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.
Buses from the airport are virtually non-existent. 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.
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.
If a pause in Souda before your first sighting of Chania seems just right, try the welcoming treat of a «bougatsa» (pastry with cheese or cream filling).
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.
The archaeological museum on Halidon Street is smaller than its grand Heraklion cousin, though well worth visiting and appealing even to non archaeologists.
Byzantine Museum is 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.
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.