Looking for a charming city, full of life and history, along with some of the best food in the world? That’s easy. Just go to Chania.
Located in the northwest of Crete, Chania is an unforgettable experience. It is Crete’s second largest city and has always been one of the most popular destinations in Greece.
Chania is a city where different civilizations have flourished throughout the centuries, offering a plethora of things to do next to some of Greece’s most spectacular beaches.
The Old Town, the Venetian harbour and its beauties
In the heart of Chania, the Old Town’s maze-like alleys and Venetian mansions offer a medieval setting.
Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans all came through the city and settled on the island at one time or another, creating a multicultural society that is evident today.
Much of the old town district of Chania was developed around its harbour, which was built by the Venetians during the 14th century and is considered to be one of the most significant historical landmarks in Crete. Take a late afternoon walk along the lighthouse and you will see one of the most gorgeous sunsets ever.
During a stroll around the port of Chania, one also encounters the Grand Arsenal (a previous shipyard now used as the Mediterranean Architecture Centre), the Kum Kapi district buzzing with restaurants and cafes and Halepa, the most aristocratic part of town.
You’ll also find several cinemas and historical attractions like the Archaeological Museum, a collection of Minoan and Roman artifacts housed in the former Monastery of Saint Francis.
*Located about 59 kilometers west of Chania, Falassarna is one of the longest sandy beaches in the area. Once on the beach you can choose whether you want to use the sun beds and umbrellas provided or find you own space to settle in. Many visitors also come to Falasarna to visit the ruins of the nearby ancient Hellenistic harbour.
*A magical swimming spot, Balos is located on the northwestern side of Chania. Balos lagoon is formed between Cape Gramvousa and Cape Tigani, below the mountain range of Platiskinos. It provides a white sand, soft seabed and crystal water. Opposite the beach, there is the Gramvoussa rocky island on top of which sits a Venetian castle with a gorgeous view of the region and the sea.
*Elafonisi beach has been ranked among the most beautiful beaches in the world, offering a breathtaking experience with its pink colour, caused by the many broken shea shells it contains. A must-see for all visitors to Crete, the beach is perfect for children as it provides warm shallow swimming waters, allowing parents to relax and take in the sun.
*Popular with locals, Marathi beach provides turquoise swimming waters along with all the comforts you can ask for: showers, changing huts, sunbeds, restaurants, cafes and watersports. It is located in the area of Akrotiri, 16 kilometers northeast of Chania, and offers three coves and a small port.
Further south is the inviting Samaria Gorge, the longest in Europe (total length 16km), and one of the most impressive gorges in Greece. It starts from Xyloskalo, at an altitude of 1,230 meters and has a width of 150 meters at its widest point and 3 meters at its narrowest. In a hike lasting between 6 to 8 hours, the path runs downhill to Agia Roumeli where a well-deserved dip in the sea and a tasty taverna meal awaits you.
Botanic park and gardens of Crete
Born out of a devastating wildfire in 2003, the gardens are a real treat for nature lovers.
In this carefully tended park, at the foot of the White Mountains, a two-kilometre path takes you through a garden planted with exotic flowers and fruit trees from all over the world, with everything clearly labelled.
Shady spots with benches amid fragrant herbs such as sage, mint, and thyme offer places to relax and breathe. There is also a café-restaurant serving traditional Cretan dishes prepared from the park’s own seasonal products. The park is accessible by bus from Chania.
Chania provides an envious lifestyle year-round. Its cultural agenda is full, providing a diverse range of events for all tastes.
Modern and ancient theater performances are on offer, along with live music events and art exhibitions. For something special, catch a movie at one of the two outdoor cinemas operating in the city on a balmy summer evening.
A growing network of cycling paths sprawling through the city provide the ideal opportunity to hop on a bike or go for a run, while others prefer to go swimming or take up one of the many water sports on offer, such as diving and windsurfing.
The city offers a subtropical Mediterranean climate with sunny dry summers and very mild rainy winters. During the period between April and October, clear-sky weather is almost an everyday feature. The atmosphere is always warm, though scorching heat waves are not very common, thanks to the prevailing winds (“Meltemia”) coming in from the north, cooling everything down.
In the winter, snow and frost are very rare along the island’s coast.
Agriculture and tourism are the two main sources of jobs and wealth in the area, which has a population of some 110,000 people.
Olive trees and citrus fruits dominate farmlands, while local produce is mostly made up of wine, avocados, and dairy products. In more recent years, there has been a shift to producing organic food items, while agro-tourism and eco-tourism have been growing in popularity recently.
In Crete, they know how to eat.
Eating is not just an issue of filling up the stomach to keep racing through the day but more of an exercise in socialising, pleasure and nourishment. And Chania is one of the best places in Greece to taste the Mediterranean diet.
Fruits, vegetables, seafood and legumes make up a big part of the diet, while plenty of meat dishes are on offer, in food that is simple but bursting with flavour.
In Chania, modern or traditional restaurants are available, which offer traditional or more gourmet delicacies, accompanied by the essential Cretan raki, a fragrant alcoholic beverage synonymous to Cretan culture.
Getting there is easy.
The city is served by the Chania International Airport that is located some 14 kilometres from the city on the Akrotiri Peninsula. The Heraklion airport is about a two-hour drive away. Chania’s main port is located in Souda, some 7 km away, with daily ferries to Piraeus.