Despite competition from improved tourism on Greece’e other main islands, Crete remains a firm favourite with those looking to relax by the sea, but also enjoy great food and dining at the same time. Here’s our pick of some of the islands best value eating places and what to order when you go.
Most people who come to Crete usually arrive in Heraklion as it is where the airport and the major port are located. While there is much to discover there, it is also worth heading out around the island to discover some of the smaller towns that dot the coasts. Particularly if you are looking for something new and memorable to eat.
Where to eat
Rethymno is a bigger city located on the western side of the island. The waterfront with its main promenade is crowded with tourist trap restaurants, but if you head to the old town by the Venetian fortress and old harbour there are some gems to discover.
Just outside the fortress on the left hand side on your way down to the waterfront and the old harbour, there perched on the side of the hill is Thalassographia. Often billed as the best restaurant in Crete.
This restaurant has great outdoor seating on several terraces with exceptional views overlooking the sea. Because of the split levels it has a feeling of intimacy and the backdrop of the fortress and sea views is breathtaking.
This is a great place for Cretan seafood, but they serve other dishes as well. The focus is contemporary Mediterranean fare and it is done very well. The service is friendly but not rushed and very relaxed.
You can easily go in for late lunch here and end up staying through until sunset and you would have enjoyed every minute of it.
Tucked a couple streets back in old town Rethymno is this gem of a restaurant. It is not as touristy as you find at many of the locations that are on the main promenade or right in the old harbour. There is a great outdoor terrace that is ideal for warm Greek nights and you can sit under a canopy of trees.
The menu offers many Cretan and Greek staples all made from the best local produce. The slow cooked lamb shank and rib are a highlight. Keep in mind when you are ordering that the portions are quite generous in size.
The wine list offers a comprehensive list of Cretan and Greek wine producers and is very reasonably priced.
The restaurant can get busy in the evenings, but the setting is quite relaxed and the staff are welcoming.
Rethymno may be a bit more lively with a bigger night club and bar scene, but Chania is a stunning seaside town. Often described as Crete’s crown jewel.
When you come into the city head straight for the Old Harbour. It is stunning with brightly coloured buildings that line the Venetian harbour and little back streets to get lost in.
The food scene is fantastic if you know where to go. Several of the cafes on the harbour are over priced and not as good, but if you head to the little back alley walkways you can find some of the best food on the island.
This place is fantastic and great value for money. It’s also popular with locals as well as tourists, always a great sign.
The restaurant focus on local produce which shows through in the food. It is fresh and delicious. For starters the Taziki, the local cheese and fresh salad with avocado should not be missed.
For main dishes try the lamb stew on aubergine puree. The meat was moist and juicy and could be cut with a fork. It was perfect. The pork filled pastry is also a winner.
There is both indoor and outdoor seating and it may be worth making a reservation for an outdoor table, which line the busy walkway and help create a dynamic atmosphere.They are also ideal for good people watching.
The restaurant also has some great local wines as well as other Greek wines from several of the Protected Denominations of Origin (PDOs) from around the country.
The food is all well priced and backed up with excellent service.
The menu changes often here as it is based on what is fresh and available that day and is definitely worth a trip to discover the inventive, inspired local dishes.
The snails (see below) are done very well here. The meatballs and the stuffed zucchini flowers are also a favourite. The fish is also fresh and the it has great capriccio.
The staff and chef clearly take great care and it shows in both the food and the service. The wine list does not disappoint either. There are again some local wines to be tried including those from other PDOs across Greece. While the list is not very big, it has something for everyone and all very reasonably priced.
You may think that France has the corner on the market when it comes to snails, but think again. A local Cretan delicacy is called kohli bourbouristi, which are fried snails, so keep your eye out for them on local menus.
It has been a local delicacy for centuries but is not always seen on menus now days. The best time of year to find them is following the rainy season, so March, April and May are when they are tastiest.