Are you spending a holiday in Crete and have decided to spend two days in Chania? Are you on a European city break on Crete? This itinerary will help you choose what things to do in this gorgeous city of west Crete. Let’s see what you can see, do, and experience with 2 days in Chania or more!
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- 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 Cretan (and Greek) beers
- 9. Go wine tasting downtown Chania
- 10. Visit the Greek National Football Team museum
Splantzia, a local’s favorite
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. Let’s learn about it.
Chania Accommodation Resources
When it comes to Chania, accommodation is fairly accessible, however, early booking will guarantee a better deal. Hotels in Chania sell out early since it’s a super popular destination. Don’t book your room last minute!
– There are great places to stay in Chania with a limited budget (under €50 per day). My favorite place is Cocoon City Hostel, where a bed in a mixed dorm starts at €22 per night!
– Mid-range options go from €50 to €150 per night. A higher budget offers more possibilities to choose from. Vranas Ambience Hotel in the center of the old town is great and prices start at €50 per night.
– With a higher budget, from €160 per night, you’ll be able to stay in an elegant boutique hotel. Casa Delfino is my absolute favorite in the old town of Chania.
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 calls 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 on 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 the 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.
Others 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.
I’ve spent hours in this café since I moved to Chania. And after several months, they now know me as Gabi, and always serve me with the authentic Cretan hospitality.
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 dakos, 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 Cretan (and Greek) 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.
Football Museum in Chania. (Photo courtesy: Football Museum)
FOR THE BEST INSIGHT OF THE CITY AND ITS GASTRONOMY, TOUR IT WITH A LOCAL!!!
Get in touch for more information about my gastronomic tours of Chania (in English, Spanish and Italian!)
Coming to Crete any time soon? These fantastic resources will help you organize the trip!
- Start by heading right to my post with helpful tips to plan a trip to Crete, which goes over every detail you need to know, from when it’s best to travel to what documents you need, or how to get a SIM card. You can also check my post to plan a Crete trip with kids!
- Probably, you’re also planning to spend some time at the beach on the island. Check my guide to the best beaches in Crete to choose the one you like the most. Read this article to decide what area suits best to stay in Crete, or check this post is you still don’t know all the things you can do in Crete.
- Finally, to have updated information about the island, join my private group on Facebook about Crete and download a copy of my West Crete Travel Guide to have it always with you on the island!
Finally, make sure you’ve got everything you for a hassle-free trip!
- I never move around the island with any of these… my Osprey backpack has been the most loyal travel partner over the last 5 years. It’s sturdy, light, roomy, and super comfortable! I just love it. To visit the old town, archaeological sites, and museums, this little crossbody bag is always around.
- When driving around Crete, I always pack my Michelin map, clear, accurate, and easy to read and my Nikon D7200, I’m lost without any of them. In summer I also carry good sunscreen lotion, the sun on the island can be pretty aggressive.
- Greece, and especially Crete, is a fairly safe destination, however, I’m sure you know that it’s always better to travel with an insurance policy for complete peace of mind. My favorite? World Nomads. Already left home? Buy your travel insurance online now!
- Always bring with you a good travel guide to Crete! The best Crete Travel Guide I’ve found so far is the one published by Lonely Planet. It has all the information you need.
- Airfares to Crete can vary immensely from one airline to the other, make sure you always compare ticket prices with a powerful search engine. Getting to Crete can be really comfortable with an airplane, but nothing beats the romantic experience of traveling by sea. I always choose Let’s Ferry to visit other Greek islands or to travel directly to Crete from Athens. It has a powerful search engine to get the right ticket you need!
- If I need to book accommodation in Crete or anywhere else, I personally use Booking.com. Their Genius Loyalty Programme allows me to find better fees. As they say, the more you stay with them, the more rewards you get.
- Road trips in Crete are the most authentic way to explore the island. Find the cheapest rental car using a good car rental search engine. Discover Cars searches over 500 trusted rental companies for you to find the best deal. Compare prices for rental cars in Crete here.
- Sometimes, the best way to get to know a place better and make the most of your time on Crete is to join an organized tour. GetYourGuide has a great selection of proposals that help you save time and money. From cooking lessons to archaeological site tours, skip-the-line attractions, and even airport transfer!
Do you have everything you need? Then you just have to get ready to discover Crete, Greece’s most beautiful island!
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About the Author
Hola! I’m Gabi. Welcome to The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog! I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round. I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete. I’m a beach freak and on this island I’ve found heaven on earth!