Corfu Souvenirs: What To Bring Back Home?
Are you the type of traveller who always wants to bring something home from each trip? If so, you might be wondering what type of Corfu souvenirs you can expect to give your friends and family. Or which souvenirs should you buy so that you can remember this wonderful place? What can Corfu, the island whose inhabitants have managed to stay true to the traditions of their ancestors, surprise you with?
We have studied all the intricacies of souvenir shopping and are happy to share with you a selection of the best Corfu souvenirs.
Kumquat is an unusual fruit, originating in southern China and making its way to Europe in 1846. It didn’t reach Corfu until 1860 when a British botanist brought it to the island. It didn’t take long for it to become a popular fruit in Corfu and similar temperate climates in southern Europe. In fact, kumquat is somewhat of a delicacy in Corfu, with the local kumquat liqueur being the island’s drink of choice – besides ouzo of course.
The taste of the kumquat can be compared to that of the orange. Many products in Corfu are made from this unusual fruit, including jam and marmalade. It’s very popular both among locals and tourists who are rarely familiar with the kumquat.
Locals make kumquat liqueur, one of the most famous drinks on Corfu, and it’s usually sold in touristy bottles in the shape of a map of Corfu. The strength of the alcohol varies between 20-25% volume and it’s usually very sweet. You can drink it in its pure form or dilute it with juice and also add it to cocktails. You can buy kumquat liqueur in practically all local shops and supermarkets on the island.
Another alcoholic drink that can serve as a souvenir is ouzo. Ouzo is the famous aniseed spirit served as an aperitif with a small mixed starter. When mixed with water, as is common in Greece, it becomes cloudy. Ouzo has a very pungent aniseed smell and if, like us, you are not a fan of aniseed, you are better off going back to the kumquat liqueur.
Of course, Greece is famous all over the world for its olive oil, but the olive oil of Corfu is something special. They don’t pick olives from the trees, they just wait for the olives themselves to fall off after they are fully ripe. If you hike around the hills near Benitses or other parts of the island, you’ll be able to see these nets under every tree. I was quite surprised when I first saw it!
On one of our first hikes together, we saw these large nets under every olive tree and had a big discussion about what they could be. Seems pretty obvious in hindsight. By the way, the olive trees are way taller in Corfu than most other places.
So, thanks to this “laziness” of the locals, the olive oil on Corfu has its own unique taste.
Although there are many olive trees on the island, and the olives hanging from them invite you to try them, you should be prepared for the fact that fresh olives taste quite bitter. They are only to be eaten after they have been processed. While olives tend to be a bit like marmite, it’s very easy to buy them as a souvenir. For as little as 3 euros, you can buy vacuum-packed black and green olives, with spices or in oil, it does not matter – the choice is yours.
Herbs and spices
The cuisine of Corfu is rich in Mediterranean herbs. Oregano, basil, rosemary, mint, sage, thyme, and cinnamon are all integral parts of local dishes. There are ready-made spice mixtures for dishes like pastitsada or stifado, or you can get individual herbs and spices in local markets or in the shops.
For those with a sweet tooth
Corfiots treat sweets with special love, so you’ll find a wide variety of sweets here. Besides sweets made from their favourite local fruit – the kumquat – the island also produces excellent kozinaki, made from nuts and sesame seeds.
Corfu also offers delicious honey. You can get unique flavoured honey from the traditional beekeepers in Old Perithia, the ghost village of Corfu that was abandoned in the 60s. They even offer honey in small jars so that you can take it on the plane in your hand luggage.
Baklava is common all over Greece. Like many things in Greek culture, there’s a rivalry with Turkey over who makes it better and who made it first. It’s even possible that it was neither of them, but the ancient Assyrians instead. Either way, Corfiot baklava is amazing and you’ll find it all over the island. If you want a little souvenir for your friends or family back home, you can get it in boxes in pretty much every tourist shop. For the fresh stuff, head to Corfu Town and go to a delicatessen.
Even better, bring back a baklava recipe and make it yourself at home!
We’re yet to discover why fig bars are called fig pies here. Then again, it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that fish pie, shepherds pie, and cottage pie are all called pie too. There’s no pastry?
One of our favourites, Corfu offers a wide selection of tahini halva. The delicate taste is great for sweet tooths. After I introduced Matt to Kazakh halva, he became addicted to it and holds me personally responsible. Now that he’s hooked, we always like to try the local halva wherever we go. I reckon one day he will write a post about the best halvas around the world.
Souvenirs with humour
Like olive trees on Corfu island, you’ll find penis-shaped souvenirs everywhere, from bottle openers to soaps. Yes, yes, the Greeks are not shy about showing this part of the male body, moreover, they are very proud of it.
For the Greeks, the penis is a symbol of fertility. It’s heavily linked with the Dionysian cult – but apparently, some ancient Greeks would even mark their own tombstone with a phallus! And in Athens, there is even a festival in honour of the phallus, called phalliphoria, directly translating to “to bear a penis”.
So, if you want to play a prank on your friends, bring them a penis from Corfu. Make them laugh!
A recipe or five
One of the best things about Corfu, besides its stunning beach resorts like Paleokastritsa, is the food! When we last visited, we made sure to take back something with us that we could use forever: recipes!
If you want to cook authentic Greek food at home, you can take a look at our selection so far:
- Juicy beef stifado
- Traditional pastitsada
- Authentic Greek moussaka
- Hand-made spanakopita
- Mouth-watering strawberry cheesecake
If you learn any more while you’re there, be sure to let us know! We try to collect recipes from everywhere we visit so we can recreate our favourite dishes in any country.
What not to export
We don’t want to state the obvious, but you should never take items found in an archaeological site, nor pick stones from any of the gorgeous Corfiot beaches or items from the sea. The same goes with wild flowers, plants and other flora and fauna. ‘Take only pictures and leave only footprints,’ is a good motto to follow in this sense.
That way, we can all go back again and again. We definitely will.
Enjoy your Corfu souvenirs
Whatever you decide to get for your friends, family, or yourself, you’ll always remember this magical island. If you want to see what kind of things you can get up to in Corfu, check out our comprehensive guide.