- Region : Crete
- Prefecture: Chania
- Municipality : Chania
- Population : 65.838
Always the first thing you hear about Chania - the Venetian Harbour, the old port, the narrow shopping streets and waterfront restaurants.
Chania is also one of the two places you are most likely to see on arriving in Crete. It is beautiful - that is to say much of the Chania you will want to see is clustered close to the harbour - old buildings, museums, churches and crafts shops (some with genuinely interesting and sometimes local, products on offer).
Food is offered in great variety and sometimes great similarity - there are many restaurants and also cafes, at which to reflect upon the experiences of places you have just explored together with the enjoyment of some tasty food - we have suggestions for restaurants further on.
The atmosphere has a touch of Florence and Venice (a few years ago when those cities still had some room to walk), combined with the culture and character of Cretan people and traditions.
The Chania harbour is wonderful and at any particular time of day the light produces a different result, creating a "different place".
This is the best chance to see some of the old buildings - of Venetian and Turkish design, that Crete once had across the island - many have since been destroyed by the ravages of war and plunder.
Chania is surrounded by numerous rich options for sightseeing, exploration and discovery. Mountain villages provide a view into the "inner Crete". The Samaria and many other gorges can be hiked, archaeological sites abound.
How to get there
Chania has an international airport with scheduled flights year round and abundant charter flights serving much of Europe during the season - April to October. [see Flights to/from Chania] Buses from the airport are virtually non-existent [see bus timetable]. If you're not driving, you should take a taxi.
Ferries sail to and from Athens (Pireas) daily - the port for ferries for Chania is at Souda, a few kilometres away. [see Ferry schedules] When the ferry arrives, if you manage to scamper onto the bus in time, this will take you to Chania. But it is best to plan to take a taxi.
Of course if you are renting a car on arrival, you can drive to your chosen destination at will! If a pause in Souda before your first sighting of Chania seems just right, try "Exandas" cafe which serves Illy coffee and the famed, welcoming treat of a "bougatsa" (pastry with cheese or cream filling).
Where to stay
At the upper end of the Chania price offerings Casa Delfino just off the Venetian harbour, is unique. Two restored Venetian houses have been wonderfully re-furbished and decorated, producing 20 rooms and suites. This place is beautiful and could happily be a destination in itself. It is quiet, being just a little back (40 metres) from the cafe-decorated water front - this is valuable as summer nights can be late ones when the currently popular "disco-thump" music is blared relentlessly from cafes on the waterfront at stadium-level volume.
Mamanena Charming Hotel a great, small, hospitable boutique hotel with breakfast in the heart of Chania's charming old town, with views over the picturesque harbourfront with the venetian lighthouse and the sea.
Ionas Hotel is a splendidly restored Venetian building, converted into a charming small hotel in 2006. It has 9 smart rooms, with design design flair and style. The small cafe & breakfast area and the roof terrace make this a new small hotel to take delight in. It is in a quiet Chania Old Town location, very close to the harbour.
Another fine new arrival is Splanzia Hotel, with 8 distinctive, quality rooms, Venetian building, suave cafe & courtyard, in a new part of Chania by the Old Town. Small & chic, family-run hotel. 3 minute walk to the marina, 10 minutes to the Venetian harbour centre.
Pandora Suites has been overlooking Chania harbour for many years...room interiors may feel a bit dated, but the charm of its magnificent views from the rooftop terrace never fades. The proximity to the harbour, enjoyable courtyard & terrace are what you stay here for (and one of the rooms with a view if you're very lucky!).
Belmondo Hotel has a great position on the waterfront, it is an old Venetian building tastefully converted into a small delightful hotel.
Porto Veneziano Hotel is round the water's edge at the inner harbour and marina, it is of a high standard, modern hotel. A sea view room offers you one of the best places to wake up in Chania, your balcony above the harbour with the lighthouse, Venetian buildings, boats and sea in site. This hotel is quiet - but also convenient with restaurants in every direction and a pleasurable walk to the old shops and museums round the harbour.
The Porto del Colombo Hotel is a lovely small hotel - a restored Venetian harbour-side building, opposite Casa Delfino. 2 rooms with harbour views.
Porto Veneziano, Casa Delfino, Porto del Colombo, Belmondo, Splanzia and Ionas hotels are open year round.
For more Chania hotels, choices at all price levels, look and book with booknrun.com
What to see & do
Explore the waterfront and streets just behind. Walk along the harbour wall to the Venetian Lighthouse.
Visit the wonderful Naval Museum (Maritime Museum) - it delivers a superb introduction to the History of Crete and is by no means only for maritime mavens, you will learn more here in half an hour than most could teach you, about the events that filled Crete's moving past. Excellent, well done. Open: 10.00 to 14.00 daily, except Monday. Tel: 28210-91875. Admission: 2.50 euros.
The Archaeological Museum on Halidon Street is smaller than its grand Heraklion cousin, though well worth visiting and appealing even to non archaeologists. Open: 8.00 to 17.00 (to 19.30 April-October) daily, except Monday. Tel: 28210-90334. Admission: 1.5 euros Historical Archives (museum): Open 9.00 to 13.00, Monday to Friday. Tel: 28210-52606. Admission: Free. Byzantine Museum. Open: 8.30 to 14.00 daily, except Monday. Tel: 28210-96046. Near the waterfront (at the back of the Naval museum).
Outside Chania: trips to the many surrounding monasteries, the Samaria Gorge (take a bus to Omalos or a tour as you will walk the Gorge, take a ferry from the end at Agia Roumeli to Sfakia and then a bus back to Chania).
Visit Venizelos Graves, which has magnificent views from amongst the trees, on a hill above Chania, across the the town, Venetian harbour and sweeping over the sea & beyond. Best place to pause & enjoy the view, Ostria cafe.
Visit Tabakaria a district with old leather processing houses found on the rocky eastern side of the city of Chania. The area was chosen for the following reasons: the abundant brackish subterranean waters used to soften leather, and its relative closeness to the city. Today some of the leather processing houses are still in operation. Adjusted to the natural properties of the land, the buildings have only one floor on the side of the street and two or three floors on the side of the sea. They are made of stone with tile roofs. They are built close to each other with very narrow, steep passages and steps going down to the sea. Tabakaria constitute a unique architectural complex.
Visit villages near Chania, where the old men talk, argue, discuss, play cards at their local kafeneio or simply find a stretch of beach and immerse the cares of yesterday in the waters of today. With children you might treat them to a visit to the water park at Limnoupolis.
Rethymno, Crete's other Venetian town is an hour away by car or bus.
The Therissos Gorge, Kolymbari and its monastery, the wide sweep of Falassarna beach, boat trips to Gramvousa & Balos, a longer and most scenic trip to Elafonissi and villages en route - the list is long enough to fill many days.
Where to eat & drink
The Well of the Turk - hard to find but worth it for a creative blend of north African, middle eastern and Greek food, set in an old Turkish house with - yes, a well. Take Karaoli Dimitriou at the bottom of Halidon, it becomes Sifaka (there are shops selling knives on your right) look down the alleys here for signs to the Deaf and Dumb Association of Chania. You will stumble across the restaurant - if unsure keep asking! Closed Tuesday (Winter: closed Monday and Tuesday). Tel: 28210-54547.
To Avgo tou Kokkora - next to Vranas studios, behind the big church, Mitropoli, off Halidon. Looks at first like a cafe - it's more, an ideal haven of fresh, creatively prepared salads, pasta, sandwiches and more - crisp, delightful food and pleasing atmosphere. Tel: 28210-55776.
Antigoni - corner of Akti Enoseos and Defkalionos (a short way past the Porto Veneziano Hotel). Re-decorated, much care taken here - local dishes and there is always fish. Tourists do visit this small restaurant but it is a popular local venue; the many times we've eaten there it's been a treat. Telephone: 28210-45236.
Karnagio - half way between the bottom of Halidon Street and the Porto Veneziano Hotel is a small square, more a car parking area, at the back of it is this - sprawling tables outside - fish restaurant. It's not the only one but in our experience it has justified its good reputation - anyway you can enjoy exercising your good judgment by picking out the fish you want, let them suggest how it should be cooked!
Chrysostomos is a treat, in the street behind the Porto Veneziano hotel, at the marina end of the harbour. Real original tasty and healthy bean salads (the way Cretan's used to eat), fabulous home-baked breads, excellent game, meat and fresh vegetable dishes. A gem. Telephone: 28210 - 57035.
In general the waterfront restaurants with their customer beckoning attendants, from the maritime museum to the square - this long strip of "translated menus" - has the least interesting fare on offer; if you wish to find Crete's real offerings the other side of the harbour (the mosque building and onwards) provides a better waterfront bet. Don't forget all the back streets and other parts of Chania where discoveries await.
Above Chania - whole town & sea view (by the Venizelos Graves): Ostria cafe. Has indoor & outdoor seating, views are impressive from either any time of the day, sunsets are very special. Coffee, drinks, ice-cream, salads & snacks. Tel. 28210-56642.
Hidden restaurant gems in villages around Chania:
East of Chania: "Eagle's nest" (Aetofolia) in Samonas village. Perched high up, with views to the valley and sea reached from twisting narrow mountain road (quite a drive!). Authentic, quality home cooking by Mrs Katerina, the owner. Simple and pure food with good local ingredients (their own eggs, chickens...). Call to pre-order food the morning before an evening visit, otherwise selection is limited. But you can always find a lamb "tsigariasto", which is cooked just right here, a potato & vegetables omelet, wonderful greek salad, keftedakia (meat balls) and the tastiest fried potatoes. In the summer, if you are lucky and she has stuffed tomatoes, they are fantastic. Open year round. Tel. 28250-41527.
"Diadromes" just before Armeni village. Attractive stone building in pleasant estate, nature & mountain views, sitting outside by the river (or inside by the fireplace in the winter). Kayaking down the river & other activities organized for small groups (call first). Children's entertainment provided in special indoor & outdoor facilities. Open year round, mainly Friday-Saturday-Sunday. Tel. 28250-41700.
"Tzitzikas" in Armeni village, by the river. Nice ambience, inside and out, with the sound of the running river creating a therapeutic effect... Wonderfully cool outside in the summer (under the great plane trees). Good espresso & cappuccino, interesting mezedes (snacks) and organic food available. Open year round. Tel. 28250-41144.
"Ta Lemonadika" in Fres village. In the village square, in pretty, old, stone building dating from 1927. A one-man show in the kitchen & waiting tables, so service can be slow. Authentic and interesting (Greek) cuisine, using olive oil exclusively all cooking. Cretan or byzantine music (no loud dance music here!) Sitting at the few tables outside can be hot in the summer. Cozy in the winter inside. Open year round. Tel. 28250-71000.
"Cretan corner" in Megala Horafia (below the Aptera archaeological site). Friendly welcome, open for coffee and meals, overlooking the valley below the White Mountains. Many ingredients come from the family's mostly organic farm. On Saturday evenings, in the summer, dancing to Cretan music may take place - impromptu or pre-organized for small groups (not bus-loads!) Open year round. Tel. 28250-32241.
Tavernas in Kalives village...take your pick! Kalives is blessed with many pleasing and good value tavernas on the waterfront, with offerings typical of Greek/Cretan menu. Our favourites include "Gyalos" (for sardines, tasty Greek salad - tel. 28250-31117), "Mythos" (for grilled meats, horta/greens & pastitsio - tel. 28250-31964), "Mistrali", or "Maistali" (for variety of menu, tasty casseroles, aubergine papoutsaki - tel. 28250-31902) and "Provlita" (especially for fresh fish & seafood - tel. 28250-31835). Fine sandy beach, good tavernas...a tempting stop (perhaps on your way to or from the Aptera archaeological site above Kalives). In the winter, only "Mythos" is open every evening, "Provlita" is open on the weekends and the others are "hibernating"!
"Don Rosario", for many years in the tiny beach-side hamlet of Ravdoucha, but moved in 2010 on the National Road, near Souda (area "Platani"). A sophisticated Italian restaurant. Fresh fish, seafood, oysters, lobster, as well as mouth-watering pasta is your treat here. Tel. 28210-23663. Call for reservations, especially on weekends.
If by chance, you arrive on the ferry at Souda at 5.30 or 6.00 in the morning, rush to the waiting bus or one of the taxis and have them take you to the bottom of Halidon street at the Venetian Harbour (well, you'll need to walk from the bus stop if it's by bus of course! Ask them to let you off as near Halidon as possible).
Turn left and walk along the waterfront and find, usually there is one, an open cafe and sit with coffee or whatever and watch the moon (if it's on cue) dissolve and the sun rise. Then YOU will have special comments! It's a voyager's treat.