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Malia Old Town – The Complete Guide

Malia is the party capital of Crete. But Malia Old Town is a different matter entirely. Here you can wander the narrow streets, with the old houses draped with purple bougainvillea flowers. Or dine al fresco at a restaurant on one of the squares, next to one of the centuries-old Orthodox churches.

We stayed in Malia for almost three months, dipping in and out of the lovely Old Town every day. It’s what a lot of people we spoke with call ‘the real Crete’ – and it’s certainly a world away from the all-night bars and clubs a short walk away on the road down to the beaches.

As well as being a wonderful place to wander for a while, the restaurants are all very good, serving Cretan food in some gorgeous buildings and outdoor spaces.

In this guide I’ll show you all of these, as well as where to find the Old Town, the sights to see, how to get there and places to stay. I hope you find it helpful.

What To See And Do In Malia Old Town

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A typical street view in Malia’s Old Town
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Bougainvillea-covered Odas Taverna
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Kiprou Cafe

The best things to do in Malia’s Old Town are wandering and eating. Take your time. It’s especially enjoyable in the evening, when it’s a few degrees cooler, neighbours sit outside for a chat and the street cats scuttle by in search of their evening snacks.

The best place to start is at the main square in the centre of Malia, next to Agios Nektarios Church. Turn down 28is Oktovriou, passing a row of restaurants on your left. My pick of these is The Stone House, which serves exceptional traditional Cretan food.

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Stone House is one of the best restaurants in Malia Old Town
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A restaurant table in Malia’s Old Town

I also recommend Avli Restaurant, a few metres down the street, next to a stepped alleyway. They also have a great dining space across the stairs from the main building.

If you haven’t already stopped for something to eat, continue to the top of the steps, passing the church of Agios Ioannis (St John). You then reach a gorgeous square, with the Oliva restaurant on one side and the Odas Taverna on the other.

The latter must be one of the most picturesque restaurants in Greece, a whitewashed house covered in purple bougainvillea flowers, with an outdoor seating area and a view of the church.  And the food is excellent too.

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Geitonia Restaurant
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Cafes on Agiou Demetriou
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An icon in Agiou Demetriou church

From there, walk 50-100 metres until you reach the junction with Agiou Dimitriou Street, and turn left. You soon reach a wider section of the street, with the 19th-century Agios Demetrios church on your left. Take a look inside at some superb icons. This is the one church in the Old Town that was regularly open when we stayed in Malia.

There are also several more tavernas along this square, along with a few souvenir shops, including one selling jewellery. From there, turn down Arkadiou, continuing for 60-70 metres until you come to a ruined house on your left. It has been turned into a beautiful garden, where you can sit in the shade in the late afternoon and evening.

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A garden in a ruined house in Malia old village
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Outdoor tables at San Giorgio restaurant
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Restaurant tables outside Agios Georgios church
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San Giorgio restaurant is hugely popular on summer evenings

Just after the garden, take a right turn along Agiou Georgiou (St George Street). After around 100 metres, you reach another lovely square, with another tiny church, Agios Georgios, to your right. Most of the square is taken up with tables from the popular San Giorgio Restaurant. It’s a fantastic setting, a wonderful place to enjoy some amazing Greek food.

You can complete an Old Town circular walk from there, as 28is Oktovriou leads from there to the main square in the centre of Malia. Or you could wander further as I did, venturing down the many side streets and alleyways.

Where Is Malia Old Town

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The way to Old Malia – a very different side to the Crete party town
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Agios Nektarios Church is at the entrance to Malia’s Old Town

Old Town Malia is a warren of narrow streets and lanes just south of the main road through Malia town. 

The area is very small, extending around 250-300 metres south of Eleftheriou Venizelou Street.

This main road divides Malia in two – the tangle of alleyways of the Old Town to the south, and the modern town and ‘Strip’ of bars and clubs leading to the Malia beaches to the north. These are a 20-minute walk away.

How To Get To Malia Old Town

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A street sign in Old Malia
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A road from Old Town Malia leads to Krasi and other mountain villages

Malia is very easy to reach, as it’s on the busy route between Heraklion, Hersonissos and Agios Nikolaos.

Bus stops on this route are numbered, so whichever direction you’re travelling in, you can alight at stops 32 or 33.  These stops are around 20 metres either side of the main junction in Malia, Plateia Kimnis Theotokou, next to the large church.

The street next to the church – 28is Oktovriou – has some of the best Malia Old Town restaurants, and is a good introduction. Otherwise, head along 1821 Street and turn along Metaxa for more of the best restaurants.

Or you could turn off the main street onto Isodion, which leads to Grammatikaki, the nearest thing the Old Town has to a main square.

If you’re driving to Malia, there is parking along Pavlou Mela, near the 24/7 Boutique Hotel.

Getting From The Malia Beaches To The Old Town

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Sunset on Malia Beach

This is one piece of the jigsaw missing in Malia. It’s a good 20-minute walk from the Old Town to the beaches, and there is no bus connection between the two.

The buses all run along the main street, parallel to the coastline. It’s not ideal – the 20-minute walk is easy when it’s cool, but can be tough work even if you’re walking in the late afternoon, when the temperatures are often still over 30 Centigrade.

The only option other than walking is a taxi. The busy taxi rank is outside the Agios Nektarios Church, and opposite the Kaza Pub – ask for a taxi at the kiosk, and you’ll be directed to the next driver in the line. The fare to the beaches is €8-9 one way.

Malia Old Town – Final Thoughts

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People eating out at Odas Taverna
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The boat at the entrance to Potamos Beach

I loved exploring Malia Old Town, and would take a walk through it every day of our extended stay there. 

I gravitated to it a lot more than the party strip of bars and clubs along the road to the beaches. There are some wonderful picturesque squares and streets, and a wide choice of excellent tavernas and restaurants. It’s well worth stopping by for an evening and meal, whether you’re staying in Malia or elsewhere along the coast.

If you plan on visiting Malia, be sure to check out my guide to all the Malia beaches. There’s an almost continuous stretch of sand for several miles, from Stalis Beach to the west of the town to Potamos Beach to the east. The latter is close to the Malia Minoan Palace site, one of the largest of its kind in Crete.

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The main building at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum
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Sarantari Beach

Malia is on the most developed stretch of coast in Crete. It’s very close to the busy party resort of Hersonissos. So if you’re visiting the area, check out my guide to the best Hersonissos beaches, and individual beach guides for Sarantari Beach and Gefyri Beach.

As you pass between Malia and Hersonissos, don’t miss the Lychnostatis Open Air Museum, which focuses on rural life in Crete in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s a superb place to visit, with a great little beach just behind its grounds.

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Sissi Harbour with its stunning mountain backdrop

If you enjoy your taste of old Crete in Malia, I suggest also spending a few hours in nearby Old Hersonissos or Piskopiano. These villages above Hersonissos are a popular day trip, where you come to stroll the streets and stop by to eat at a taverna before heading back.

I also recommend a day visiting Sissi Crete, a gorgeous whitewashed harbour village a few miles east of Malia. There are some great seafood restaurants around the harbour, and it’s a fantastic place to watch the magical Cretan sunset.  

Image of David Angel found of Delve into Europe Travel Blog / Website

David Angel is a British photographer, writer and historian. He is a European travel expert with over 30 years’ experience exploring Europe. He has a degree in History from Manchester University, and his work is regularly featured in global media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Times.  David is fluent in French and Welsh, and can also converse in Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Polish.