Top 15 Things to Do in Chania, Crete
The top things to do in Chania all offer a touch of this scenic port city’s incredible history.
Visit Crete: Things to Do in Chania
From strolling the breezy harbor, admiring a myriad of architecture styles, greeting endangered goats to wandering through the old town’s historically diverse districts, you’ll find that the top things to do in Chania unravel the beauty of one of Crete’s most loved destinations.
Top Things to Do in Chania, Crete
1) Spend Lots of Time in Chania Old Town
I’ve visited dozens of old town settlements throughout Greece and I must say Chania is really one of the most impressive. There are many districts to simply wander through which give you a sense of the depth of history here. The old town of Chania is the place to dine, drink and wander.
The stone paths and cobbled lanes are lined with preserved historic buildings donning Venetian, Ottoman and neoclassical influences. One scene romantically melds into the next, all very atmospheric.
The old town’s main square is called 1821, named after the year locals revolted against the Turks. Agios Nikolaos Church is here too which features both a bell tower and a minaret – another proof of the diverse conquerors of Chania.
Tour Tip: Take the Chania Trikke Tour Through the Centuries Tour to scoot through Chania and take in its history.
2) Buy Leather Goods
Skrydlof Street is Chania’s leather lane. This is where the stivania, traditional long black Cretan boots worn by men, were produced. This street has retained its Eastern market style, offering made-to-measure leather products.
Behind the shops lining the southern side of this street are traces of the original Venetian defense wall that defined the southern perimeters of Chania during the Venetian period.
3) Explore Historic Old Town Districts
Chania’s old town is divided into historically diverse districts.
Some highlights include the Splatzia district, which is the old Turkish quarter. You can read up on the atmosphere and an amazing restaurant there in my earlier post: Unique Chania Dining: The Well of the Turk.
The rocky eastern edge of Chania is called Tabakaria, and it was once lined with leather processing houses. A perfect spot for the local industry since the brackish waters were perfect for softening leather. With the view of the sea, it is a beautiful place to seat and eat these days.
Chania’s Jewish community occupied the Old Jewish Quarter for centuries, once known as Zudecca. The district streets include Zambeliou, Evraiki and Kondylaki. Kondylaki is a wide street, which allowed allow donkey carts to transport goods from the harbor.
Mitropoleos Square, also known as Athinagoras Square, is located on Halidon Street in the old town. The square is in front of the Church of the Trimartyri which was built on top of the Christian community’s complex of dilapidated wooden houses destroyed by fire in 1897. Today the square is lined with cafes and statues.
Tour Tip: For an excellent guided tour, check out the Street Stories of Chania: 4-Hour Walking Tour.
4) Shop at the Chania Municipal Market
If you love food markets, one of the top things to do in Chania for you would be to visit the municipal market. This covered market was quite an addition to the city when it was established in 1913. It still opens to the bustle of more than 75 shops selling food, meat, goods and more.
Tour Tip: If you want to go on a great food tour check out the True Local Walking Food Tour of Chania.
5) Spot the Old Turkish Hammam
I was drawn to the fascinating architecture of this hammam (public Ottoman era steam baths) before I knew what it was.
Located on Halidon 33 and Sarpaki, the hammam is somehow a clothing shop now. I wish it was preserved! In any case you can see that it has 11 small hemispherical domes. A partially obscured larger dome has been cut off to make room for the newer structure next to it. The hammam was one of three public Ottoman steam baths in the city built during Turkish rule.
6) Explore Firka Fortress
The 17th-century Firka Fortress, also known as Revellino del Porto, is a Venetian fortification on the northwest side of the port. It served as the headquarters for military leaders. The sturdy walls were built with six arched cannon openings to protect the harbor.
7) Stroll the Venetian Harbor
The Venetian Harbor is a gem of Chania. It’s simply a beautiful place to stroll the day away. The 21-meter-tall lighthouse is the oldest in Greece, built by the Venetians between in the early 14th century.
8) Visit the Museums of Chania
Chania has its share of museums to suit your historic intrigue.
The Maritime Museum
Located at the entrance of the Firka Fortress, you’ll find the Maritime Museum.The two-story building. houses 13 displays about the maritime history of Crete including the Battle of Crete in 1941.
Municipal Art Gallery of Chania
This gallery displays paintings, engravings and sculptures by Greek artists. Works date back to the 18th century until today.
- Halidon 98-102, Chania 73131; +30 2821 092294
Chania Archaeological Museum
Located inside the Venetian church of St. Francis, the Chania Archaeological Museum features an array of artefacts from pottery, sculpture, metalwork, gold jewelry and precious coins. The main exhibit is a 15the-century clay seal representing a Minoan city.
- Halidon 28, Chania 73100; +30 2821 090334
Folklore Museum of Chania
This museum houses folklore exhibits that enable visitors to picture daily life in Chania during the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Halidon 46, Chania 73100; +30 2821 090816
The War Museum
Located next to the Municipal Gardens, the War Museum was once barracks of the Italian army during WWII. Browse the war artefacts from conflicts that Cretan soldiers were involved in including the Macedonian Wars, the Balkan Wars, the Asia Minor Campaign, and WWI and WWII with specific focus on the Germany’s occupation of the island.
- Tzobanaki Cassem, New Town, Chania; +30 2821044156
Tour Tip: Take the awesome Chania Art and Trikke Tour.
9) Greet the Endangered Goats at the Municipal Garden
The Municipal Garden is a leafy city park designed in the late 19th-century to European standards by the Turkish Pasha, Reouf. There’s a little animal enclosure section where you can see some beautiful birds and the endangered Cretan mountain goat (kritikos aigagros).
I highly recommend a coffee break under the shady trees at the Kipos Cafe. There’s also a big children’s playground for the kiddies. In the summer, a classic open-air cinema screens classic movies. Also, check out Chania’s early 20th century clock-tower with its tripartite design.
- Andrea Papandreou and Tzanakaki Street, Chania
10) Visit Historic and Diverse Places of Worship
Simply observing the various religious influences from past to present is one of the top things to do in Chania.
Venetian Church of St. Francis
Dating back to the 16th century, this was once the largest and grandest of the 23 Catholic churches built by the Venetians. The Archaeological Museum of Chania has taken over the space.
- Halidon 25, Old Town. Phone: +30 2821090334
Kal Kadosh Etz Hayyim Synagogue
On Kondylaki, a small lane leads to the Etz Hayyim Synagogue which was the core of Jewish life. The building dates back to the 14th century and it was once destroyed during a pirate attack led by Barbarossa in 1538.
- Parodos Kondylaki, Evraiki; +30 2821086286 Website: www.etz-hayyim-hania.org
Church of Agios Nikolaos
Built in 1320 by the Dominican brotherhood of Kantia, the Greek Orthodox church of Agios Nikolaos was later transformed into the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim in 1645. That’s when a minaret was added on its south side with two distinctive circular balconies, an addition proving its importance as the city’s main mosque.
- Kalistou, Splantzia
Mosque of the Janissaries (Yali-Tzamisi Mosque)
The Mosque of the Janissaries is the oldest Islamic structure in Crete.
Also known as Kucuk Hassan or Yali Mosque, the mosque was built in the mid-17th century where a Venetian church once stood. The building has not been used as a mosque since 1923. Today, it is a public exhibition space.
- Akti Tompazi and Koundourioti, Venetian Harbour; +30 282108323
11) Byzantine Wall
Follow the length of Karaoli-Dimitriou and Sifaka streets and you can’t miss the city’s former Byzantine fortification. It was built in the 10th century AD on an even older wall.
12) Relax With a Drink Among Locals
One of the top things to do in Chania is to have fun! Like just about every town and city and Greece, there’s a nightlife district that buzzes with action. In Chania, it is Daliani Street. All ages frequent the bars and restaurants along this strip which is also great for people watching.
Another nice corner to go out for a drink is Akti Tompazi, a pedestrian way lined with nice bars with a sea view.
13) The Minoan Ship and the Moro Docks
At the east end of the harbor visit a reconstructed 15th-century Minoan ship, called the Minoa. It was created as part of an exhibition about ancient navigation. Located on the Moro Docks, built in the 17th century, they were once used to house Italian prisoners of war which is why they were untouched when the Germans bombed Chania in 1941.
- Moro Docks, Venetian Harbour; +30 2821091875
14) Outdoor Cinema in Chania
Another one of the top things to do in Chania – when the weather is great – is to experience a modern summer tradition in Greece: outdoor cinema. Chania has two open-air cinemas.
The Attikon cinema is located in the Halepa area screens current hits. The other open-air cinema is set up in the Municipal Gardens.
15) Plan a Chania Day Trip
Chania is a great starting point for fun day trips out to various villages, beach areas and nature spots. Crete is a huge island so if you plan to take a day trip to a location, account for the long drives back and forth.
For more about Elafonissi and its incredible pink sand beach, visit my earlier post: Photo Tour: Beaches of Crete.
Another fantastic day trip for nature lovers is Samaria Gorge. Also nearby is Lake Kournas, where you can rent paddle boats. If you’re seeking a village to explore, I also highly recommend visiting Argiropoli.
How to Get to Chania
Two airports, Heraklion and Chania, service regular flights to and from Athens and Thessaloniki. The airport of Heraklion also services flights to Rhodes, Kos and other Greek islands in summer.
International travelers arrive by air, usually with a change in Athens. You can find the best flight deals with Kiwi.
Ferries connect between Heraklion port in Crete to Piraeus port in Athens. Travel time by ferry is about 9 to 10 hours, and the journey is typically an overnight trip. For my review of this journey,check out: Overnight Ferry to Crete with Minoan Lines.
Getting Around Crete
The easiest way to get from point A to point B on the island is by driving. An international car rental company I can highly recommend is AutoEurope.
A local company I can also recommend is Rental Center Crete.
Where to Stay in Crete
Check out my post: Where to Stay in Crete for my tried and tested suggestions.
What to Do in Crete
For a rundown of what I experienced the first time around during my visit to Crete, check out my post: 10 Things I Learned in Crete in 7 Days
Some of the best beaches in Greece are in Crete, check out: Photo Tour: Beaches of Crete to get inspired.
Other Great Tours in Crete to Try
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Have you been to Crete? Have you done any of the top things to do in Chania?
Feel free to comment below to highly recommend an experience or add one of your own! I’d love to take your advice next time I find myself in Chania.