Croatian souvenirs – the good, the tasty, the fashionable
What can you take from Croatia, aside from memorable experience and crazy photos? Why, souvenirs, of course. But with so many flashy stands, over packed with all sorts of trinkets, what should you choose?
What are the original Croatian souvenirs, how can you recognize them, where should you buy them and how much do they cost? Find out in our ultimate list for souvenir shopping in Croatia.
1. Suit up!
Croats are famous for their passion for fashion. We like to dress well even when we’re just going to the grocery store. It’s no wonder then we’ve invented a couple of fashionable cloth items. One of them is a (neck)tie. We’ve worn them since the 17th century. More precise, Croatian mercenaries that fought in France during that period had worn them. French fashionistas quickly noticed unusually, but enticing scarves knotted around Croat’s necks and spread the word of mouth. Finally, it had conquered the French court, with trendsetter King Louis XIV as its prominent ambassador. Even after all these centuries, ties have remained popular among all types of groups, from top-level managers to pop-punk singers like Avril Lavigne. So why not buy one from its country of origin?
Traditional Croatian tie, Source: Shutterstock
Price range For silk ties, manufactured in Croatia, prices go from 200 kn to 1300 or above
Fun fact English word “tie” comes from the phrase “to tie a knot”. There are about 85 ways to tie a knot, each one signifying a distinctive style of a wearer. Tie a knot of your Croatian tie on 18th October, our national Tie Day.
2. Little red ornate cap
Šibenik’s red cap is another remnant of traditional military uniform. Originally, it comes from Drniš area but it had taken its final form and slightly different orange tone in Šibenik. Cap is ornamented with black boules (shape similar to tendrils) and worn mostly during various local festivities.
An old man wearing a traditional Šibenik’s cap, Photo by Ivo Pervan, HTZ
Where to buy them Convent of St Lucy (Order of St Benedict) in Šibenik, it can also be found in local souvenir shops
Price range Around 200 kn
Fun fact Red cap is also a part of traditional headwear in Lika, Herzegovina and Monte Negro
3. Morčić – Croatian good luck charm
Symbol of Rijeka, morčić figure is an original Croatian jewellery, inspired by 17th century Venetian blackamoor morettos. Made of enamel, it comes in a shape of black head with a white turban (Turco) or a plume (Indiano) and can be found in earrings, rings, pins and brooches. According to one of the many legends, morčić originates from 16th century battle with Turks. While Turks were besieging the town, women would pray to God for their defeat. One lucky day, Croatian aristocrat Zrinski had shot the leader of Ottoman’s army in the temporal bone. While Turks were panicky fleeing, rocks started falling from heaven and buried them alive. Out of once great army, only turbans remained on a battlefield. After the victory, men had given morčić earrings made for their wives as a memento.
4. Šibenik’s button
What’s the difference between normal button and button from Šibenik? First and foremost, Šibenik’s button is a silver filigree piece of jewellery so it definitely stands out in comparison to your beige shirt’s buttons. Although, Šibenik’s button are rarely found on shirts nowadays. They are much more common in the form of earrings, rings, crosses and other jewellery . On the inside, Šibenik’s button is hollow, but on the outside, it’s beautifully ornamented with small beads and threads. And it’s relatively inexpensive for a piece of authentic jewellery.
Where to buy them Šibenik’s local jewellery shops
Price range Around 100 – 150 kn per button
Fun fact Šibenik’s button was originally adorning folk costumes
5. Samobor’s Crystal
Want to bring something shiny and Croatian back home but don’t want to go bankrupt from buying jewellery? Why don’t you visit Samobor’s crystal factories that still manually grind the crystal? Glasses, dishes, bowls… Whatever you want to decorate your home’s dining table, they’ve got it.
You won’t find a sweeter souvenir than Licitar Heart in the whole of Croatia. These red, ornate, heart-shaped honey cookies are as edible as they are adorable. Licitar cookies can be found in various other shapes, like horses, flowers, boots, Christmas trees, etc. Speaking of, they’re a common decorative element on Christmas trees in Croatia. They’re also popular during Valentine’s Day when boys give it to their sweethearts as a sign of affection. Recipe for Licitar cookies dates from Middle Ages which is one of the reasons they’re included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Sweethearts, Photo by Nenad Ruszkowsk, HTZ
Price range From 10 kn (per one small cookie) to 150 kn (for the whole box)
Fun fact These honey cookies served as an inspiration to popular Croatian ballet called Licitar Heart
7. Learn a new alphabet!
Did you know Croats had their own alphabet since 9th century? Well now you do – our ancient alphabet is called Glagolitic alphabet and was invented by Saint Cyril, for the purpose of conversion of Old Slavic nations to Christianity. In old Croatian, the word “glagoljati”, roughly translated, meant “to speak, to hold sermon”. You can find lots of items marked with the Glagolitic alphabet (ties, shirts, bags, etc.) but the most significant souvenir with Croatian alphabet inscribed is the replica of Baška tablet. Baška tablet is the oldest monument that mentions the name Croatia in Croatian language and script.
Baška’s tablet, Photo by Sergio Gobbo, HTZ
Where to buy them Church of St Lucy in Jurandvor near Baška, common souvenir shops
Price range 35 kn for spelling book, 40 to 100 kn for Baška’s tablet replica
Fun fact St Cyril disciples have continued his work and developed even simpler alphabet system – Cyrillic – which is still in use in some of the Slavic countries
8. Give peace a chance
Dunav’s Troy or Vučedol is the one the first known settlements in Croatia and an important archaeological finding site. Vučedol people had lived here from 2800 to 2400 BC and left traces of a culture highly skilled in ceramics. Best known artifact from that era is an incense burner in the form of a dove. The Vučedol Dove is not only a reminder of Croatia’s rich historical background but an important symbol of peace in the war-torn town of Vukovar (situated very near Vučedol site).
The Vučedol Dove, Source: Shutterstock
9. Croatian wattle
Why wouldn’t you buy Croatian wattle? WTF is Croatian wattle? Croatian wattle is one of the oldest symbols of Croatian culture and people. There have been many wattles before it, but Croatian wattle is special by its three-strand design, as seen on many churches built between 9th and 12th century. Today, it serves as a popular pattern on a cross.
Croatian wattle, Source: Shutterstock
Where to buy them Christian souvenir shops (cross)
Price range Cross engraved with Croatian wattle will cost you around 100 kn
Fun fact Croatian wattle can be seen on army’s and police’s coat of arms
10. Victoria’s got nothing on Croatian lace
Croatia has not one, but three different lacemaking centers – Pag, Hvar and Lepoglava. Pag’s lace is a thick lace sewn with a thin thread. It originated in Venice but quickly became popular in Pag’s Benedictine convent during the 15th century. Hvar’s lace is also made in Benedictine convent but what makes it special is material – agave threads. The result is a lace so fragile it must be kept in a glass frame or similar container. Hvar’s lace is modeled upon Teneriffe’s lace, brought to Hvar hundred years ago. Lepoglava’s lace is a fine and thin piece of cloth, made with help of small mallets. Lace has been made in Lepoglava since the beginning of 15th century but it went through a renaissance after World War I, when female designers Zlata pl. Šufflay and Danica Brössler popularized and modernized its production and use. Pag’s, Hvar’s and Lepoglava’s lace are all part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural heritage list.
Hvar’s lace, Photo by Ivo Pervan, HTZ
Where to buy them Pag’s lace can be bought directly from women who sew it in front of their houses, St Margaret convent or Galerija paške čipke in town of Pag; Hvar’s lace can be bought in convent of St Benedict in Hvar; Lepoglava’s lace can be bought at Zadruga lepoglavske čipke
Price range Depends on a piece, from 1000 to 10000 kn
Fun fact Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Croatia Maria Theresa had requested a presence of lacemaker from Pag in her court at all times. Hvar’s lace doesn’t have a pattern you can model it upon so every lace is completely original