Even among those in the know about Balkan travel, Macedonia is still somewhat of an off-the-beaten-path destination, and there’s even fewer outside of the country who know where to find the best Macedonian shopping. Yet Macedonian souvenirs are not only affordable, but they are also some of the most unique in the region, making shopping in Skopje, Bitola, and Ohrid a real treat. Here are our picks for the best Macedonian souvenirs and gifts to take home for friends and family.
A note about Macedonia versus North Macedonia: This article is about North Macedonian souvenirs. However, the name “North Macedonia” is not commonly used yet, so we will simply by substituting the name Macedonia in places. This is not a political statement; we are merely trying to help those looking for information about the country find it easily. Political comments will be deleted.
Our Favorite Macedonia Souvenirs & Gifts
This list has been created with the goal of exploring the best of Macedonian crafts and local goods. There are great options for gifts for her or him, ideas for gifts for children, and delicious treats for friends or coworkers. Plus things you absolutely need to bring home for yourself.
Traditional Costumes & TextilesThe Balkans are known for their beautiful traditional textiles and fabrics, and Macedonia is no exception. Traditional Macedonian textiles are from two main traditions: Eastern Macedonia and Western Macedonia. Within these divisions, there are variations at the regional and village level.
Embroidery is an important part of traditional Macedonian costumes, but for souvenirs, you can purchase smaller items with the same motifs. If you do decide to purchase traditional clothing, make sure you are always respectful in whatever manner you choose to wear or display it.
After touring some of Macedonia’s beautiful churches, you might find yourself inspired and long for your own beautiful painted wooden Icon. These are widely available as souvenirs, and they are typically very reasonably priced. (Though handpainted ones from artisans can get pricier). These icons are usually painted copies of the originals in the same tradition that’s been used in Macedonia for over a thousand years.
If you do purchase an Icon, respect it as an object of great religious significance to the Macedonian Orthodox believers.
Traditional Macedonian Filigree Jewelry
Looking for something beautiful to bring home as a gift for a loved one (or for yourself)? Macedonians have been making beautiful traditional filigree jewelry since the Turkish occupation. Typically handmade, each piece is a work of art.
Today they’ve figured out how to make it with machines, which helps keep the time to make it (and price) down. However, the designs and tradition are still woven into Macedonia’s heritage. You can still find handmade pieces, though, if that’s what you’re looking for. This makes a great Macedonian gift for her, but don’t be afraid to bring some home for you as well!
Macedonian Traditional ShoesThe art of the handmade leather shoe is falling out of fashion, but you can still find this important Macedonian handicraft if you know where to look for it:
The leather and decorated footwear, the Macedonian traditional show, was produced throughout the country around the beginning of the past century. Now, a craft kept alive by few, it still provides the ethno enthusiast with rare items.
Many preserved pairs are being part of someone’s collection, though there are still those who would gladly sell them for the right price. Each pair is handcrafted, and by design shows the region from where it came. With decorative elements, made almost exclusively from leather, they are a true piece of Macedonian handicraft treasure. You can nowadays, even find craftsmen who make them in different sizes, some even as souvenirs, or as a part of your key-chain.
After the fall of Yugoslavia, Macedonia wanted to be called Macedonia. But the country is only part of the greater historical region of Macedonia, which is also part of Greece and Bulgaria. Greece sued to block the name, and all hell broke loose.
Okay, there wasn’t a war or anything, but it launched a million angry internet comments, gigantic protests in Greece, and a whole lot of other nonsense. So while most travelers understood the difference between Macedonia the country and Macedonia the region, officially the country was called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Thus…FYROM. Because nobody had the time to say the entire name.
Recently Greece and Macedonia came to an agreement, and the country will now be called North Macedonia. Although I’m sure travelers will still just call it Macedonia, and I’m sure that will lead to many, many more angry comments in the halls of subreddits and Trip Advisor forums.
So while you can, if you see an item with FYROM for sale you should grab it now that this name has been relegated to the past. Or who knows, maybe it will become kitschy like a USSR t-shirt and live on forever as reproductions. Still, the originals will only be around so long.
CeramicsAfter seeing the beautiful traditional Macedonian ceramics in museums, you might start to think about how lovely it would be to purchase a modern-day reproduction to take home with you. Earthenware is an important part of Balkan culture, especially in Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia.
Some Balkan dishes can only be made in terracotta pots, so you might also encounter ceramics at restaurants.
When purchasing these to take home, ask to have it wrapped if possible. I have traveled transatlantic with Balkan ceramics and two out of three made it back intact. The third was a vase and the handle broke, but we were able to get it easily fixed.
Ohrid PearlsOhrid pearls, once the province of European royalty, are one of the most uniquely Macedonian gifts you find while here. Made by the Filevi and Taveli families, the process is a closely guarded secret. From Reuters:
The Filevi and Talevi families have been making the jewellery in the UNESCO cultural heritage site since the 1920s, coating an emulsion with secret ingredients on to tiny pieces of mother-of-pearl.
“I received it (the secret recipe) from my father Nikola, my father … from my grandfather Mihajlo, and my grandfather … from my great-grandfather Nikola,” said Mihajlo Filev, the current owner of the family business…
At least eight layers of the emulsion are coated to create the pearl. The more layers of coating, the bigger the price, with pieces of jewellery easily reaching hundreds of euros.
Some of the jewellery made by the Filev and Talev families have been worn by top dignitaries including Britain’s Queen Elisabeth and Queen Margrethe of Denmark.
Make sure when shopping for one that you’re getting authentic Ohrid Pearls made by these two families. There are many fakes made in China for sale in Ohrid and throughout the country. Look for the shops owned by these families so you know you’re in good hands.
The Balkans have many different microregions for winemaking, and Allison thinks that Macedonian wines are some of the most underrated wines in Europe. Since it is not exported in large quantities, it is rare to come across a local Macedonian wine abroad. So if you fall in love with a bottle, pick up an extra to bring back home with you.
This is a great idea for bringing back gifts from Macedonia to friends or colleagues, and they are found easily all over the country.
Are you even on a Balkan vacation if someone doesn’t make you try rakija (or rakia or slivovitz or palinka, etc). This brandy, typically made from plums, is ubiquitous in the region but is difficult to get ahold of once you’re back home. One of my friends who’s family emigrated to the USA from Albania was telling me recently how much he misses it. You can’t get ahold of rakija easily in Arizona!
Macedonians love carpets, and since they produce such beautiful ones you will quickly love Macedonian carpets too! Used to decorate nearly every room in the house, it is common to see a carpet decorating everywhere from the bedroom to the kitchen.
You can find them for sale all over. Whether you opt for a vintage or secondhand rug or look for a new one, these are a great blend of Ottoman heritage and traditional Macedonian motifs. In other words, they’re a constant reminder of the mix of history and heritage that make up the country’s modern identity.
Where to Buy Macedonian Gifts & Souvenirs
We doubt you want to go all the way to Macedonia and then go shopping at a mall or international box store. Here are are our picks for the best places to find locally made Macedonian souvenirs.
Balkan markets are some of our favorite places in the world, and Macedonia is no exception. In Skopje check out the fourteenth century Bit Pazar (Old Bazaar), while those headed to Bitola should make sure to stop at the Ottoman-founded Stara Čaršija (also Old Bazaar). Make sure you have cash, as most small markets don’t take credit cards.
Directly from the Producers
This is one of my favorite ways to shop! When touring a winery or artisan shop, it’s so rewarding to buy souvenirs directly from the people who produced it instead of some middle man. So if you happen to be doing activities like wine tasting, food tours, or seeing demonstrations of folk arts, inquire about what goods they have for sale.
Church Gift Shops
Many Orthodox churches that are on the popular tourist trail have small gift shops. These mostly cater to devotees looking to buy candles for their loved ones, but they also carry wooden icons and books about the church’s history and architecture. These books are difficult to find any other way, and the icons are gorgeous. If you’re at a larger monastery, you might also be able to buy honey or other goods made by the monks or nuns who live there. Bring cash, as these usually don’t take credit cards.
Souvenir Shops & StandsSometimes you need to shop at a souvenir stand or shop. They have the best kitschy stuff, and they are super convenient. We don’t advise avoiding these entirely, just use some common sense. Make sure that you:
- Check that the item you’re interested in buying was made in Macedonia
- Check prices at multiple stores so that you don’t get ripped off
- Look in a few different ones before making a purchase. That way you’ll know what’s special at each (and what you can get literally anywhere).
Macedonian Souvenirs Online
There are Macedonian souvenirs available on Etsy and other online retailers, and you can find Macedonian books on Amazon. If you forget to bring something home with you, you can have it shipped directly to your house.
Finally, Don’t Go without Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel to Macedonia and the Balkans with a valid travel insurance policy. While the country is safe, accidents can happen anywhere. If you experience an accident or theft, travel insurance will help you recover your costs and enjoy the rest of your trip.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Have you purchased any Macedonia gifts or souvenirs while in the country or at home? Are you researching an upcoming trip? Let us know what your favorite souvenirs from Macedonia are and leave any questions you have below!
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