So you’re coming to Spain and must take something back to Aunt Gertie, your brother, downstairs neighbor, co-worker, best friend and Significant Other, not to mention Mom and Dad. Some things need to be special, some need to be cool, others just a gesture. What to do?
Little things: Most of these things are inexpensive enough that you can get some extras just in case you forgot someone or want to give a spur of the moment gift. Refrigerator magnets in all sorts of designs, from a flamenco shoe to a pan of paella, bottle of wine or the bull outline that you saw on all the highways and byways of your Spanish travels. / Brightly colored clay figurines, about an inch high, of “typical” Spanish characters (bull, bullfighter, Guardia Civil, people in regional dress). / Models of houses in clay, usually in Andaluz white with flowers. / Metal statue or sticker of that bull outline (now an unofficial symbol of Spain, this was originally a billboard for a kind of brandy). / Teeshirts, in addition to the cheesy tourist ones there are some very original and / or artsy things available. / Boxes of saffron threads for your favorite cook, sometimes sold with a miniature mortar and pestle. / Bookmarks – especially in museum stores. / Olive oil cosmetics – the soaps, body lotion and other products are all wonderful and very Spanish.
For your foodie friends: Saffron as above. / Olive oil, well padded with newspaper and plastic bags and now only in your checked bag – (ooh think of the mess if you don’t pad it and it breaks!). If you look around you can find oil in cans and also tasters’ choice boxes with several different kinds of oil nicely packed (though still needs padding!). / Wine (of course!), sherry, brandy, or a liqueur like acorn, herb or cherry (you can take two liters of alcohol without paying duty) / Cans or jars of something you discovered and liked – anchovy stuffed olives? Pickled eggplant? White asparagus? Quail? Tripe stew? Cherry tomato, onion, fig or pumpkin-chestnut preserves? Roast red peppers with garlic? / Apron designed as a flamenco or bullfighter outfit. / Something for making treats at home: paella pan, “churro” maker, clay dishes for soups (curiously, all best purchased in old-style hardware stores), book of recipes. / As usual, fresh products cannot be taken into the USA. /
“Typical” products: Depending on the region you can find all sorts of lovely things, often in all price ranges: Black and gold damascene metalwork from Toledo, decorative items for the house or jewelry. / Swords or suits of armor, also from Toledo. / Inlaid wood boxes from Granada; you can also find chess or backgammon sets made with this same technique. / Ceramics, various styles and colors from all over the country. / Leatherwork, the best usually considered from Andalucía or Extremadura. / Olivewood, household or decorative items. / Handmade lace from coastal Galicia or Almagro in La Mancha. / Musical instruments: guitar and other stringed instruments (made by hand all over the country but you need to know your stuff before buying), wind instruments like the Basque flute or the oboe-like “dulzaina” played all over the country – you can get “dulzainas” without metal keys, similar to recorders. / Winesack, either the authentic kind lined with pine pitch (requires more care) or the less authentic kind lined with plastic for easy care. / Hats from different regions, or the universal beret. / Rope-soled espadrille shoes – the basic model is usually under 6 euros here in Madrid and comes in all colors (if you can, take outline of the foot you want to fit as sizing is European and can vary quite a bit between manufacturers). / Baskets in all styles and materials – willow, split chestnut baskets, woven grass. You can even get baskets that fit around a wind bottle, or a 2-3 bottle basket.
Crafts: Watch for craft fairs – you should always ask about special events at the tourism office in towns you visit. There you can get most of the “typical” products listed above directly from the craftsperson – and also a lot of other great gifts like toys, jewelry, other metal work (mirrors, decorations), hand-woven scarves or shawls, hand-knit sweaters or socks, painted scarves and ties, woodwork of all kinds, leather purses, sandals or simple shoes. Some cities have stores or regular markets that have all the above – like the Rastro in Madrid, or a good store on the southwest corner of Madrid’s Plaza Mayor (right by the staircase).
Museum shops: Many museums have very good gift shops, with jewelry, books, scarves and ties, reproductions of museum pieces, mugs and a long etcetera of interesting things. The shop at the Thyssen and Archeological museums in Madrid are excellent, as is the small but very good Museo Numantino in Soria and the shop at the Granja Royal Glass factory – and that’s just a start.