Every walk in Chania tells a story. So we’ve mapped out three self-guided walks in Chania that have everything: the multicultural history in and around the Venetian Old Town, the seaside vibes of Koum Kapi and Tabakaria and the aristocratic air of Halepa. As well as taking you to all the must-sees, we highlight local hangouts and hidden spots in the most colourful neighbourhoods of Chania.
CHANIA NEIGHBOURHOOD WALK #1: VENETIAN GLORY
Our first neighbourhood walk celebrates Chania’s multicultural past and introduces you to some favourite local hangouts. At the heart of it all is the city’s Venetian heritage in and around the harbour, but you also explore the Turkish, Greek and Jewish quarters during Ottoman times on a 3km circular route that begins and ends at the Firka Fortress.
The Venetian Harbour
At the western edge of the Old Harbour, the Firka Fortress was built by the Venetians as a barracks and command post shortly before the Ottoman occupation in 1645, and the view from the upper walls is still one of the most commanding in Chania. Opposite (framing the mouth of the harbour) is Chania’s famous lighthouse (originally built by the Venetians but reconstructed by the Egyptians in the 19th century).
From here, you can see the entire waterfront that you are about to stroll around. But before you do so, pop into the Maritime Museum of Crete at the entrance to the fortress, where you can learn about the history witnessed within and around the harbour (including the 1941 Battle of Crete) through ship replicas, shipwreck findings and more. Your next stop – the Kucuk Hasan Mosque – is across the bay, but take your time getting there. The tavernas and bars lining the promenade are popular with locals and visitors. The Kucuk Hasan Mosque (also known as the Yiali Tzamisi – or “mosque by the sea”) was built in the 17th century on top of an ancient Greek temple. It no longer has its minaret but its classic Ottoman design includes a central domed building and extensions to both sides with seven smaller domes.
Nearby are the Neoria (or shipyards) that helped make the Venetian fleet the most commanding in the Mediterranean. The two most important – the Megalo (or Grand) and Mikro Arsenali – are landmark buildings in Chania, with the Megalo Arsenali (from 1585) used as a Christian school, public hospital and City Hall. Today, it hosts everything from cultural events to co-working spaces. The remaining Neoria (there were originally 20) are the seven adjoining long and thin brick buildings nearby that create a great backdrop to the restaurant and bars at this part of the waterfront. Among them is the Moro shipyard, housing the Museum of Ancient and Traditional Shipbuilding, with a replica of a Minoan-era ship (16th-15th century BC) called Minoa.
Splatzia Square and the Turkish district
Moving inland, you head into Chania’s Turkish district, following Archaleon St and then Daskalogianni St and arriving at Splatzia Square, where there’s a gem of a bookstore called Mikro Karavi (Daskalogianni 55) with a good foreign language section. Take a walk through the tree-shaded square, surrounded by tavernas and backed by the Church of Agios Nikolaos, built on the site of another church created by Dominican-order monks in 1320.
Continuing down Episkopou Kallistou St, you reach the Church of Agii Anargyri (one of the few in Chania that remained Christian during Ottoman rule) before arcing back onto Daskalogianni St, where the RedD Gallery offers a window into Chania’s contemporary art scene. Lastly, head west down Hatzimichali Daliani St, where the Ahmet Aga Minaret stands out for featuring one of the two Ottoman-era minarets still standing in Chania.
Topana and the Jewish district
The final leg of your walk takes you into Chania’s Jewish district and introduces you to Topana, famous for its 17th & 18th-century Venetian architecture and Turkish bathhouses and for being Chania’s Greek quarter during Ottoman rule.
Continuing down Hatzimichali Daliani St and into Sarpaki St, you reach Athinagora Square and Chania’s cathedral (originally built in the 14th century and dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary). Opposite the square is the Folklore Museum of Chania (also known as the Kritiko Spiti or Cretan House), with embroidered textiles from all over Crete. The nearby Municipal Art Gallery also has an interesting collection of local fine art.
Moving on, you follow Portou St and reach Kondilaki St, off which Etz Hayyim is the only surviving synagogue in Crete and the heart of the Jewish quarter. The narrow lanes around here – especially off Zampeliou, Douka and Petrou streets – are filled with shops, restaurants and some of Chania’s trendiest bars. You follow Zampeliou St until you reach Theotokopoulou St and head into Topana, completing your walk at the Byzantine and Post Byzantine Collection of Chania, behind the Firka Fortress (a 15th-century Venetian convent known as San Salvatore before being turned into a mosque and finally repurposed as a museum).
🖈 Map of Chania Walk #1: Venetian Glory
CHANIA NEIGHBOURHOOD WALK #2: SEASIDE VIBES
Your next walk in Chania concentrates on the coastline east of the Venetian harbour, taking you into Koum Kapi (site of one of three bastion gates within the protective walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century and one of the first places to be inhabited outside the fortification walls) and Tabakaria (a one-time industrial district where Chania’s 19th and early 20th-century tanneries were located). Once run-down, they’re now two of the trendiest neighbourhoods in town, with plenty of food & drink options and a very different mood to the Old Town. The waterfront route is 1.7km but there’s an option of an inland detour to Eleftherias Square, extending the walk to 3.1km.
Along the Koum Kapi waterfront
You start by the Sabbionara Rampart, just to the east of the Venetian Harbour, below a circular emblem on the bastion brickwork depicting the lion of St Mark, the classic Venetian coat of arms. The bastion is better known by its Turkish name, Koum Kapi, but both Sabbionara and Koum Kapi translate as Gate of Sand as the gate led to a sandy beach.
This is the starting point of a coastal promenade that runs along the Koum Kapi waterfront (Akti Miaouli St). Much of it is pedestrianised, giving a special atmosphere to cafes, bars, restaurants and tavernas that are busy day and night. Around 600m along the waterfront, just before you reach the small Koum Kapi beach, is Maiami, a brasserie that is as much a ceramics gallery by local artist and winemaker Alexandra Manousaki as it is a restaurant serving homely food. There’s also an arts studio at the back. Around 200m further along, the coastal path winds up to an elevated point hiding a small park, behind Villa Koundouros (at the top of Iroon Politechniou St), which was the home of Manousos Koundouros (1860-1933), a Greek revolutionary and significant political figure of Crete.
A taste of local life in Eleftherias Square
This is where you get the option of a detour to Freedom Square (as the name translates) down Iroon Politechniou St. In the heart of the square is a statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, Greece’s foremost statesmen and a prominent leader of the Greek national liberation movement. Venizelos was born in the region of Chania (you’ll pass by his house in Walk #3) and was prime minister of Greece for 12 years between 1910 and 1933.The imposing buildings at the back of the square are Chania’s Regional Office and City Hall as well as the Chania Courthouse and around the square are excellent cafes, restaurants and shops that are popular with locals.
Into post-industrial Tabakaria
Returning to Villa Koundouros, you continue along the waterfront down Eleftheriou Venizelou St on what is effectively the coastal front of the Halepa neighbourhood. Turning into Vivilaki St, you reach the Tabakaria district (tabak is Turkish for tannery) after a further 300m. More than 80 tanneries operated here by the mid-20th century, but as the demand for leather declined, the workshops closed, making this one of Chania's most run-down districts.
There has been a drive to refurbish many of the tannery buildings, giving this area a special atmosphere that mixes abandoned buildings with newly built hotels and villas and some of the coolest dining spots in Chania. The best example comes shortly before the end of Vivilaki St, turning down one of the tiny alleyways with steep steps leading to the sea. The restaurants here are among the city’s undisputed gems, not just because of the tables right on the rocks and view of Chania Old Town but because of the food they serve (from traditional to high end). If you time your walk right, there’s the bonus of one of Chania's best sunsets.
🖈 Map of Chania Walk #2: Seaside Vibes
CHANIA NEIGHBOURHOOD WALK 3: MODERN CULTURE
Your final Chania neighbourhood walk is a route that takes you through the Halepa district (the diplomatic and aristocratic hub in the late 18th and early 19th century) and continues up to the Venizelos Graves. It is the most demanding of the three walks, rising 150m by the end of the 3.5km distance. But it includes some of the most impressive buildings of Chania’s modern history and you’ll be rewarded with the best view in town.
Set out from the Archaeological Museum of Chania
You could easily start your third Chania walk on Eleftheriou Venizelou St, with the mansions (many of them former consulates) that instantly transport you to Halepa’s aristocratic heyday. But no visit to Chania is complete without visiting its Archaeological Museum, recently relocated to a state-of-the-art building in Halepa. The museum charts the complete history of ancient Crete, from Prehistory to the 2-3rd Century AD Roman occupation.
Mansion-hunting in aristocratic Halepa
Now you’re ready for aristocracy. Heading to Eleftheriou Venizelou St, your first stop is the former British Consulate building at No.162 (now a hotel). The neoclassical design tells you everything about the building’s stature, but it is the palm trees and elegant courtyard with fountains and double staircase that give it its style. Competing in the elegance stakes is Villa Andromeda (now also a hotel) at 150 Eleftheriou Venizelou St, a two-storey mansion built in 1870 by a Turkish Pasha that was once the German Consulate. Meanwhile, the nearby Old French School was the former French School of Nuns of the Order of Saint Joseph, built in 1852 to teach French (the official international language at the time) to the children of wealthy families. Today it houses the lecture hall of the University of Crete’s School of Architecture.
Your next mansion trumps the lot for significance, however, as you head to Eleftherios Venizelos House at the start of Halepas St (a continuation to Eleftherou Venizelou St). Built in 1880 by Kyriakos Venizelos for his son, it is now a museum with possessions and furniture of the Cretan statesman who lived there for 30 years from 1880-1910 and occasionally from 1927-1935. Just opposite, in Elena Venizelou Square, is the Eleftherios Venizelos National Research Foundation, an institution focused on research and education on Eleftherios Venizelos and his era and a peaceful little cafe for a rest. Just opposite the square is St Mary Magdalene Church, a beautiful Russian-style church (note the dome on the spire) built with designs sent from Russia.
The show-stopping views of the Venizelos Graves
Returning to Halepas St, you set out on the 2.6km (30min) walk up to the Venizelos Graves. At the junction of Halepas St and Profiti Ilia (the main roads up to the tombs) is the Church of Evengelistria, built at the start of the 20th century and with twin bell towers and a distinctive blue-domed roof.
Arriving at the Venizelos Graves, you’ll be struck by the peace and tranquility of the resting place of seven-time Greek Prime Minister and his son, Sofoklis, who was also Prime Minister from 1943-1952. The hilltop contains a woodland park and cafe, as well as the Church of the Holy Prophet Elias. But your main reason for coming this far will be panoramic views of the city and Aegean Sea – all the more special at sunset.
🖈 Map of Chania Walk #3: Modern Cuture
Neighbourhood walks that reveal the character of Chania
Which Chania neighbourhood walk appealed to you the most? The Venetian Old Town, trendy Koum Kapi and Tabakaria or aristocratic Halepa? Or perhaps you want to combine highlights of all three. Chania is that kind of town.
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