The city of chania

Chania (Hania)

Plan de ville – Chania 
The capital of Crete until 1972, Chania is now the second largest city on the island, after Heraklion, with its own airport.

Map of Agia Irini gorge. Western Crete
Map of Chania, Crete

It is considered one of the most attractive cities in Greece and actually consists of two parts: the new town and the old walled city, with its old port and Venetian, Ottoman and Jewish quarters.

Dotted with a multitude of mansions and churches dating from the Venetian and Turkish eras, Chania is an exceptional blend of history, which contributes to its charm. A walk through its maze of narrow streets is a journey through the history of Crete.

Here is a day of discovery:

It all starts with the entrance to the old town through the Halidon street, named after a family of Cretan resistance fighters. A colourful shopping street with the Venetian monastery of St Francis on the left and the Orthodox cathedral of Chania on the right.

Chalidon street, Chania
Chania, rue Halidon

The domes you see in the photo on the right were part of a Turkish hammam, at No. 35 Halidon Street, one of the many hamams built in Chania during the Turkish occupation. This hammam was built on the site of the now defunct Venetian monastery of Santa Clara. It was located opposite the monastery of St. Francis. Until a few years ago, the latter housed the Archaeological Museum of Chania. Today, this hammam has been transformed into a clothing shop, but has retained its original architecture with its nooks and crannies and arches formed by the domes.

Starting early in the morning gives you the opportunity to see the old town and its Venetian port at the best time of the day, when the sun rises over the hill, tinting the proud mansions and the calm sea a deep red.

Until 10 or 11 a.m., when the tourists start to wake up, the city has a feeling of serenity and enchantment. This is the best time to get a glimpse of the daily life of the inhabitants. For the best insight, go to the city's indoor market.

Chania, indoor market
Chania, indoor market

It is an enclosed, cross-shaped gallery that houses over 70 food stalls, many of which offer fresh, locally produced fruit. You'll also find fish, dairy products, bread, pulses, spices, herbs and whatever else you need. It smells of the oriental sweetness. This indoor market was built in the early 20th century

It smells of the Orient. This covered market was built in the early 20th The market was built in the 19th century on the model of the market in Marseille, after the demolition of the main rampart south of the city wall. Behind it is a park with benches and a few cafés, which are popular with the regulars. After visiting the market, you can come and rest here.

At eleven o'clock, the cafeterias in the square Santrivani (fountain in greek) and all around the Venetian port are full of tourists who have just woken up and are having breakfast. The cafeterias of the port are the best place to have a good breakfast and watch the action.

Chania, Sindrivani. Entrée dans le vieux
Chania, Santrivani. Entrance to the old harbor

If you are looking for something tasty and inexpensive, try the cream-filled pastries (boughàtsa) at Iordanis, just a few steps away.

Continue your walk to the east and you will find yourself at Splatzia. This was the Turkish quarter of the city and many old houses can still be found here. Its alleys have been turned into pedestrian areas, allowing you to take a long walk. You will also see two Venetian churches, one dedicated to St Rocco and the other to St Nicholas. The latter has been transformed into a mosque, but only the minaret remains of this mosque. It has the particularity of having an old Ottoman minaret and a traditional Christian bell tower.

Between 2 and 6 p.m., most tourists are at the beach, while many locals enjoy a good siesta. The buzz in the streets dies down for a few hours and everything seems peaceful. If you don't nap or go to the beach yourself, you can spend these hours visiting the city's museums; they are less crowded at this time and they also protect you from the scorching heat outside.

Chania, Archaeological Museum
The former archaeological museum

The former archaeological museum, in the heart of Chania, on Halidon Street, the Centre moved in 2020 to a comfortable building, 2.5 km from the old port. It has moved to a comfortable building, 2.5km from the old port. The building that housed it for half a century is a sight in itself! It is a old Franciscan monastery, it was probably built in the early 16th century and is the most important religious building to date. Over the last few centuries, the monastery has had anything but a boring history! In 1645, the Turks transformed it into a mosque (the foundations of the minaret and the beautiful Turkish fountain can still be seen in the inner courtyard). In 1913, the Greeks, who liberated Crete, turned it into a theatre and a cinema! In 1941, the Germans turned it into an ammunition depot (which they fortunately spared when they left the city). The building was then left to its fate until 1968, when it was finally converted into a museum after undergoing extensive maintenance work.

Chania, alley in the old town
Chania, alley in the old town

The museum houses a rich collection of archaeological finds from the region, dating from the Neolithic to the Roman period. The most impressive pieces are Roman mosaic floors from the 3rd century AD, some classical statues, samples of Minoan pottery and clay tablets with linear A and B writing. Inside the museum you will find very informative documents, including photographs of the exhibits.

Chania, Cathedral
Chania, Cathedral

Right in front of the old archaeological museum, the church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Maryand next to it, the old Turkish baths qui aujourd’hui abritent des échoppes, comme indiqué plus haut.  En 1965, il a été déclaré monument historique. Jusqu’en 1994, il abritait une fonderie de cloches et fonctionne aujourd’hui comme un magasin de vêtements.

The naval museum is open every day from 10:00 to 16:00. It is a small but interesting museum located in the Venetian harbour and has a rich collection of exhibits. You will see miniatures of warships, old navigation instruments, old photos, an interesting representation of the Venetian city and an important collection of shells.

Chania, Naval Museum and Lighthouse
Chania, Naval Museum and Lighthouse

Behind the Koundourioti alley (Aktì Koundouriòti) is the heart of the old town. This is where people come in the early evening, when they want to go for a walk or eat something after a day at the beach. Zambeliou, Theotokopoulou, Angelou and Kondylaki are the most beautiful streets in the area, lined with old houses that have been transformed into hotels, bars and restaurants. Of these, the Renier mansion on Moschon Street is the most interesting example. It was built in the early 15th century as a home for a Venetian family and today the remaining inner courtyard has been converted into a restaurant, where you can enjoy a delicious meal.

The door with the Latin inscription and the Renier coat of arms, as well as the family chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, have also been preserved.

Chania, the harbor
Chania, the harbor

Later in the evening, people start to gather around the cobbled alley of Koundourioti and Tombazi (Aktì Tombàzi). As they walk along the waterfront, they meet and exchange ideas for the night, then groups are formed and evening plans are made. The action continues into the early hours of the morning, mainly around the western part of Koundourioti Alley, with its many bars and discos, and around Enosseos Alley, east of the harbour, which houses the old Venetian arsenals.

The city's beaches are all to the west. Most of them are clean, sandy beaches, but of course you shouldn't expect to find secluded spots. They are literally covered with sunbeds and umbrellas and surrounded by countless hotels and restaurants and numerous water sports companies. If you don't mind the crowds and development, you can enjoy the cool, clean sea and try your hand at canoeing, skiing or surfing.

Chania, covered market stalls
Chania, covered market stalls

If you don't mind the crowds and development, you can enjoy the cool, clean sea and try your hand at canoeing, skiing or surfing.

The Municipal beach of Hania is about a ten-minute walk west of town (take the street that starts behind the Maritime Museum). It has showers, cafeterias and restaurants, and of course it's the first beach to be filled with people. It's never too early to find it crowded.

A little further on, you will find the Aghii Apostoli beach which is also sandy and very pleasant. However, it too is crowded, and you may feel as squeezed as if you had taken the bus at rush hour!

Your best choice is Chrissi Akti (Gold Coast), located 2km west of Chania. It is a beautiful sandy beach and large enough to accommodate you.

The sea in the Hania area hides some impressive reefs with very interesting marine life. If you would like to explore it with the most experienced guides in Hania, contact Blue Adventures Diving.

Chania, Chrissi Akti beach
Chania, Chrissi Akti beach

In conclusion, Chania is a perfect holiday destination that satisfies the most varied tastes: numerous possibilities for water sports, beautiful places for sunbathing and an ideal starting point for all kinds of highly recommended excursions, especially to the western part of the island. The 18 km hike through the famous Samaria Gorge or the Aradena Gorge will be an unforgettable memory, as the natural beauty of the area is so breathtaking. The Akrotiri peninsula, which is bathed in an ancient monastery atmosphere, is also of interest. It separates the Bay of Souda, with its unique and beautiful natural harbour, and the Bay of Chania. Some surrounding villages or sites, easily accessible by bus or boat, are also worth a visit: Sougia, Loutro, Agia Roumeli, Chora Sfakion and Paleochora (to the south), Kissamos, Gramvoussa, Phalassarna, Chrissoskalitissa, and Elafonissi (to the west). And long live Crete!

(see also our page Chania – Crete Top 10). Also our page: map of Chania area, the western part of the island

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