The Municipal Market of Chania is a huge building in the heart of this vibrant Cretan city where still today it is possible to sense a traditional and chaotic atmosphere surrounded by the most intense colors, the most delicious fragrances and the most mouthwatering tastes. A tour of the market can take you simply twenty minutes if you are just looking around for cheap souvenirs. However, if you want to take back home a real Cretan experience, a couple of hours won’t seem enough.
Dimotiki Agora, Central Market of the City
Whether you visit just out of curiosity, to buy local products, to sample delicacies, or to have a proper lunch, there is no way the market will disappoints you.
The Municipal Market of Chania, in western Crete, is a huge building in the heart of this vibrant Cretan city where still today it is possible to sense the traditional and chaotic atmosphere surrounding any Greek marketplace.
The market was given as a gift to the locals and it was completed in 1913, the same year Crete united with Greece. With a cruciform shape, its original disposition used to house fishmongers and butchers on their western and eastern isles, while the northern and southern alleys were home to vegetable and fruit stalls.
During the years, some of its most characteristic shops were forced to close for economic reasons and they have been replaced by more modern souvenir shops that bear little relation to the traditional face of the market, there are still plenty of places worth a visit is you are into the culinary tastes of the island. Whether you visit just out of curiosity, to buy local products, to sample delicacies, or to have a proper lunch, there is no way the market disappoints you.
What Delicacies to Try in the Central Market
As soon as you pass through the huge opening gate, an interesting mix of colors and aromas will welcome you inside this parallel universe. Don’t let your attention be absorbed by the weird product that souvenirs shops have on display. If you are smart enough to leave backpacks, magnets and pashminas aside, you will discover a whole world made of the most authentic Cretan tastes. As a matter of fact, the market is still the main supplier of goods for the best restaurants in town but it also provides quality cheese, oil and meat to local housewives.
Bread and Olives
Soon after you get inside make a quick stop at the bakery shop. Freshly baked koulouri both plain or with creative flavors will be your first must-try. They can be found made with local honey, stuffed with Cretan cheese or even with raisins or olives. There is also a tasty offer of pies, both local and traditionally Greek, a great treat to have on the go as you wander around the market.
Going along towards the center, olives from all over Greece (look out for the ones coming from Thessaloniki and Kalamata), as well as indigenous ones will catch your attention. The small Cretan ones are spicy and pungent in taste, known to be the best match to a shot of local raki.
Take a good look at vegetable shops, where greens come to life in a huge variety of indigenous expressions. Horta, or wild greens, are at the core of the healthy Cretan diet, providing a variety of different tastes you will later on find stuffed or boiled as side dishes, in salads or in the most amazing Cretan pies.
Oranges, figs, artichokes, mushrooms, watermelons, delicate garlic and colorful zucchini flowers combine on display with wild flowers and herbs that locals use to prepare fantastic teas.
Honey, Cheese and Olive Oil
Walking past the central area, go for a sampling session of cheese, from soft varieties, such as myzithra, xinomyzithra (a bit more sour, still delicious) or the local anthotyro, equally soft and tasty but less fatty. For those preferring more character in taste, graviera is a variety not to be missed, try it young if you want, but bear in mind that the older it is, the more complex its tastes become.
Past the chapter of cheese, try some local honey. On Crete the best varieties are thyme and pine tree. But if you are curious enough to try a bit of everything, honey from orange flowers will certainly be an amazing surprise.
Olive oil could not be missing. Choose from the Koroneiki variety (exported in the past from Kalamata for its high resistance qualities to the local weather), characterized by a fruity and slightly sweet flavor. Or try the highly appreciated Tsounati, adored by the locals thanks to its spicy, pungent flavor.
Where and What to Eat in the Municipal Market of Chania
A few simple taverns have survived the crisis and still hide between the stalls of the market. Normally run by families, they serve the most authentic dishes of the Cretan tradition, freshly made on daily basis.
A few simple taverns have survived the crisis and still hide between the stalls of the market. Normally run by families, they serve the most authentic dishes of the Cretan tradition, freshly made on daily basis. Just stand for a while in the middle of the market and inviting fragrances with guide you to the right place where to sit. There is no menu, just take a look at what is on display or let the restaurant owner allow you to peep in some of the many pots he will have on the fire.
Stuffed squid and snails will be stars, but also incredible vegetables: aubergines, zucchini, ocra, stamnagathi, beans, beets, potatoes stuffed and marinated. Lamb slowly cooked in wine or tomato sauce or even the most traditional plater of octopus with pasta. Pair it with a jug of home-made wine and finish with another shot of raki.
Finally, head to the center of the agora once again, this time sit at the central kafenion. Choose between a cup of Greek coffee or order some herbal tea made form malotira or Cretan dittany. If you are still in the mood for more, ask for a couple of freshly fried kalitsounia, savory local pies made with soft cheese, herbs and deep fried in the moment, or go fro some sweet lichnarakia, a traditional homemade pastry made with myzithra, honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
Make the Most of Your Visit
Take full advantage of your visit by going on a Saturday and head to the local street market, a few meters away from the Agora.
If you want to take full advantage to your visit to the Popular Market of Chania, choose a Saturday morning and head to the local street market, a few meters away from the Agora. That is the weekly appointment of local producers where it will be a pleasure to wander for a few hours, getting lost among the inviting fragrances of strawberries, apples and local bananas.
Sampling cheese, honey and local bread is also possible and you will even be able to end your morning with a snack of local loukanika, savory Cretan sausages grilled on the street, plain or stuffed with cheese, placed on top of delicious roasted bread with a generous topping of local olive oil.
Municipal Market of Chania:
Plateia Agoras, Chania.
Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday, Saturday 8.00 – 15.00. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8.00 – 21.00. Sundays closed (except during local holidays, Christmas and Easter).Some shops and restaurants have longer hours, head there and check!