The Old Town of Chania Crete — one of the most beautiful cities in Greece — is on the northwest area of the island of Crete. Well-known for its vibrant atmosphere, Chania is a great place and ideal starting point for your vacation in Western Crete. Chania is home to a characteristic old town, a symbol of its multicultural identity. Beautiful and romantic alleys add to the stunning views of the Venetian port and the lighthouse. Are you heading to Crete soon? Let me guide you through the best things to do in the beautiful town of Chania, one of the prettiest cities in the Mediterranean, and a popular destination that is truly worth visiting.
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Unforgettable Things to Do in Chania Old Town
I moved to this region about 5 years ago (time does fly!) and, little by little I started feeling that I belong!
I got to know many locals, as well as many secrets and hidden spots in the historic old town of Chania that not everyone will tell you about, so stay around, bookmark the blog for more, and check these great things that only Chania Old Town, one of the best places in Crete, can offer!
General Information About Chania Crete
Best Hotels in Chania
Affordable: Aelia Apartments or Polixeny’s Suites in the old town.
Mid-range: Elia Estia in the old town and Civitel Akali Hotel in the new town.
Luxury: Casa Delfino in the old town or Domes Noruz by the sea.
Check also Chania Accommodation Guide and Boutique Hotels in Chania.
Where is Chania and How to Get There
Chania is the second most important city of Crete and the main city of the western Prefecture of Chania. It’s located on the northern coast of the island. You can arrive in Chania by plane (International Airport of Chania CHQ), or by ferry (Port of Souda).
Reach Chania Town from the local airport
By car, it takes 20 to 25 minutes to get to the city center from the airport (15 km/9.3 miles). In the airport hall of arrivals, there are many rental car offices to choose from. Here’s a fool-proof guide to renting a car on Crete.
Another option is the taxi, which has a flat fare of 30.00 €.
By bus is a cheaper option but the ride might take about an hour. It will leave you at Chania Bus Station, in the city center. The bus service operates from 06.00 to 22.45. The ticket is 2.50 € and there are special fares for students, and people with a disability card. Buy your ticket with cash from vending machines or directly on the bus.
Reach the city of Chania from the port of Souda
Souda is located 6.5 km east of the city center. The night ferries departing from Piraeus arrive at about 6.00 – 6.30 every morning, departing to Athens at night.
In summer there are also daytime services.
At the exit of the port, you will find the station for the bus to Chania (6.5 km).
You can buy the ticket from the automatic machines (1.50 €) or directly on the bus (2.00€). You will reach Chania Bus Station in about 25 minutes.
Reach Chania from Heraklion (or Rethymnon)
If you land in Heraklion (International Airport of Heraklion), the best option is to rent a car.
You can also take the bus from the Central Bus Station (one-way ticket: 15.10 €), the trip lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes.
If you’re staying in the area of Rethymnon instead, the bus departs from Rethymno Bus Station. The ticket is 8.60 €, and the trip lasts about an hour. Buses depart every hour. Check the bus company website and timetables to this and many other destinations on Crete.
You might also be interested in reading: How to easily get from Heraklion to Chania.
Things To Do in Chania (Old Town)
Don’t know what to do? Pick them all, two days (and even one if you choose the right itinerary) can be enough to see all of these things in the article, take a look!
Visit Chania’s Municipal Market
One of the best places where to get a real taste of the island gastronomic’s traditions is the Municipal Market. Locally known as the Dimotiki Agora, this large, historic building houses some of the authentic staples of the Cretan diet. The Municipal Market is the beating heart of the city, the place where both locals and visitors can sample and buy the key ingredients used to prepare the delicious Cretan dishes.
A few selected shops sell locally produced honey, cheese, bread, and herbs, but also olive oil, snails, and fresh greens.
The market has a long history. It officially opened its gates to the public only three days after the unification of Crete with Greece (1913). And it is one of the most impressive markets in the Balkans.
Locals know: The Municipal Market of Chania will be closed for renovations until December 2023. A bummer, I know, but we’re all eagerly waiting to see the new Agora real soon!
You might also want to read: Elafonisi Pink Sand Beach.
Discover the Turkish District
Once you exit the Municipal Market from its back door, you will be stepping into the old town. This area is also divided into different quarters or neighborhoods.
Walking the pedestrian street Chatzimichali Daliani introduces you directly into the heart of the Turkish quarter, the area where the Ottoman Turks lived and worked in the past.
And one of the best places to see in Chania.
This street is a favorite place for locals when it comes to dining.
Curious fact: Did you know that Chania was the capital of Crete until 1971?
Dozens of restaurants line up small along this street every evening. They serve from the most traditional Cretan dishes to high-end fusion cuisine.
Here, it’s possible to find the Minaret of Ahmet Aga, one of the two surviving minarets in town, and a remnant of the Ottoman rule.
Right in front of the Minaret, an old Venetian monastery of the sixteenth century has been restored. Now, it’s one of the coolest places to hang out. As you can see, the city’s rich history easily mixes different architectural styles.
Known as Kibar or The Monastery of Karolo, you can have a glass of wine in the former patio of the monastery.
Going further, towards the east, the area known as Splantzia is also part of the Turkish neighborhood.
The mysterious place portrays the several civilizations that once conquered and lived on the island.
The whole area exudes a foreign flair very different from the typical Greek standards of the town.
Shop for Local Crafts and Beautiful Souvenirs!
You can get amazing souvenirs from Chania, these are the must-go place to shop for souvenirs:
Stivanadika, the Road of the Boots
Kidlof Street is also known as the leather lane. It used to be the home of shoemakers, specially stivania, or Cretan boots. Only a few boot artisans remain on this street, some of them have been crafting leather products for more than sixty years.
Here, the smell of leather is pungent and attractive. In some of these old workshops, it is possible to buy made-to-measure, hand-made boots.
These boots are worn especially in rural areas paired with wide baggy trousers known as vraka and the idiosyncratic sariki, a black fringed headscarf.
The brown boot was the one commonly used for work. The black one is common in Lasithi, Rethymno, and Heraklion. Chania, instead, is known for its white boots.
Maxairadika, the Road of the Knives
Also known as the Street of the Knives, Sfakia street is one of the best places for a night walk.
It has a relaxed atmosphere, tiny cafés full of color serve delicious local dishes.
Few workshops produce and sell the Cretan traditional knife, which has always had primary importance for Cretans.
In the past, Cretan men would carry two knives on their waist.
One of them for their food, but another and most important one, to defend himself.
These knives, which boast unique handles made of horn or wood, and a blade often with a Cretan poem or song engraved on it (in Greek μαντινάδα, mantinada).
An inscription that usually celebrates the beauty of the Cretan landscape.
Walk the Alleys of the Venetian District
The Venetian neighborhood of the Old Town in Chania is one of the most picturesque areas. I
t has been steadily requalified thanks to the initiative of several hotels and shops.
These private investors have turned the district into one of the best areas if you’d like to get a real sense of what Chania used to be during the Venetian occupation times.
Angelou Street, the Heart of the Venetian Neighborhood
This narrow street features some fine examples of the Venetian mansions characteristic of the XVI and XVII centuries.
Most houses in the area retain a Venetian architectural style.
However, the Ottoman influence is present in some of the buildings with the characteristic hai-arti (or Harem room). This was a projecting wooden facade, usually on the first or second floor of the building, added to the Venetian buildings during the Turkish occupation.
If you’d like to read some of the most fascinating legends and stories behind the walls of these buildings, don’t miss the best 10 historical buildings in Chania’s old town.
Now elegant boutique hotels, these mansions hide intense memories that just a few locals know.
The Venetian district used to be the most distinguished part of the old town, home to the houses and palazzi of the most important Venetian rulers.
Many of these mansions have been recently transformed into stunning boutique hotels, retaining the original characteristics of their architecture.
Stroll along The Venetian Harbor
The eastern basin of the harbor was designed for boat building and repairs. Imported goods were unloaded on the west basin and then transported by donkey to warehouses.
The Venetian Navy built Chania’s harbor between 1320 and 1643, although this location was not particularly suitable due to its exposure to the strong north winds.
By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the importance of the harbor diminished as large ships began to use the deep, natural harbor in Souda Bay.
Today, the Old Venetian Port of Chania is lined up with interesting culinary proposals, ranging from traditional Greek taverns to sophisticated Cretan cuisine.
Among the favorite, there’s Lithos, which serves Mediterranean and Greek dishes, and La Bodega, at the very end of the harbor, with a unique wine list. However, if you’re looking to get away from the tourist port, the best places to eat in Chania are on its hidden alleys.
Explore Firka Fortress and the Nautical Museum of Crete (Maritime Museum)
Firka Fortress stands proud in one of the ends of the Venetian waterfront.
Part of it is now home to the Maritime Museum of Crete. The main complex dates back to 1620. The museum is located at the very entrance of the fortress and is the second oldest Maritime Museum in Greece.
The Museum has an interesting collection related to the Battle of Crete (1941) and a permanent exhibition of traditional shipbuilding. Ticket prices vary from 2 to 4 euros.
Firka fortress has the typical layout of Roman forts, with two levels of rooms and a central courtyard.
Despite the traces that the centuries gone by had left on the building, details of finely carved arches and walls are still visible. The doorway still features the Venetian winged lion of St. Mark.
During the Ottoman domination, the Turkish used the building as a barrack (in fact, Firka means barrack in Ottoman Turkish), and then it was turned into a prison for Cretan liberation fighters.
There is also a small observation tower on one corner of the fortress.
This is not only one of the best spots for a panoramic picture of the port and the lighthouse, but it’s also one of Crete’s most significant places.
Here, Prime Minister Venizelos raised for the first time the Greek flag on Crete, on December 1st, 1913. The ceremony marked the end of successive occupations of Crete.
Admire the The Venetian Lighthouse of Chania
Also known as the Faros, one of the most characteristic sights of Chania is its lighthouse.
Considered the oldest existing lighthouse in Greece, and one of the oldest in the world, the Venetian Navy built the lantern to protect Chania’s harbor during the sixteenth century.
Also known by the names of the Venetian Lighthouse and Egyptian Lighthouse, it isn’t strange that this lighthouse resembles a minaret. In the early nineteenth century, the lighthouse collapsed in a storm following years of neglect by the Turks.
Between 1824 and 1832, Egyptian soldiers stationed around the island redesigned and rebuilt the structure.
Did you know there’s also a Lighthouse in the Old Venetian Harbor of Rethymnon?
The foundations of the lighthouse lie on natural rocks and it reaches a height of 21 meters.
During the Venetian rule, the purpose of the lantern was to serve as a protective bastion.
In the event of attacks, the Venetians would shut down the port with a chain that from the lighthouse, would reach the Firka fortress.
Explore the Jewish District
Kondylaki Street, which extends from the harbor-front to Agios Dimitrius’ bastion is a relatively wide alley.
The area, very near the Venetian district, is a clear testimony of Chania’s Jewish past, which for centuries occupied this area, also known as Chania’s Jewish quarter, Zudecca or Ebraiki.
Few visitors are aware of the importance that this community had during the different occupation eras of the island.
The Jews of Crete were direct witnesses of the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Venetian, and Ottoman occupations of Crete.
By the end of the 19th century and due to different political factors, the Jews of the island started to emigrate. In 1941 only the community of Chania remained (they were about 300 people).
The Jews of Chania had two synagogues dating from the Middle Ages, unfortunately, the synagogue of Bet Shalom was lost during the Battle of Crete.
The second synagogue was Kal Kadosh Etz Hayyim. In May 1944, however, it closed its doors when the whole community of Chania was arrested by the Nazis.
It happened one morning and so quickly that there was no way to escape. They all perished on a ship on their way to the port of Piraeus. After long works of restoration, the synagogue re-opened its doors in 1999.
Today, a visit to the complex of Etz Hayyim. is an authentic ticket to the oldest part of town.
The interior has the traditional layout of other Romaniote communities.
There are also two courtyards. One of them contains the tombs of four rabbis.
From May until October, the synagogue is open to visitors with this schedule: Monday to Thursday from 10.00 to 18.00. Fridays from 10:00 am to 15.00. For more information, visit the website of Etz Hayyim.
You might also want to read: Mouthwatering Street Food you Need to Taste in Chania, Crete.
Enjoy the Architecture of the Mosque of the Janissaries
The Mosque of the Janissaries (also Küçük Hasan Mosque – meaning “small”. And also Yiali Tzamisi Mosque – which means “seaside mosque”) is the oldest Islamic structure in Crete.
It was built on the foundations of an old Venetian church and was a place of prayer exclusive for the Janissaries, the Turkish soldiers stationed around the island to keep law and order.
Rather than being merely soldiers, the Janissaries were the Christian sons that the Ottomans captured in different conquered countries and converted into their faith.
This mosque dates back to 1645 and stands on one of the ends of the Venetian Harbor.
Originally a Venetian building, itt has a very distinctive central dome, as well as four smaller domes of Neoclassical design.
For centuries, a fine minaret stood in one of the corners, alongside an enclosed courtyard with palm trees and a fountain. However, the German bombing in 1941 left no traces of them.
Another interesting trace of the Ottoman past of the island can be found in the gardens of the Archaeological Museum (once Agios Fragiskos monastery and then Yosuf Pasha mosque).
It’s an octagonal fountain with a pointed cap and finely carved reliefs. You can see it from the museum itself, or the open dining space of Bohème, a trendy restaurant located on Halidon Street.
Want to know more about the city? Check Things to do in Tabakaria, Chania.
Spend the Sunset Hours in the New Marina
Walking towards the east, and leaving the mosque behind, it is possible to walk along one of the most vibrant Marinas in Greece, the Arsenali. Seven impressive Venetian dry-docks line the eastern basin of the harbor.
The buildings, originally seventeen, were built between 1461 and 1599.
They would have one open entrance towards the sea, this way allowing ships to be pulled out from the water.
These long, vaulted arsenals housed the Eastern Mediterranean Venetian fleet and served to purposes of shipbuilding and ship repairs.
This new marina (Neoria) is now another favorite place for sunset gatherings and drinks by the sea. We recommend a dinner in Pallas famous for its modern atmosphere.
The building dates back to 1830 and was the home to Ali Pasha, a ruler during the Ottoman occupation.
Salis, on the other side, combines one of the richest lists of wine in Greece and cutting-edge gastronomy.
You might also want to read: Fantastic Things to Do in Rethymnon, Crete.
Admire the Churches in the Old Town
There are some pretty churches you can spot in Chania when walking the alleys of the old town, these are the ones you cannot miss!
Trimartyri: The Cathedral of Chania
Plateia Mitropoleos is a square right in Yo of the Church of the Trimartyri and was built in the 1950s. The Church of the Trimartyri is a Greek Orthodox church as well as another of the landmarks of the city.
It dates back to the last decades of the 1800s and it was built on the site of a Venetian church which the Ottomans later converted into a soap factory.
Legend claims that the child of the factory owner, Mustapha Naili Pasha, fell into a well behind the church. In despair, his father prayed to the Virgin to save him.
In answering his prayers the Virgin saved the child and the Pasha donated the site to the Christians, as well as the funds to build the church.
The church stands in one of the most popular streets in town, Halidon Street. Close to the square, an interesting building features eleven small hemispherical domes and a larger one on its roof.
You might also want to read: The most beautiful monasteries in Crete.
It was one of the public hamams the Ottomans built in town. There used to be a portico surrounding the structure which disappeared during the week-long German bombardment in 1941.
Across the street is possible to see the Folklore Museum of Chania, the Archaeological Museum of Chania, and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church of Agios Nikolaos in Chania
In the Turkish district of Splantzia, the Church of Agios Nikolaos, once the main mosque in Chania, still has a minaret standing inside its structure. Not very far, another beautiful church to visit is the small chapel of Agia Eirini.
Read more about the area 10 Best Things to Do in Splantzia, Chania.
Discover Chania’s Hidden Archaeological Treasures
The Archaeological Museum of Chania would be the right place to start exploring Chania’s ancient past, however, right a few meters from the Venetian harbor, there’s a hidden place you should visit. Agia Ekaterini square was located in the middle of Kanevaro Street. For centuries, it marked the site of the Dominican Catholic Church of Santa Maria.
Moreover, there were also various ecclesiastical buildings surrounding the church, including a monastery.
The week-long German bombardment in 1941 flattened all structures in this area. The rubble was cleared away in the 1950s and out of it, pottery rests subsequently identified as Minoan which convinced archaeologists that this site was, in fact, Minoan Kydonia.
Not far from the remains of Minoan Kydonia, you can visit the original settlement of the town. In the area of Kastelli, there are few remains of the ancient past. Above all, the visit is worth it at sunset to get the best view of the port and the lighthouse.
Choose an Alternative Tour of Chania
Finally, you can choose a tour. Being such a touristic city in Crete, there are endless tours to see the city. Probably one of the best ways to learn about Chania remains the old technique of grabbing a map.
However, those preferring a more organized sightseeing activity will be easily overwhelmed. It’s a good idea to go for an alternative proposal. I suggest you check this street food tour or go for a more adventurous experience discovering Chania joining this guided segway tour.
… Or come and let’s meet! I traveled to Crete every year for several years until I finally moved to Chania! In love with the traditions and the gastronomic culture of the island, I enjoy sharing my experiences. And the best part? You can book all year round. I love to show visitors the most hidden gems of the old town while sampling some of the most delicious Cretan treats.
I will be glad to guide you through more than these things to do in Chania with my Taste of Crete tour.
Other Things to Do in Chania
Read my guide to the whole region of Chania, it’s the best way to learn more about the different things you can do in the area, including:
- Discovering the White Mountains (or Lefka Ori).
- Hiking Samaria Gorge (or other breathtaking deep gorges in Crete), one of the most challenging hikes in Crete,.
- Discovering Chania’s Public Gardens.
- Learn more about delicious food in the local taverns.
- Checking the archaeological site of Ancient Aptera
- Exploring the famous beaches in the Chania prefecture.
- Going wine tasting at some of the best local wineries, including Manousakis Winery and Dourakis Winery.
- Visiting the blue flag sandy beaches in Akrotiri.
- Checking the local olive groves and olive oil producers such as Agia Triada Monastery.
Have you been to Chania? What did you enjoy the most?
Let me know in the comments below!
You might also want to read these articles about Chania Crete
– 51 Great Things to Do in Chania (Region) for an Unforgettable Holiday – Want more things to do in Chania? Go beyond the old town with this guide to the things to do in Chania Region.
– Tours in Chania: Top Day Trips from Chania, Crete – The best activities, excursions, and day trips in and around Chania.
– Accommodation guide to Chania – A list of the best hotels in Chania.
– Top Convenient and Beautiful Airbnbs in Chania, Crete – A guide to the best rental homes in Chania.
– The Most Beautiful Beaches in West Crete – A visitors guide to the best beaches in Chania.
LAST-MINUTE PLANS FOR CRETE?
– Use Ferryhopper and Skyscanner for the best ticket rates.
– Find great accommodation deals on Booking.com.
– Compare car rental prices with Discover Cars.
– Check the best tours with GetYourGuide.
– Visit Elafonisi, discover Balos Beach, hike Samaria, or explore Knossos.
– Pack the Lonely Planet Guide to Crete or get my digital guide to Chania.
Find the Right Place to Stay in Chania
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About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. Here, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in the summer, translating, and writing for The Tiny Book and her other blogs.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published three travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.