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Chania Crete

Explore the Old Town

Chania Crete - the old town - colours of the lane ways

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

Chania street corner in the old town, CreteA charming corner of the old zone in Chania, Crete

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.

The Sabbionara Rampart, ChaniaThe Sabbionara Rampart, Chania

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.

Fort Firca and the Maritime Museum in Chania CreteFort Firca and the Maritime Museum

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.

Chania's Lighthouse and sea wallChania's Lighthouse and sea wall

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.

Great ArsenalGreat Arsenal, Chania Harbour, Crete

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.

Looking back from the harbour wall to Chania old townLooking back from the Fortezza wall to Chania old town

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.

Walking along Chalidon Street, you will come to the Folklore Museum, or perhaps take a break at one of the cafes by the water's edge first. Further along the same street you will come to a beautiful large plateia with the cathedral (below).

Trimartiri Orthodox Cathedral in Chania Crete

One of the main churches in Chania Crete is the Trimartiri Orthodox Cathedral 1860 (above), located on the main square on Chalidon Street.

We find art and crafts, jewellery and gifts of top quality, everywhere here in the little streets back from Chalidon street towards the harbour, such as Odos Zambeliou.

At Kondilaki 45 is the lovely shop 'To Meli' which means 'honey'. Honey is a local delicacy, reknowned for centuries. Choose from fresh Cretan honey, organic olive oil, organic raki, or raki with honey and liqueurs. Find hand-made soaps, natural cosmetics, olive wood products, ceramics, blown glass, crafted Cretan gifts and delicious organic products (below).

To Meli shop in Chania, Crete'To Meli' shop in Chania, Crete

Chania Crete - Cafes and Tavernas

Chania Old Town - the limani at night

Tammam Taverna

We give some tips for enjoying the atmosphere of the old town in Chania's Restaurants and cafe bars, such as Tamam Restaurant (left).

Find authentic restaurants serving traditional Cretan food in the Splantzia quarter of Chania Crete, and in other parts of the old town

Look out for the word 'paradosiaki' or traditional.

Vegetarians will love 'To Stachi' which serves traditional local food with a modern twist.

Try the local tsikoudia white spirit, it will get you into the spirit of things and up enjoying Kritikó Xoró, Cretan dancing.

Further around the harbour is Palazzo Di Mare on the waterfront, great location and atmosphere, really good for seafood.

Apostolis Taverna towards the eastern end of the old harbour is another great choice for seafood, with the lights on the water providing the romance, and the boats that brought the fish just so close by.

Palazzo di Mare taverna is next to the old harbour in Chania CretePalazzo di Mare taverna is next to the old harbour

Chania Market

Chania - the fresh food markets

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.

Beaches Close to Chania Town

Nea Chora Beach in Chania town

Choose to stay in town and get to the beach in minutes, here we show you the beaches close to Chania town

Accommodation in Chania Crete
Old Town

Fagotto Art ResidencesFagotto Art Residences in Chania Old Town

Choose 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.

Exploring Xania Town

Looking over the old port to the mountains

Kriti Nautical Museum (image by Palazio)Kriti Nautical Museum, Chania

Old Town (image by Irene Shin)Life in the back streets of the Old Town, Chania

Kriti Nautical Museum (image by Palazio)Limani, Chania

Ruins of the Old Town of ChaniaOld walls in Chania town, you never know what is around the next corner...

Exploring Around Chania - Experiences

Experiences in Chania region - Crete

Explore the Old Town of Chania on a personally guided tour in a small group, choose from:

  • food tours
  • wine-tasting tours
  • historic cuisine tours
  • tours of Samaria gorge
  • beach day trips
  • see our tips for experiences here

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 Palaiochora 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.

Other Places to Explore

Stavros Beach shallow poolsStavros Beach is close to town

Take a short drive or bus trip of 16 km to Stavros Beach (above) a calm sandy beach in a protected cove with gorgeous scenery. This is the famous beach where Zorba danced in the movie.

Just 16 km inland from Chania Crete 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.

Getting Here

Take a 1 hour flight from Athens to Heraklion with Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air, with many flights available per day.

Or take a 9.5 hour overnight ferry from Pireaus port of Athens to Heraklion port.

More on flights and ferries below.

Car hire in Crete is a really good idea as it is a large island 60 km by 260 km. There is so much to explore.

When you book with our car rental partners - Rental Centre Crete - you are supporting a local company with excellent service and easy online booking. We are sure you will be well looked after by the team. Choose from hybrid, electric or regular vehicles.

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We trust you have enjoyed these tips from the We Love Crete team. Evíva!

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