Shopping in Crete…
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Shopping in Crete, the largest and most wonderful of the Greek islands, is often a lot of fun and a lot less stressful than shopping in the UK for example. It’s a lot less expensive too.
We’ve put together this shopping in Crete guide for people now living in Crete, those who hope to be moving to Crete, and for tourists visiting the beautiful island we call home.
For people living here or hoping to live here be assured that EVERYTHING you could ever want or need is available here and often a whole lot cheaper.
And for tourists there is simply no point loading your suitcase with items that you can buy here.
Health & Beauty Shopping in Crete
Every beauty product you could ever want or need is available here in Crete. Perfumes, skin care products and cosmetics from famous names like Estee Lauder, Clarins, Clinique etc are all available in the big towns of Crete.
The Body Shop is popular too with shops in Rethymnon, Heraklion and Chania.
The supermarkets and markets also sell a good range of beauty products. Greek local products, mostly made with olive oil are always good value. The hand cream and body moisturiser are lovely when made from olive oil.
The best discovery I made is the perfume shop in Chania. If you blinked you’d miss it. It's a tiny shop, near to the National Bank of Greece, across from Chania Market. Here, the lady owner makes up perfumes to your specifications.
She can also replicate famous name perfumes too – and I don’t mean the cheap fake artificial perfumes sold on the market. She has a list in English that you can choose from and all her perfumes are made entirely from pure essential oils.
I asked her to make a blend of Jasmine and Orange blossom – the result is gorgeous. Long lasting too, and about a quarter of the price you’d pay for similar brand name perfumes!
So for a truly personal fragrance ask her to make up your own designer perfume!
Clothes Shopping in Crete
UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON
Yes Marks and Spencer is available in Crete!
And so are top name labels like Zara, DNKY and Hugo Boss, Burberry, United Colors of Benetton, Amarni, etc.
Other local independent shops and stores sell a wonderful range of footwear, handbags and clothing, mainly made in Greece. These are where you can get some real bargains.
Some of the designs would rival the best that Paris, London and Milan can offer but at a fraction of the price!
At the other end of the market are the "Chinese" shops that are springing up all over the towns in Crete, selling plenty of cheaper clothing. Markets and the supermarkets also sell cheap clothing, handbags and shoes.
If you were getting married in Crete, or elsewhere for that matter, it would be a great idea to buy your wedding dress here. They are absolutely fabulous and so much cheaper than in UK for example.
I think it would be worth getting a cheap flight, popping over here and buying your wedding dress to take back home. Go into the wedding shop early on your holiday so that any alterations could be made and then pick up your perfect wedding dress at the end of your holiday.
Luxury Shopping in Crete
There are plenty of wonderful gold and silver jewellery shops throughout Crete. Many of which have their own goldsmiths busily crafting in their workshops at the rear, creating beautiful designs that glisten and glitter in the front showrooms.
The Greek Key design in both gold and silver is obviously popular here with whole sections of the jewellery store devoted to it.
But if you have your own design in mind, say for an engagement ring or matching wedding rings, just ask in the shop and most will be delighted to create your personalised piece of jewellery.
Peripteros in Crete
The Periptero are the little kiosks you find next to the road all over Crete (and Greece). They seem to be open all hours and despite their small size seem to sell everything.
These "Tardis" like establishments sell items such as phone cards, stamps, batteries, cigarettes and sweets and chocolate.
Road Side Stalls
There are many road side stalls dotted along the roads of Crete selling fruits and vegetables. These are usually manned by farmers selling their own produce.
Many a bargain can be had from one of these stalls and you are guaranteed the freshest of produce with farmers selling same-day picked goods.
Tourist Shops in Crete
Wander around any of the tourist resorts and you’ll find lots of shops selling not only souvenirs to take home but also everything you’d need for your holiday in Crete. Snorkels, beach balls, sun hats, sun screen and mosquito protection, to name but a few.
The main towns of Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos all feature craft shops selling local products like leather goods, olive oil products, and hand made pottery pieces.
In the old town of Chania you’ll come across the famous "Leather Lane" on Skrydloff Street. The smell of leather fills the air and you will be stunned at the dazzling displays of locally-made leather goods from belts, sandals, wallets, handbags to the traditional black boots named Stivania worn by the men of Cretan villages.
I bought a lovely pair of leather sandals here and they are the best and most comfy I’ve ever had!
Pick your Own
If you like the thought of fresh, organic and local produce then like the old ladies of Crete you could gather Horta. A walk through the olive or citrus groves or through the vineyards might reveal the sight of an old lady dressed in a long skirt, shawl and thick black stockings – even in the summer, labouring in the fields or the roadside gathering up what looks like weeds.
She’s gathering Ta xópta, (pronounced "ta horta") which translated literally means wild greens or green vegetables.
Horta is an important element in the old Cretan diet, and growing on the hillsides, is still hand-picked by the villagers. Horta can comprise such things as black mustard leaves, dandelion or beet greens, curly endive, sorrel, spinach, kale and collards – a medley of edible wild greens. Obviously, the combination is very dependant on the season and availability.
To cook horta you simply season with olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper, and braise or steam using a little water.
In many parts of Crete you’ll see offered on menus Greens Pie, which is a variation on a classic Cretan pie normally using spinach or other greens in the filling.
British Products in Crete
Items we’ve labelled, as ‘British products’ are things like Heinz Baked Beans, Typhoo Tea Bags, HP Sauce, Pot Noodles, Kellogg’s Coco Pops etc and are widely available here in Crete. But expect to pay extra for them, as they are imported goods. Not many of these items are bought and consumed by the locals.
Chemists in Crete
Pharmacists are highly qualified in Greece and you can obtain treatment for minor ailments at chemists as well as medical advice. They can dispense, without the need for a doctor’s prescription, a far wider range of drugs than In the UK for example. They can dispense a wide range of remedies including antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. We’ve not met a pharmacist who doesn’t speak perfect English.
Pharmacies are plentiful in Crete and there seems to be one on every street corner. This is just as well as supermarkets do not sell any medicines at all, so you cannot pick up even so much as a packet of aspirin while out shopping.
Butchers in Crete
Be prepared to see animals with all their body parts dangling in the glass cabinets – heads, feet, etc. Whole rabbits are common at the butchers too. Rabbit is a common and popular Cretan Diet dish.
Usually (in our experience) the butcher is a friendly and accommodating person, and will help you explain what you want and how you want it. Don’t be afraid to use all your sign language and animal imitation skills!
Steak, chops, mince, chicken – these are all familiar English words to your average Cretan Butcher. Don’t be too surprised by a good command of English displayed by the staff.
Meat production in Crete appears to have escaped the commercialisation that has blighted animal husbandry in more "developed" parts of the world. Free range animals can be seen all over the Island. You won’t have to go far to see a flock of sheep or chickens scampering freely in an open space near a farm.
One thing that struck us immediately we came to Crete was how tasty the meat is.
Bakers in Crete
You’ll have to get up early in Crete to have the chance to buy from a wide range of bakery goods from the many bakers found here. Bread and pastry products make up a large part of the Cretan diet and soon disappear from the bakers shelves.
Three times more bread is eaten in the traditional Crete diet than the diet eaten by the Americans, for example. You’ll see many locals eating a "cheese pie" or "spinach pie" early in the morning on their way to work or school.
The bread here is really tasty with many varieties on offer. And if it is a special occasion like Christmas, Easter or a Saint's Day, special bread is produced by the baker. This is normally sweetened and spiced with cinnamon. The smell coming from the bakeries is wonderful!
The Cretans also produce a double baked bread known as Dakos. This hard rusk type bread is used as the main ingredient to Cretan Salad, along with fresh tomatoes, feta cheese and olive oil.
Fishmongers in Crete
There are fishmongers’ shops in Crete but there are many more mobile shops selling fish. Fishing boats can be seen at almost all the coastal villages, and you’ll see the fisherman swap his boat for a flat-bed truck to ply his wares in the tiny streets of the villages and towns near his fishing ground near the village harbour.
You can catch a fish by flagging him down. You’ll know he’s coming because he’ll be announcing it over his truck’s tanoy. Listen out for the word that sounds like "psarEE".
Supermarkets in Crete
There are a growing number of large supermarkets here in Crete. The biggest of which are Lidl and Champion. These are found on the outskirts of most of the big towns. These are true supermarkets unlike the small shops sometimes named as supermarkets in the small villages and tourist resorts. The supermarkets and mini markets carry a wide range of products covering all your grocery needs.
Farmers Markets in Crete
The trend for shopping at Farmers' Markets has always been in vogue in Crete. Real Cretan farmers bring their fresh produce to market in their trucks and often sell from the back of them.
The fruits and vegetables are usually organic, extremely fresh, very cheap and so tasty. Don’t expect to see each separate stall selling a full range of fruits and vegetables, though. Often the farmer has only one crop to sell and so his stall will contain just courgettes or just tomatoes for example.
The herb, cheese and honey stalls also sell wonderful local produce. You can taste before you buy too, and sample some of the best food you’ve ever had.
Shopping on the market is a fabulous experience where you can find all manner of spectacular ingredients that make up the famed Cretan Diet.
We’re big fans and alternate between the market at Chania and the one at Rethymnon. We also used to love the market at Agios Nikolaos and shopped there for all our fruit and vegetables.
The markets open early in the morning till around 2.00pm and can get very busy with locals and tourists alike looking for bargains. The colourful and lively atmosphere the markets create make shopping fun and exciting.
See our interesting and informative piece on shopping at the historic and famous indoor Chania Market.
Furniture Stores in Crete
Although Ikea has not as yet made it to Crete, there are plenty of choices for furniture available here. Everything from very traditional Cretan handmade furniture, to basic functional furniture, to high-class imported Italian goods is available.
So whatever your taste and budget the furniture stores in Crete will surely satisfy you.
The high end stores selling leather sofas, beautiful Italian marble tables and luxury fitted kitchens are located in the main towns of Crete.
Electrical Retailers in Crete
There are numerous electrical good's stores in Crete selling everything from washing machines, fridges and dishwashers to kettles, irons and hairdryers.
Some are quite small, independent shops but you can also buy most household electrical goods from the big supermarkets.
For big kitchen appliances, TV's, DVD players, Audio equipment and computer equipment there is the chain Kotsovolos who are the Greek chain of Dixons with similar standards of service, price range and size of stores.
Our personal favourite for computer related goods is the Greek electrical retailer Multirama. Top class service, low prices and excellent, knowledgeable staff make shopping for computer stuff easy.
You’ll find Multirama shops in all the main towns of Crete.
Incidentally we’ve found that prices are around two thirds of what you’d pay in the UK for most electrical goods, including TV's and computers.
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