Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans… all came through here, creating a multicultural corner of Crete. Wandering around the port of Chania, you’ll encounter the Venetian lighthouse, the Grand Arsenal, Kum Kapi and Halepa. And beyond the town of Chania into the region that has the same name are the famous beaches of Agia Marina, Stalos and Platanias. Go a little further and you’ll find exotic Balos and Falasarna. In southern Chania, the world-famous Samaria Gorge invites you to explore it. So much to do, so little time!
What to do in Chania
The Old Town of Chania
You’ll discover its secrets step by step: the picture-perfect lighthouse at the port, the Küçük Hasan mosque, the renovated Grand Arsenal, the Splanzia ruins and the Kum Kapi at Miaouli Beach.
Lose yourself in the aristocratic suburb of Halepa, with its neoclassical buildings that once hosted the consulates of the Great Powers. You’ll feel as if you’re in a different era: the school of “San Joseph”, the Russian church of Saint Mary Magdelene, the Palace of Prince George… and so much more.
An afternoon in Kastelli
Kastelli Hill was once ancient Kydonia and, later, a Byzantine castle. Eventually, a city was built around it, with new walls erected by the Venetians. That’s the history you’ll encounter today. You’ll see the Byzantine walls on Karaoli Dimitriou Street and the excavated Proto-Minoan settlement on Kanevaro Street. Make your way to the edge of the Kastelli citadel to watch the sunset, which gives the old town a technicolour evening charm.
The citadel of faith
East of Chania, Akrotiri and its old monasteries await. You can walk to the monasteries of Agia Triada Tsagarolon (17th century) and Gouverneto (16th century), and to the ruins of a Catholic monastery believed to be the oldest in Crete (11th century). And then there is Panagia Arkoudiotissa, whose altar is hidden in the dark of the so-called Arkoudospilias (Bear Cave), named after a bear-shaped stalactite. Its religious history dates back to ancient times when the goddess Artemis was worshipped here.
You’ll understand why Cretan cuisine has gained worldwide acclaim. In the fish tavernas, rakadika and historic cafes, the flavours of Crete will win you over. For a more innovative culinary experience, try Chania’s gourmet restaurants, where renowned chefs have elevated the island’s traditional cuisine.
And it’s worth visiting the Apokoronas villages, about 20 minutes outside town: Armeni, Vamos, Xirosterni, Kefalos, Gavalohori and Agios Pavlos… some of the most beautiful villages in Crete. Here you’ll experience authentic Cretan cuisine, sampling local recipes such as tsigariasto, boureki, kalitsounia, pilafi, dakos, as well as all sorts of delicious grilled meat.
The unforgettable Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge has rightly earned legendary status from hikers. It’s worth devoting a day to exploring its 16km length, especially the narrow passage (only 3m wide and over 100m tall) towards the end of the gorge called Portes (also known as the Iron Gates). Your five-hour hike will end in Agia Roumeli, where you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing. And keep an eye out for the elusive and rare wild Cretan goat as you go.
Two exotic excursions: Falasarna and Balos
Excursion 1 - Chania-Falasarna: 58km from Chania town and you’re in paradise. White sand, emerald water and magical sunsets. Endless beauty at one of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean, 3km long, north of which is Ancient Falarsana.
Excursion 2 - Balos: 52km from Chania (or you can take a caique from Kissamos) and you find yourself in one of the most photographed beaches in Crete, the heavenly saltwater lagoon of Balos. Relax in its shallow blue-green water and sink your feet into the luminescent sand made up of thousands of broken seashells. Across the way, two islets, Gramvousa and Agria Gramvousa, form a protective perimeter.
Hidden gems of Chania
Hora Sfakion, Loutro, and Frangokastello
You’ll arrive at Hora Sfakion travelling south from Chania through the beautiful Aradaina Gorge. Discover the history and the legend surrounding the impressive Frangokastello Castle, built by the Venetians in 1371. In May 1866 a bloody battle took place here, between Mustafa Pasha’s soldiers and 338 of Hatzimichalis Dalianis’ warriors. It is said that the morning shadows, or Drosoulites, that cross the plain every May and June are the restless spirits of these warriors come to re-enact the conflict
The Centre of Mediterranean Architecture, housed in the Grand Arsenal, has exceptional exhibitions and events. The building was the last dry dock erected by the Venetians in 1600 and its rebuilding began in 1941. As for other museums, be sure to put as many as you can in your itinerary: the Archaeological Museum, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection, Nautical Museum of Crete (the second oldest in Greece), Typography Museum in the Park of Local Industries, and Arts & Crafts Village in Souda with its ceramic, mosaic, silversmith and glass-blowing workshops.
The cobblestone alleys of the old town
This is where you’ll encounter local tradition and folklore. Tabakaria is the centre for traditional leather production. At Skrydlof Street (also called Leather Lane), you will find the traditional high Cretan boots called stivania. In Karaoli Dimitriou, you can buy authentic Cretan knives, but beware of imitations – the real thing doesn’t cost less than 200 euros.
Experience the best of Chania
Hiking the spectacular Samaria Gorge in Chania
Village-hop through Chania at its most authentic
Prepare to be mesmerised at Crete's Balos beach
The dreamscape of Crete’s Elafonisi beach
- The Old Town of Chania
- The unforgettable Samaria Gorge
- The museums
- The citadel of faith