The climate of Crete lends itself to some fantastic local produce. The rich soil and long, sun-soaked seasons result in the most flavourful herbs plus luscious fruit and vegetables, while bread and cheese is often made fresh on the island. With such an abundance of ingredients and dishes to try, it can be a little overwhelming for any avid foodie, so we’ve broken down the best restaurants and experiences to try on your visit.
1. Palazzo Almare, Chania
Location: Soumerlis 36-38 Street, Chania, 73132
With an atmospheric al fresco dining area overlooking Chania’s old harbour, Palazzo Almare is as popular for its position as it is for its food. The kitchen at this fine-dining waterside restaurant is loyal to Cretan tradition, only using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients for every dish. The Mediterranean menu majors in seafood caught in the surrounding waters, free-range local cattle and vegetables and herbs all grown nearby.
2. Olive Oil Experience, Kolymvari
Location: Kolymvari Chania Crete, 73006 Kamisianá, Khania, Greece
Everyone knows Greek olive oil is the best in the world, but not everybody knows how it’s made. Now you can find out, at the oil-making HQ of Cretan brand Terra Creta. Guided tours walk you through every stage of the process, from harvesting to bottling, via the award-winning brand’s state-of-the-art olive oil mill. Tours conclude with tastings and the chance to stock up on travel-friendly bottles of your favourite varieties. You’ll find the Terra Creta base just 20 minutes’ drive from Chania in the seaside village of Kolymvari.
3. Manousakis Winery, Vatolakkos
Location: Vatolakkos, Chania, 73005, Crete, Greece
To road-test some of Crete’s finest wine, head to the hills of Vatolakkos, where you’ll find the winery behind the award-winning Nostos brand. The Manousakis Winery has been producing 100 per cent organic wines in this serene Cretan village for two decades. Today, you can try a glass of Syrah or Grenache on the estate’s charming, tree-lined terrace, or sign up to a full-on wine tasting experience. They also offer tours of the old and new wineries, and jeep safaris out into the hilltop vineyards for a close-up look at the grapes.
Location: Trimartiti Church, Chania
Foodies can get to grips with Cretan cuisine and enjoy a bonus history lesson on this walking food tour of Athens. Specialties, traditions and delicacies will all be revealed as you stop off at handpicked locations tucked away down unsuspecting alleyways. The aim of the tour is to experience Crete as a local rather than a tourist, so the expert guides reel off fascinating insider knowledge and insights on the local culture as you go.
Location: Monis Agarathou 4, 71202 Heraklion, Crete
The gastronomic tours led by Vintage Routes don’t just require an interest in food and drink; you’ll need a pretty good appetite too. Wine tours from this upmarket tour company include wine tasting and fine dining, wandering sun-kissed vineyards and exploring both the oldest and most award-winning wineries on the island.
Of the food tours, the Heraklion Walking Tour is a real gem that kicks off with traditional Greek coffee and freshly baked pastries and ends with a three-course Cretan lunch. You’d better arrive for this one hungry, as you’ll also be devouring artisan cheeses at the cheesemongers and freshly fried fish at the harbour, taste-testing local wines as you go.
Book: +30 2810302881
6. Herb’s Garden, Heraklion
Location: 15 Epimenidou street, 71202 Heraklion Crete, Greece
Herb’s Garden sells itself as a ‘balcony restaurant’, but that doesn’t really do its superb location justice. Part of the Lato Boutique Hotel, Herb’s Garden juts out from the building’s top floor offering panoramic views of Heraklion’s old city harbour and Venetian fortress through its glass walls. It opens late into the evening for diners to enjoy the sea breezes and twinkling lights of the harbour. And if you can draw your eyes from the view to the menu, you’ll find creative twists on Cretan and international dishes, traditional Greek coffee and homemade ice cream.
7. Avli, Rethymnon
Location: Xanthoudidou 22 & Radamanthios, 74100, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece
Even if you’re not staying at the upmarket Avli hotel, a visit to its restaurant and cooking school is are a must. Housed in 16th-century Venetian buildings, this foodie destination blends Cretan cooking traditions old and new in creative dishes. Cooking classes are led by the hotel chef and focus on making healthy, tasty meals from just a handful of high-quality ingredients. The experience concludes with the class feasting on their creations.
8. Ntounias, Drakona
Location: Δρακωνα κεραμειων, 73100, Crete, Greece
Nestled on a slope in western Crete’s White Mountains, the rustic Ntounias taverna looks out onto scenic vistas of olive groves and mountain villages. This traditional family-run restaurant slow-cooks all of its dishes over wood fires and everything, from the vegetables to the olive oil, is either produced in the owner’s fields surrounding the restaurant or organically elsewhere in Crete. Even the meat comes from animals that roam the nearby slopes of Madara, so eating here is about as authentic a dining experience as you can get in Crete.
Book: +30 28210 65083
9. Lyrarakis Estate, Alagni
Location: Alagni, 70300 Heraklion, Greece
Crete isn’t short of vineyards, but only the Lyrarakis Estate is credited with reviving two ancient wine varieties. The 50-year-old winery has always focused on rare local wines and proudly produces the ancient whites Dafni and Plyto within its award-winning wine portfolio. Curious wine buffs who wish to sample the goods and tour the grounds can opt for a short tour of the winery and vineyard, or a premium experience that also includes a visit to the 14th-century wine press and a private wine tasting among the oak barrels in the cellar.
Book: +30 69810 50681
If you’re hungry for more delicious adventures in Crete, check out our local’s guide for some great tips. Once you’ve decided, our concierge team can help you to find your perfect villa in Greece for your next food-centered getaway.