Slovakia is a small Central European country which offers tourists many interesting possibilities to spend their holidays in an active way. With many picturesque hikes in the Tatra mountains and skiing facilities accessible in the winter as well as many spas where one can take advantage of curative waters, Slovakia is a very attractive destination for different types of visitors– couples, singles, group of friends and families.
Nonetheless, I have impression that Slovakia is still a somewhat undiscovered country and not as commercially focused as more tourist frequented European destinations. This means that there is a bit less of typical tourist souvenir shops and the sellers don’t put much pressure on customers to make their purchases. The good point is that in Slovakia you will find many local food products, good quality hand-crafted items and traditional practical pieces that are beautifully made and can be used every day. I found much less generic products often not even made in the country as in comparison to most popular tourist spots.
I recommend to search for your perfect souvenirs in bigger cities as Bratislava and Kosice, I also found many interesting options in most popular mountain resorts such as Stary Smokovec or Tatranská Lomnica.
In this post I will give you a list of 12 traditional and authentic souvenirs you can bring from Slovakia.
- Slovakian honey
Pristine nature of Slovakia makes its local honey of very high quality. You will find jars of different types of honey since the taste depends on where the bees source their nectar which results in different sweetness level and colour of the honey they produce. All around of the country you will also find beeswax, bee pollen, propolis and cosmetics, health supplements, mead and different dips and spreads since the beeswax is a widely used product in Slovakia. You can find beeswax-based products in the local supermarkets, pharmacies and specialized shops. You can also visit the producers themselves to support local economy and ensure the quality.
2. Herbal tea
Slovaks love nature and often use ingredients picked in their garden or collected in the forest to produce their food. Herbal teas are very popular in Slovakia and people often drink a cup of herbal tea to remedy 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 Slovakia offers a really huge variety. For start you can visit any bigger supermarket to see what is available, if search a specific tea for health reasons or just want to taste few blends to choose your favorite flavor go to specialized stores or bigger souvenir shops where more advice can be provided, some souvenir shops offer also some tastings which can be very helpful to make your decision.
3. Slovakian alcohol
Even if I listed the Slovakian spirits in a general way, you need to know that the country is known for wide variety of high percentage alcoholic beverages. Some of the spirits have more that 70% of alcohol and are very strong. The most known beverages are probably are Borovička (flavoured with juniper berries) and Slivovitz (a plum brandy). A very interesting option is Tatratea which is a tea-based herbal liquor, you can choose the light version of it with 22% of alcohol or choose stronger ones (it can go up to 72%). If you like herbal spirits, you can also try Demanovka. A very popular beverage is also Karpatské brandy. If you don’t know which spirit to choose, I suggest trying a few types during your stay in bars and restaurants and at the end purchase a bottle of your favorite drink. Most of the mentioned alcohols (and trust me there is even more of them that I wrote about here) are available if big supermarkets (also I find that they offer the best prices).
4. Wooden items for home
If you like purchasing products for your home made of natural materials, shopping in Slovakia will not disappoint you. In most of the souvenir shops you will find plenty of kitchen utensils such as spoons, spatulas, bowls, keepsake boxes and many other items that you can use every day. I like this kind of gifts since they are very practical and are a daily reminder of Slovakian trip. For biggest selection of the items, search in Bratislava and Kosice, if you want to buy directly from the artisan, you may want to search for small workshops in the Tatra mountains.
5. Wooden toys
A visit to Slovakia wouldn’t be complete without small souvenirs for the little ones. You will find here a wide range of original wooden toys, plenty of them are hand-crafted. There are small items such as wooden dolls or cars or bigger pieces like rocking horses or small bikes. For a good selection of products I suggest searching in the bigger cities, you can also go directly to the children stores where the offer is directed to the locals rather than tourists and thus ensure good prices. Alternatively, search in larger souvenir stores, I also found interesting products in the boutiques in the mountain resorts.
6. Wool accessories
Slovakian winter in the mountains can be very cold so many locals protect from freezing temperatures wearing wool sweaters, socks and scarfs. They are traditionally made of sheep wool since the animals are very common highlands. View of sheep herd grazing in the pasture is a very common view in both Slovakian and Polish Tatra’s mountain region.
The sheep wool garments are very warm, you can easily find plenty of good quality handmade items with different patterns. Before buying your garment, I recommend trying it on and check if it doesn’t itch which sometimes can be an issue with a sheep wool. Remember also to always check the label with a composition (100% wool or wool blend) as well as where the item was made to ensure you buy an authentic product.
7. 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). In Slovakia you will find 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 both Slovakia and Poland. You will find a huge choice of slippers in the towns located close to the mountains. People from all over Slovakia and Poland buy these products for comfort and functionality so this is a very traditional and authentic souvenir from the Tatra mountains.
8. Natural fruit juices and syrups
As mentioned before, Slovaks love natural products coming from their garden and the forest. It’s very popular to add to your winter tea blueberry or raspberry sirup to boost immunity. For best quality products search in bio shops, however you will find syrup and natural juices (cranberry, blueberry, apple juice) in usual supermarkets (go to bigger stores to ensure availability). Always check the ingredients and origin of the product to ensure the good quality.
If you like bringing food from your trips you can search for high quality Slovakian jams and confitures made of fruits grown in the vast forests covering the country. Slovaks produce excellent jams and confitures which are then added to tea or served with bread during colder months when you need some extra vitamins. Search in speciality food stores or in the bigger supermarkets for high quality jams. Always check the list of ingredients to verify the concentration of fruits and sugar.
10. Sheep skin rug
Sheep skin has good insulation properties, it also has beautiful natural patterns and shades which makes the rugs a very elegant decoration of your home. You can cover your favorite armchair with a rug to add extra comfort or put in on the floor to keep your feet warm when walking on it. Some of the rugs have also purely decorative purpose, you can hang them on the wall or put on furniture. You’ll probably find big selection of rugs in more specialized shops in bigger towns and in the mountain resorts. Note that this is an animal origin product so make sure that the skin is sourced responsibly and possesses necessary certifications.
Slovakia is mostly known from their high percentage spirits, however, if you search for a Slovakian unique non-alcoholic beverage, you need to try Kofola. This is a carbonated soft drink which was created to compete with Coca Cola in Czech Republic and Slovakia (or just substitute the American drink when not widely available in the countries belonging to the Soviet Union sphere of influence). Although Kofola is produced in Czech Republic, it’s also very popular in Slovakia and the drink started to be produced when Slovakia and Czech Republic were still a single country (Czechoslovakia). Personally, I prefer Kofola than Coke, mostly because of its pleasant and refreshing herbal taste.
12. Men’s goral hat
Normally I’m not a huge fan of buying traditional garments since I don’t find the patterns very practical and the clothes are rarely wearable when back home, but I’d give a men’s goral hat a chance 🙂 The hats are a part of traditional dress in the Tatra mountains region and are also common in Poland (Polish part of the Tatra mountains). The hat is usually black with a low rounded crown and brim. In the past, the brim was adorned with animal bones but then the cowrie shells from the Adriatic coast were sewn to a red band. Traditionally, unmarried men have an eagle or grouse feather attached to the hats. After marriage, the feather is removed just as the bride gave up her maiden’s headdress. Personally, I think that the hat can be worn on a daily basis if you live in a countryside and like some relaxed style garment with few original accents. Alternatively, you can purchase it if you like attending some party dressing.