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Food  &  Drink

The Cretan Cuisine does not differs much from the Greek Cuisine except some local specialities of the island. One of the most important ingredients of the Greek and especially of the Cretan meals is the very healthy olive oil, that is used for nearly all dishes with vegetables, meat or fish and is also used in the salads to get the best taste.

Cretan vegetables include spinach, artichokes, aubergines, zucchini, okra pods, beans, potatoes, cucumbers, and above all tomatoes and peppers, which are often filled with rice and minced meat.
Typical Cretan meat dishes consist mainly of sheep and lamb, but also a lot of poultry and pork, as well as beef is grilled, fried or cooked.
The variety of Cretan spices such as oregano, marjoram or rosemary, the food get the special taste and some dishes are also used onions and healthy garlic. So every meal includes the famous Tzatziki quark, which contains a lot of garlic.
Just as typically Cretan are the dumplings stuffed with spinach or feta cheese "Kalitsounia". Sheep's milk feta cheese also comes from the Greek peasant salad "Choriatiki Salata" and many other dishes ..
The Cretan cuisine is also famous for its fresh and excellent fish dishes, which are made from the local fish species of the Mediterranean, as well as octopus, crab and lobster species due to the island's location. Many fish taverns at the ports have specialized in this.
For a snack in between, many pizzerias and snack bars are suitable
, all dishes for immediate consumption, as well as to take away, most also deliver home. Particularly tasty is the Gyros Pita, also simply called "Suvlaki" in Crete.
The Greek breakfast usually consists only of coffee, milk, rusks or fresh bread with jam, hotels serve depending on the category but a more extensive breakfast buffet.
However, the Cretan cuisine is very diverse in desserts and desserts, from simple pastries over various particles and chocolates to fantastic cakes and tarts, as well as fruits.
For lunch at noon in Crete, as everywhere in Greece - except for celebrations - is rather less eaten, it is preferred dinner in the late evening, often after 9 o' clock. Restaurants and taverns of course offer lunch and dinner also much earlier.
Most Greeks drink a cold Nescafé Frappé in the café during the day and in the evening, water and wine in the evenings, as well as non-alcoholic soft drinks or beer and as an aperitif or after dinner the famous Greek aniseed ouzo.



Salads and Appetizers

A delicious Mus of grilled aubergines and herbs is Melitzanosalata and from Chickpeas, Coriander and Garlic is Revithosalata.
Dakos are also very popular, with dried, rickety-like pieces of bread (Paximadia) or the Cretan dry barley curls (Kritharokouloura) soaked in olive oil, covered with pureed tomatoes and
topped with fresh Mizithra, a sort of feta cheese.
Another specialty of the appetizers or as a side dish is the famous tzatziki, which consists of cottage cheese or yoghurt, in which a lot of garlic, as well as cucumbers, onions and dill can be found. For each meal fresh bread (psomi) or the crunchy Paximadia is served, on the one hand for the tzatziki, on the other hand, to soak up the rest of the salads healthy olive oil.
Furthermore, there are as typical appetizers Dolmadakia, which are
vine leafes filled with rice and some other appetizers, the so-called Mezedes, which usually consist of seafood, shrimp, mussels or cheese (Tyri) and sausages (Loukanika), served with the aniseed ouzo as an aperitif.





When offered on Crete soups (Supes), these are actually always very rich, be it as a vegetable stew or meat or fish soups, these are usually refined with a little lemon juice. Widely used in the soups is the thick bean stew (Fasolada).




Cretan vegetables (Lachanika) are in addition to artichokes (Anginares), eggplant (Melitzanes), zucchini (Kolokithakia), okra pods (Bamies), green beans (Fasolakia), thick white beans (Fasolia), potatoes (Patates), cucumbers (Anguria) especially tomato (Tomates) and pepper pods (Piperia), which are not only as salad or side dishes, but also with rice (risi) or minced meat (kimas) filled (gemistes) and then cooked in olive oil, taste very good. Typical Cretan leafy vegetables (chorta) are spinach (Spanaki) and the so-called "wlita".
Pure vegetarian dishes are the Cretan vegetable pan (Briam), the colorful vegetable stew (Turlu) and large white beans (Gigantes) cooked in olive oil with herbs and tomatoes. In spring, there are also Greek asparagus (Sparangi) in green and white, due to the warm climate even a few weeks before the Central European asparagus season.
The usual side dishes are rice, French fries and
handmade small potato slices fried in olive oil "Patatakia" and the cooked rice-like noodles "Kritharakia". 



Meat Meals

Not only many variations of the various vegetable dishes, but also a wide range of diverse meat dishes (kreas) is typical of the Cretan cuisine, mainly lamb (Arnaki) and mutton (Arni), but also a lot of chicken (Kotopoulo) and pork ( Chirino), as well as veal (Mos-chari) and beef (Vodino) grilled, fried or cooked.
Rare, due to the low wild stock, Hare (Lagos) and rabbit (Kouneli) is offered.
Well known are lamb chops (Paidakia), chops (Brizoles) made from veal, beef or pork, minced beef steaks (Bifteki), liver (sikoti) and meat kebabs (souvlaki).
Particularly tasty is the Gyros Pita, which in Crete is also called "Suvlaki" (ΣΟΥΒΛΑΚΙ) in every "Psistaria" (ΨΗΣΤΑΡΙΑ), the so-called snack bar. G
rilled pork or chicken from the vertical skewer is cut into thin pieces and rolled together with some French fries, tomato pieces, onion rings and quark or garlic yogurt (Tsatsiki).
Other meat specialties are Juvetsi beef or lamb, which is baked together with rice noodles (Kritharakia) in a clay pot Stifado usually as beef goulash, sometimes rabbit goulash with onion vegetables, and Kokoretsi, wrapped in intestines on the spit grilled offal.
Keftedes are small meatballs fried in olive oil and well seasoned with herbs, mint and cumin.



Fish Meals

Of course, the menu of the Cretan cuisine also offers a large selection of the most varied fish dishes (Psari). In addition to the fresh fish, which is caught off the coast of the Mediterranean, but unfortunately also less and less, there is also the cheaper frozen fish, which comes from Greek and international waters.
Various delicious fish species are caught off the coasts of Crete, such as various bream (Sinagrida tsipura) and especially the very tasty red mullet (barbounia) with white meat that falls very easily from the bones, but also, for example, large swordfish (xifias), sole (Glossa), tuna (Tonnos) and small sardines (Marida), which are eaten with skin and bones, as well as scampi (Garides), small crabs (Kavuria), lobster (Astakos), octopus, cuttlefish (Kalamaria) and mussels (Midia).
Many fish taverns, most of which are found in the immediate vicinity of the fishing ports, offer a very diverse range of excellent fish dishes.

In order to protect the last dolphins living in the Mediterranean, you should definitely refrain from eating Mediterranean tuna, as the dolphins often get caught in the large trawlers' trawls, which are especially used for catching tuna and swordfish. Most of the dolphins can not be released on time and unfortunately they die in the nets. Only by reducing demand you can also help to reduce the quotas for tuna and swordfish. 2007 was declared as the Year of the Dolphin by the United Nations.




Bread, Cakes and Pastries

A baked, spicy specialty in Crete are the pastries filled with spinach or Mizithra sheep's milk cheese Kalitsounia, as well as some types of stuffed pita, such as "spanakopita" (with spinach) and also Greek-style pizza.
From Chania comes the Boureki, a cake filled with zucchini, potatoes and Mizithra. Baked casseroles, such as moussaka made with minced aubergines, or pasta made from macaroni pasta with minced meat, are very common, not only in Crete.
Like almost everywhere in Greece there are different variations of egg pancakes omeletas, for example with mushrooms (Manidaria), ham (Zambon) or bacon (Beikon).



Cheese and Milk Products

Most cheese (Tiri) in Crete is made from sheep's milk. The soft Mizithra tastes similar to curd cheese, while the Manouri is hard to use, only grated. Graviera and Anthotiros are two semi-solid savory cheeses, snow-white and firm is the famous feta, which is also one of the ingredients on the traditional Greek salad and is often used as a synonym for feta cheese in general. Kefalotiri, a firm but not hard cone-shaped cheese, is considered by most people to have the greatest delicacy.
The Cretan yogurt (Jaourti) is also made from sheep's milk and is
more fatty than yoghurt from cow's milk. It tastes especially delicious with honey and is eaten by the Locals  for breakfast and also offered as a dessert.
From neutral, slightly salted yogurt is also made the well-known tzatziki, in which are stirred a lot of garlic, cucumbers, onions and dill Some have their own recipes with additional ingredients and other variations..



Olive Oil and Spices

The variety of Cretan herbs such as oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and dill gives the food a special taste and some dishes also are used cinnamon, mint or onions (Kremidi) and healthy garlic (Skordo). For example, do not miss the garlic quark tzatziki at any meal.
The Cretan cuisine, which is often referred to as "Cretan diet", uses exclusively the very healthy and high quality Cretan olive oil (Eleolado) in all dishes of vegetables, meat
, fish and baked food.
It not only tastes excellent, but it is also medically proven that this virgin cold-pressed olive oil can protect against cancers and impotence, helps with heart and vascular disease, as well as gastric ulcer, lowers the blood cholesterol, supports liver function and provides an ideal diet is for people who suffer from diabetes and other diseases.



Sweets, Cakes and Cookies

Cretan cuisine can also boast a variety of desserts, cakes, pastries, chocolates, pastries and desserts. As a dessert (Glykó Piáto) often served are ice cream (Pagoto) of different varieties and fruits as well of course the fantastic homemade chocolates (Sokolatakia) and pies (Tourta) of pastry shops (Zacharoplastio).
Typical cakes and particles are Baklavas, a puff pastry cake with almond
s or nuts filling and syrup; Kataifi, a vermicelli cake with walnuts filling and syrup; Galatobureko, a cake made of milk cream, semolina and puff pastry with syrup; Bougatsa, a puff pastry with vanilla cream filling or Milopita with stewed apple filling.
In addition, there is the well-known chalvas, a honey grit with grated almonds and nuts, as well as various variations of semolina pudding (crema) and of course the most varied types of cakes (Keik), sweet cookies (Biskota) and neutral dry pastries such as Paximadia and Koulourakia.
A holiday bread is
the plait braided Tsoureki that is decorated with a red egg at Easter.




Due to the warm climate of Crete, practically every fruit grows, so is the palette of fruits (Fruta): oranges (Portokalia), mandarins (Mandarinia), apples (Mila), pears (Achladia), peaches (Rodakina), nectarines (Nektarinia), strawberries (Fraoules), cherries (Kerasia), watermelons (Karpousia), honeydew melons (Peponia), grapes (Stafilia), plums (Damaskina / Vanilies), apricots (Verikoka), figs (Sika), kiwis (Aktinidia), as well the small, but tasty Cretan bananas (bananas) and many other fruits.
Cretan also has a variety of nuts, including walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and almonds.





Most Greeks drink a cold Nescafé Frappé in the café during the day and in the evening or, for some years now, refined versions in various flavors, called Freddo. Frappé can be ordered without sugar (sketto), medium (metrio) or sweet (glyko) with milk (me gala). A glass of tap water (Nero) is served everywhere that you can drink without hesitation.
Hot drinks include Greek coffee (Kafes Ellenikos), a kind of finely ground mocha that is prepared cup by cup and served hot. Depending on the strength and sugar content, a distinction is made between 16 varieties, which is usually drunk by means of medium and medium strength (metrio). There are also the simple instant coffee Nescafé and of course cocoa (Sokolata) and various sorts of tea (Tsai), such as Dicta
mos or mountain tea.
Sparkling mineral water with carbonic acid is not common among the locals and must be ordered as "soda". Very popular is also freshly pressed fruit juice (Fresko Chimos), which is always of oranges (Portokalia) and otherwise from the current fruits of the season like peach (Rodakino), melon (Karpusi), apple (Milo), banana (Banana) , strawberry (Fraoula), pear (Achladi).
With the meals it's also usual to drink water (Nero) and in the evening a lot of wine (Krasi), like the pine resin flavored Retsina or the natural Cretan white (Aspro Krasi) and red wines (Kokkino Krasi), as well as everywhere soft drinks (Anapsiktika), such as lemonade or orange soda (Portokalada), coke or beer (Bira), that there are on Crete next to the Greek beers and the well-known world brands from Germany, Holland, Belgium and USA, or Czech Republic.
The clear aniseed ouzo is usually served by the Greeks as an aperitif in a traditional drinking glass and then diluted with water to give it a milky appearance. In addition, an appetizer plate with small appetizers (mezedes) is offered in special ouzeries. After dinner, ouzo is also often used to drink the raki schnapps, which is called "Tsikoudia" in Crete. The schnapps in small glasses is called in Greece "Sfinakia".
The well-known brandy Metaxa is available in the quality 3, 5 and 7 star, the cheapest variety is the 3-star Metaxa, but you should prefer the better quality with 5 or even 7 stars.




The Greek breakfast only consists of coffee, milk, rusk or fresh bread with jam, hotels offer according to their category this simple breakfast or an extensive sideboard with "Continental Breakfast" and "English Breakfast" (ham and eggs).

Lunch is rarely eaten in Greece, except at celebrations like Easter, weddings or baptisms, but then lunch is a substantial meal until the evening. There are served various appetizers, main dishes, salads, desserts and fruits. During the lunch there is traditional Greek music and everybody who likes can dance the traditional dances.

The Cretan people prefer dinner, that is often after 9 p.m., especially during summertime. When they are not at home the Greeks like to eat with all family and friends in a tavern, that offers warm meals also after midnight.

Cretan dishes at private homes or in the traditional taverns are served mostly lukewarm and not hot, except in the touristic restaurants, but in summertime this is very welcome because of the hot temperatures outside.



Tavernen, Restaurants und Cafés

Lunch or dinner you can have in a tavern (Taverna) or a restaurant (Estiatorio). There's no big difference in the main touristic areas, in some quarters inside the Old Town or in some villages, where is not so much tourism, you still can find taverns as they are usual in the past. The behviour is more rellaxed, nearly familar, the furniture is modest and simple with traditional wooden chairs and tables, the tablecloth is from paper. In the past you did not order by a menu, but the guest was invited to go inside the kitchen to choose the food he likes. Also today, if you are in company with Cretan people mostly different meals are ordered and everything will be served at the same time. Appetizer, salads and main meals are placed alltogether in the middle of the table and they belong to everyone. Everybody of the company can take what he or she likes. you only have small plates and you eat with fork or if you have meat with bones, you should eat with your fingers, the knife you only use, if you really have something to cut. At every meal in tavern the Cretan people order open house wine of the barrel, that is served in a jug and the wine is drunk of small water glasses, like the water that belongs to every meal. The food mostly is cheaper than in restaurants, but the portions are enough and from very good quality.

Near the fishing harbours you can find many special fish restaurants (Psaro Taverna), that offers a large selection of meals with daily fresh fish in various kinds, but also "normal" meals with meat and vegetables.

In nearly all restaurants and taverns the Greek menu is translated in different languages, mostly always in English.

Because of the increased tourism you can also find more and more international restaurants, or additional typically european food at the menu. Especially the hotels and the big holiday rersorts are prepared for the wishes of the tourists. Italian restaurants and pizzerias are also available as well as restaurants with Asian food and snack bars like McDonald's or BurgerKing and the Greek version: Goody's.

For just a small meal, a Greek snack or food to take away, there are many typical Greek snack bars, called "Psistaria" (ΨΗΣΤΑΡΙΑ). They offer all Greek meals to eat at the place or to take away. Most shops also offers free delivery at home, when you order by phone.


A huge part of their free time, the Greeks spend with their friends in some of the many very cosy cafés, in the mornings as well as in the afternoon or late at night, so most cafés are open all day. Most Greek people like to drink Frappé, Freddo, coffees, milk drinks or fruit juices and in many cafés you can also play Tavli (Backgammon).

In Chania you can find many beautiful cafés for example at the Old Venetian Port, at the Old Town and at the western part of the city in Nea Chora and the eastern bay of Koum Kapi. But of course also in the main touristic areas of Stalos, Agia Marinas and Platanias.

Rethymnon has many nice cafés in the Old Town, at the small Old Venetian Port and at the long beach boulevard. In Heraklion you can find many cafés in the center of the city and at the new designed road at the shore in the west of the harbour. And in Agios Nikolaos many cosy cafés are situated around the small Vulismeni Lake, as well as at the harbour and the coast road.


Taverns, restaurants and cafés are normally open from morning, if they also offer breakfast, or noon until late at night and most of them are open until the last guests are leaving.


Do not mix up cafés with a Kafenion, that is in Greece much more than just a coffee house. It was in the past and also today the "Home of the men" and is used for sharing local and familar information and also as "refugee place" from the family. Because normally at Greek homes the woman is the boss, the Greek men, especially the older ones escape in their Kafenion to discuss about the local gossip and about politics, to read their newspapers or to play cards or Tavli with their friends. You can find minimum one Kafenion in the smallest village like every village has a church. Sometimes in the villages the Kafenion is also a food store, a bakery or a small shop where you can buy things for daily needs, or it is placed in a post office or it is common with a tavern.where is the center of village life. An Ouzerie is a kind of Kafenion, too, but instead to have a coffee during the days, the people prefer to drink Ouzo or other alcoholics in the evenings, served together with small appetizers (Mezedes) or with a mixed plate (Pikilia) with various appetizers of all kinds.




Specialities of the Cretan cuisine

In summer of 2020 we will present you the most popular recipes of the Cretan Cuisine. We need some time to present it for you in the best way and meanwhile we have to collect all information.


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