Whether it’s been a long night in the clubs of Malia or a sun-filled yesterday on the shores of Elafonisi and Balos, we’ve got some essential reading. Cue our guide to the crème-de-la-crème of Crete best breakfast spots and brunch options. It’s got all you need to ensure you start the day with a bang on this scorching southern isle.
From uber-cool roasteries to charming Greek bakeries that ooze the smells of feta and filo, we cover a whole range of the island’s top morning locations. We’ve tried to get something to suit a whole medley of tastes, from veggies to meat lovers to those who go for just a cup of joe in the early hours.
When it comes to Crete, the best breakfast offerings usually pop up in the cities of Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion. Those places have an overload of cafés and eateries, so it’s easier to find creative options that do artisan brews, eggs benedict, and the like. However, our guide also includes a few more rustic locations and off-the-beaten-track options, just in case you’re venturing further afield on the island.
Frankly Café, Heraklion
Yep, Frankly Café is one chic spot. Marked out by its polished concrete walls, floor-to-ceiling glass, and typewriter typeface, it looks every inch the cool London coffee stop. Only this one is tucked into the bustling heart of Heraklion, the lively and historic capital of Crete. Look for it under the arcades on the south side of the old town, with the yellow-tinged Church of Agios Minas rising just behind.
The menu is a brunch lover’s dream come true. There are toasted bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. You can hit the healthy options of yoghurt and honey or opt for the vitamin-heavy chickpea salad, too. There’s also a particularly indulgent eggs benedict that we think is perfect for fueling up before a day of sightseeing in Knossos Palace!
The coffee at Frankly Café is also worthy of a mention. The brews here are all made by trained baristas that do latte art like a veritable da Vinci. There’s also a range of artisan coffees in drips and AeroPress. Later on, Frankly Café transforms into a cocktail joint and a lunch establishment, with an offering of sliders and mixed cocktails.
Barrio The Neighbourhood Cafe – Kallithea, Rethymno
Barrio The Neighbourhood Cafe has long been our go-to breakfast place in Rethymno. A touch outside of the touristy old town and a block back from the main beach, it’s uber-popular with the young, local student crowd especially. Most days, the outdoor terrace is packed to bursting with bookworms and scribbling pencils and pads. But there’s also a regular flow of visitors drawn in by the fantastic reviews and enticing menu…
Chocolate-topped pancakes with cocoa dusting and berries, breakfast burger buns that are all but guaranteed to cure the hangover, fried omelets with potato wedges and bacon – the morning meals run the gamut from small to large, sweet to savory. Later on, the menus switch to more pub-grub dining, with a medley of club sandwiches and pastas taking center stage.
More than anything it’s the vibe and the style that we love down in Barrio The Neighbourhood Café. Done out like a noir New Yorker food hall, it’s dressed in concrete walls and has industrial-chic fixtures throughout. There’s a huge exterior space where you can go when the sun’s a-shining (as it often is), and there’s good people watching onto the main street of Emmanouil Portaliou.
Kormoranos Bakery Café, Chania
Get your hit of traditional Cretan morning dining at this lovely little establishment in the Chania old town. It spills out of a stone-faced building onto the cobbles, touting a row of seating wedged into the nooks and crannies of the Theotokopoulo walking street. That makes it the perfect place for a breakfast before your souvenir shopping, because everything from soap emporiums to Cretan cloth shops and fridge-magnet touts is in the vicinity.
The food is mainly local. There are dakos breads with fresh tomato toppings and a crown of crumbly white cheese made on the island. More hearty meals come in the form of the morning charcuterie boards, which brim with boiled eggs and hams both cooked and raw, along with local dairy products. We also love the selection of Greek pastries, which include veggie-friendly spinach and feta pies.
For drinking, we’d recommend doing as the locals do. When it’s hot, that usually means a frothy iced cappuccino with lots of sugar. When it’s cold, it’s all about the broiling, boiling Greek coffee, a very strong hit of caffeine that’s served with the grits still in it. When you’re done, the lovely Chania harbor is only a stroll away, so sightseeing is right on the doorstep.
Calling all coffee buffs – Monogram is the place to go in Chania. Content to leave the main marina area to the international eateries and the tourist tavernas, it sits deep in the eastern half of the old town, between a scruffy launderette and a scooter park-up. But the joint hardly needs the traveler footfall to survive. It lets the coffee do the talking. And boy does that work…
Monogram is constantly bustling with life. Its brews are sought out by Chania locals every morning of the week, so don’t be surprised to find a queue snaking out of the door. The reason for the quality is that this is a bona fide roastery café. They curate and flavor the beans right here on site, and then brew them up using expert methods to capture the height of flavor. It’s all a bit technical for us, but we will say this: The finished product is incredible!
Obviously, coffee is the main attraction at Monogram. However, there are some small, tasty bites on the menu to boot. We’re talking crispy sandwiches with turkey and pesto, veggie breads with tomatoes and rocket, protein balls (whatever they are?), and thyme-infused Greek honey. There’s really only seating outside, because indoors is reserved for the bespoke wine collection and the racks of packaged coffee beans.
Boho Beach Bar, Matala
Break the fast to the sound of the lapping Libyan Sea and the smell of salt off the light waves. That’s what you get down in hip Matala and the lovely Boho Beach Bar. This one has tables that are right on the sand. No, we mean right on the sand. You can stretch the legs off the side of the wooden decking and feel the powder between the toes if you so wish.
The joint opens at 9am and serves up a menu of international breakies with a twist of healthy creativity. There are fried eggs with locally baked bread. There are quinoa salads topped with beansprouts. The brunch menu is served all day, “for those late-sleepers” as the Boho folk themselves put it. That’s got cheese pastries and avocado-topped toast.
To be honest, we could happily hang around the Boho Beach Bar all day long and well into the evening. They’ve got a few rows of sunbeds on the sand that overlook the famous caves of Matala. Later on, the cocktail menus get divvied out and the mixologists start their shifts. With them comes an array of creative highballs and rose mixes and spritzes that are the perfect accompaniment to the sunset (which is actually fantastic here, since the beach faces west!).
The Red Lion Bar & Restaurant, Malia
Okay, so the Red Lion Bar & Restaurant is a bit of a diversion from the hip and cool places that we’ve listed so far. But we feel that it’s important to drop in a joint where the hangover-carrying hedonists of Malia, Crete’s main party resort, can head once the clubs shut up shop. It just wouldn’t be right to leave you hanging, guys, and the Red Lion is a fantastic pick if you’re after some hearty, no-nonsense grub…
Check the menu. It proudly reads “British breakfasts”. But then what would you expect of a pub-style venue on The Strip with a red lion adorning its hanging sign. Don’t worry, you’ll be chowing down on a stacked bacon and egg butty in no time. Or devouring the whole hog of the ‘Full British’, a smorgasbord of fried eggs, pork sausages, baked beans, and hash browns. Told you we’d cure the hangover, eh?
The Red Lion does have some other options for those keen on something a bit more Greece than grease (see what we did there?). You’ll find avocado toasts, pancakes with chocolate and banana-nut toppings, eggs benedict, and a basic breakfast omelet.
Arodo Cafe Bar, Agios Nikolaos
Our final shortlister among the Crete best breakfast spots takes us to the stylish and vibrant resort town of Agios Nikolaos on the eastern side of the island. There, just around the promenade from the main harbor area, with views that unfold north to the rugged mountains and across the strait to craggy Agii Pantes island, Arodo Cafe Bar sits in wait.
It’s a great option for a drink no matter the time of the day. We particularly love the morning, though, when people flock in for those highball iced coffees in the al fresco seats. The food menu is pretty varied. You can get crispy croissants or bowls of fruit, along with all manner of tasty brunch grub – sliders, club sandwiches with chippies, handmade pizzas.
Arodo Cafe Bar hits a zenith on its upper-floor terrace. That’s ringed by glass walls that maximize the whole view of the Aegean Sea and the bay of Agios Nikolaos. Opening time is around 10am. We’d aim to be there nice and punctual because you’ll want the best table on the patio to make the most of the experience.