Handcrafted keepsakes make wonderful holiday gifts

Grasse, in France, is known as the perfume capital of the world. Galimard’s Fragrance Studio offers a two-hour perfume workshop to create your own signature fragrance. (galimard.com)

Buying Christmas presents should never be a chore but rather a joy of the season, especially when the search for the perfect gift coincides with spending time in a favorite or even unknown corner of Europe. Master craftsmen and enthusiastic hobbyists come up with a range of hands-on activities that result in items that their creators will surely treasure and are perfect for gift giving. Those with friends or family who love crafts might instead provide them with an experience that allows them to create their own masterpiece. Here are some elements that one could create under the guidance of experts.

Create perfume in Grasse: The town of Grasse on the French Riviera has been known for its perfume industry for centuries, and a handful of sweet fragrance makers offer the option of blending their own scent. The Studio des Fragrances de Galimard offers a two-hour session allowing you to assemble your personal perfume. Participants learn how scents are constructed from a top, middle and base note and, seated in front of an organ containing 127 such notes, are instructed in the art of creating their own harmonious and well-balanced formula. . The price of 55 euros includes a diploma, a personalized 100ml bottle of eau de parfum, and the retention of the formula in a confidential database for replenishment. Online: tinyurl.com/vad8w5uj

Working with mosaics in Brenta: The studio “Arte della Corte” is located in Brenta, in the Lombardy region of Italy, north-west of Milan. Here, those interested in the art of mosaic have the chance to learn about the history and evolution of this style of art which was already popular thousands of years ago and the rest at modern times. Under the guidance of a trained master, participants will learn to create a composition of glass or marble tiles and to work the pieces with pliers, pliers and other tools of the trade. Two hours of lessons cost 25 euros and can be booked through the Airbnb experiences platform. Online: cortedibrenta.blogspot.com

Painting a mask in Venice: An essential part of the Venetian carnival tradition is the wearing of a mask to conceal one’s identity. Atelier La Bauta in Venice offers different courses, including a one-hour class in which participants can paint and decorate their chosen mask from over 60 papier-mâché models and take their finished works home. The experience costs 40 euros per person and is available as a self-guided tour. A 90-minute class on creating the papier-mâché mask itself is also available; prior recommendations are recommended. Online: labauta.com/workshop/?lang=fr

Learn the art of glassblowing in Murano: The island of Murano, just north of Venice, is world famous for its glassblowing traditions. The Wave Murano Glass Studio offers a three-hour course in the art of glassblowing, a physically demanding task performed in a warm and stimulating environment. After a brief introduction to the factory itself and how it works, participants engage in exercises designed to develop the basic movements and eye-hand coordination required of glassblowers. After ever more demanding interactions with molten glass, participants are finally ready to blow their own little glass artifact. As the part needs sufficient time to dry, it can be picked up later or shipped. The sessions cost 242 euros and can be booked on the Airbnb experiences platform. Online: wavemuranoglass.com

Make chocolate in Brussels or Bruges: The Belgian Chocolate Workshop offers a 2.5 hour workshop allowing participants to create two types of chocolates, filled pralines or beggars, in which pieces of dried fruit are mounted on chocolate discs. Skills presented include how to temper chocolate, make pralines, and make chocolate ganache filling. The workshop ends with the preparation of a cup of hot chocolate from the remaining pieces. A box containing some 35 chocolates is the tasty reward for his efforts. The company will also ship boxes of all the necessary ingredients, so that one can follow a live video. The cost of the in-person course in either studio is 38 euros. Online: belgianchocolateworkshop.com

Make silver jewelry in Market Bosworth: A 3.5-hour course offered at a workshop in an attractive market town in Leicestershire, England, allows participants to craft their own unique silver coins. Working with a type of metallic clay that turns into fine silver, students design, create, bake, and polish a piece of jewelry that will be ready to wear home at the end of the course. The experienced and enthusiastic instructor is a member of the Guild of Jewelers and holds a teaching diploma. The course costs 60 euros and can be booked through the Airbnb experiences platform. Online: airbnb.com/experiences/2525609

Create a bust in the Parisian suburbs: In the town of Levallois-Perret, a northwestern suburb of Paris, a qualified instructor invites up to three participants at a time to his workshop to sculpt a face from their imaginations. The four-hour experience includes laying the clay on a frame, blocking out major shapes, and adding details that add character and expression to the finished work. The studio’s location on a barge on the Seine adds charm to the experience. The course itself costs 65 euros per person; shipping the finished work after drying is an option subject to an additional cost. Online: tinyurl.com/6fzb333c

Brewing beer in Hamburg: Landgang Brauerei, a brewery in Germany’s second largest city, regularly offers a six-hour course on the art of brewing beer. Under the tutelage of a craft beer expert, participants learn about the brewing process and develop skills that can be applied to the art of home brewing. The course is completed with a tour of the facilities, snacks and plenty of cold beers to taste. Beer brewed during the day can be brought home to ripen at your own pace. The price of the course is 159 euros. Online: landgang-brauerei.de

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