The Most Amazing Things to Do in Chania Old Town when Visiting Crete!

port, houses, Venetian Harbor Chania

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 an ideal starting point for your vacation in Western Crete.

Home to a characteristic old town, a symbol of its multicultural identity, Chania features beautiful alleys that 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

things to do in chania old town

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I moved to this region about 6 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 out these great things that only Chania Old Town, one of the best places in Crete, can offer!

General Information About Chania Crete

Let’s begin by checking out some essential details you need to know before heading to Chania town, in Crete.

things to do in chania old town
Venetian Harbor, Chania, Crete.

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 foolproof guide to renting a car on Crete.

Another option is the taxi, which has a flat fare of €30.

By bus is a cheaper option but the ride might take about an hour. It will arrive at Chania’s public 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.

things to do in chania old town
The old port of Chania.

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). 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.

Read this guide to learn how to get from Heraklion to Chania.

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 for this and many other destinations in Crete.

Driving in Crete? Check out 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 the Agora, Chania’s Municipal Market

things to do in chania old town

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 delicious Cretan dishes.

things to do in chania old town

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 beautiful markets in the Balkans.

Locals know: The Municipal Market of Chania will be closed for renovations until December 2024 (or perhaps a bit longer).

Discover the Turkish District

things to do in chania old town

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 to 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?

things to do in chania old town

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 our Ottoman rule.

things to do in chania old town
Minaret of Ahmet Aga.

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 on 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!

things to do in chania old town

You can get amazing souvenirs from Chania, these are the must-go place to shop for souvenirs:

Stivanadika, the Road of the Boots

things to do in chania old town
Stivania, typical Cretan boots.

Only a few boot artisans remain on this street, some of them have been crafting leather products for more than sixty years.

Kidlof Street is also known as The Leather Street or Lane. It used to be the home of shoemakers, specially stivania, or Cretan boots.

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.

things to do in chania old town

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

things to do in chania old town

Also known as the Street of the Knives, Sifaka Street is one of the best places for a night walk.

It has a relaxed atmosphere and tiny cafés full of color serve delicious local dishes.

things to do in chania old town
Cretan Knives

Few workshops produce and sell the Cretan traditional knife, which has always had primary importance for Cretans.

In the past, Cretan men would carry one or two knives. One of them for their food, but another and most important one, to defend themselves, the war knife.

things to do in chania old town

These knives 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

things to do in chania old town

Although most of the old town has clear Venetian influences, west of Chalidon Street is where you will find the most authentic buildings dating from the Venetian era.

This area, also known as Topanas, is what many locals call the Venetian district.

This part of the Old Town in Chania is one of the most picturesque areas. It 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…

And these are some of the places you should visit over here:

Angelou Street, the Heart of the Venetian Neighborhood

things to do in chania old town

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.

things to do in chania old town
Turkish Houses in Chania

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 hotels in Chania’s old town.

Now elegant boutique hotels, these mansions hide intense memories that just a few locals know.

things to do in chania old town
things to do in chania old town

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

things to do in chania old town

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.

Chania horse old Venetian port

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.

Chania old Venetian port
The old port of Chania.

Among the favorite places to eat, 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 in its hidden alleys.

Explore Firkas Fortress and the Nautical Museum of Crete (Maritime Museum)

things to do in chania old town
The barracks, Firkas Fortress

Firka Fortress stands proud on 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 range from 2 to 4 euros.

things to do in chania old town

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, Firkas means barracks 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.

Chania Observation Tower in Firkas with Greek Flag
Firkas observation tower.

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.

The Egyptian Lighthouse of Chania

things to do in chania old town

Also known as 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.

Chania’s Venetian Lighthouse or Egyptian Lighthouse resembles the shape of a minaret.

In fact, during 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. 

things to do in chania old town
The old faro from Firkas

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 of the island, 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

things to do in chania old town

Kondylaki Street, which extends from the harbor front to Agios Dimitrios’ 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.

things to do in chania old town

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.

things to do in chania old town

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.

The tragedy that took place one morning was so quick that there was no way to escape.

The whole community perished on the ship Tanais which was torpedoed on its way to the port of Piraeus.

After long works of restoration, the synagogue re-opened its doors in 1999.

things to do in chania old town

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.

things to do in chania old town
Inside the Synagogue.

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.

Enjoy the Architecture of the Mosque of the Janissaries

things to do in chania old town
The mosque of the Janissaries is a famous landmark of the city and a visit to the building is among the 10 best things to do in Chania.

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.

things to do in chania old town
Another view of the mosque by the port.

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, it has a very distinctive central dome, as well as four smaller domes of Neoclassical design.

things to do in chania old town
The seaside mosque.

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 former 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.

Hungry? Taste Chania’s street food!

Spend the Sunset Hours in the New Marina

things to do in chania old town

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.

things to do in chania old town
The coffee shops along the Marina of Chania.

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 for purposes of shipbuilding and ship repairs.

things to do in chania old town

This area also called the new marina (Neoria in Greek, in contrast to the Venetian Harbor) is now another favorite place for sunset gatherings and drinks by the sea.

We recommend a dinner in Pallas famous for its modern atmosphere. This 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.

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

things to do in chania old town

Plateia Mitropoleos is a square right in the heart of town, and home of the Church of the Trimartyri. This Greek Orthodox church is the cathedral of Chania 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.

The 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 building stands on one of the most popular streets in town, Halidon Street.

Close to the square, there is also an interesting building that features eleven small hemispherical domes and a larger one on its roof.

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 and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church of Agios Nikolaos in Chania

things to do in chania old town
things to do in chania old town

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 by heading to this article with the best things to do in Splantzia, Chania.

things to do in chania old town

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.

things to do in chania old town

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.

The structures exhibit fairly sophisticated design and construction techniques.

The places believed to be private houses look out onto narrow, winding paved streets much like the present ones in the Old Town.

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

things to do in chania old town

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 out this street food tour or go for a more adventurous experience discovering Chania by 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.
Have you ever been to Chania Old Town?

I will be glad to guide you through more than these things to do in Chania with my Taste of Crete tour.

things to do in chania old town
Try different local beers in Plakas, Street of the Knives, a cool place to visit in Chania, Crete.

Other Things to Do in Chania, the rest of the region

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) is 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.

Read more about Chania

Get your copy now and unlock Chania’s secrets like a local!

>> Join our Facebook Group!

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

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Discover Cars is my favorite engine for finding a rental car on the island.
  • Finally, to book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I always recommend Get Your Guide.

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Best things to do in Chania, Crete.
Best things to do in Chania Old Town

Discover Chania with a local guide… discover it with me!

Best things to do in ChaniaA taste of Crete
Join me in a Gastronomic visit to the Old Town of Chania. We will taste the best local dishes, explore the market, and make a toast with local tsikoudia!

Get in touch for more information about my food tours of Chania (in English, Spanish, and Italian!).

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 island. 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.

2 thoughts on “The Most Amazing Things to Do in Chania Old Town when Visiting Crete!

  1. Pamela Anast says:

    Hi I am handicapped and my walking is limited I am bringing a wheelchair and I have handicap pass from USA
    Are there car parks in Chania Old City that would be best. I am coming with my family June 2023

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