These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.
Crete is not a destination that people go to specifically for its shopping, but nevertheless while you’re there you’ll have no trouble finding a good choice of souvenirs for friends and family, as well as gifts for yourself.
This applies whether your taste is for the cheap and cheerful or for more expensive and tasteful arts and crafts. A lot of the cheap ‘local’ souvenirs are actually made overseas and imported!
Crete has a wide range of traditional crafts that are kept alive thanks to its popularity as a holiday destination. These include:
Available everywhere are the bright blues and yellows of cheerful plates and bowls. You will also find top-quality hand-made ceramics, with the village of Margarítes being a centre for this tradition.
Holy icons are still made in the traditional way on Crete (see our page on The Icon Painter) but check for the certificate on the back authenticating this. Icons can be found throughout the island in souvenir shops, but the best quality icons are to be found at churches and monasteries.
All over the island there are jewellery shops, selling fine quality silver and gold. These are sold by weight and are often good value. Look for the shops where you can see the jeweller at work in the back, then you know you are buying original hand-crafted work.
Life in the Cretan mountains is tough, and sturdy leatherwear that lasts for years has always been made for practical purposes. Today the workshops also produce handbags, purses, wallets and other items for the tourist trade, but you can still buy local things such as the long-legged Cretan boots. The market in Chania has a very wide range.
This old island tradition still flourishes, in particular in mountain towns such as Kritsa, Psikhro, and Anoyia. Shop fronts are festooned with carpets and kilims, far too many to have been produced by the one old lady who runs the shop. The better-quality handmade items will invariably be a lot more expensive, but worth it. Chania is also a good place to buy weaving.
Many tourist towns will have their olive wood workshop, or souvenir shops selling these attractive carvings of bowls, spoons, salt and pepper sets, and many other items.
Food and drink is also worth investigating. If you’ve developed a taste for the local firewater, raki, you might want to take some home. Both raki and ouzo can be bought in elegant bottles that could be used afterwards as vases or beautiful shelf decorations. Look for two distinct Cretan drinks: rakomelo and petimezi.
Almost all towns now have shops specialising in Cretan herbs and spices, which the chef of the family will want to investigate. Read our page on The Herb Man of Kouses, who has one of the best shops on the entire island.
Cretan honey is popular, being extremely pure and tasty, but is often far more expensive than at home. The real bargain is olive oil, as Crete produces some of the finest quality oil in Greece. You can buy really good quality olive oil direct from the factory. Tours are fascinating but you can also just call in at the shop, where you’ll be able to taste and try before you buy.