“A romantic hotel in Venetian Rethymno with stunning suites, an acclaimed restaurant and personal service”
The suites are spread between a trio of 16th-century buildings. Traditional features such as wooden floors, beamed ceilings and exposed stone walls have been retained and pepped up by ostentatious modern details: flamboyant chandeliers, mosaic-tiled Jacuzzis, brightly coloured high-back suede chairs. On a more practical level, you also get spotlights, dimmer lights and a CD player.
In the first building (home to Avli's restaurant) you’ll find 2 of the Junior Suites (Green and Red) and the super-luxurious top-floor Penthouse Suite (Brown), complete with private balcony and veranda. All are peaceful (bar a gentle hum of diners in the courtyard garden below) and romantic in décor thanks to open-plan layouts and in-room Jacuzzis. We stayed in Green and loved having indulgent candlelit soaks - making full use of the bath oils and body creams.
The remaining Junior Suites (Orange and Champagne) are in the second building, as are the Executive Suites. These are less ornate than their counterparts, but just as lovely, with whitewashed stone walls, leather sofas and Jacuzzis or showers in their bathrooms. Champagne has a beautiful old fireplace, which would make it our favourite choice for a winter stay. On the roof of this building, there’s an open-air Jacuzzi open to all hotel residents, plus sunbeds and great views over the old town and its Venetian fortress.
The third building houses the Standard and Superior Doubles, which we haven't seen yet. The tone here is slightly different with the saccharine-looking rooms each following a candy-themed décor style (think lollipops and cookies). With ensuite shower rooms and no lounge area, they’re simpler than the other suites but they’re also more affordable. Guests have access to all of the hotel’s amenities (including breakfast in Avli) and the building also has a second-floor communal terrace, ideal for sundowners.
Food is Avli's trump card. Meals are served in the garden restaurant, from which Avli takes its name ('avli' is Greek for courtyard). Planted with palms, bougainvillea and vines, plus potted geraniums and aromatic herbs, it makes a lovely peaceful setting for breakfast, but gets quite crowded with non-residents in the evening, so reservations are recommended. Inside, there’s a dining room with exposed stone walls and a wooden beamed ceiling, where you eat in winter.
The menu features innovative Cretan cuisine, combining traditional ingredients with modern Mediterranean influences to create exquisite meat and seafood dishes – think skewered shrimps with avocado, lime and parsley vinaigrette; mountain goat with honey, thyme and baked potato; rabbit and spring onion pie.
Breakfasts are equally spoiling. Cretans firmly believe in a hearty and healthy start to the day, and Avli takes a local proverb to heart: 'Shame on he who gets up and does not immediately fill his belly'. So, to begin with, a spread of breads, homemade jams and cakes, thyme honey from Sfakia, a variety of fresh juices. Next, choose sheep's milk yoghurt with fruit or a freshly made rice pudding, then finish with a choice of traditional Cretan omelettes (with local smoked pork or baby zucchinis and tomatoes), Sfakiani (a pie filled with Mizithra goat's cheese, walnuts and honey), or Tiganopita (sugared, cinnamon pastries).
Later in the day, pop into the adjoining Avli Fusion Enoteca, a wine bar occupying a vaulted stone cellar, with a splendid mosaic Ottoman-era fountain and water channel set in the floor. Here the main draw is the spectacular wine list – with over 400 labels, Avli has one of the largest cellars in Greece. They also serve creative light meals; the green salad with smoked duck fillet and fig sauce is excellent, as is the service.
Nearby, and also owned by Avli, Raki Baraki is more informal, serving coffee, wine, raki and traditional Cretan mezedes (tapas) in a light and airy space with a tiled floor and whitewashed tables and chairs. It’s popular with local students and stages live Cretan music.
For a change of scene, Rethymno is packed with friendly informal eateries, many of which stay open all year thanks to the student population. A good spot for a seafood lunch is Pastopeion, which is set in an old stone building with tables overlooking Koumbes beach (1km west of the old town) and a view of Rethymno fortress.
Children are welcome but the hotel is primarily geared up towards couples. Children aged 0-5 stay for free in a baby cot or on a sofabed. Kids aged 5-12 are charged a small supplement for a sofabed. Other than that, there are no special facilities for kids.
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available