It is the tradition that when Romanians visit another country, they always bring souvenirs home for their family and friends. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of shops selling all kinds of things to take home with you! The main shopping streets are Franceza and Smȃrden streets. In the old town center, Hanul Cu Tei is an old coaching inn that has been converted into shops, art galleries and restaurants, whilst Dizainor is a shop filled with all the latest arts and design products.
If you would like to discover the traditional handicrafts of the country, a great place to visit is the Traditional Popular Art Gallery at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Muzeal Taranului Roman), where there is a traditional craft market held every Friday – Sunday evening. The shop can be found at 13 Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff Boulevard.
1. Admire the Horezu ceramics
The region of Horezu in the southwest of the country has been producing beautiful ceramics for generations. Known for its eye-catching designs depicting plants, animals, and fish, the ceramics have been carefully painted with these eye-catching designs onto the clay. A bowl, mug or tray makes the perfect souvenir! The ceramics are in natural, earthy colors with highlights in vibrant red and blue. If you want to ensure that you are buying an authentic piece, turn it over as the artisan’s signature or stamp will be on the back.
2. Be tempted with walnut jam
There are plenty of lovely jams to buy in Bucharest and until recently, they were all hand made. Today, Raureni is one of the best known commercial brands that began 50 years ago. A very special flavor of Romanian jam is walnut jam which is made from green immature walnuts which produce a lovely tasting and slightly crunchy jam. Other popular flavors include rose petal, apricot, and peach.
3. Raise a glass of Tuica
Tuica (also known as palinca) is the national drink and is extremely popular – especially on a cold winter’s morning or as an appetizer before lunch. This powerful drink is clear in color with just a hint of yellow and traditionally has always been made from fermented plums. The process includes a double distillation and barrel aging. You can now buy different varieties made from pears, apricots, and peaches. If the idea appeals, you can buy a bottle of Pear Tuica with a whole pear inside! The idea is that you share the Tuica with friends and then break the bottle to reach the alcoholic pear!
4. Or one of wine
Wine has been made in what is now Romania for more than 2,000 years and is of high quality. A particularly popular label to watch out for is Murfabiar and Feteasca Neagra is a popular dry red whilst if you prefer white wine, watch out for labels by the Cotnari and Tohani cellars. If you enjoy your wine, why not search out Domeniile Sahateni which is a specialist shop run by wine experts – all the wines stocked there have received various awards and are excellent.
5. Enjoy the rich sound of violins
The town of Reghin is world-famous for its beautifully made instruments – in particular, its violins, guitars, and lutes (which are called ‘cobza’ locally). The Rapsodia shop in Bucharest has a fantastic selection of instruments in stock and they have been beautifully made by craftsmen in Reghen. The violins have a particularly rich tone and it is possible to play one as well as simply admire them! Certainly, it is an unusual memento of your time in Bucharest, but what better than a musical instrument you can treasure for many years to come?
6. Consider an Oltenia rug
Until recently, these colorful rugs were made totally by hand in the southern province of Oltenia, but the first stages of mechanization have now been introduced. A visit to the town will still reveal the rugs being hand-stitched on large woolen looms and the cotton and silk threads are hand-dyed. There are several shops in Bucharest selling these instantly recognizable rugs. They have backgrounds of burgundy, black or deep red and the designs depict flowers, birds and people and use the same colors with the addition of a vibrant shade of green.
7. Choose a pretty zgardan
Bead necklaces have been worn for centuries for all important family celebrations including weddings and anniversaries. The small beads are carefully stitched on to a length of cloth in elaborate patterns in bold colors and the material is then worn choker style. If you want to go one step further a beautifully embroidered blouse made in fine cotton or linen will complete the look!
8. Discover the creamy taste of Nāsal cheese
This delicious creamy cheese is made in a cave near Nāsal in Taga. The cheese is soft and similar to Camembert and is the perfect accompaniment to a rich red wine. Its distinctive flavor is said to come from the bacteria that is found in the cave and it cannot be replicated anywhere else as the cave also has its micro-climate.
9. Treat yourself to some lovely leather goods
Romania has a long leather making tradition and in recent years, several new family businesses have opened promising their customers beautiful leather goods. There are belts, jackets, shoes, and belts to buy, both machine and hand-stitched and the quality is really good. Two names to watch out for are Guban and Clujana and both companies put comfort and elegance first!
If you want to give yourself a real treat, why not visit one of the shoemakers in the city and have a pair of shoes made just for you in the color and style of your choice? You will be amazed at the reasonable price charged too.
10. Opt for a pair of Opinci
These traditional peasant sandals are today only worn by those in the national dress but in the past, they were very popular. The sandals are very distinctive as they are made from thick naturally colored leather and have enclosed pointed toes. There are holes in the sandals for flat leather laces which were wound around the ankle, up the leg and tied under the knee. The leather was not decorated in any way so that it contrasted with the richly embroidered blouses and colorful skirts that were usually worn.