Souvenir Shopping in Granada, Nicaragua
Shopping and dining in Granada might be the city’s main attractions aside from wandering colonial streets with brightly painted doors or snapping a photo of the golden cathedral. With some Spanish or basic negotiating skills and information on best practice, tourists can come away with authentic and generally high-quality local handicrafts at fair prices. I fell in love with the little painted parrots, hand-woven leather bracelets, and Mayan-influenced pottery… if nothing else, a look at what´s for sale will give an insight into local culture, art, and the cities colonial past. Have you brought back any Nicaraguan souvenirs? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Ask for ¨antiguedades¨ and you´ll be pointed in the direction of several antique shops, all boasting their own collections of colonial-era originals and replicas. Antique doors, ceramics reminiscent of pre-Columbian art, intricately carved hardwood tables, mirrors, and tapestries are just a few of the treasures you´ll find in these intrinsically eclectic stores. The majority of items here are large, but shop owners are well versed on how to ship both within and outside of Central America….for a price. Even if you can´t make a purchase, these are excellent places to browse and better understand the layers of history that surround you in this colonial-era city.
The Calzada street is lined with trendy local shops selling everything from high-end fashion accessories to locally-made ceramics and chocolate. Ole is a locally-owned boutique which sells one of a kind clothing and accessories made by nearby womens cooperatives.
For excellent and fashion-forward leather products (with a highlight on boots and purses) check out the boutique inside the entrance to the restaurant El Trecer Ojo, but keep in mind this is not a cheap option for Nicaragua (though perhaps in comparison with US and European prices for similar products, a good deal can be found – women´s leather boots ran around $180 and higher). Opposite is another excellent and eclectic boutique full of smaller antique objects, up-cycled and quirky dresses, traditionally painted masks and lots of interesting odds and ends.
A series of nomadic jewelry makers set up temporary tables every morning and afternoon to sell hand-made wire and leather jewelry at typically cheaper prices – negotiating prices is the name of the game and if you´re buying for friends, a price can always be struck for multiple purchases. Keep in mind that most of these items have a similar look, and you´ll often be greeted with the same explanation that the artist made everything him or herself, an explanation of precious stones, and a sometimes-relentless push to make a purchase. Feel free to try on the items (most will offer) and know that adjustments can almost always be made for size, etc. Some of my favorite purchases have come from these vendors, but some shopping around is required because these vendors are artists but they are also strategic salesmen.
walk the street selling bags of fresh roasted cashews stacked high in baskets they carry on their heads (which, combined with the cheap fruit from the markets makes an excellent budget breakfast!) and others display hand-made pottery local to the region, in the form of plates and vases or the ever-present ceramic whistles in the shape of colorful birds. These cheerful little sculptors make great decorations or gifts for children back home, but be careful when selecting them as some are painted with low-quality paint that easily chips or melts in the heat. (Both of which can be avoided with careful packaging, if that is the case). Make sure the pottery is signed by the artist, usually on the bottom of the piece. A problem in the region is the exploitation of local potters who are forced to leave their art unsigned so it can be sold at higher prices by another claiming to have done the work.