Chania will steal your heart. Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Venetians, Ottomans… all came through here, creating a multicultural corner of Crete. Wandering around the port, you’ll encounter the Venetian lighthouse, the Grand Arsenal, Kum Kapi and Halepa. You’ll enjoy luxurious accommodation in elegant villas, pulsating bars and restaurants, as well as significant cultural sites.
Beyond the town of Chania are the famous beaches of Agia Marina, Stalos and Platanias. Go a little further and you’ll find the exotic beaches of 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 alleys are full of surprises and every stroll is an experience. Stand next to the picture-perfect lighthouse at the port, a 16th-century Venetian construction. Walk among the impressive buildings and attractions: the Küçük Hasan mosque, the renovated Grand Arsenal, the Splanzia ruins and the Kum Kapi at Miaouli Beach.
Get lost in the ambience of 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… Chania’s old town will sweep you off your feet.
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 turns the old town into a technicolour dream.
Boutique guest houses, historic hospitality
In Chania’s old town, the Venetian and neoclassical mansions of past generations and the emblematic buildings with their rich history have been converted into luxurious boutique hotels. Enjoy elegant design details, high standards of service, rooftops and balconies with incredible views, well-kept gardens, pools and fountains. Here, the sophisticated ambience of the past is combined with modern comforts, making Chania a luxury holiday destination.
The citadel of faith in Chania
East of Chania, Akrotiri and its old monasteries await you. Walk to the monastery of Agia Triada Tsagarolon (17th century), the Gouverneto monastery (16th century), the ruins of the Catholic monastery, considered the oldest in Crete (11th century), and Panagia Arkoudiotissa. Its 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. The goddess Artemis was also worshipped here.
Here you’ll understand why Cretan cuisine has gained worldwide acclaim. In the fish tavernas, rakadika, and historic cafes with their VIP clientele, the flavours of Crete will win you over. For a more innovative gastronomical experience, try Chania’s gourmet restaurants, where renowned chefs have elevated the island’s traditional cuisine, winning many awards and accolades in the process (such as the Golden Chef’s Toque).
It’s worth visiting the villages of Apokoronas, about 20 minutes outside of town: Armeni, Vamos, Xirosterni, Kefalos, Gavalohori, and Agios Pavlos are some of the most beautiful villages in Crete, and promise to be great culinary journeys. Here you will experience authentic Cretan cuisine, sampling local recipes such as tsigariasto, boureki, kalitsounia, pilafi, dakos, as well as all sorts of delicious grilled meat.
Just ten minutes outside Chania, beach parties are happening left, right and centre. At Agia Marina, Platanias and Stalos, you will find beaches with turquoise water, sun loungers, bars, hotels and tavernas right at the water’s edge. If you want to dance till dawn, don’t miss the parties at Platanias, where summer nights never end.
Samaria Gorge, an unforgettable experience in Crete
Just a few kilometres outside Chania is the renowned Farangas (Gorge), the largest and most famous gorge in Crete. Devote one day to exploring its 18km and see nature in all its glory. You may even meet the elusive and rare wild Cretan goat. When you reach the narrow passage (only 3km wide) at the end of the gorge, called Portes (also known as the Iron Gates), your adrenaline will soar, like the rock walls on each side, that reach a height of 300m. Your five-hour hike will end in Agia Roumeli where you’ll be rewarded with the swim of a lifetime.
Beach attractions in Chania : Falasarna and Balos
Two nearby excursions will take you to exotic destinations:
Excursion 1 Chania-Falasarna: 58km and you’re in paradise. White sand between your toes, 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 Balos lagoon. Relax in its shallow blue-green water, 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 castle of Frangokastello, 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
Centre of Mediterranean Architecture and Chania’s museums
This hidden but important cultural centre, with exceptional exhibitions and events, is housed in the Grand Arsenal. The building was the last dry dock erected by the Venetians in 1600 and its rebuilding began in 1941. As for the museums, be sure to put them all on your itinerary: the Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection, the Nautical Museum of Crete (the second oldest in Greece), the Typography Museum in the Park of Local Industries, and the 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.
- The old town of Chania
- Boutique guest houses, historic hospitality
- Beach parties
- Samaria Gorge, an unforgettable experience in Crete
- Centre of Mediterranean Architecture and Chania’s museums
- The citadel of faith in Chania