Black Sea resorts overflow with tacky souvenirs, but otherwise Bulgaria has an enjoyable shopping scene, especially for handicrafts and rose-scented cosmetics. Find embroidery in Nesebâr, Varna and Sofia; landscape or icon paintings in Sofia, Varna and Plovdiv; woodcarvings in Tryavna; or rugs and bags in Koprivshtitsa. For souvenirs such as books and jewellery, Sofia has the best range.
There are plenty of non-perishable delights to take home from Bulgaria. Stuff your suitcase with the widely used local seasoning Sharena Sol (mixed salt), rose-petal jam or rose liqueur, honey from local monasteries, and of course, a good bottle or three of rakia or Bulgarian wine.
There are plenty of tasteful, lovingly hand-crafted souvenirs to buy in Bulgaria.
Hand-painted icons These make a particularly evocative reminder of your stay; though often expensive, they do involve a huge amount of skill and time.
Cherga Traditional, hand-woven rugs make a colourful addition to any room and, again, involve a great deal of work: even small rugs can take months to complete.
Troyanska kapka pottery Saucers and egg cups with the distinctive droplet design are found across the country. One of the more unusual products is a jug and set of shallow cups made specifically for serving and drinking the potent national spirit, rakia.
Martenitsi Even outside March, when they're worn by locals, you can see these little red-and-white woollen tassels (often in the form of a man and a woman) on sale. Traditionally they are pinned to clothing until the wearer sees a blooming tree, stork or other sign of spring.
Horn-handled knives Traditionally used by shepherds, you can buy these straight from the blacksmith in Etâr.
Socks Never be short of a Christmas gift again: stock up on hand-knitted woollen socks from Bansko.
Fake designer goods and counterfeit historical items are very common in Bulgaria. These range from knock-off watches and fake perfumes sold at street stalls in places such as Nesebâr, Golden Sands (Zlatni Pyasâtsi) and Sunny Beach (Slânchev Bryag), and fake designer clothes and pirated software in markets, right through to fake historical items. Most of this is pretty obvious and priced accordingly, while some items may be designed to deceive. Be careful, too, when dealing with ‘antiques’, especially at street stalls. As always, use your common sense and make sure you know what you’re buying; most of the time, those ‘ancient coins’ and Nazi knick-knacks are not the real thing.
Kazanlâk and the surrounding Valley of the Roses is the centre of Bulgaria's rose industry. This is the best part of Bulgaria to stock up on bath oils, soaps and hand creams, richly scented with Rosa damascena, the many-petalled Damask rose. You'll find rose soaps of varying quality at souvenir stands across Bulgaria, but for premium rose-scented products, buy from the source while you're touring a distillery such as Enio Bonchev. Global cosmetics chain Refan (www.refan.com) has outlets in Veliko Târnovo, Blagoevgrad and other major cities, stocking a range of high-quality rose-infused cosmetics.