TIRANA, March 29
Travel souvenirs usually fall into two categories, cliché kitsch alias mass-produced clutter that ends up forgotten on the back of a drawer and meaningful items that capture the spirit of a place and keep travel memories fresh. This is a list of things to consider as useful souvenirs or thoughtful gifts for the minimalist and ethical travelers planning to visit Albania.
No matter what your thing is, bazaars, artisan workshops, antique stores, and flea markets offer high-quality authentic souvenirs.
How to tell what’s a meaningful and ethical souvenir? Such souvenirs are made by local producers and use local materials. Those are ethical businesses that manufacture their products safely and care about their employees and the environment. Most of all, those are objects that you will use back at home.
Albania has a long and very rich tradition of crafts and guilds. Every region has its traditional craftsmanship, but wood, iron, copper, alabaster, gold, silver, wool, and leather crafts are the most popular. Crafts have been passed down through generations and they are core elements of national identity. However, traditional crafts and artisans have been facing challenges. Some crafts are in danger of becoming extinct largely as a result of fewer craftspeople that possess and can transmit skills to the next generation. Meanwhile, cheap imported replicas endanger the traditional Albanian craft industry. Hence, buying directly from workshops would be a conscious choice.
Besides the decorative function Albanian handicrafts are designed to be useful and practical.
Kruja and Shkodra are famous for their artisan bazaars and workshops, but also Lezha, Tirana, Berati, Gjirokastra, Saranda, Kavaja, Durres, and Vlora have their shops and local artisans.
The traditional bazaar of Kruja is considered the heart of craftsmanship. There it’s possible to find every handmade product created in Albania.
Artisans in Capital city Tirana are known for wool products, traditional clothing for children and adults, as well as gold and filigree work.
Meanwhile, artisans in Lezha know that the main quality of textile handicrafts is sustainability. Hence, they create useful products by using traditional techniques. From tablecloth sets for special occasions to make-up brush bags, there are plenty of options for personal souvenirs or gifts.
Shkodra, like Kruja, has a reputation for high-quality crafts. Embroidered bed sets and curtains are a classical choice. Meanwhile, for fancier likings, a handmade Venetian mask would be the best purchase.
Where to find handmade crafts?
Do some research and go straight to the source. Hence it will be possible not only to pay less but also to visit workshops and experience the creation process fist-hand. Remember to back local artisans, local producers, and special projects such as prison shops or creative programs that support specific causes. Many Albanian artisans are organized on an online platform where it’s possible to buy their products, but also to get to know each of the young aspiring artisans. Meanwhile, ancient objects and other products made before the ’90s can be found in antique shops and flea markets. In Tirana, many antique shops are located at Qemal Stafa Street, an area also known as the Market of Bicycles.
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Best handmade souvenirs and gifts
Handmade rugs and kilims of all sizes
Baby carrying wraps and slings
Music instruments cifteli or flutes
Gold and filigree crafts
Handmade wedding bomboniere
Wooden kitchen utensils
Home décor pieces from before the 90s
Albanian Lek for collectors
Read also: Albanian Products: The Vorba of Gojan
Food and beverages
Tea and herbs
Wine, Raki, Brandy, and spirits
Olive oil and honey
Jams, compote, and dry fruit
Trahana and Jufka
Skincare, cosmetics, and wellness products
Read also: Things You Can Only Buy in Albania
Invest in Albania
Main image: Souvenir shop in Gjirokastra, credit: TID Gjirokastra