Of all districts in the Old Town of Chania, Splantzia can be considered its bohemian angle, a place where to see the most authentic face of the city.
Chania, the second city of Crete, is easy to love. Stories, myths, and facts make it a charming place. Wandering around you can discover a collection of secret meeting places, each with its local rites and traditions. From all the neighborhoods of Chania, Splantzia is my favorite. It has an authentic Cretan atmosphere made of tranquil corners, old-fashioned cafés, and suburban flair, all of it very hard to resist. Come with me and discover the 10 best things to do In Splantzia, Chania.
- Splantzia, a Local’s favorite neighborhood
- 10 Best Things to Do in Splantzia, Chania
- 1. Choose an itinerary around Splantzia
- 2. Visit Agios Nikolaos, the church with the minaret
- 3. Admire the church of San Rocco
- 4. Take a break in To Kafenio
- 5. Discover the tiny church of Agia Eirini
- 6. Explore all the bookstores in Splantzia, Chania
- 7. Check the crafts of Maxaradika
- 8. Sample unique beers
- 9. Go wine tasting downtown Chania
- 10. Visit the Greek National Football Team museum
- things you need to plan the perfect road trip in crete
Splantzia, a Local’s favorite neighborhood
About Splantzia, Chania’s Bohemian neighborhood
Today, everything seems to take place along the busy Halidon street in Chania; yet, Splantzia used to be the true beating heart of the city. Locals would gather in cafés and shops, or meet weekly at the imposing Church of Agios Nikolaos in the current Plateia 1821, a square that everybody still usually call Splantzia.
A silent witness to the Turkish occupation, in 1821 the square saw the hanging of the bishop of Kissamos Melchizedek on the plane tree still standing there.
The district flourished during the beginning of the XIX century, with the arrival of hundreds of families from Asia Minor, something that neighbors still recall with recognition and pride.
Yet, Splantzia also underwent tremendous devastation as a result of the Nazi bombarding of the city, in May 1941.
Time went by, the quarter recovered, and every bit of history has been embroidered on this colorful arras still known as Splantzia.
10 Best Things to Do in Splantzia, Chania
1. Choose an itinerary around Splantzia
There is no perfect recipe to walk around Chania, it’s really difficult to come up with the ideal itinerary. For me, it has a lot to do with my daily mood. When I want to feel like a tourist, I choose the picturesque Venetian district or the Old Harbor.
Instead, if I want a more intimate atmosphere, I choose the less busy New Marina, I walk down Miaouli street and pick one of the alleys (e.g.: Gerasimou) going uptown.
Then, I walk until I see the magnificent skies of Splantzia, adorned with both a minaret and a tower bell inside the same church. I sit at my favorite café for a round of meze and end the day with a stroll along Maxaradika, the street of the knives.
2. Visit Agios Nikolaos, the church with the minaret
The focal area is Plateia 1821, at one end of the square, a view that some celebrate as a symbol of two religions living in harmony. However, I rather respect the local past and see it for what it is: A minaret imposed to a church during the Ottoman occupation.
Agios Nikolaos is the remaining main church of a former Dominican monastery, dating back to 1320. Both the old tower bell and the wooden roof have been replaced in modern times. During the Ottoman occupation, the Turkish turned the monastery into the mosque of Hunkar Camii. The minaret with two balconies also dates back to the times of the Ottoman rule. Agios Nikolaos has been operating as a Greek Orthodox Church since 1919.
3. Admire the church of San Rocco
On the other end of Splantzia, the former Catholic Church of San Rocco dates back to early 1600. It’s dedicated to the saint that offered protection against the Plague (different sources imply the disease spread in Chania at those times. Other suggest that the epidemic disease was part of a strategic tactic of the Ottomans). The period of the Ottoman rule saw the small chapel converted into a military guardhouse.
This single-aisle vaulted church now hosts art exhibitions. It has an impressive door and a rose window over the main entrance. Along the entire length of the front, an inscription in Latin reads “Dedicated to the most good and greatest God and Holy Rocco, 1630“.
4. Take a break in To Kafenio
To Kafenio is not really the original name of this historic bar, but it’s the name on top of the entrance, and that’s also how locals call it. It’s a great place to ease the heat during early afternoons thanks to the leafy trees. Since I moved to Crete, it is here where I take my friends when they visit if they want to try authentic mezes (the local tapas). Or where I go to eat at night in summer. Evenings here are made of cheerful conversation, authentic local food and generous shots of raki or tsikoudia, the famous Cretan spirit.
Here it’s easy to experience the traditions of Chania, well away from the touristic quarters. If you decide to come at night, either book in advance or be ready to wait. Food is so fresh and tasty, and prices so convenient, that To Kafenio is always packed.
Both Nikos, the current owner, and his father, Kyrios Adonis, are always open to sharing memories and stories of Splantzia and the café. To Kafenio has been managed by Nikos for the last 22 years, but it was not always that way…
The café used to belong to Nikos’ father, and it was not a bar. He used to sell fabric mostly imported from Asia. And it was such a convenient retailer that even priests would buy from him for their vestments.
Kyrios Adonis, who is now 91 years old, recalls how women from every corner of Crete would shop there, his prices were convenient and the quality excellent.
He was one of the few selling special fabrics for Easter and Christmas celebrations, a novelty back in time.
When Kyrios Adonis retired, his son, Nikos took over, but with different plans. He converted the place into a kafenio, and nobody in the family regrets it. To Kafenio is known to locals as Bourbos, which is short for Nikos’ last name.
Insider’s Tip: At To Kafenio cuttlefish stuffed with myzithra cheese or octopus cooked in wine are two of the best things to try. Also taste their traditional fava, the fresh salads, and ndakos, or some perfect stuffed vine leaves (dolmades).
5. Discover the tiny church of Agia Eirini
Once you’re done with mezes, cross the street to walk the solitary alleys of the Turkish quarter. There are a few beautiful restaurants with Ottoman flavors, chairs on the streets, flowerpots, and Agia Eirini.
This unique underground chapel dates back to the 13th Century. The Holy Temple of Agia Eirini is right in the center of the Turkish district of Splantzia, in Rouga Square, and surrounded by a labyrinth of narrow streets full of lively colors and austere Ottoman constructions.
Once in the area, you will walk near The Well of the Turk, one of the best-known restaurants in town. Then, get lost in the maze that ends in Maxaradika, on Sifaka street.
Colorful bougainvillea, fragrant pots with basil and lavender, and the occasional Cretan cat add a touch of romance to the place. Old ladies sit at their front doors while kids play and laugh under old-fashioned street lamps.
Slow down as soon as you reach The Traveler’s Corner. Nothing is really special about this angle… or everything is. It’s certainly a sight that won’t go unnoticed. And it’s fighting its way through Instagram!
6. Explore all the bookstores in Splantzia, Chania
Considered the Bohemian neighborhood of Chania, interesting bookstores couldn’t be missing in Splantzia.
Less than 100 meters away from the square, Tο μικρό καράβι (The Small Boat) is a boutique bookshop that mostly focuses on new editions. Here, an inviting sofa offers a pleasant angle to discover new readings.
Names of prestigious international authors decorate walls and windows attracting the curiosity of those passing by. A must for any bookworm. The bookstore also sells books dedicated to the history and the geography of Chania, local travel guides and very unique photography books.
Along the Street of the Knives (which couldn’t be anywhere else but than Splantzia), there is a new place, Φοβ (from the French “fauve” – wild beast). A new Coffee Bookshop where to buy great literature, but also books about Philosophy and Art.
There’s a great collection of bilingual editions of Greek authors, and some of the biggest international writers too (I couldn’t hide my surprise when I found books by the Argentine Ernesto Sábato translated into Greek!).
This tiny corner is bound to become a favorite place for visitors and locals alike. An enthusiastic, young owner, made all his way from Thessaloniki with a bag full of interesting ideas to promote letters and visual arts. And the great intention of turning Φοβ into the place to be of Chania.
Usual events include book presentations, exhibitions, and a range of interesting proposals. My suggestion: Don’t miss Φοβ, even if for just a short visit. It’s on Sifaka street 26 (Old Town).
7. Check the crafts of Maxaradika
While doing research and talking with locals, I discovered many refuse to place Maxaradika within Splantzia… but at the same time, many others do not conceive Splantzia without Maxaradika…
It was not easier to understand the actual limits of the neighborhood. Especially when Google maps places Splantzia square… out of what they define as Splantzia!
So, as disagreement remains, I decided I might as well design my own Splantzia. Easy, for me it’s not just a district, but a local state of mind.
I believe that the most colorful street of Chania must be part of this alternative area. And that’s Maxaradika, the street of the knives.
And both with special handles to protect the user. Knives often have a Cretan poem or song (μαντινάδα, mantinada) engraved on the blade.
8. Sample unique beers
However, Maxaradika is more than knives. Different bars that alternate on the street add a personal touch, quite unique to this road. Maybe the most beautiful one is Plaka. Easy to spot thanks to the vivid decorations on its walls and the music.
Specialized in beers, I always have a glass of Chios Smoked Robust Porter, one of the many Greek labels that are changing the vibrant scenario of Greek microbreweries.
They also serve creative salads and meat, all very spicy. Plaka is on Sifaka N°8 and you can read more about them here.
9. Go wine tasting downtown Chania
Less than 100 meters away, there’s another place worth visiting, especially if you are interested in learning about Cretan wines.
If you are staying in Chania just for a few days, maybe time won’t be enough to visit some great wineries of Chania, since they are rather far from the old town.
So when in the mood for a glass of Greek wine, there is a place in Splantzia that offers a plethora of labels.
Miden Agan (Mηδέν άγαν, or “Nothing in excess”) is run by the knowledgeable Maria Andronidou, who will walk her guests through some of the finest wines on the island, but also teach you valuable lessons about wine tasting and local varieties. Find Miden Agan here.
For those interested in the authentic tastes of Crete, there is another corner where to find excellent dishes of the tradition. Η Αυλή Των Θαυμάτων (The Garden of the Miracles) serves excellent dishes at very convenient prices. It’s located right next to Agios Nikolaos church, on Rousou Vourdoumpa 1. (Phone number (+30) 2821 028357).
10. Visit the Greek National Football Team museum
For those interested in football (or soccer) curiosities, it is possible to visit a small but interesting museum dedicated to the sport.
There’s a collection of t-shirts signed by famous players, as well as an exhibition of trophies and medals.
Greek National Football Team Museum – Useful information to visit:
Monday to Friday, from 10.00 to 19.00.
Saturdays from 10.00 to 15.00 – closed on Sundays.
Address: Tsouderon street, 40, Chania – Phone number: (+30) 697 4331691.
This article was first published in August, 2017. It was updated on November 20th, 2019.
If you liked this article or are looking for more things to do and see in Chania, you might want to read these:
- 10 Best Things to Do in Chania
- Tabakaria, Chania’s Abandoned Neighborhood
- 10 Best Historic Buildings of Chania’s Old Town, now transformed into boutique hotels.
If you’re looking for a different way to experience Chania, including a visit to Splantzia, feel free to book my own Private Gastronomic Tour of Chania
FOR THE BEST INSIGHT OF THE CITY AND ITS GASTRONOMY, TOUR IT WITH A LOCAL!!!
things you need to plan the perfect road trip in crete
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10 Best Things to Do in Splantzia, Chania.
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About the author
I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete a few years ago to have more and better opportunities to explore the island all year round. I love to backpack with my kids, taking pictures and driving around the spectacular mountain roads of Crete. I’m a freelance content creator and language consultant working for the travel and gastronomy industries in Greece.