Crete is of my favourite places in Greece and I have so many reasons for that! It is a place that I am really amazed by its beauty, simplicity and wildness. This is a detailed post about Chania with information about the best things to do and see, the best beaches and the best tours! On this post, I will try to describe the things that you must check when you visit Chania. If you want to explore the Chania region, you can read here the post with our 8 days itinerary in the Chania region!! If you are looking to stay in Chania, you can check here our detailed article about the best hotels in Chania! Also, if you are looking to stay in another area in Crete, like Heraklion, you can check here our detailed article about the best hotels in Heraklion! So, let’s start with the basics!
Where is Chania and how to get there?
Chania is a small town on the northwest coast of the Greek island of Crete. It has an international airport with flights from different places in Europe! There are some buses but they are not so much reliable. You can find the bus timetable here! Otherwise, you can use a taxi, which can cost you around 30€. You can arrive Chania by ferry as they depart from Piraeus port. I always use Ferryscanner for booking my ferries tickets as they are reliable and super user friendly! You can even visit Santorini but unfortunately not from Chania but from Rethymnon (1 hour from Chania) or Herakleion.
What to do?
The part of the town that gathers all the attention is the old harbour. There, you will just walk around the picturesque alleys with a camera on your hand. Note that it is not so big area so you can easily go everywhere. I just recommend to go through the main attractions but then put your GPS on your pocket and just stroll around.
#Take photos of the famous Lighthouse!
What should I say about this beautiful Lighthouse? The original Venetian lighthouse was built around the late 16th century to protect the harbour. During the Turkish occupation, the lighthouse fell into disrepair and was eventually rebuilt between 1824 and 1832 in the form of a minaret. The modern lighthouse is often referred to as ‘ Egyptian’ because it was built during a time where Crete was occupied by Egyptian troops who were supporting the weakening Ottoman Empire against the “rebellious” Cretans. The ‘Egyptian’ lighthouse was leaning badly due to bombings during WWII and earthquakes but it was extensively renovated in 2005 and now – believe me – looks as good as new! The lighthouse is located at the end of a long mole that protects the Venetian harbour from the sea. It is well worth walking all the way to the end of it as you get splendid views from the harbour! Unfortunately, the lighthouse is closed so you can’t go up the tower.
#Visit Municipal Garden / Clock
It’s been made by Reuf Pasa and it was designed in 1870 according to European gardens and has been planted with several trees and plants! At the northeastern side, you can observe the fabulous clock, which was built in 1927. It is considered as one of the most memorable buildings of the city. You can enjoy your coffee or tea at the historical café Kipos, which is also a member of the European association of historical cafes! And I will give you an extra tip. Inside the municipal garden, there is also an open-air cinema! The garden is free to enter.
#Don’t forget to get some local products from the Municipal Market!
In the centre of Chania city, you will find the Municipal Market, where the main bastion of the fortifications stood in Venetian times. Up to the late 19th century, this was the edge of town! There were butchers’, fishmongers’ and grocers’ shops, inns, etc. Initially, this market wasn’t very nice, so in 1908 the Municipality of Chania decided to improve the area by building a covered municipal market. Building work began in 1911, according to the plans of local engineer Drandakis, modelled on the covered market of Marseille. Unfortunately, a large section of the Venetian walls had to be demolished in order to modernise and develop the city. The market is open during the shops’ opening hours and it is free to enter.
#Check the Great Arsenali!
The construction of this Grand Arsenal started in 1585 by the Intendant Alvise Grimani. A new era began for the Grand Arsenal with the addition of the second floor in 1872 during the Turkish period. The building hosted several important public services and authorities. Nowadays, it has been transformed from a roofless ruin into an impressive building that hosts various events and exhibitions. Since 2002, after its reformation, it hosts the Center of Mediterranean Architecture, organizing important cultural events, art exhibitions and international events related to architecture. The working hours are 08.00 – 15.00 and the entrance is free.
During the Venetian occupation (1204 – 1669), the need for the closer presence of Venetians in Crete made them construct a large number of “Neoria” (arsenals) in Chania, where the ships would be repaired during the winter. The construction of the first two “Neoria” in Chania was completed in 1526. In 1593, sixteen “Neoria” had already been constructed! In 1599, the south “Neoria” complex was completed with the construction of the 17th “Neorio”. During the Turkish period, the lack of maintenance in the port resulted in the alteration of the original function of “Neoria” which were now used as military storage spaces. From the initial “Neoria” complex with 17 “Neoria”, nine were demolished. Nowadays, a group of 7 continuous domes is preserved-along with another one further to the west, the “Great Arsenali”. Only two “Neoria” are preserved intact from “Moro” complex, at the heart of the port.
#Take a photo from Kioutsouk Hasan Mosque (Giali Tzamisi)!
Giali Tzamisi is a unique preserved Mosque of the city and was built during the second half of the 17th century. It is located at the heart Venetian Port of Chania. If you walk around the old harbour you won’t miss it, as it is one of the most characteristic buildings of the old port of Chania. It was built to honour the first Sergeant of Chania, Kioutsouk Hassan. Nowadays, the Mosque has been totally renovated and is used as a place for events and exhibitions mainly during the summer period.
#Have a look at Firkas Fortress and Maritime Musem!
The fortress Revellino del Porto on the northwest side of the port of Chania was constructed by Venetians to prevent any enemy danger for the port. The interior was organized to barracks and ammunition storage areas. It was also the headquarters of the Army Commander of the city. In about the middle of the courtyard, there is a large domed water tank that gathered rainwater from the roofs. On the northern side of the wall, there are six arched openings that included cannons for the protection of the entrance of the harbour. During the Turkish period, Revellino was used as barrack (Firka = barrack).. The arched openings were used as prisons from the Turkish period to the civil war. Today, at the entrance of the Fortress is situated the Maritime Museum of Crete. Working hours: Daily 9:00 – 14:00 (01/11 – 31/03) / Daily 09:00 – 19:00 (01/04 – 31/10)
Here are the tombs of the Greek politician and 7 times prime minister of Greece Eleftherios Venizelos and his son Sofocles Venizelos, who also was a prime minister of Greece from 1943 to 1952. The location offers the greatest panoramic view of the city. This is a special place for Greeks, as El. Venizelos changed Greece, as very few politicians ever did. Note that is open 24 hours, with free entrance. I recommend this to be part of your journey, as you only need to be there for about half an hour.
And if you are a museum kind of person, then check these!
The Archaeological Museum of Chania was founded in 1963 and the collection of the museum includes findings from excavations in several areas of the city that have been performed during the last 50 years, and its exhibits cover the cultural history of Chania from the neolithic period till the Roman Empire. All of the exhibits are placed according to the subject or the location they were found. The Archaeological Museum of Chania organizes temporal exhibitions, educational programmes and various cultural events during the whole year in order to protect the cultural history of Chania in the best possible way! More information here!
The Folklore Museum of Chania is located at the centre of the old city of Chania. It includes folklore and traditional exhibits that allow the visitor to imagine the way of life of the residents of the island during the 18th and 19th century. Among others, in the museum, you will find a collection of tools and raw materials of traditional products. Quite interesting – at least for me! – is the workshop of the museum that revives the Cretan embroidery art.
Best Beaches in Chania, Crete!
During our trip to Chania regions, we visited most of the beaches and you can find even more information and photos here!
It is located 17 km east of Chania, in Akrotiri and it t has been awarded Blue Flag. The sandy beach, in combination with shallow water and the protection from meltemi wind, due to the location of the beach, is ideal for families and children! It is well organized providing visitors with food and drink as well as swimming facilities and lifeguard services!
The beach Kalathas is located 12 km northeast of Chania and it is a large sandy beach with organized services and a Blue Flag. When you visit it, don’t forget to swim till the island that is located 200m away from the coast!
This exotic beach is located 59km west of Chania city and is one of the most famous beaches in Greece, which has been awarded as the best beach of Crete and voted as one of the 10 best beaches in Europe in the past! Falasarna is quite long and in reality is consisted of five consecutive beaches, with the two most central being the most popular.
If you’re lucky and visit the beach during a non-windy day, which is rare in west Crete, then you will really enjoy by the beach and its turquoise waters! One negative point about Falasarna is situated on the west side of Crete, which means that it is t usually wavy! On the other side, this is positive for windsurfers! Finally, if you can wait until the sunset, which is considered as one of the best in Crete!
#Saint Stephen Beach – Seitan
Seitan beach is stunning, but also quite special as it is quite difficult to reach. The vertical cliffs and the beautiful blue and crystal waters create a wild and a landscape of amazing beauty. It is not easy to approach this beach as you will need 15′ by car and then descend the downhill path for 10-15′.
Elafonisi is a peninsula, which often breaks in two parts by water giving the impression of being a separate island. The “island” is full of dunes which a wonderful landscape! You will find several exotic beaches with white and pink (!) sand and turquoise water. You can easily cross the lagoon to reach the opposite side of the peninsula. On the eastern side of the beach, you will find umbrellas, showers, bars etc but the other side of the island is less crowded and more secluded!
This is easily one of the beaches in Greece! The lagoon of Balos has white sand and exotic turquoise waters! The sea is very shallow and warm, so this makes it also ideal for young children and in many places, the sand has a lovely pinkish colour, because of millions of crushed shells! The whole area there hosts some rare species of flora and fauna, which are protected under the Natura 2000 program. It is quite difficult to reach – you can read how we arrived at this beach here during our visit in Chania If you go there during the high season there are umbrellas and one cantina for water, coffees and some snacks.
If you a fan of camping, then this is your place! The beach has many cedars where you can find a quiet and shady place to camp or just lie down with your towel and a book! There is no cantina there so you have to be well prepared! The whole landscape is quite wild and beautiful. Again if you go in May or the end of September you will enjoy it even more!
Best Tours in Chania Region!
I think this is one of the must-do if you love outdoor activity! It can be quite challenging but believe me it is totally worth it! If you want my advice, get some hiking boots and it would be better if you don’t plan any “tiring” activity the next day, as Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe! More information here!
If you are looking into some different than lying on a beach (there is nothing bad with that by the way!), then you can select this tour! You will sail to nice beaches, discover what lies below the surface of the water and get some marvellous views of the Cretan coastline. More information here!
On this tour, you will find out more about two of the best local products in Crete. Wine and the famous Olive oil. Personally I really amazed by the olive oil factory, learn more about the ancient olive trees and enjoyed the vineyard tour. It is very well informative and they give you enough time to enjoy each of these places, which is not as common as you think! More information here!