores close to the salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find them in Kraków or in bigger souvenir stores in major towns in Poland. When purchasing your lamp make sure that there are made from Polish rock salt, the objects are also quite heavy so think well about your luggage allowance when getting your lamp.
8. Wooden carvings. Poland has a long tradition of wooden handmade wooden objects such as children wooden toys, small sacral objects (figurines of angels and saints), Christmas ornaments or just small decorative objects.You can also find bigger items such as wooden furniture which is also hand carved and painted by the artist. If you want to have your own unique handmade wooden carving, search in Cepelia in major towns which offers wide range of products. Alternatively, if you visit small town search for wood workshops to buy directly from the artisan who can also demonstrate you the carving process. For big home accessories, search for specialized workshops and furniture shops.
9. Keepsake boxes. The boxes also fall under the category of wooden carvings but are such a popular Polish souvenir which is very typical for the country (I didn’t see this kind of boxes anywhere else), that they deserve to be mentioned separately. The boxes are hand-painted and richly decorated by local artists which are using various techniques of carving, brass and copper inlays as well as burning, and staining methods. Each box is therefore unique and brings up the fantasy of hidden treasures and guarded little secrets. The boxes are a practical gift since they’re perfect to keep there your jewellery or small objects. It can be a nice decoration of your room but also help you to smartly organise small items in your drawers. The boxes can be bought in various sizes. They are easy to find in Cepelia stores as well as more artisanal focused souvenir shops.
10. Christmas decorations. Poland is famous of making high quality beautiful handmade and hand-painted glass and wooden Christmas ornaments. These are decorations with unique patterns, elaborate decorations and tasteful choice of colours. They come in different sizes and shapes, with popular motifs inspired by fairytales, legends, nature and animal world. classic Christmas baubles and jewellery inspired by the latest trends. You will find vintage Christmas baubles, traditional festive motifs as well as decorations with very modern shapes or kept in minimalistic style. If you search for high quality, unique and original decorations which will make your Christmas tree distinguished from the others, then I strongly recommend to buy one (or even a whole box) of those ornaments. You will find big variety of Christmas decorations in Cepelia stores, but in bigger towns you find artisanal shops which sell only Christmas themed items and that’s where you will find most original pieces.
11. Toys for children. A visit to Poland wouldn’t be complete without small souvenirs for the little ones. Poland offers wide range of original toys, plenty of them are handmade and even are typical for specific regions of Poland. I strongly recommend handmade and hand-painted wooden carved toys, dolls dressed in traditional regional Polish clothes, or if you are in Kraków, a charming dragon toy, the creature being a central character of Kraków legends. You can also find English translation of Polish legends and fairytales, often beautifully illustrated. For wooden toys and dolls dressed in regional clothes search in Cepelia as well as local souvenir stores. For foreign language books search in bookstores offering literature in foreign languages, those are mostly in large towns.
12. Polish sweets. Polish people love candies and have plenty of manufactures with a long tradition of producing them. You will find big variety of chocolate candies, cakes and sweet in Wedel confectionery which is considered “Polish national chocolate brand”. Very famous Polish candies are also Krówki which literally mean “little cows” and are loved by generations of Polish. Those are fudge, semi-soft milk toffee candies. Search for Krówki which are handmade to ensure the right texture which is hard and crispy on the outside and more fluid and soft inside. Another confectionery originating from Poland is Ptasie Mleczko (“Bird’s milk“) which is a little, chocolate-covered bar with a marshmallow-like filling which can have different flavour. For artisanal versions of the sweets you can go to Wedel boutiques and artisanal confectionery stores. Otherwise, you will find the mentioned sweets in usual supermarkets since the products are popular and often bought by Polish people on a regular basis.
13. Polish honey. Polish people love honey consuming it on a daily basis in a sweet version of breakfast, as a filling of pancakes, adding to the warm tea in the winter or having it as an ingredient of their cakes. A very interesting traditional Polish product is a “drinkable honey” (in Polish “miód pitny“) which is an alcoholic beverage belonging to Polish culinary tradition and popular among Polish notables since medieval times. It is obtained through alcoholic fermentation of honey and water. The beverage possesses a characteristic aroma and a flavour of honey. Fruits, herbs and spices can be added to enrich the taste. Polish honey (including drinkable honey) can be found in Polish food stores, bigger variety is in bigger supermarkets. You can also visit small specialized stores selling honey for more customised experience with honey made by bees collecting pollens in proximity of particular part of plants, homey coming from specific regions of Poland or artisanal products enriched with additional natural flavours. Such stores offer also better range of drinkable honey with different years of aging.
14. Herbal teas. Herbal teas are very popular among Polish often being used as a remedy to minor health problems. Light digestion issues? Let’s have a cup of peppermint tea. Stressful day and sleep problems? Lemon balm is a solution. There is plenty of herbal teas to choose from according to your taste preference as well as their properties and effect that they can have on your body (although don’t expect miracles, their effect is rather light). If you enjoy a cup of herbal tea then Poland offers a really huge variety. I suggest starting to search in Herbapol herbal store which is a reputable brand with a long tradition of creating products based on natural ingredients. Except of herbal product they also offer aromatic teas and flavoured syrups. Alternatively, you can search for herbal products in the pharmacies or bio shops.
15. Fruit syrups, birch water and products made of ingredients coming from forest. Polish people love natural products coming from their garden or collected in the forest. It’s very popular to add to your winter tea blueberry or raspberry sirup, drink on daily basis birch water or make a cowberry confiture from fruits picked in the autumn. One of the most favourite pastimes of many Polish families is to spend some time together in the forest, collecting mushrooms, wild blackberries or blueberries, later on preparing delicious dishes or processing them to create confiture, syrups or marinates which will be stored to be used in the winter. For best quality products search in bio shops, however you will find syrup, jams and birch water, as well as marinated or dried mushrooms in usual supermarkets (go to bigger stores to ensure availability).
16. Polish pickles. If you plan to buy few jars search for their Polish name which is ogórki kiszone. Polish people love this simple, dill pickles which are a perfect ingredient for your sandwich, can be added to the pickle soup or just eaten as a small snack. Nowadays you will find many other versions of traditional pickles with added pepper, garlic or chili among many other possibilities, Polish people are very inventive. If you like culinary discoveries, you can also bring with you home beet-and-horseradish relish (buraki ćwikłowe), marinated mushrooms or horseradish (which is really excellent in Poland).
17. Polish vodka (and other alcohols). Last but not least, this list would not be complete without mention of famous Polish vodka. This is one of the most favourite Polish alcohols, often drank during traditional long Polish weddings, and many other celebrations. There are many types of vodka in Poland, apart from the pure taste, you will also find many flavoured versions. Which vodka type to choose if you want to bring a bottle? In bigger cities you will find bars which specialise in serving vodka and organise some tastings so I suggest visiting such place and trying few different shots to find your favourite. If you would like to buy a bottle of vodka as a gift, I find a bison grass Żubrówka a good choice. This is a very original type of vodka flavoured with bison grass (bisons live in Puszcza Białowieska which is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest in Europe and the grass grows where the bisons feed). The bison grass gives the vodka distinct herbal taste that has overtones of vanilla and coconut. If your prefer to stick to lighter drinks (vodka contains around 40% alcohol), then I recommend Polish liquors (you can choose fruity, herbal, honey and many other favours according to your preference). You will find vodka and liquors in most of Polish supermarkets, if you search for fancier bottles you can go to specialised stores, you will find them all over the country.