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Shopping & Souvenirs
Crete offers a large selection of typical souvenirs, that don't need to be kitschy, but very useful as food like olive oil, spices, honey, wine or as daily used objects like ceramics, leather products, jewellery, needleworks and weaved handcrafts.
In the smaller shops apart the big touristic areas you can find the best quality of handcrafted art, sometimes for good prices directly from the relevant producer, artist or craftsman.
Kiosks, souvenir shops, small supermarkets and shops in the touristic areas are open also out of normal opening times, as well as on sundays and public holidays.
Because Greece is an EU-member since 2002 and has the "Euro" as common currency, the prices meanwhile also are on a common European level. Some products that were very cheap during the previous times of the drachmes currency, are little bit more expensive now with Euro, but the average price level is still better than in the UK and other European countries. Also the food in the taverns and restaurants is offered for good prices, service is included in the bill, but a tip is always welcome.
Products of daily needs like bread, vegetables and fruits are very cheap, especially fruits and vegetables are available in a large quantity because of the perfect climatic conditions on Crete. Just products of milk like yoghurt, cheese and fresh milk are a little bit more expensive, as well as products that have to be brought by daily ferry boats or by airplane from Athens to Crete, because except some small companies, there is no industry or big companies available on the island. For example petrol on Crete is some cents more expensive than in Athens.
Large Greek, German and Dutch supermarket chains on Crete nearly have the same prices like somewhere else in Europe and also the same known products and offers. Household products, electrical appliances, computer products, toys, jewellery, furs, home improvement products, building materials, furniture and new cars are partly cheaper than in the UK and some other European countries. Also for shoes and clothing prices are the same, except luxurious designer fashion labels, but sometimes cheaper up to 50 % during sale.
In smaller shops or craft shops sometimes you can haggle over the product you like to buy to negotiate a better price.
The value-added tax (VAT = in Greek: ΦΠΑ) in Greece is 23% (since 2012).
The entrance fee for museums and archaeological sites are on a normal European level, but cheaper than in England. In the prefectures of Chania and Rethymnon most archaeological sites are free of charge. Children up to 12 years and sometimes also students with necessary student card pay less prices.
The normal opening times of the shops in the cities are from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday also in the afternoon from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Banks are open from Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Friday only until 1:30 p.m.
Cash dispenser (ATM) working 24 hours and are nearly at every bank an at many shops at central places.
Post office is open inside the cities from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Also supermarkets are open without break from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday only until 8 p.m. Smaller supermarkets and souvenir shops at the touristic areas are also open in the evenings, sometimes until 12 p.m. or longer, and also open on Sunday.
For urgent needs of beverages, sweets, snacks, cigarettes, telephone cards, newspapers, magazines amd other small things there is always a kiosk (periptero) at central places and streets of the cities open day and nights.
Pharmacies are open from Monday to Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and like other shops also open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m., some pharmacies are open alternately all the day and also during the night, also on sundays and holidays. This emergency service plan you can find at the doors or windows of all pharmacies.
The opening times of petrol stations are usually from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. without break. During the night and on Sundays and at holidays some petrol stations are open alternately. At the closed petrol stations you can also find a schedule at the window, which one is open now.
The archaeological sites mostly are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., also when they are free of charge, because the areas are fenced in. On Mondays most are closed.
Typical Cretan agriculture products are olive oil, honey, spices and wine, but also cookies, sweets, dried fruits and nuts. These products with high quality you can buy at its best directly on Crete, athough we have the European trade market inside all European countries, these local agricultural produks are not available in other countries or they are not easy to find in your country.
Thr olive oil from Crete is the best and most healthiest in the world. It is proved that it helps since the ancient times at different pains and the latest medical research found it prevent effect also at many illnesses, like cancer, heart and vessel trouble. And of course olive oil is very tasty at all kinds of dishes, not only for the Greek cuisine.
The best quality is cold pressed native olive oil from the first pressing, called "extra virgin olive oil" (ΕΞΑΙΡΕΤΙΚΟ ΠΑΡΘΕΝΟ ΕΛΑΙΟΛΑΔΟ), that is only obtained from the ripe, flawless olive solely by purely mechanical methods without heating and without any additives.
The quality of the oil is critical to the taste and health, so the consumer should know the different quality categories and then make his choice accordingly. Olive oil is today classified according to the EU Regulation No. 1019-2002 in three quality categories and their description must be included compulsory indicated on each package.
Also pickled olives, of which there are over 40 different varieties in Greece, you get wherever you can buy Olive Oil.
Another specialty are the most diverse varieties of Cretan honey (Meli), which is also very healthy, and above all for colds, and also tastes very good, such as the popular thyme honey. It comes packaged along with nuts both in large jars and cans, as well as a nice souvenir in smaller Glasamphoren.
Of the various Cretan fruits, which are not very suitable as souvenirs in fresh condition, there are also usually variants of dried fruit, such as raisins, sultanas, dried plums, apricots or apple rings. Almonds and nuts of various varieties are also popular in Crete, also pressed with honey and sesame into small dry pies as nibbles.
The Cretan Phrygana is known for its many herbs and spices, which thrive there excellently because of the warm climatic conditions, these include oregano, thyme, rosemary, saffron, coriander, diktamus, lavender, marjoram, sage, myrtle, cumin, cinnamon, chamomile, fennel and mint. Thus, in many shops and in the market hall, spices, partly dried, partly as powder and ready-made special spice mixtures for all kinds of dishes are offered inexpensively.
Also due to the warm climate, excellent wine (Krasi) grows in Crete in the various growing areas, especially at Archanes in the district of Iraklion, in the far west of the Chania region near Kissamos, on the slopes of the Messara plain and in the east of the island. Some wineries also offer guided tours, as well as wine tasting and shopping. For larger quantities, shipping directly to the home address is often possible. The Cretan wines are pressed naturally and no chemical agents are added to them. There are various red, rosé and white wines from sweet to tart, as well as the pine resin-flavored Retsina from Kissamos near Chania, whose original aroma used to come from the pine wood barrels in which the wine matured.
Among the spirits, the typical souvenirs are the Greek aniseed brandy ouzo, which is available from countless good companies, as well as the Cretan raki Tsikoudia, which is distilled from the pomace. In addition, there is the well-known brandy of the company Metaxa, which is available as 3-, 5- and 7-star Metaxa, where 3 stars is the cheapest, 5 stars has a better quality and the 7-star Metaxa is the tastiest and best.
The art of goldsmithing has a millennia-old tradition in Crete since the Minoan period, today's jewelers and goldsmiths sell very beautiful and high-quality gold and silver jewelry, which is partly decorated with precious stones or brilliants, both as reproductions of ancient Minoan motifs, such as the "Bee of Malia", the "Discus of Phaistos", dolphins and the meander pattern in various variations, as well as in classic and modern design.
In the Old Town of Chania and Rethymno, as well as in Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos and all the major tourist resorts there are many good and not too expensive jewelry stores. Rings, necklaces, bracelets and pendants are very popular gifts, almost all shops also engrave. Gold and silver jewellery is often still sold by weight and is much cheaper than, for example, in Germany.
Ceramics and Pottery
Not only in the traditional pottery villages Margarites and Trapsano, but all over Crete you get very beautiful ceramic goods, produced partly by historical patterns, but also many modern pottery is available. The Cretan pottery manufacture both utilitarian objects, such as vases, bowls, plates and dishes, but also pure art such as wall reliefs, statues and sculptures.
Leather and Shoes
The traditional for the Greek population handcraft of leather processing has also developed first in Crete. You can buy here particularly good shoes at low prices, but also many other leather items such as belts, gloves, purses, bags and backpacks.
Needleworks and Weaved Handcrafts
The long tradition of handicraft weaving emerged in its present form in the 19th century and is still practiced today in Crete. The origins, however, are undoubtedly much earlier epochs, because already some frescoes in the Minoan palace of Knossos show this age-old craft.
Wood Carved Handcrafts
A special feature of Crete is the meandering wooden crook from Prinos-wood, which is a universal tool with the shepherds in the mountains. Use it for carrying of loads, for disciplining of dogs, for driving of mules or simply as a wall decoration. Very popular are also carved and turned bowls and plates, as well as many attractive small commodities from the valuable hard olive wood.
Representations of saints and biblical events on small or larger panel paintings is called in the Orthodox Church icons. They are in all houses of worship, but also widely used in homes, offices, shops, as well as dashboards Greek vehicles or at the helm of the house to find boats. Greek icons are not like in the Latin Church just pious images, they are for the believers "Gates to Heaven" and bring the saints into the house. They are partially decorated with precious metals, precious embroidered curtains, precious stones and rings and serve the worship of the saints depicted.
In some streets of Chania and Heraklion there are many shops of cutlers where the traditional Cretan knives are made, you can find a large selection of different, very sharp cutting tools of first-class quality.
Traditional Costumes and Folcloristic Cretan Accessories
Today's traditional costume of the Cretans originated in the 14th century and is mainly known for the men's deep plush trousers (Vraka). Due to its cut and the way it is dressed, it is one of the most complicated costumes in Greece. Today, however, the Vraka can only be seen at folklore festivals, as it was displaced with the advent of modern suits. An approximately 8-meter-long beltcloth, in which the traditional dagger, but also the money was stuck, holds the Vraka. For this purpose, the leather boots (Stivania) and a vest partly studded with brocade were worn.
The clothing of the Cretan women varied from village to village and mainly concerned the colors and motifs of embroidery. Over long trousers made of white cotton, the women wore a skirt (sartza) and an apron. The short vest made of wool was usually black or dark blue, but often colorfully embroidered. The hair was tied together with a cloth. Even these traditional women's costumes are now only worn at folklore festivals and dance performances.
In some specialty shops you can get complete costumes, in many souvenir shops some parts, such as aprons, headscarves or the black headgear of the men, the sariki.
Cretan folk music goes back to ancient traditions and differs both in the melodies and in the instruments of the rest of Greek music. It is mainly played with the lyre, a three-stringed string instrument, and the laouta, a Cretan version of the mandolin. The lyre is painted like a violin with a small bow, but lying on the knees and the laouta is plucked as an accompanying instrument similar to a guitar.
In fashion, Greece and also Crete is always ahead of its time, as the shops there are based directly on the current trends from Milan and Paris. Like in Athens as well as in the cities of Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos can be found numerous designer boutiques with the latest fashions that will be current for example in the UK in the next year. During the sales period (Ekptosis) during summer season you get partially reduced up to 50% also many very latest garments.
In the Cretan cities, especially Chania and Heraklion you will find all kinds of specialty shops, boutiques and supermarkets. The infrastructure is similar to that of any European city of medium size. Outside the city center are bigger supermarkets, furniture stores, garden centers, hardware stores, car shops & services and specialist companies of any kind.