7+1 Souvenir Ideas from Greece | Top Greek Souvenirs and Products Made in Greece

souvenirs greece

You visited Greece and had a blast. Before your flight, you want to purchase a few items made in Greece to remember your time there. You may also want to buy some souvenirs for your friends and family back home. Forget donkey key chains and Parthenon magnets. Helinika has gathered a list of quality products that are made in Greece. Here is a list with original souvenir ideas from Greece!

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Note: This article/video shares the author’s honest opinions, and it is not sponsored. None of the provided links are affiliate links.

Top Greek Souvenirs and Quality Greek Products

  1. Greek leather sandals
  2. Olive oil and olive-based products
  3. Greek Ceramics
  4. Gold Jewelry
  5. Natural Sponges
  6. Tavli (Backgammon Board Game)
  7. Greek/Turkish Coffee and Greek Mountain Tea
  8. Greek Honey

Greek Honey is an Excellent Gift from Greece

Ancient Greeks believed that the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus would eat honey and drink honey infused wine. They would eat it for its medicinal benefits and they would offer it to the dead along with wine, milk, and oil. The Attica region has been a bee-keeper’s heaven since antiquity. Greek honey -especially Greek thyme honey- is known for its thick consistency, rich taste, and countless health benefits. Greece’s “liquid gold”, as it is often called, makes an excellent souvenir choice or a gift choice for your friends and family. Keep in mind that modern Greeks have made innovative changes in their honey production methods. For example, the brand “Vasilissa” offers a blend of honey and pure gold flakes! Other brands have been inspired by this product and offer various honey blends.

Don’t Leave Greece without Greek Coffee and Greek Mountain Tea

Greek traditional coffee is very similar -if not the same- as Turkish coffee. Although most young Greeks tend to choose Italian coffee nowadays, this unfiltered type of coffee continues being a big part of the local culture. Strong and bitter, Greek coffee has been served in every “kafeneio” when the village’s elders started a political conversation. And a visit to the grandparents’ house has been associated with the strong smell of Greek coffee being boiled in a briki over a small camping stove on the kitchen counter. Older women would often gather at home and gossip over a cup of Greek coffee, often turning their cup upside down and reading the symbols created by the coffee grounds. This method of fortune telling is known as “tasseography”.

It goes without saying that taking a bag of fine coffee grinds is a must. Loumidis is perhaps the most famous brand in Greece. However, there are countless other Greek coffee brands to choose from in every Greek super-market. If you are not a fan of coffee, consider buying the famous “Greek Mountain Tea” or “Sideritis”. A flowering plant that is dried and used as herbal tea. Sideritis has been used for thousands of years against respiratory illnesses, anemia, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

Remember Greece Forever by Bringing a Greek Tavli Home

Did you know that the oldest known board game is still played religiously in Greece? Tavli or Backgammon was invented 5.000 years ago in Mesopotamia and it is still a popular board game in Greece. Apparently, modern Greeks play the same games that Byzantine Greeks loved: Portes, Plakoto, and Asodio. If you are not sure how to play any of these tavli games, I can assure you that any elderly man in a coffee shop will be more than happy to teach you. You can then bring a tavli back home or gift it to a friend who loves board games.

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Greek Natural Sponges are Hard to Find

Natural sea sponges are the preferred bathing and cleaning sponges for many people around the world. However, they are hard to find and even harder to get. They require a team of brave and skilled free divers who are willing to risk their lives to retrieve these sponges. Greece has a long history of sponge diving, with Kalymnos island having a special sponge diving tradition. In fact, the “Antikythera Mechanism”, the world’s first computer, wouldn’t have been discovered if a group of Kalymnian sponge divers hadn’t explored the depths of the Sea of Antikythera. Today, you can find sea sponges in many natural product stores all around Greece.

Greek Gold Jewelry as a Gift from Greece

It is no secret that well-known luxury brands have been inspired by jewelry pieces displayed in Greek archaeological Museums. Gold jewelry, such as earrings, necklaces, and rings, have been popular in Greece in ancient, medieval, and modern times. Greek designs are usually geometric and minimalistic. Depending on your budget, consider buying a unique set of earrings or an elegant necklace from one of Greece’s countless jewelry shops. Hermina Athens, 3rd Floor, and Lito, are a few Greek jewelry brands that come to mind.

Greek Ceramics and Pottery as Souvenirs

If you have ever visited an archaeological Museum in Greece, then you know that Greeks have a very long ceramics and pottery tradition. In certain islands, such as in the Cyclades, you will find shops selling only handmade ceramic mugs, plates, vases, and items. They are usually painted by hand, and they are one of a kind. An example is the traditional pottery workshop in the island of Kythnos. Please don’t mix them up with the industrially produced “ancient Greek” imitation pottery that you may find in some souvenir shops. If you choose to buy ceramics as a Greek souvenir, make sure to pack them carefully with a generous amount of bubble wrap.

Never Leave Greece without Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Apart from honey, Greece’s “liquid gold” is also olive oil. Sold today around the world, Greek olive oil was reportedly the product that brought immense profit to the city of Athens, contributing to the citizens’ achievements in the classical period. Imagine a world without the concept of Democracy or Theatre because olive oil did not exist. And let’s not forget the fact that goddess Athena was chosen as the protector of Athens for planting the first olive tree. Greek olive oil makes the perfect souvenir from Greece.

Hand-made Leather Sandals as Souvenirs from Greece

Another must-item to get from Greece is a pair of hand-made leather sandals. Flat, chic, and minimal. They are the most original product you can get from Greece. You will find many stores dedicated to this art at the streets of Athens and other locations. Sandalaki and Ancient Greek Sandals are two well-known brands that ship their products abroad.

The Concise History of Greek Food & Greek Cuisine

Is meze Greek? Is Greek food Mediterranean or Middle Eastern? Do Greek people eat lamb on a regular basis? And why are Greeks so obsessed with olive oil? Today, Helinika unravels the history of Greek food and Greek cuisine.

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What is “Greek” Anyways?

You are visiting a Greek restaurant somewhere outside of Greece. You sit on a blue-painted wooden chair, next to an Ionic column, and you are given a menu written in an ancient Greek font. You choose between a big range of options: from typical Greek street food, such as gyros and souvlaki, and traditional Greek meze, like  tzatziki and dolmadakia, to more gourmet dishes, such as split peas mousse with prosciutto, chives and sesame paste vinaigrette –a sophisticated way to describe fava. But is this actually… Greek food?

Food plays an important role in a culture. In order to understand what Greek food is, it is important to define the adjective “Greek” and what the Greek culture really is. The modern Greek culture, which is defined as the predominant culture in the state of Greece from 1821 till today, is built upon various complimentary and contrasting cultures and subcultures. These were either developed or adopted by the Greeks and other ethnic minorities that lived in Greece throughout the years.

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Some people, predominately outside of Greece, consider “Greek” anything that is tied solely to the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods of Greece’s history. This is what some consider as the “purest” form of the Greek culture. In Greece, the great majority of people also consider the history of the Byzantine Empire and the religion of Orthodox Christianity as an important influence on the modern Greek culture.

At the same time, there is a time period that is rarely discussed: the Ottoman Occupation, also known as the “400 years of Slavery”. The Ottoman rule in Greece, lasting from the mid-15th century till 1821, had a significant influence on Greeks and their culture and this is the reason why some words, musical instruments, and dishes are common in both Turkey and Greece.

Since the Greek culture has been intertwined with similar but also contrasting cultures, Greek food includes various dishes for every taste. In Europe and most parts of the world, Greek cuisine falls under Mediterranean cuisine, whereas in the United States, they consider it “Middle Eastern”. This is why you might come across Greek restaurants with a contrasting décor and menu. The owners are simply trying to accommodate the needs of various people who perceive Greek cuisine differently. Before mentioning some popular and some lesser known Greek dishes, let’s see some ingredients that are predominately used in Greece.

Commons Greek Ingredients

Greeks love using their “liquid gold” in every single meal. The Greek extra virgin olive oil is used in cooking, but it is also used raw as a garniture in salads and cold dishes. It is actually Greece’s fourth most important export and its importance can be traced back to ancient times.

Now, some people, mostly in the US, believe that Greek food is spicy. However, authentic Greek food is savory and Greeks usually cannot tolerate spicy food. You might already know that oregano and basil are two of the most used dried herbs in Greece (and in other Mediterranean countries).

When it comes to dairy products, feta cheese and Greek yoghurt (simply called “yoghurt” in Greek) are consumed on their own or used in various dishes. Last but not least, let’s not forget honey. Greeks have been consuming honey since ancient times, not only for its sweet taste, but also for its various health benefits.  

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Popular Greek Dishes and Their History

If you ask someone to name a Greek dish, they will mention “moussaka”. This eggplant and potato-based dish is consumed in most Balkan countries, in Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere. Moussaka has roots in Ottoman Greece and it is not universally considered a traditional Greek dish. Due to the fact that it requires a lot of preparation, it is served hot, and it is high in calories, this dish is not consumed regularly. The generally warm climate in Greece requires light and easy-to-digest dishes: fish, salads, vegetables, and legumes.

A lot of people also believe that Greeks consume lamb very often. The truth is that many Greek families roast lamb on Easter Sunday, following a long Christian Orthodox tradition. It is not clear when this tradition started. It is also worth mentioning that gyros and souvlaki are rarely served with lamb meat in Greece. Gyros with lamb is mostly served in Greek restaurants in the United States and Australia.

A very-well known Greek side dish that is actually consumed regularly in Greece is the Greek salad. The original Greek salad, called «χωριάτικη» (choriatiki * from the village) in Greek, has no green leaves. It can be eaten as a main dish, since it consists of uncooked pieces of vegetables, mostly tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions. Add some olives, a feta brick, oregano, and lots of extra virgin olive oil and voilà: you made yourself an authentic Greek salad.

Meze Culture in Greece

In Greece, meze is also a huge part of the food culture. Meze is a selection of small dishes (e.g. dolmadakia, eggplant dip, tzatziki, pita bread, stuffed mussels etc.) served with alcoholic drinks, such as ouzo and rake. Each person on the table gets a small empty plate and tries a little bit of everything. Since the meze culture was introduced in Greece (and elsewhere) during the Ottoman occupation, some people refuse to consider it “Greek”.

It is important to note that meze culture is also present in the Middle East, however, the dishes are usually a bit different. For example, instead of a dip called fava, other countries consume hummus. These two look a lot alike but the first consists of fava beans and the latter consists of chickpeas. Hummus is rarely consumed in Greece; in fact, people who are now in their 80s and 90s have never heard about it. But if you visit a Greek restaurant in the US or Australia, hummus will most likely be in the menu.

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Ancient and Byzantine Cuisine

The “purest” form of Greek cuisine is what we consider “Mediterranean Cuisine”. Ancient Greeks ate a lot of cereals, olives, grapes, legumes, and barley bread (often dipped in wine). All of these are still consumed at great amounts in Greece and are also exported abroad. Ancient Greeks also ate a type of pancakes called «τηγανήτες» (teganetes). These are widely eaten to this day.

Other authentic Greek dishes are the ones that were consumed in Byzantine times. Cheeses such as anthotyro (ανθότυρο) and kefalotyri (κεφαλοτύρι) were consumed by Byzantines and are still produced and consumed by Modern Greeks. That was the time when Greeks started using spices and sugar to their meals as well. On very special occasions, rich Byzantines consumed lamb, which is why Modern Greeks consume lamb on Easter Sunday. A very popular Byzantine omelet dish consumed till this day is «σφουγγάτα» (sphoungata). Many scholars also believe that the Greek pies that Modern Greeks love originate from the Byzantine Empire.

Some of the most sophisticated Greek restaurants today have started experimenting with ingredients that were widely used in ancient and Byzantine Greece but are now forgotten. There is also a resistance towards a demand for Greek restaurants that serve all tastes: the humble but rich in taste meze dishes of the enslaved Greeks, the simple yet sophisticated ancient Greek delicacies, and the delicious Byzantine meals.

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