Discover the best places to sample delicious local Cretan cuisine on your next visit to this stunning Greek island.
If you’re a foodie who’s only going to one Greek island in your lifetime, make it Crete. This is the home of Greek cuisine – both cutting-edge and farm-to-table – with the cream of the country’s produce and a culture of ambitious young chefs championing slick city rooftops and rural destination-dining spots. You’ll find dishes far more diverse and inventive than the usual home cooking available across the rest of the country – light, nutty cheeses, wine-simmered snails and broth-thickened rice bowls. Detour to one of these restaurants for the best bites.
With a name meaning “lemon tree garden”, this restaurant in historic, architecture-rich Rethymno is just as refreshing as it sounds. You’ll sit out on a leafy patio where the trees glow with frosted-glass lanterns, and tables are topped with aromatic pots of herbs. Start with the simple organic tomato salad and you’re onto a winner. Food is light, zesty and authentically Cretan – ask your host Emilio for his tips, but a glass of Greek sparkling wine is a must.
This restaurant’s chatter-filled patio is right on the waterfront on Chania’s romantic old Venetian port, with prim white boats tied metres away. Inside it’s cavernous, decorated with abstract murals and walls of wine bottles – outside, you can watch the light dim over the harbour while devouring generous plates of ouzo-tinged prawn pasta and seared tuna belly. Take the opportunity to chat through the wine list with knowledgeable staff – the owners put a lot of love into pairing their selection with the food on offer.
Of the many atmospheric courtyards and patios in the northwestern port of Chania, Tholos has the best setting – it’s behind the city cathedral, spread over several tiers and decorated with soft-glow lamps and potted plants. Share Greek classics, from moussaka to stuffed peppers, with only a low murmur from the terrace in the background. Complimentary raki shots send you on your way with a slight buzz after a night of hearty Cretan dishes.
This restaurant, on the lakefront in Agios Nikolaos, makes the most of Crete’s lovely produce – fish, olive oil, sea salt and honey – selected from the immediate province of Lasithi. Chillies and herbs hung from the pergola signal that this is no stuffy city joint, while the affordable menu romps through Cretan dakos (a barley rusk topped with tomatoes and feta), seafood pastas and sizzling meat skewers – all served with a smile and among a fun local crowd.
Not sorted your stay yet? Choose from the best luxury or best beach hotels in Crete, now bookable through Culture Trip. Explore more of what Greece’s biggest island has to offer by checking out its beaches and must-see sites, and the best bars in the island’s capital, Heraklion.
This article is an update of one originally by Alexandra Brannigan.