Here are some ideas of unique souvenirs and great deals in Europe: flea markets, Italian leather, Venetian glass, Bavarian Christmas ornaments, Turkish carpets... So much shopping; so little time!
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Random mix of merchandise
There is a chain of shops called Eduscho and Tchibo. They sell coffee beans and you can buy coffee drinks and little snacks. But what is interesting is that they sell other products, with a stock that changes once a week. One week might feature gardening tools, the next underthings, the next week baking tools. A great source for cheap winter things if you come during the colder months.I've never seen anything like this in the US.
Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris
Someone here wrote that the Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris is only open on Sunday. This is not true... Open both Saturday and Sunday mornings. It is wonderful. Wonderful old French items in all price ranges. We go every time we are in Paris.
Lebanon, Oh USA 03/26/2012
We went to Harrod's to buy a particular gift for a friend. They have a service to process the VAT refund form, which cost us eleven pounds!!! deducted from the 30+ pounds to which we were entitled. Get the form and fill it out yourself. Other stores provide the form for you to process.
Mountain View, CA USA 10/26/2011
Italy: Shopping for local specialties
We worked our way northward in Italy and planned to shop for local specialties in their hometowns: wine and ceramics in Siena, leather in Florence, glass and masks in Venice. In retrospect, the divisions just aren't that clean. For example, Siena has a number of storefronts for "Coueria Firenze," which offers nicely designed, well constructed, reasonably priced handbags, wallets, shoes, and luggage. Contrary to the store's name, we never saw it in Florence. And there was this one unforgettable Murano glass tumbler in Florence that I didn't buy because I was waiting for Venice . . . The lesson learned is that if it's on your shopping list and you love it and it's decently priced, jump on it even if it has migrated away from home base. On the other hand, there were a couple of shopping highlights. In Florence, the leather school at the back of Santa Croce church has beautiful merchandise that they'll monogram for you. Our son is delighted with his initials and a lion rampant (rawr!) in his wallet, and an undisclosed hard-to-buy-for family member will be receiving a monogrammed wallet for Christmas. On weekdays, you can watch a craftsman do the monogramming, alongside several other leatherworkers working on other pieces. And the lovely arrays of tools! The school store was open on Sunday but no craftspeople were working. I don't know about Saturdays. Our other shopping highlight was Ca' del Sol Maschere, a mask shop, in Venice. After seeing street carts of mass-produced Venetian masks as far away as Paris, we were stopped in our tracks when we saw a genuine master's shop. Ca' del Sol has the mask-master at work, and is stuffed full of exquisite masks from simple eye covers to Plague Doctor to Anubis to feathers and rhinestones. It also offers costumes and unfinished masks that you can decorate yourself, and even offers a 5-day mask-making course. Ca' del Sol is apparently the choice of locals: while we were there, Saturday night revelers in full Baroque Vivaldi-esque dress stopped in to buy masks to complete their ensembles. 200 meters east of the northeast corner of San Marco Basilica, and 200 meters north of the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop, at Castello 4964 Fond Osmarin. Map on their Web site, cadelsolmascherevenezia.com/en/contact/ In Venice, the area east of the northeast corner of San Marco, from Campo SS. Filippo Giacomo, across Provolo and continuing on l'Osmarin, was our favorite strip in Venice in terms of well-designed, higher-quality, reasonably priced local crafts (we bought lace, silk, masks, and glass along this route).
Woodinville, WA USA 10/09/2011
I was informed while in Rothenburg that Kathe Wohlfarht is no longer family-owned. It has been sold to a japanese conglormorate. I stuck with Friesen and the other locally-owned stores.
Sioux Falls, SD USA 08/05/2011
Spitalfields Market in the East End of London has great finds. Dresses, to pashminas, to jewelry. Brick Lane Markets just a bit farther down is cheaper is has amazing food as well. Definitely worth a trip on a Sunday!
SLO, CA USA 03/16/2011
Shopping in Lisbon, Portugal
Original paintings of the city are a personal treat and very reasonable, bought a 6"x9" for 5 Euros in Belem. He was painting in the underpass walkway near Monument to the Discoveries. In Lisbon, gold jewellery is a great buy, and get this...it has to be at least 19 karats to be sold as "gold". Also port wine sold at the Port Wine Institute will cost less than at the airport duty free and makes a fun stop!
Vancouver, BC Canada 02/19/2011
Paris Puces de Vanves
I used the Rick Steves' France 2010 book to help me plan a quick flea market trip to Paris. Sadly this market is NOT open on Saturday, like the book says -- only Sunday.
Heidelberg, USA 08/13/2010
Shopping in Venice and Florence
Venice: If you're looking for a great selection of unique masks, try Ta Kala. While a bit pricier than some other stores, I couldn't find their style of masks anywhere else:
Ta Kala: Cannaregio 4391/C SS Apostoli - Venezia Fax e 041-5222837 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Florence: To echo Michelle's sentiments, George's handbags at Monom are superb (our tour guide took us there). Right next door, Massimo's is equally good if you're looking for jackets. Walking there from the Duomo, you'll pass San Lorenzo church, take a left down the main avenue of leather carts, and it should be the second right. Both will recommend reputable vendors for leather wares they don't sell in their shops.
Monom: Via borgo la noce, 15r 50123 Florence - Italy T (+39) 055-0510549 M (+30) 331-4801980 email@example.com www.florencebags.com
Mention Rick Steves and they'll probably give you a discount.
Seattle, WA USA 03/22/2010
Prints in Europe
Shopping in Europe: On my first trip to Europe I started collecting "street art". I loved the small watercolor prints and drawings that the street vendors sold. I am picky. I only bought prints that I loved..most were inexpensive.. and small. It fits in my luggage well and it's a great story to "show and tell" friends back home. I have a piece of art from each country hanging framed in my hallway. That way I can have the experience of traveling through Europe every time I walk down it.
On another note, sorry Rick I disagree with shopping in Galleries Layfette in Paris. I enjoyed window shopping there.. but it was pricy for me and I found better buys in the Latin Quarter.
Santa Rosa Beach, FL USA 03/04/2010
Visit Molly Gallivan's in Ireland!
While visiting Ireland, you've got to stop at a charming place called "Molly Gallivans." My husband and I simply came upon this spot while driving from Kenmare. There's a little bit for everyone at this place, so plan to spend an hour or two touring, learning Irish history and shopping. My favorite Irish gift was a ceramic tea set made locally!
Washington, DC USA 02/12/2010