exploring Chania in Crete

This post has been a long time in the making, but I’m finally sharing with you my whereabouts in Chania, which I visited over the holidays! Chania is a very picturesque city in west Crete, famous for its Venetian build old port and old town full of cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. The city also played a great role in the efforts of Crete’s independence from the Ottoman rule and the unification with Greece. Nowadays Chania is a popular travel destination for Greeks and foreigners alike. So here’s a mini guide on the places I visited (and photographed) during my weekend there!

Chania Old Town

Chania old port and lighthouse, Crete

The old town is defined by the Venetian fortifications which were put in place back in the 13th century and is the most picturesque part of Chania! Places you shouldn’t miss in this area are the following:

– The Venetian port and dry docks, which was created back in the 13th century when Venetians occupied Crete.

– The Lighthouse, which was originally built by the Venetians, but took its present look when the city was under Egyptian rule in the 19th century.

the old port of Chania
Giali Tzami in the old port, was a mosque created in the 17th century. Nowadays it is used as an exhibition area.

Agios Nikolaos church, which was built as a Dominican monastery was converted into a mosque and after Crete’s unification with the rest of Greece into a Greek Orthodox church. It’s probably the only church in Greece that also features a minaret!

In the old town you’ll also find the Etz Hayyim Synagogue which dates back to the 15th century, the Archaeological Museum which is housed in a former Franciscan monastery, as well as the Naval Museum. Depending on if you plan to visit the museums or not, a day is enough to explore the old town and all it has to offer.

Halepa neighborhood

Halepa is a neighborhood of Chania, which in the late 19th century was an affluent suburb of the city. It was the place where the High Commissioner of Crete resided (back then the island was not yet reunited with mainland Greece), as well as the General Consuls of the Great Powers (UK, France, Russia). It is also the birth and residence place of Eleftherios Venizelos which was the most important Greek politician of the 20th century. Venizelos’ residence was partially destroyed from air raids in 1941 and it was then occupied by the Germans. Long after the war the Greek state bought the house and recently transformed it into a museum. The residence/museum is definitely worth a visit and it won’t take up much of your time.

a small part of Eleftherios Venizelos library

Next to Venizelos residence is a beautiful albeit abandoned mansion, which used to serve as the residence High Commissioner of Crete. As the first High Commissioner was Prince George of Greece, the mansion is also known as “the Palace”. In this neighborhood I also singled out two beautiful churches: Evangelismos and St. Magdalene. The latter is built in a Russian architectural style and is very unique.

Venizelos’ tombs

Eleftherios Venizelos' tomb

 

The tombs of Eleftherios Venizelos and his son Sophocles, who was also a prominent politician of the 20th century are located in the region of Akrotiri not very far from the city of Chania in a plateau which provides you with a beautiful view over the city of Chania and even further. The place is very minimal and I must say that it reminded me of the Kennedy tomb in Arlington cemetery in Virginia.

Where to eat

The Venetian dry docks in Chania old port

Chania offers a lot of options on dining, especially around the old port. I have a colleague who is from Chania so I relied on her for tips, which I’m now passing on to you! The first day we had lunch/early dinner at a restaurant called Tamam, just a block behind the old port. The cuisine here is Greek/Oriental and I definitely recommend the Iranian rice…it was delicious!! The next day we had lunch at Mesogeiako, located in Chatzimichali Daliani street. This street is full of restaurants and bars and I guess that it will be full of people come summer!

If you’re looking for cafes and bars, the port is full of different options. I singled out Pallas, but was full and didn’t have the opportunity to visit it. Well, there’s always next time!

Beaches and nearby excursions

Chania is ideal as the center of many excursions in western Crete. I’ll start off with my favorite beach of Elafonisi and the picturesque village of Palaiochora. Falasarna in the far west is another beautiful beach for your list and of course Balos, which you’ve probably spotted on Pinterest and is on my wish list for quite some time! For adventure lovers, then Samaria Gorge is ideal for you.

Related: 10 Greek Beaches you shouldn’t miss

Chania has both a major port connected to Piraeus and an international airport, so there’s no need to visit Heraklion if you want to explore only the western part of Crete. Last but not least you can pop over to Rethymno, which is just an hour drive from Chania. Rethymno has also a picturesque old town and old port!

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