Avli in Old Town Rethymno, Crete, Greece

Don’t miss Avli in Rethymno’s picturesque and historic Old Town. At this gem, you can dine, sip, and stay. Come along on our visit with the charming owner.

Avli Rethymno

When you visit Rethymno on the island of Crete, there’s a place you absolutely must visit. In Old Town, in a 16th century Venetian building you’ll find a charming place called Avli. Here you may dine, sip and sample Greek wines in the bar, shop local products, and stay in one of their hotel suites. I’d heard about Avli from several friends, and I had to check it out for myself. Come along to Avli in Rethymno.

Avli Rethymno Owner Katerina Xekalou
Katerina Xekalou is the managing director, CEO, and creator at Avli, located in the heart of Rethymno’s Old Town.

Where it all began

Proprietor Katerina Xekalou grew up in Athens. In her late teens, she pondered her career options. Much to her family’s chagrin, she returned to her roots on Crete to fulfill her dream of opening a restaurant. Though she was determined, to appease her parents, she completed her degree in criminal justice. Katerina spoke about her early days in the industry.

“My first attempt was sort of a joke. But through trial and error, we’ve built something special.”

The courtyard at Avli is warm and inviting. Pull up a chair and find respite from the hot sun. Enjoy a spectacular meal, made with fresh, local ingredients. IMAGE: MARIA A. KARAMITSOS
The courtyard at Avli is warm and inviting. Pull up a chair and find respite from the hot sun.
Enjoy a spectacular meal, made with fresh, local ingredients.

Thrilled to be back, she sought a way to celebrate the culture and cuisine of the island. In 1987, as Old Town Rethymno was being upgraded, she sought a spot for her restaurant. Avli, the Greek word for garden, is housed in an old Venetian building with a lovely, expansive courtyard. Offering what they call ‘rustic fine dining’, the restaurant offers ‘creative cuisine’, in which they use traditional ingredients and methods and create something new or put their own unique spin on staples of Cretan cuisine. Her vision came to life, and under her leadership, Avli has thrived. Their specialty is simple, fresh foods creatively made.

“I’ve always believed in cooking what’s available in the garden and trying something new. Then you can tweak it next time, try something different. Then it’s always new. We don’t use recipes. Sometimes it’s just the simplest of things. Remember there are more than 300 different herbs and spices in Greece, so the sky is the limit! This is something I learned from my family. In fact, one of the best meals I had was rabbit that my mother cooked at the beach, In a pot from home, with an onion and herbs she found there. it was magical. I’ll never forget it.”

~ Katerina Xekalou, Managing Director, CEO, & Creator, Avli Rethymno

Cultivating Avli

With the success of the restaurant and booming tourism, Katerina has expanded the Avli concept. With the growing interest in Greek wine, Katerina opened an adjacent wine bar. Fusion Enoteca boasts one of the largest wine lists in Greece, featuring 460 bottles — Greek wines from large and small producers. They take great care with their wines, storing them properly to ensure the best quality. At Fusion, you may enjoy dinner as well.

Sfakiani Pita at Avli Rethymno
My mouth waters whenever I think of the Sfakiani Pita.
It’s a crepe with melted cheese inside, served warm from the pan
and drizzled with local honey and sprinkled with chopped walnuts.

There’s also a family casual restaurant that does a brisk business as well.

At the Agora – Avli Raw Materials, shop for traditional and specialty items made in Crete. Find wine, olive oil, unique gifts, beauty products, and more.

If you’re looking for a place to stay while in town, look no further than Avli’s all-suite hotel. The 16th century mansion was renovated in 1987 by local architect Kostas Iliakis, bringing together Cretan style with Venetian and Oriental, to create a unique and welcoming atmosphere. Seven suites are available, each a nod to the city’s history plus modern day luxury, and of course, that amazing Cretan hospitality.

“In Crete, people know well how to celebrate life and make you feel welcome. Toast with people who make songs out of life and be transported.”

As I learned more, I wish we would have sought accommodations there. Next time!

Housemade specialties at Avli Rethymno
You could make a meal on housemade croissants, muffins, and bread rolls served with house marmalade,
anthotira (the 1st skim off the milk when making cheese), and local honey.

Visit Avli

From luxury apartments, to delightful cuisine in a picturesque atmosphere, Avli has it all. The restaurant is open all year round, however, the shop and hotel are closed November to March This break allows Katerina time with her family, as well as the opportunity to explore different culinary and hospitality offerings. No doubt Avli will continue to thrive.

Come for a traditional Cretan brunch or select from the menu. Revel in the genial atmosphere and feel the gentle breeze. Enjoy your experience where traditional meets modern in the heart of Old Town Rethymno. Tell Katerina we sent you!

Xanthoudidou 22 & Radamanthios, 74100 Rethymno, Crete. +30 2831 058250; website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

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