Insider Guide to Chania, Crete 2024

February 17, 2023



Welcome to Chania, a charming city on the northwest coast of the Greek island of Crete. Here, the Venetian and Ottoman influences mingle with the local traditions, making for a unique and memorable experience. In this guide, we will take you through the history of the city, the best things to do, eat, and see, where to stay, how to get around, and when to visit. Get ready to fall in love with Chania.

History of Chania

The beautiful city of Chania is a vibrant hub of culture, traditions, and history. Its roots date back to ancient times when it was a Minoan settlement, and it has been shaped and influenced by a succession of conquerors and rulers over the centuries.

Under Roman, Byzantine, and Arab rule, the city flourished as an important center of trade and commerce. However, it was the Venetians who left the most indelible mark on the city, building fortifications, churches, and palaces that can still be seen today.

Insider Guide to Chania

Walking through the narrow streets of the Old Town, you can almost feel the centuries of history that have shaped Chania. After the Venetians, the Ottoman Turks took control of Chania in 1645 and ruled for over two centuries, leaving behind an impressive legacy of Ottoman architecture and traditions. 

In 1913, Chania became part of Greece, and its history is still evident in its architecture, cuisine, and traditions. The Archaeological Museum of Chania is an excellent place to learn more about the island’s rich past, with exhibits showcasing the history of the island from Neolithic times to the Roman era. The museum is located in a former Venetian monastery and has a beautiful courtyard where you can rest and admire the architecture.

Things to do in Chania

Chania has so much to offer, from historical landmarks to cultural events, shopping, and outdoor activities. Start with the Old Town, a maze of narrow streets lined with colorful houses, shops, and restaurants. Here, you can find the Old Venetian Harbor, a charming and historic port that has been in use since the 14th century. It is surrounded by pastel-colored buildings and offers a picturesque view of the sea. You can explore the narrow streets of the old town and discover the traditional architecture, take a boat ride along the harbor, or relax in one of the many cafes and restaurants.

Insider Guide to Chania
The Old Venetian Harbor in Chania

Interested in art? Visit the Municipal Art Gallery of Chania, which features works by local and international artists, as well as temporary exhibitions. You can also check out the Contemporary Art Museum of Crete, located in a former slaughterhouse, which presents modern and contemporary art.

For a more contemplative experience, stop by the Old Chania Market, where you can browse through stalls selling local produce, cheese, olives, and handicrafts. This is a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones back home.

Visit the Ottoman Baths, or Hammam, which date back to the 17th century, and experience Chania’s Ottoman past. These beautifully restored marble rooms offer a glimpse into the traditional Turkish bath rituals and intricate architecture.

If you’re a history buff, you should also visit the Venizelos Graves, located on a hill overlooking the city. This is the final resting place of Eleftherios Venizelos, a statesman who played a key role in the creation of modern Greece. The view from the top is breathtaking, and you can see as far as the White Mountains.

Insider Guide to Chania
Venizelos Graves in Chania Crete

Chania may be full of attractions, but there are plenty of fascinating sites just outside the city waiting to be explored. Take a short drive, and you’ll find the Archaeological Site of Aptera, an ancient city founded in the 7th century BC. Aptera played a vital role in the history of Crete and boasts ruins such as a theater, temple, and a Roman cistern that allow visitors to step back in time.

For those who crave a dose of adventure and history, the Fortress of Frangokastello is a must-visit destination. This well-preserved Venetian fortress, built in the 14th century, offers breathtaking views of the south coast of Crete and a chance to learn more about the island’s rich history while admiring its impressive architecture. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply looking for a unique experience, these sites are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Insider Guide to Chania
The Fortress of Frangokastello

Taste – Restaurants in Chania

Greek cuisine is famous for its fresh ingredients, bold flavors, and healthy dishes. In Chania, you can find a variety of restaurants, from traditional tavernas to modern eateries, serving everything from grilled meats and seafood to vegetarian and vegan options.

One of the most popular dishes in Chania is the dakos, a Cretan bruschetta made with barley rusk, tomatoes, feta cheese, and olive oil. You should also try the kalitsounia, a savory pastry filled with herbs, cheese, and sometimes meat.

One of the best places to experience the authentic flavors of Crete is Taverna Antartis in the picturesque village of Theriso. Traditional Cretan antikristo, marathopita, tsigariasto, and potato with staka are just a few of the delicious dishes you can enjoy at Antartis.

Insider Guide to Chania
Traditional Kalitsounia

For seafood lovers, there are plenty of options, such as grilled octopus, shrimp saganaki, and fish souvlaki. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the local fish, such as the red mullet and the bream, which are caught in the nearby waters.

If you’re in the mood for a vegetarian or vegan meal, there are many restaurants that cater to this diet. Some of the best vegetarian dishes in Chania are the briam, a Greek-style ratatouille, and fasolakia, green beans stewed with tomatoes and onions.

To finish off your meal, try loukoumades, a sweet pastry made with honey and cinnamon, or galaktoboureko, a custard-filled phyllo pastry drizzled with syrup. Pair your dessert with a Greek coffee or a glass of raki, a local spirit made from grape residue.

Insider Guide to Chania
Delicious Galaktoboureko

Enjoy the best sunset in Chania while relishing a mouthwatering dessert at Koukouvaya, located on Venizelos hill. Choose between a big variety of delicious desserts, such as “Zoumero” chocolate cake, ekmek kadayif, cheesecake, and many more.

Nightlife in Chania

Chania is not only a beautiful city during the day but also at night. There are many bars, clubs, and pubs where you can enjoy a drink, listen to music, and socialize with the locals and other tourists.

One of the best ways to experience Chania’s nightlife is to take a stroll through the old town. The narrow streets are lined with tavernas, bars, and restaurants that come alive at night. Enjoy a traditional meal of meze, grilled meats, and seafood while sipping on local wine or raki. The ambiance of the old town is perfect for a relaxed evening out with friends or family.

Insider Guide to Chania

If you’re looking for a more upbeat atmosphere, Chania has plenty of options for clubbing and dancing. Head to the Platanias area, which is about 10 kilometers from Chania. Here, you can find several clubs that play different genres of music, such as hip-hop, pop, and techno.

For those who prefer a more laid-back experience, there are also plenty of lounges and bars where you can enjoy a cocktail or a cold beer while listening to music or socializing with friends. One of the best places to enjoy a cocktail is the Sinagogue, a bar with a terrace overlooking the harbor. The music is a mix of Greek and international hits, and the vibe is laid-back and friendly.

Another great way to experience Chania’s nightlife is to attend one of the city’s many cultural events. During the summer months, there are frequent festivals, concerts, and art exhibitions that showcase the city’s rich history and culture. From traditional dance performances to contemporary art installations, there is always something interesting to see and do in Chania.

Insider Guide to Chania

For a unique experience, visitors can also try their hand at traditional Greek folk dancing. Many of the local tavernas offer live music and dancing, with friendly locals eager to teach visitors the steps. It’s a fun way to experience the local culture and meet new people.

Finally, for those looking for a more relaxed evening out, there are plenty of options for a sunset walk along the waterfront or a quiet drink at a beachside bar. Chania has some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, and watching the sunset over the Aegean Sea is a magical experience.

Insider Guide to Chania
Stunning sunset at the Port of Chania

Stay – Hotels in Chania

When visiting the enchanting city of Chania on the island of Crete, choosing the right place to stay can elevate your experience from memorable to unforgettable. From the historic ambiance of the Old Town to the serene views of the Cretan Sea, Chania offers a plethora of hotel options that blend history, luxury, and impeccable Cretan hospitality. Below, we explore five boutique hotels that promise an exclusive and intimate stay in this picturesque city.

Azade Boutique Hotel

Azade Boutique Hotel
Azade Boutique Hotel in Chania, Crete

Tucked away in the vibrant heart of Chania’s Old Town, Azade Boutique Hotel is a sanctuary of elegance and tranquility. This hotel exudes a perfect mix of traditional Greek charm and contemporary design, offering guests a stay that’s both comfortable and stylish.

Azade Boutique Hotel

Each room is thoughtfully decorated to reflect the rich history of the area while providing modern amenities for a luxurious stay. Whether you’re enjoying a leisurely breakfast on the sun-drenched terrace or relaxing in the plush bedding after a day of exploration, Azade Boutique Hotel ensures an enchanting retreat.


Ambassadors Residence Boutique Hotel

Ambassadors Residence

Located in a beautifully restored neoclassical building from the 1890s, Ambassadors Residence Boutique Hotel offers a unique glimpse into Chania’s past. Each room and suite is named and themed after the materials traded by R. Kruger, a notable German ambassador, adding a touch of historical intrigue to your stay.

Ambassadors Residence

Guests can indulge in the comfort of the Stone Room with its rustic charm or the opulence of the Porcelain Suite. The hotel also offers experiences such as private yacht dining and Turkish Hammam baths, making every moment spent here a luxurious indulgence.


 Aethrion Boutique Homes

Aethrion Boutique Homes

For those who seek a more personalized accommodation experience, Aethrion Boutique Homes offers a collection of exclusive apartments that combine the freedom of a home with the luxuries of hotel service. Located just steps from the beach, these homes are ideal for families or groups seeking a blend of privacy and accessibility.

Aethrion Boutique Homes

Each unit is exquisitely furnished and comes with amenities like fully equipped kitchens and private balconies. The proximity to both the beach and Chania’s cultural sites makes Aethrion an excellent choice for an extended stay.


 Notus Hotel

Notus Hotel

Experience modern minimalism at its finest at Notus Hotel, a contemporary haven located in the bustling heart of Chania. This hotel stands out for its sleek design and attention to detail. Rooms are adorned with minimalistic decor and offer state-of-the-art technology and comfort.

Notus Hotel

The rooftop terrace provides a stunning view of the city skyline, perfect for enjoying a sunset cocktail. Notus Hotel is ideal for the savvy traveler looking for a chic and efficient base to explore the rich tapestry of Chania.


Scala de Faro

As you approach Scala de Faro, the striking view of the Old Port Lighthouse sets a nautical tone for your stay. This boutique hotel, housed in a historic building, offers a unique blend of architectural styles from different eras, including Venetian, Ottoman, and Modern Greek influences.

Each of the nine rooms and suites is crafted to highlight these elements while ensuring your comfort. With its prime location and luxurious ambiance, Scala de Faro is perfect for those who cherish both history and modernity in their travel accommodations.

In Chania, where history whispers through the alleyways and the sea echoes along the coast, these hotels offer more than just a place to sleep—they provide a gateway to the soul of Crete. Choose one of these exceptional stays for a truly captivating Chania experience.


Be Active – Outdoor Activities around Chania in Crete

Chania is surrounded by beautiful nature, and there are many outdoor activities that you can do to explore it. One of the most popular activities is hiking in the “Lefka Ori”, a majestic range that dominates the western part of the island. With its rugged peaks and stunning views of the sea and valleys, it’s a hiker’s paradise. The range is home to numerous trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks that will test your endurance.

Another option is to visit the Samaria Gorge, one of the longest gorges in Europe, which offers a breathtaking view of the natural beauty of Crete. The 16 km trail passes through rugged terrain and towering cliffs, and it takes about six hours to complete. The trail is challenging, but it is well worth the effort for the stunning views of the landscape.

Insider Guide to Chania
Samaria Gorge in Crete

The Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete are a paradise for nature lovers. The park features a vast collection of plants from around the world, including many rare species. Enjoy several walking trails, relax in the shade of the trees, and let the kids run free in the playground.

Chania is a paradise for water lovers, with a stunning coastline and crystal-clear waters. Whether you want to swim, snorkel, paddleboard, or kayak, there are plenty of options to choose from. The nearby beaches are the perfect place to soak up the sun and take a refreshing dip in the sea.

Insider Guide to Chania
Kayak in Souda

If you’re looking for the ultimate underwater experience, scuba diving is also a popular activity in Chania. There are several diving centers in the area that offer guided dives to explore the rich marine life and discover hidden underwater caves and wrecks. With its crystal-clear waters and diverse sea creatures, scuba diving in Chania is an unforgettable adventure.

The Best Beaches in Chania

Chania has some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, and there’s a beach for every taste and preference. Whether you prefer a secluded cove or a busy beach with amenities, you can find it here. One of the most popular beaches in Chania is Elafonisi, which is located on the southwestern tip of Crete. The beach has pink sand and turquoise waters and is surrounded by a protected nature reserve. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but it’s well worth it.

Insider Guide to Chania
Elafonisi Beach, Chania


Another stunning beach is Falassarna, which is located on the northwest coast of Crete. The beach is about 3 kilometers long and has golden sand, crystal-clear waters, and spectacular sunsets. There are also some beach bars and taverns nearby, where you can enjoy a meal or a drink.

Insider Guide to Chania
Falasarna beach

Balos Beach is another must-see in Chania. The beach is located on the northwestern tip of the island and is accessible by boat or by a steep path. The beach is known for its turquoise waters and white sand and is surrounded by a lagoon and a small island.

Insider Guide to Chania
Balos beach and Gramvousa island

Seitan Limania Beach is a secluded cove located on the Akrotiri Peninsula. It’s a great place to escape the crowds and enjoy the natural beauty of Crete. The beach is surrounded by towering cliffs, and the crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Insider Guide to Chania
Seitan Limania Beach, Chania

Other notable beaches in Chania include Stavros, which is famous for its appearance in the movie “Zorba the Greek,” and Marathi, which is a family-friendly beach with calm waters and a playground.

Insider Guide to Chania
Stavros beach, Chania

How to get to Chania

Chania has its own airport, which is located about 14 kilometers from the city center. The airport is serviced by several airlines, including Aegean Airlines, Ryanair, and EasyJet, and has flights to many destinations in Europe.

Insider Guide to Chania

If you’re traveling from Athens, you can take a flight to Chania, or you can take a ferry from Piraeus to Souda Bay, which is about 7 kilometers from Chania. The ferry ride takes about 9 hours, and there are several ferries that operate daily. This is a popular option for those who want to see more of Greece and enjoy a scenic journey along the way.

Once you arrive in Chania, there are several transportation options available to get you to your destination. Taxis are readily available at the airport and in the city center, and the fare from the airport to the city center is around 25 euros. Alternatively, you can also take a bus from the airport to the city center, with a one-way ticket costing around 3 euros.

Transportation in Chania

Chania is a small city, and most of the main attractions are located within walking distance of each other. However, if you need to get around the city, there are several transportation options.

One of the best ways to get around Chania is by bike. There are several bike rental shops in the city, and the streets are generally safe and bike-friendly. You can also take a bus, which is a cheap and efficient way to get around. The main bus station is located in the city center and has routes to many destinations on the island.

Insider Guide to Chania

If you want to explore the surrounding areas, you can rent a car or a scooter. This will give you the freedom to visit the nearby villages, beaches, and nature reserves at your own pace. Driving in Chania can be challenging at times, especially in the city center, which has narrow streets and limited parking. However, once you get outside of the city center, the roads are generally in good condition and well-marked. Just be aware that driving in the mountains can be steep and winding, so make sure to take it slow and be cautious.

Day trips from Chania

Chania is a great base for exploring the rest of Crete, and there are many day trips that you can do from the city. One of the most popular day trips is to the city of Rethymno, which is located about 60 kilometers from Chania. Rethymno is a beautiful Venetian city with a charming old town, a castle, and a beach. You can spend the day exploring the narrow streets, visiting the museums, and enjoying the local cuisine. Discover all of Rethymno’s secrets on our Insider Guide to Rethymno.

Another popular day trip is to the Palace of Knossos, which is located about 120 kilometers from Chania. Knossos is the largest archaeological site on Crete and was the center of the Minoan civilization. The site has many well-preserved ruins, such as the palace, the throne room, and the frescoes.

Insider Guide to Chania
The Palace of Knossos

For a coastal escape, consider a day trip to the charming town of Sougia, located about 70 kilometers from Chania. It’s a laid-back destination with a beautiful beach, crystal-clear waters, and stunning mountain views. Visitors can spend the day lounging on the beach, enjoying fresh seafood, and exploring the nearby countryside. For a more active adventure, you can also hike the nearby Agia Irini Gorge, which offers scenic trails and impressive natural features.

When to visit Chania

Chania is a great destination to visit all year round, but the best time to visit is from May to October. During these months, the weather is warm and sunny, and the beaches and outdoor activities are at their best.

July and August are the peak tourist months, and the city can get quite crowded. If you want to avoid crowds, you should visit in May, June, September, or October. During these months, the weather is still warm, but the crowds are smaller, and the prices are lower.

If you’re interested in the local culture, you should visit Chania during the Carnival season, which takes place in February or March. The Carnival is a time of celebration, with parades, music, and traditional costumes.

Insider Guide to Chania

In the summer, there are many cultural events and festivals, such as the Chania Rock Festival, the Wine Festival, and the International Dance Festival.

From the charming old town to the breathtaking beaches, from the delicious cuisine to the lively nightlife, Chania has it all. And with its warm climate and friendly people, it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy life.

So if you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable travel experience, pack your bags and head to Chania. You won’t be disappointed!