Ladies and gentlemen,
Last but not least, welcome to the Ultimate Shopping Guide – Experience Crete, the stylish collection of high trusted brands and chic boutiques Crete had enchanted me with during my lovely vacay.
Don’t wait for last minute to indulge into the soothing mood benefits of a jolly Christmas shopping spree online or in 5D – this inspiring guide may become handy at any time of the year so bear with me.
I have prepared a tastefully curated selection of leather goods artisans, natural delicious herbs and spices, essential oils enriched beauties, specialist approved sea shells and dried coral and fabulous antiques to remind you of those precious memories you would like to hold forever and more in your thoughts and near.
Don’t be afraid to explore the old town of Rethymno – its vibrant and colorful streets are full of art gems with a Venetian twist. A little bit of aesthetic awareness is all you need. Of course, you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have plenty of it.
Let’s start with a natural herbs palace and coffee shop in the heart of old town, ΜΟΚΑ ΚΑΦΕΚΟΠΤΕΙΟ, an excellent vintage store from the late 20s displaying a wild variety of delicious goods and impeccable service. The product range includes Greek delicatessen, such as olive oil, honey, sweets, olives, herbal teas, Cretan spices and a generous selection of coffees, including Greek coffee, all from trusted sources. It is a charming and generous space that is worth a visit even if you do not fancy the exquisite habits of times long gone of cultivating flourishing trusted relationships with local goodies suppliers, which is a practice I love doing.
If you prefer an intriguing souvenir from Crete, my dad had discovered this little shop in the heart of town that sells an inspiring selection of collectible horn handle knives and natural semiprecious stones worry beads.
The small boutique appears to be frozen in time on one of the larger shopping streets dominated by contemporary brands but you can tell it has been there for decades, which adds up to its everlasting charm.
I could not find an address, a location or a web page for this boutique but I was inspired enough to photograph its sign so I hope you will find it!
If you have a limited time to enjoy Rethymno’s old town and you need to increase efficiency in buying gifts, that Souliou Street is the answer to your prayers, a vibrant tiny alley rich in colorful souvenir boutiques.
You can find anything you can imagine here, but there is one spot that caught my eye for its variety – a Skincare Temple – in spite of not remembering its real name. One thing is for sure, you can’t miss it as people always stop to admire the richness of goodies on display – hand made extra virgin olive oil soaps, honey skin care products, loofahs, pumice natural stones – this is heaven for natural skincare enthusiasts.
If we are talking art, Karras Workshop is one of those high-end cretan artisan boutiques delivering exquisite handmade leather bags and accessories since the 70s. I haven’t seen two products alike in this shop which makes it perfect for those who wish to flaunt an unique piece. Actually, I haven’t seen anything alike the bags they are manufacturing in real vegetables tanned leather. It is a sumptuous act to own a Karras beauty. Excellent gift idea for those who are in for the uniqueness of a refined masterpiece.
One thing that is odd for an island is that it is highly unlikely you will find seashells on the beaches or in souvenir shops in Crete.
There is one exception though – the official and approved seller in Rethymno’s old town, Kalymnos – an attractive blue marine themed gift shop offering a selection of natural sponges, high quality seashells and dried corals handpicked by professional licensed scuba divers for government approved companies. It is safe to say Crete cares for its resources and acts accordingly. This is another shop that has survived the test of time so it is worth to pay it a visit.
It’s a must for many of the chic souvenirs to feature leather beauties signed by Zacharias Art + Object, a Greek brand delivering artistic creation of aesthetic value for concept and museum stores since 2013, inspired by Art History.
The co-founders, Zacharias Petrakis, born in Crete and specialized in Sculpture, and Alejandro Hernández, graphic designer and visual artist, experiment, create and produce art and design for various clients, including the faithful Acropolis Museum and the museum stores of the Greek Ministry of Culture. I adore my Octopus Leather Tote Bag from the I Love Ancient Greece, a collection inspired by architecture, sculture, ceramic arts, filosophy and literature of the ancien times in Greece.
Everything from Zacharias would make a perfect souvenir from Crete and I encourage you to also have this brand in mind for cool Christmas gifts.
ANTIQUE – CRETE
If you wish to step into another world and travel to times long gone when everything was of high quality, aesthetically pleasing and rich in colors and textures, then the ANTIQUE – CRETE empire is an entire universe to indulge in. Quirky and fabulous!
I was extremely excited to find such an exquisite vintage boutique on a narrow street of the old town, so intimate and welcoming. I truly recommend it. It is perfect for both purchasing unique gifts and taking pics. Put it on your lists.
PC 740.53, Spili Rethymno, Crete, Greece
One of the most remarkable experiences in the picturesque small village of Spili was visiting the marvelous Maravel Shop, a paradise of high quality essential oils, herbs, aromatherapy creams, massage products, healing balms, soaps, flower waters and gifts, made out of the freshest, purest ingredients. Imagine my reaction when I felt the intense divine aromas of their handmade Jasmine soap and Rose solid shampoo! What a dream come true!
I now place the piece in the drawer to preserve and prolong the freshness of laundry softener. Delicious! All their products are made in Crete from organic, seasonal ingredients, sourced from from small farmers and producers.
Last but not least, I am pleased to introduce you to O Katis Cretan Traditional Shop, a family owned oasis offering the finest olive oil and olives, honey and other Cretan delicatessen, as well as one of the most amazing natural skincare products I have ever used. I confess I was secretly praying for a sign due to the intense guilt that had risen in me after eating those lamb chops I was telling you about after visiting Elafonisi Beach.
I was asking God to show me evidence I hadn’t deliberately lowered my vibration for going against what I believed in and the bus suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere at this wonderful shop where the family was waiting to tell us all about their products. I got excited to spot their little jars of scented beeswax cremes and natural scrubs and started trying all of them on my skin. The exotic fruits beeswax cream is absolutely fabulous – apart from the exotic fruity scent, it has soothing, healing and reconstructive properties and it is simply made out of beeswax, olive oil and essential oils. I have been using their Grapefruit scrub twice a week – it is made of avocado, essential oils, olive oil, honey and grains of apricot and grapefruit and leaves the skin divinely flawless. If this is not a sign, I don’t know what is. Feel free to contact O Katis and drop your orders.
I hope you this conscious shopping guide will serve its purpose of getting Cretan artisans and manufacturers closer to your hearts. It is a wonderful feeling to purchase local products and even consider the thought of keeping the heritage of the countries we visit alive with the conscious choices we are making. Nevertheless, I had personally tested the high quality of all products I had suggested in this blog post for your benefit and I am deeply satisfied of all my purchases. Please be reminded sellers are open to negotiation and never forget to approach them with respect, admiration and gratitude.
Go Global, Buy Local!