Best Neighborhoods of Chania: Tabakaria

GREECE - CRETE - CHANIA - TAMBAKARIA - TANNERIES

Back with this series to portray the city of Chania on the blog, today I show you an area off the beaten path. Last time it was the turn of Splantzia, a colorful, laid-back district where the most authentic traditions of the city are still alive. This is the story of a different neighborhood. My story extends a bit further away from the walls of the old city of Chania, it crosses Koum Kapí (Κουμ Καπί), borders Halepa (Χαλεπα), and then reaches the solitary district of Tabakaria (Ταμπακαριά)

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Tabakaria, Chania

CHANIA, CRETE: The abandoned tanneries

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If you are visiting Chania, in Crete, and you love photography, then you should read this post about Tabakaria, one of the most suggestive areas of the city.

Getting to Know Tabakaria

The back of the abandoned factories leads to the sea. Chania, Tabakaria
The back of the abandoned factories leads to the sea. Chania, Tabakaria

In Tabakaria the atmosphere is opposite to the vivid streets downtown. There are no Venetian buildings, no Cretan Renaissance, and no fancy boutiques.

This is a forgotten snapshot of Greece, worth knowing because of the history, the landscape, and its unicity.

I was introduced to Tabakaria many months after living in the area.

I had a vague idea about the nearby neighborhood of Halepa, known for its historic past, but that gave me no clue of the fact that so, so close, there was a mysterious place to discover.

Snapshots of Tabakaria, Chania Crete
Snapshots of Tabakaria

Maybe it was luck, maybe my curiosity. Or maybe, my pathologic addiction to Instagram.

The fact is that one evening I found myself chatting about photographic equipment online with another Chania lover.

Tabakaria Chania Crete
Man vs. Nature.

And I couldn’t believe it, but we were neighbors… and he knew the best places to shoot in town, and so he mentioned Tabakaria. And I started to investigate.

Tabakaria: The History Behind This Chania Neighborhood

Abandoned tanneries in Chania (Tabakaria)
When the red of the sunset designs the shape of an abandoned machine on the walls.

Tabakaria is an old ghost-like neighborhood, extending from the end of Koum Kapí towards the East. It carries much of the stigma that Koum Kapí gained through the years.

Koum Kapí used to be the more disreputable area of Chania, home to the lowest classes, rough and noisy at all times.

Yet, in the last 30 years,  it became the place where locals love to hang out. Luck had other plans for Tabakaria.

Colors of Tabakaria. Chania Crete
Colors of Tabakaria.

Tabakaria (the tanneries) was a district dedicated to the process of leather. It was a convenient place: rather close to town, but far enough to prevent the smells of the industry to reach Chania.

Another advantage of the place was that it was easy to access the underground briny water and a shallow rocky coast, all key to the first stages of tanning.

Development began during the short Egyptian occupation (1830-1840),  and it was at its best during the interwar.

The German occupation made activities cease, while the end of the Second World War brought modern changes and new equipment. This resulted in the gradual vanishing of the tanneries. In fact, by the end of the 60s, only a few of them were still open.

Tabakaria Today

Tanneries Chania
A window to the sky.

Skeletons of old factories populate the solitary seaside. Empty buildings, old machines, and broken windows are silent reminders of the industrial past of Chania.

Two-floor factories, with a direct exit to the sea, stand one next to the other. Here and there, narrow steps, sometimes very steep, go down towards the coast.

Some of the old tanneries are now lofts. Architects were able to keep the unique spirit without defacing the complex.

Few of them are still functioning as tanneries, but there aren’t really many, I only counted three.

In later years, many of these places have taken a new shape. Slowly but steadily, the area is recovering old, abandoned places which are now quaint luxury hotels by the sea and stunning lofts used as vacation rentals only steps from the old town.

>> If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Tabakaria, check out Fos, a fantastic waterfront property in the best area of Tabakaria.

Photoshooting in Tabakaria

Taking photos in CHania tanneries
Backstage of Tabakaria photo shooting 🙂

Most of the area is still quite atmospheric despite the new accommodation…

Let’s go back to my photo shooting session… so, back then Theo suggested we should meet and explore Tabakaria while taking pictures.

And so it was arranged. After having discussed light, lenses, and models, we started shooting, hoping for the sun to go down a bit more.

As we walked around, all I had started reading about Tabakaria was within reach. I sensed the real history of the place.

The past was no longer distant. I wanted to have it all captured by my camera. I even remember saying I want the sound of the waves in the pictures, that’s the only way to show how the place really feels like.

Tambakaria Crete
Getting the right mood for this shot took a while, but I love the results.

There was an anguishing atmosphere of abandonment, soothed by the strength of the sea breaking into the rocks.

The soft light filtered through huge cotton-shaped clouds. It entered with power through the broken glass of the windows. The acrid smell of old leather, sea salt, and mildew were heavy. And there was silence.

We entered old buildings, climbed ladders, and walked roofs. The perfect shot is always around the corner. Or it’s never there at all, maybe that’s why we keep shooting. Because the lack of utter perfection is the best incentive to keep moving. Always.

Chania
Colors on top of the city.

The perfect shot is always around the corner. Or it’s never there at all. Maybe that’s why we keep shooting. Because lack of utter perfection is the best incentive to keep moving. Always.

I thank Theo @The_Final_Cut_87 for showing me the area and shooting together in Tabakaria, it was the beginning of one of my most popular photo tours in Chania.

Besides the impeccable photographic techniques the shared with me back then, Theo managed to convince the drama of the scenario as a perfect film director would do.

His images speak a unique language and tell more stories than a quick look could suggest. Here are a few of his shots.

Why is Tabakaria One of my Favorite Corners in Chania

Sunsets from Tabakaria.
Sunsets from Tabakaria.

Tabakaria is the place I learned to go to when stress piles up in my mind. I turn off the phone, grab my camera and walk through the rocks by the sea.

I always choose the sunset because there’s no Tabakaria without the colors of dusk, and vice-versa.

I get lost for an hour or two. I shoot, forget, and feel a somewhat lost connection with the sea, with myself. A look at the distant Chania puts everything back into perspective.

Just a few clicks and I start to feel better. Then, before going home, I have a coffee in a kafenio nearby. But that’s already Halepa, and Halepa is a whole different story.

Thalassino Ageri restaurant it Tabakaria.
Thalassino Ageri restaurant it Tabakaria (Photo Thodoris Pant).

Where to Stay in Tabakaria

tabakaria
(Courtesy: FOS).

Stayin in the area is a convenient idea, it lets you be quite close to the city center while avoiding the noise, the crowds, and the summer craziness.

Besides, you’re right by the sea, and the fresh breeze makes it a perfect place to mitigate Crete’s high summer temperatures.

Staying in the area is now possible since there are many new properties offering accommodation, I suggest checking these ones out.

FOS Casa

tabakaria

FOS Casa Group: Located 12 minutes from the beach of Koum Kapi, the place has a bathtub, air-conditioned rooms, 4 bedrooms, a comfy living room, 3 bathrooms, a modern kitchen, and a gorgeous balcony with sea views. The property also offers airport transfers.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.

Kito

tabakaria

Kito: Another awesome property by the sea with access to a terrace features a beautiful bedroom, a fully equipped kitchen, a dressing room, and a fireplace. This vacation home is allergy-free and non-smoking. Free airport transfers are available for guests.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.

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More resources to enhance Your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets for an unforgettable experience.

Use this comprehensive Crete packing list to ensure you have everything you need. Explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches, and check out the best times to experience its beauty.

If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion or Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Chania

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these hotels in the city:

More useful travel resources

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  • Finally, to book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I always recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin this Guide to Tabakaria District, Chania

Tabakaria Chania
tabakaria, chania


About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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