To bring home the best of Spain you do not have to travel all over the country instead just head to Madrid. The best of the country is brought into the capitol making it super easy for you to find what you want all in one spot. The following are my favorite things to pick up in Madrid whenever I visit and where to find them.
If you have never tried Turron, you are in for a treat. Turron is a sweet nougat and almond paste with slices of almonds pressed onto the outside. Most of the time the turron comes in a log or a bar that can be sliced. You can find turron in almost every souvenir shop abut to get the best head to Casa Mira on Carrera de San Jeronimo, 30 heading east out of Puerta del Sol. The family run store has been making turron and selling it here since 1842. Best part when you are done eating the turron you can keep the cool wooden box it comes in.
Violetas are another favorite Spanish treat of mine. These little purple hard candies are so addictive that I buy several boxes to bring home with me every time I visit. Violetas are actually made with violet extract giving them a very light sweet taste that lasts for a long time. You can also find violetas in most souvenir shops throughout Madrid, most of the time right next to turron on the shelf. If again you want to head straight to the source, the store that makes violetas is right down the block from Puerta del Sol in Plaza de Jacinto Benavente. The store is full of violetas ready for gift giving wrapped and packaged in cute ceramics, mugs and dishes.
Fans can be found throughout Spain made in every style imaginable with every material possible. You may buy your fan to display but most Spanish women use them regularly to deal with the heat. Just take a look in any store and you will find the most practical of fans, plain wood, to the very elaborate fan with a mother of pearl handle. For the biggest collection of fans walk over to Casa del Diego in Puerta del Sol.
T-shirts by Kukuxumusu
I refuse to buy touristy t-shirts when I travel but my cousin, a native Madrileno, assures me that Kukuxumusu shirts are not touristy at all and a staple for most in the city. Even if you are sitting on the fence about buying a shirt once you start going through the packages of t-shirts you will find one whimsically designed shirt that you have to buy. The shirts are made in Basque and every design is very unique. Usually you see them hanging on the outside of the souvenir shops in Madrid. There is also a store right off Plaza de Isabel II by the opera house that has all the new designs in stock.
Real Madrid Gear
Unless you are a die hard fan of another football team you must pick up some Real Madrid gear while in this beautiful city. Almost everything under the sun can be found with the teams logo in it but the favorites are Real Madrid scarves and of course a Real Madrid Jersey. You can find both of these in stores throughout the main shopping districts, namely Puerta del Sol and down the Gran Via. If you are spending time in Plaza Mayor try one of the shops around the perimeter, just know that they are usually more expensive and do not always have a big selection.
Whatever store you step into in Madrid there will be a display of fine ceramic pieces, most of them coming from Southern Andalucia. You can find everything from plates to clocks to vases with traditional and modern designs. My favorites though are the ceramic faced mirrors, especially those with bits of mirror throughout the traditional yellow and blue Sevillana colors. Try the area surrounding Plaza Mayor for the best quality and most variety.
You do not have to be in Andalucia to enjoy good flamenco. The best flamenco is available by the most well known and in demand performers on CD. Almost any souvenir store will carry some CDs but if you are unsure about what you like or want to hear clips before you buy you are going to need to head to a store that specializes in flamenco. A favorite haunt of mine and most flamenco fans is El Flamenco Vive on Calle Conde de Lemos 7. You can find the best of everything new and old on the shelves as well as sheet music, guitars, and books.
There is not much of a market for the swords that Toledo still fashions besides the tourists that frequent the town. The best examples of the craftsmanship can be found in Toledo, but there are still plenty of high quality pieces in Madrid. If you do not have a need for a sword there are plenty of alternatives turned out by Toledo artisans. The most common are letter openers and an assortment of decorative boxes. I love the pieces of jewelry that Toledo has been creating recently, truly unique.