I start my list of the best souvenirs from Poland with food and alcoholic beverages. To be honest, in my opinion there are very few such good things in the world as Polish food and alcohol and you better take some home or regret ever after! Plus travelling is not only about views, it means so many things, not only those experienced with your eyes. So why not take some of the Polish smells and flavours back home? Maybe you are looking for a present for your foodie friend? Those options below would be perfect!
Ready? Let’s go and start our list with food you can take back home and amaze or surprise your family and friends. Remember that your mission is not only to give but also to explain! To become an expert on Polish culinary and drinking traditions we’ve prepared a few tours that will help you out! Check the Food and Vodka of Kraków tour or Craft Beers of Kraków tour.
So here are few things that Polish people appreciate and value in their kitchen but also those you can easily take back home:
Wild forest mushrooms are ever-present in Polish cuisine. We add them to most of our flagship dishes. Check out the text about Polish food here and find out how we use them. Dried mushrooms will give your meal a terrific smell and earthy taste. If you store them properly, they will last for years. Also if you need some recipes give us a shout!
A sour liquid made of raw beets, peeled and sliced fermented in a salted water with herbs and garlic. We can definitely call it a Polish super food as it is a great source of vitamins, minerals, good bacteria, cures hangovers, helps in anemia and so many other problems. It is great especially during winters when fruit usually comes from far away and you don’t have local ones. You can drink it raw or make one of the most Polish of soups with it - the famous red borscht (if you want to read more about borscht and other soups and dishes typical of Polish cuisine, do it here). If you feel like doing some politics, feel free to read about the “Borscht debate” and how a soup can stir much more than just the taste buds. Check it out here.
World famous Polish-style pickled cucumbers. Interestingly, the name ogórki is a source of the English gherkin, Dutch augurk or German Gurke. It is definitely one of the ambassadors of the cuisine of the Poles.
Great present for all meat lovers, a Polish delight known all around the world. Check more here.
Registered as a regional product by the European Union, smoked sheep cheese from the Tatras. More here.
This would be an excellent gift. In Poland we produce a whole lot of honey and you will find many delicious options to choose from. If you want something light try lime honey, if something a bit stronger in taste I would go for honeydew or my favourite, buckwheat honey.
The wealth of Polish Summer closed in a jar. Strawberry, blueberry, apple or maybe more unique gooseberry and rhubarb jams. Something that Poles specialize in is the plum preserve. With distinctive dark, smoky taste. They will keep you going throughout winter!
Oh their taste is simply unforgettable, they are wonderfully spiced and sweetened with honey. They come in a variety of shapes and flavours. And there is only one place in Poland to get them (at least if you want to do it properly!) and it is in the home of Copernicus, the city of Toruń, which is also famed for its beautifully preserved medieval town centre, you can read more about it here. Gingerbread is the symbol of this city. If you want to know more about Toruń, Copernicus and most of all try the best pierniki check our Toruń tours!
Krówki, malaga, tiki-taki, kasztanki, michałki, ptasie mleczko. Read more about them here.
Let’s be honest, when you think about Poland and the best present or souvenir from our country vodka is the first thing that would come across your mind. And right you are! But there is a variety of alcohols to try and to buy in Poland. We wrote more about Polish wines and mead here. If you are more interested in vodka, check out this article and more about beer you can find here. But now the list, here is what I suggest to get:
Similar to medical tinctures, nalewki (word nalewka is singular, nalewki is plural) are made in a process of infusing spirits with fruits/herbs/roots/spice (really anything goes) to create a thick liquor. Making those moonshines is something that Poles (especially retired) often do at home, it is not difficult, just time-consuming.
Racibórz has a long tradition dating to the 19th c. in distilling vodkas. Their vodkas, liqueurs, herbal tinctures (produced based on centuries-old recipes of Franciscan monks) are based only on natural ingredients. Try especially my favourite, the elderflower liqueur!
World famous Polish booze, reigning supreme the bison grass vodka. Yes! It is true that you can find a bison grass blade in every bottle. How to drink it? Find out in our article about Polish alcohol.
Made from the best quality potato spirits, smooth and delectable. Gluten-free! Try Chopin Black (the most awarded potato vodka in the world), J.A. Baczewski (traditional, recovered eighteenth-century recipe from Lwów, today Lviv in Ukraine), Młody Ziemniak (made from new potatoes harvested in early spring) or Wódka Starotoruńska – trust me, you will feel the difference.
The famous “gold water” from Gdańsk, a luxurious and strong herbal liquor especially renowned for the flakes of 23 carat gold dancing in every bottle. It is the symbol of the city of Gdańsk which you simply have to visit (not only because of Goldwasser, but still, it is a good excuse!) and once you do check out our Gdańsk tours here.
Polish mead, made from fermented honey, a noble drink with a centuries-old tradition, once a specialty of Polish manor houses. You can try modern flavoured versions: Dwójniak Maliniak (with raspberry juice) and Dwójniak Jabłkowy (with apple juice) – trust me, you won’t go back to wine! More about history of Polish meads can be found in this article.
The only Polish “aged vodka”, rye spirit aged in oak barrels. Sometimes it is called the “Polish whiskey”. Produced in Poland and Lithuania as early as the 15th century, with time became one of the most favourite drinks of Polish-Lithuanian nobility. Once in manor houses the tradition was that when a boy was born vodka was placed in wine barrels and stored until he would get married, opened on his wedding day.
Well, this option is only for the hard-core drinkers as this beverage contains 70% alcohol in volume! It is made of plums and produced in a beautiful region of Dunajec river valleys and the views, besides the slivovitz, are a great reason to visit this area. Especially that only a small portion of slivovitz available in shops are authentic so buy either in good stores or simply go and visit the source!
Famous wine brand and vineyard using centuries-old experience and fields of the old Camaldolese Priory - traditional winemakers of Kraków. The best proof that Poland is a veritable wine country.
Poland is one of the biggest producers of apples in the world no wonder I do EVERYTHING with them. Cyders are big in almost every season: during summers I drink them chilled, during winter hot seasoned with spices.
Of course the best way to learn and become an expert on Polish beers is to take our amazing Craft Beers of Kraków tour, but here are a few examples of unique beers you should try and take back home.
Typical Polish beer style – dark, warming, full-bodied with high alcohol content, perfect for the cold winter times. Full of aromas like coffee, chocolate and smoked fruits (mainly plums); can be cellared almost as long as a good red wine.
Called sometimes ”Polish champagne” because of its extremely high carbonation, historical Polish wheat beer. Light, smoky, low-alcohol beverage which used to be a medicine in Poland, even today is the best refreshment on hot days… and a hangover cure.
I end this section with something much more lighter - just to give you some room for the Part 2 of this article. Piwo kozicowe is a regional product from Mazowia, the region where our capital, Warsaw is located. Once it was a typical wedding drink but the tradition almost went extinct during the period of communism. Low alcoholic or non-alcoholic beer made of crushed juniper berries, hops and honey, fermented with yeast for two days. Just delicious!
Of course I could go on with this list, but I guess you have now more than enough to pick from. If you need more ideas you can always give us a shout and I will be happy to help. And if you want to get something else then food or spirits don’t worry - I have your back. Just jump to Part 2 of this article that deals with uneatable things.
Check out our tours in Krakow!