Avli Lounge Apartments

Rethymnon, Crete, Greece Book from Eur68

Reviewed by Jane Foster
A romantic hotel in Venetian Rethymno with stunning suites, an acclaimed restaurant and personal service
Founded in 1987, in a Venetian-era building dating back to 1530, Avli started out as a restaurant serving high-quality food made from local ingredients. Lying in Rethymno’s lovely pedestrian-only old town, its courtyard garden was planted with palms, bougainvillea and vines, and decorated with objects from medieval villas and abandoned workshops: stone mill wheels, antiquated farming tools and restored wooden furniture.

Today the restaurant is known throughout Crete for its creative cuisine. But what many people don’t know is that Avli also offers various sumptuous suites, which have been added since 2005. Delightfully extravagant, but well within the realms of good taste, each combines the building's traditional elements (stone walls, beamed ceilings, Venetian arches) with modern comforts and Baroque-kitsch décor.

Best suited to couples, Avil makes a perfect escape for a romantic weekend or a couple of blissful days of indulgence at the end of a Crete holiday. Or, with Rethymno lying midway between Chania and Heraklion, on Crete’s north coast, it also makes a sophisticated base for exploring the island’s cultural attractions, beaches and mountains.

Highs

  • Divinely romantic suites: each is themed in a different colour and most are lavishly kitted out with chandeliers, objets d'art and tactile furnishings
  • The location in the heart of Rethymno’s medieval old town
  • Excellent personal service; thoughtful and generous
  • Sublime, beautifully presented food in the courtyard restaurant, along with Avli's fine wines
  • A rooftop terrace with a Jacuzzi and sunloungers, looking out over the terracotta-tiled roofs of the old town

Lows

  • Junior Suites are without balconies or any notable views, and those overlooking the courtyard restaurant can be a bit noisy at breakfast and dinner time
  • The Standard and Superior Doubles are less luxurious and are located in the building next door, though this reflected in the price
  • Quite expensive for a hotel with limited facilities besides the restaurant
  • You'll have to park a short distance from the hotel

Best time to go

To avoid the crowds, visit in shoulder season (May-June or Sept-Oct) when the days are sunny but not too hot (ideal for hiking) and the sea still warm enough to swim. During high-season (July-Aug), Rethymno and the surrounding coastal resorts are overrun with visitors, while in low season (Nov-Apr) most tourist facilities close down completely. That said, Avli would certainly make a romantic hideaway for a winter weekend. The Rethymno wine festival is generally held in June, and there's a Renaissance festival in July.

Our top tips

Don’t expect too much from Rethymno’s beach - Crete’s north coast beaches are generally commercial and overcrowded. Instead, hire a car and head for the blissful, wild, naturist-friendly south coast.

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Restaurant + bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Avli

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Complimentary soft drinks
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Rethymno's old town, with its cobbled streets lined by pastel-coloured buildings, Ottoman-era minarets and Italianate churches and fountains. The picturesque harbour is guarded by an imposing 16th-century Venetian fortress
  • Book an Avli cooking lesson - you choose a starter, a salad, a main course and a dessert, and cook the food under the guidance of the chef. Afterwards, you eat what you've cooked - highly recommended
  • Wine taste in Avli Fusion Enoteca – their cellar is one of the largest in Greece, with more than 400 different labels. When we visited, their top 2 recommendations were a Magiko Vuono red from 2003, and a Roussan Nostos white from Manoussakis
  • Go scuba diving. Kalypso Dive Centre arrange transfers from Rethymno to their base at Plakias on the south coast, and offer organised trips and half-day beginner courses
  • Visit the 16th-century Moni Arkadiou (Arkadi Monastery) with its lovely Venetian-baroque church, 23km southeast of Rethymno, in the foothills of Mount Idi (Psiloritis)
  • Head for Preveli on the south coast, where you can lie on a stunning beach with a palm grove where the river meets the sea. On a hillside overhead, the 17th-century Preveli Monastery has a beatiful cloistered courtyard, church and small museum
  • With more time, you could continue west to the 14th-century Frangokastello Venetian fortress, perched above the sands


Further afield, but also feasible as day trips, you can:

  • Hike the dramatic 18km limestone Samaria Gorge, descending from the White Mountains down to the village of Agia Roumeli on the south coast. Wear good hiking boots and take plenty of water
  • Drive west along the coast (60km) to explore Chania, with its Venetian-era fishing harbour ringed with cafes and tavernas. Check out the Archaeological Museum, housed in a former church, plus the romantic cobbled alleys lined with arty boutiques and a market selling local handicrafts
  • Drive east along the coast (79km) to Heraklion. Explore the pedestrianised old town, and visit the excellent Archaeological Museum (partially closed but the temporary exhibition is well worth seeing) and the Crete Historical Museum

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Wine tasting

Kids

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.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

On request

Kid Friendly: Avli Lounge Apartments

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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