I’d love to share my top 10 souvenir recommendations with you, little keepsakes that I enjoy taking home for my friends – and a few things I like to buy myself! All of these gifts are made or finished off in Tirol.
1. Riedel Glasses
The best wineries and top restaurants across the world highly commend these glasses from Tirol. They’re made in Kufstein, and the Riedel factory shop sells off their second and third-rate products at surprisingly affordable prices. Once you’ve tasted wine out of a Riedel glass, you’ll never again want to drink out of anything else. My favourite are the hand-blown glasses over the machine-made variety. I’ve tested the difference and I’m completely convinced. Riedel are extremely proud of their glass.
2. Tirolean bacon
A really good Tirolean bacon can usually be found at farmers’ markets or in village butcher shops. The secret aside from the good quality meat is the time given to the smoking process. My favourite is Metzger, stocked at the Astl family farm in Weerberg, the Krössbacher family butcher in Fulpmes, or the Hangl butcher in Innsbruck. Vacuum packing is often available on request for odour-free transportation.
There’s nothing like a fine honey spread fresh from the hive. If you can’t find a beekeeper in the resort (usually, the produce is sold around autumn time on the farms), the Beekeeper Cooperative on the Meranerstraße in Innsbruck is a highly recommended alternative. For what it’s worth, it’s a really lovely shop that’s full of the unforgettable smell of beeswax.
4. Doggln (slippers)
These traditional felt slippers from Loden are, in some parts of the country, the best indoor footwear around. People try to keep the few retailers who stock them secret, but you can find them at Günter Hartl in the Zillertal Valley (Dorf 20, Stumm im Zillertal) or in Reith im Alpbachtal with Anneliese Naschberger (Kirchfeldstraße 4, 6235 Reith). You need a little courage to wear them initially, but no trend was ever set without a few unconventional guts! Fashionistas will very much appreciate them.
5. Steinöl vom Achensee
This sulphur-containing oil is distilled at Lake Achensee using shale rock. It looks a little sticky and doesn’t smell great, but its affect on aching, tense joints is amazing. You can float a dish in your bath water to warm it up (this takes 15 to 20 minutes) or add it directly to your bath. Rock oil is widely available in pharmacies and drugstores.
Good liquor can be found in every Tirolean household as an aperitif or a digestive aid after a delicious meal. The quality of alcohol has improved enormously in recent years, and many of the country’s breweries already belong among the European distillery elite. Here’s a list of my particular favourite breweries (remember it’s always best to buy directly from the farm or in bulk from a good dealer): Christoph Kössler from Stanz (has his own sampling setup in his house, which in itself is worth a detour); Siegfrid Kistl from the Wildschönau (excellent price for what you get); and the Rochelt distillery in Fritzens (excellent spirits and the best bottle designs).
7. Tiroler Edle Chocolate
This fine chocolate from Landeck in Tirol is now famed far beyond the country’s borders. The beauty is in the chocolate’s high percentage, good quality cocoa and fillings such as Tirolean walnuts or brandy that have been perfected to give this product its punch. My favorite variety is with Ötztal cranberry, which is available from good grocery stores. The packaging is pretty too!
8. Swarovski jewelry
Even if the jewelry from Swarovski is available internationally, it’s a special experience to select directly from one of the larger shops as well as Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens. Also, I highly recommend the exhibition at Swarovski Crystal Worlds.
9. Tiroler Reine (Walde soaps)
Although shower gels have somewhat replaced soaps, the soaps from Walde will make you want to go back to using bars of soap again. Interesting varieties such as Mountain Mint, Glacier Milk and Forget-Me-Not make for a really unique product containing ingredients that are 100% natural. The pretty packaging lends this soap as the perfect gift, and it’s widely available in lots of drugstores. Or, visit the factory shop in Innsbruck at Innstraße 23.
This Tirolean cheese has a really strong smell, and while it’s a local specialty, incredibly it contains 0% fat: excellent news for weight-conscious foodies. It’s best enjoyed with vinegar, oil and a little onion, or at its best as Graukassuppe. However, its smell comes with a downside: transporting this cheese can be a challenge! That said, it is possible to have the cheese packed so that its odour isn’t too pervasive. My favourite supplier of Graukase is the Zillertal dairy, or high-end supermarkets (for example, MPreis).
11. No competition: the Tirol Hat
In the last 10 years, this cap has become the classic choice of headwear for all Tirol fans. With thousands already exported, you can expect to find lovers of this cap in Munich, Hamburg and other cities, not only just in Tirol. Hats aren’t always the most becoming of items, but in my opinion, this one makes every head look great!