The second part of my article that will give you some great ideas on what to get when visiting Poland. Here comes my subjective list of the best souvenirs from Poland. In this part I write about more solid items that will last much longer than food. So where should I start? There are so many things to write about. Well, since I am a girl from food and alcohol described in Part 1 let’s smoothly move to things that ladies will appreciate most - the jewellery. Let’s begin with something that Poland was famous for centuries:
Fossilised tree resin that has been laying on the bottom of the Baltic Sea for millions of years. Most of the cities in Poland where we organize tours are located on the ancient amber road on which this gemstone would be transported from the Baltic Sea to the area of the Meditereanian Sea. Besides the jewellery all sorts of things are made with amber - envelope knife, chess board with figures or even lamps!
Ready to adorn your home with some Polish art and home decor? Yes, yes you can always go for fridge magnets with different city symbols but why not get some more original souvenir? I do have some great tips for you!
Vintage photographs showing you how our country and our cities looked like years ago, will be the perfect souvenir from your trip to Poland!
Now, to be honest I am not a huge fan of crystal but here it goes, Polish crystals (and I don’t mean drugs) and glassware were very popular during the communist times and some people have a soft spot for it. But to find real treasures of old-time Polish glassware you would need to hunt for them on flea markets. Polish flea markets - go and face the adventure!
Bolesławiec is the capital of Polish pottery, but to be honest it has always been this way, pottery was made there as early as the middle ages. Hand-painted with folk motifs or decorated using stamps; the most common pattern is of blue dots. Oven- and dishwasher-safe.
The other Polish ceramics worth mentioning is Ćmielów - the factory established in the 18th century starting in the interwar period would invite top Polish designers to create their tableware. Ceramics from Ćmielów are used today by our President but also on the royal court in Belgium, in Vatican City and on other aristocratic tables around the world.
The other factory with long traditions is Włocławek - their projects from 1960 were just amazing - I mentioned flea markets before, if you ever come across them go for it!
Today many young designers in Poland create tableware inspired by the old-school 60’,70’ and 80’ design. So if flea markets are not your thing this will be the option too, available in nicely designed shops!
They are truly amazing! Derived from the Polish School of Posters (1950s-1980s), using suggestions through clever allusions. This simply changed poster design into art.
Poles are super proud of their hand made Christmas ornaments and our country produces and exports some of the finest European hand blown decorations; especially worth mentioning and buying are the glass baubles - bombki usually very sophisticatedly decorated.
The painted eggs - a very Polish tradition. The oldest Polish pisanki date back to the end of the 10th century. Today they are of course associated with Christianity and Easter season but were present in ancient Slavic beliefs as well as - symbolising new life and birth. There are a number of ways to decorate the eggs, but all of them are extremely beautiful. Another very distinctive item associated with Polish Easter are palmy wielkanocne, the Easter “palms” made of willow branches and other decorative objects like ribbons, dried flowers, grass etc. More about Polish traditions associated with Easter can be found in this article.
The tradition of making paper cutouts was probably incorporated to Polish folk art from Jewish culture. They can take many forms and depict many motives but most of them are very colorful. The masters of cutouts are from the Kurpie region in the area of Mazovia. Once you get them you should hang them in your window, wall or from your ceiling. Today many souvenirs around our country would have motifs of wycinanki painted on them.
A wooden chest painted in colourful patterns typical for each region you visit: comes with a key so you can lock your treasures up safely.
Linen Polish tablecloths and napkins will not only make a great souvenir but also make your table look wonderful!
Felt is the oldest fabric known to humankind and came to Poland in the Middle Ages. Back then (and today again!) people would make many things from it, among them were hats, shoes and other elements of clothing. Today you can find a variety of felt products all over Poland starting from bags, phone casings, jewellery, hair accessories, toys and many others!
There are a number of young Polish designers who look nostalgically at the past and get inspiration from iconic Polish designs from 70’ and 80’. If you want a souvenir that will make you stand out on the streets of London or New York, don’t look any further! Check for example Pan Tu Nie Stał company from Łódź.
I’ve already mentioned linen (besides the tablecloths Poland is also famous for linen clothes) and felt products but wool is also big in our country so why not treat someone or yourself with a hat, scarf, super warm socks or fine sweater. Many of those things you can find in the winter capital of Poland - Zakopane. If you are curious about it, check our tours of Zakopane right here.
If you want something more traditional there is nothing better than this. Folk costumes of course differ from one region to another, for example in Kraków you can get typical red hats with peacock feathers for men, flowery shawls for women. If you visit the area of the Tatra mountains you will get things decorated with a distinctive ornament from that region called parzenica. You can get something unique really anywhere you go.
Looking for presents/souvenirs for kids? Don’t worry I have you covered! Take a look at the few suggestions below.
Kraków Dragons, Warsaw Mermaid, Wrocław gnom, Poznań goats, Zakopane sheep… I could go on and on - most Polish cities have a symbol that in a toy version can be taken home. But what must accompany them is the story! And for the story you must join our tours!
I just wrote about elements of folk costumes, if not them then maybe a doll dressed in a traditional way? They came in many versions depending on the region you visit.
This is a must for every Polish child, as a toddler I didn’t have LEGO’s but wooden blocks were my favourite! You can get just anything made of wood starting from animals, blocks, vehicles, child’s room decoration, games, infant toys and more. Forget about plastic toys, go for eco-friendly, wooden ones!
A small, clay folk toy. It is filled with water to make a sound and usually shaped like a bird. Don’t worry - the sound is actually nice, like a chirping bird.
Polish version of a shepherd axe. An attribute carried by górale, Polish highlanders. Used for various occasions like climbing, chopping wood, fighting or even dancing! Usually decorated with carvings and engravings. Blunt, wooden souvenir-like versions can be bought in Zakopane and serve as toys.
This is of course a huge source of great gifts and souvenirs so let me mention just a few examples or otherwise this article will be super long and no one will get to the end of it...
The most epic poem in Poland will help you understand what the culture of nobility in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was like.
Author, born in Poland, is a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for his Yiddish books. This one is a sophisticated tale of sexual compulsion and one man’s flight from love.
Writer and activist. One of the most critically acclaimed authors in Poland. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2019. I recommend all of her books but especially Primeval and Other Times, a fine example of Polish magical realism. It is a family saga: births, deaths, passage of time, inner magic of life all with the backdrop of wars and tribulations of 20th-century Europe.
Sci-Fi writer, philosopher and futurologist, called by some the Polish H.G. Wells. He envisioned the Internet already in 1957 and described the e-books shortly thereafter. His best known book, Solaris describes the complete failure of humans to understand the universe, communicate with extraterrestrial life, and free themselves from guilt and remorse. In 2002 a movie based on the book was made featuring George Clooney as the main character.
The Witcher is a character created by Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski. In his books, he describes the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a bounty hunter for monsters. Award-winning computer games and a very popular Netflix series were created based on the books.
In terms of poetry you simply have to check the works of Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska – both winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
There are many of them, few definitely to recommend are:
Polish Culinary Paths by Magdalena Tomaszewska-Bolałek
Rose Petal Jam: Recipes & Stories from a Summer in Poland and Sugared Orange: Recipes & Stories from a Winter in Poland two books by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan but still want to discover Polish cuisine check out Fresh from Poland: New Vegetarian Cooking from the Old Country.
In terms of fine examples in the world of Polish music choosing classics is always a good move. So let’s start with the most famous of all - Fryderyk Chopin, check Chopin – the Complete Preludes played by Rafał Blechacz Chopin, Piano Competition award winner.
Have you heard of Krzysztof Penderecki? His works are also something you simply have to know.
The next genre Polish musicians mastered is jazz. Check out the works of Krzysztof Komeda (ever heard the spooky tune from Polański’s Rosemary’s Baby? If not, it is a high time to fix this mistake), Tomasz Stańko, Michał Urbaniak, Leszek Możdżer and Wojtek Mazolewski. Probably the best Polish jazz album ever is Astigmatic, by Krzysztof Komeda and Tomasz Stańko.
Over the past two decades many Polish musicians would creatively reworked folk melodies and songs, my favourite one in this field is Warsaw Village Band (Kapela ze Wsi Warszawa).
In terms of film music I will mention here only my two most favourite albums: the theme from Bandit, and Pigs (Psy) both by Michał Lorenc.
Few names are also to recommend if you are a sung poetry lover: Czesław Niemen, Marek Grechuta and Grzegorz Turnau.
Classic Polish films would be a great present or souvenir as well. You can always go for Polish cinema masters like Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polański, Krzysztof Kieślowski or Agnieszka Holland.
A good option may be something newer though, so how about checking:
“Ida” or “Cold War” by Paweł Pawlikowski
“Gods” by Łukasz Palkowski
“Corpus Christi” by Jan Komasa
Over the past years Poland has become a significant player in the world of video games with several really good studios. The undisputed king of this empire is definitely the CD Projekt Red studio with the famous game The Witcher and their newest proposition, Cyberpunk 2077.
That will be all. Hope this list will satisfy your needs and cravings and give you some great tips for what to buy in Poland. Also, If you ever come across other objects worth mentioning here let me know - I realize this list can be expanded forever! And now feel invited to read other articles or join us on Walkative! tours so we can show you the best places to get all those things!
Hope to see you soon!