Chania Crete Χανιά, what a magical town! For those Cretans living outside Crete, it represents the very best of Crete, the essence of Crete. For being half Haniotes, we couldn’t be prouder of our capital town!
Χανιά can be divided into the old town and the new town. The old town surrounds the harbour and is typically Venetian, with plenty of the Turkish architecture and townscape still visible in the narrow streets and baths.
Most of the interests to travellers are in the old town, however Chania town has a thriving new area which should not be forgotten.
Walking around Chania Crete is such a pleasure. Firstly, let's go for a walk around the old town, which is bordered by Venetian walls (below) and moats, and see what we discover...
As you will find, everyone is very friendly, so make sure you get a map of the old town from your hotel, as the streets are narrow and twisted and exploring them is very tempting.
The limani harbour, is ringed by cafés and restaurants and here the touts can be a little too emphatic. We will show you some great places away from the hubbub. As you walk around the harbour, you will see some of the dramatic architectural changes, revealing the history of the town.
Starting your stroll on the western side of the harbour, you will see the strong walls of The Revellino del Porto, also known as Fort Firca (above), at the entrance to the harbour. This is a Venetian structure, whereas opposite, the Mosque of the Janissaries was built during the Turkish occupation of the island.
The entrance to the Fort Firca is at the National Maritime Museum (above), the dark ochre building on the western side of the harbour.
From all perspectives on the harbour it is possible to see the pretty Venetian Lighthouse (above).
Walking along the waters edge of the harbour, you will see different perspectives of the pretty little harbour with all its colourful houses, now converted into cafes, restaurants and pensions. Right down by the water's edge, for a lovely fresh coffee, go to Notos Café.
Keep walking around to the second harbour and you will notice the stunning Great Arsenal (above) built as a storehouse in Venetian times, it has been beautifully restored and now houses the Centre for Mediterranean Architecture and is home to all sorts of exhibits.
From here you can catch a little ferry over to the Fortezza. This saves you the walk all around the whole harbour, and is lovely in the evening as you can sit on the top of the fortezza for a drink and watch the sun go down over the harbour. Bliss.
If you continue around to the eastern harbour, where the modern Chania Marina is found, you are entering the area of the old town called Splantzia, a Turkish quarter.
Here lies an important Minoan site, only recently discovered, of Ancient Kydonia, the site was dug in 1964 by Greek and Swedish archaeologists and has become an significant find, with many artefacts now stored in the Chania museum, these include linear A clay tablet from 1450 BC and Linear B clay tablets from 1300 BC, clay seals and the unique master impression seal from 1500s BC.
The Church of St Nicholas in Spantzia is an interesting mix of Christian and eastern architecture. The church was converted into a mosque in 1645 by the Turks, and a minaret with two balconies was built on one side of the church. It has recently been restored.
One of the main churches in Chania Crete is the Trimartiri Orthodox Cathedral 1860 (above), located on the main square on Chalidon St. This central street runs from the harbour up to the new town.
We find art and crafts, jewellery and gifts of top quality, everywhere here in the little streets back from the harbour, such as Odos Zambeliou.
At Kondilaki 45 is the lovely shop 'To Meli' with fresh Cretan honey, herb honey, olive oil products, ceramics, glass and crafted Cretan gifts and delicious organic products (below).
We give some tips for enjoying the atmosphere of the old town in Chania's Restaurants and cafe bars, such as Tamam Restaurant (left).
An authentic restaurant is To Dóloma, serving traditional Cretan food. The name means the bait and we are all poor fish to the hook of the tasty meals served here in a quiet back street in the Splantzia quarter of Chania Crete. On Kapsokalyvon behind the Venetian Arsenals.
Nearby is the wonderful Kríti Kafé, where locals play Cretan music. The rhythms, the sounds of lyra and laouto and laughter ring out all year round. For musicians and for those interested in the real Crete, this café-bar is a must. Try the local tsikoudia white spirit, it will get you into the spirit of things and up enjoying Kritikó Xoró, Cretan dancing.
Chania Municipal Market (above) was built in 1913 to celebrate the unification of Crete with the rest of Greece. At the time Chania Crete was the commercial and governmental capital of Kriti and the market signified her trading power.
The market is a cross-shaped building still full of exotic goods and produce from around the island and around the world. It was opened by Elefthérios Venizélos on 4 December 1913. Today it is still an impressive building with a vibrant air of mingling cultures, herbs, spices, cheese, meats and fish.
There is the opportunity to stay in pensions, rooms, hotels, B&Bs and domatia right in the very centre of the old town, just a stone's throw from the harbour.... accommodation in old Chania Crete...
The beautiful Casa Delfino hotel is a feature of the old town and even if you don’t stay there – it is very worthwhile visiting the courtyard, especially in the evening, for a quiet drink to soak up the atmosphere. This restored mansion was once a private home.
One street back from the harbour is the Hotel Helena, follow around the tiny narrow streets near Odos Theotokopoulou and ask directions to get there. We found a lovely room, wonderful host and great view of the harbour at reasonable prices.
For a quintessential boutique hotel look no further than the Alcanea (above), tiny with only 8 rooms, this location directly on the old port is romantic, rooms are beautifully crafted and decorated. The views over the port are lovely and best enjoyed from the Alcanea's own wine bar. Superb!
See marked on the map above our choices of great places to stay in Chania Old Town.
Below are some wonderful images of Xania Town...
One of the most popular day trips from Chania Crete is a visit to the strikingly beautiful
Samaria Gorge (above) in the Lefka Ori or White Mountains.
The gorge is one of the longest in Europe, with steep sides and vast
mountain scenery, it is very popular to visit in summer, when buses
leave Chania early to get visitors started on the 16 km trek. The trek
begins at the Omalos Plateau and is only one way. It ends on the south
coast of the island at Agia Roumeli, a tiny coastal town.
Ferries leave Agia Roumeli in the afternoon to be greeted by buses which then bring visitors back to Xania. This makes for one very, very long day and we would suggest staying in one of the relaxed and beautiful coastal towns, such as Sfakia, Loutro or Paleohora instead of rushing back.
Make sure to book ahead for accommodation in these smaller towns. See our page about Samaria Gorge.
Many visitors choose Chania as their base for an organised day tour to Samaria.
Just 16 km inland from town is Theriso, a proud village with an interesting history, in pretty gorge country, it is well worth the visit and ideal for those short on time.
Another popular day trip is to Balos Lagoon - a paradise in the west of Crete...
Take a day drive to the beautiful fresh water beach at Lake Kournas, stay for lunch at a local taverna by the lake or in the village of Kournas.