The Many Reasons You Will Love Chania, Crete

By Alex Kallimanis: There’s something magical about the second largest town on Greece’s biggest island. We’re frequently asked “where is your favorite place?” Chania, Crete ranks among our top destinations. There are a lot of beautiful places in the world, so the warmth and hospitality of locals helps a destination rise in the ranks in our book. Chania is located on the northwest coast of Crete, which is the largest island in Greece. Its 14th-century Venetian harbor, narrow streets and lively waterfront restaurants are a wonderful backdrop to spend a few days. The harbor entrance features a 16th-century lighthouse with Venetian, Egyptian and Ottoman influences. The former Venetian colony’s old town is dotted with pastel colored buildings and charming architecture. Lively tavernas feature some of the best food in Greece, with warm hospitality. It’s customary to receive complimentary dessert and a small carafe of raki (a distilled spirit made from grapes). The fusion of Venetian, Turkish, Egyptian and Greek influences make it heaven for artists and foodies.

Venetian Harbor

If you arrive in Chania by rental car or bus from Crete’s capital of Heraklion (like we did), the 2 and 1/2 hour coastal drive is very picturesque. And once you set eyes on the Venetian Harbor, you’ll be struck by its charm and bounty of great hangouts. The center of the harbor is the old Venetian lighthouse, which dates back to 1585. As the harbor is heart shaped, it’s larger than it appears at first glance. Stroll, eat, read, drink, return to your room and repeat. That’s a recipe for a perfect vacation in Chania, Crete. We spent days unwinding here and were truly touched by the warmth of the locals, who also know how to have a great time. Chania, Crete

The Old Town of Chania, Crete

We stayed at a lovely five room apartment-hotel with a kitchenette, just steps from the Venetian Harbor. We wish we could have stayed at Dream Art Studios for months, rather than five nights. Fresh jam and a small carafe of raki on a tray were a welcome indicator of more hospitality to come. There are a lot of great guest house options in the old town of Chania, Crete. Read some TripAdvisor, Yelp and booking site reviews and support a small business. You’ll be glad you did. The Old Town of Chania, Crete’s quaint laneways are filled with great restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Many of the shops are owned by talented artists, which is a refreshing change from factory made trinket shops. We spoke extensively to the proprietor of a gift shop who sold hand crafted jewellery and souvenir tourist mementos. She spoke philosophically and diplomatically when discussing the Greek financial crisis. “We frequently change political parties in Greece. All that really changes is the dialogue. Change must come from within.”

Shopping: Reasons to Love Chania, Crete

Chania horse and carriage operator with shops in the background
photo credit: Myron Keilas
A must in the Old Town is the Agora, the town’s large indoor market. This is the place to go to stock up on fresh olives, cheese, herbs and other local delicacies. If you’re inclined to cook in your room, you can also buy fresh meat and seafood here. Among other things, Greeks make excellent hand creams with olive oil, chamomile, lavender and other natural ingredients. These make practical gifts for friends and family living in cold climates. We also highly recommend buying Greek oregano, thyme, honey and of course, extra virgin olive oil. The quality of these ingredients are as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world. In addition to its old world charm, Chania also has a modern side. Step out of the Old Town, and you’ll find just about everything else you might want. Yes, there is an H&M, but have a look in the small shops first.

Phenomenal Food

Cretan salads are as good as salads come. They feature myzithra cheese instead of feta. Myzithra is a deliciously soft and creamy sheep cheese. Piled generously on top of fresh tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, onions, croutons and dressed with high quality extra virgin olive oil, oregano and capers, it’s fantastic. We could eat Cretan salads every day for a month and not get tired of them. They’re also sensible because Greek dishes can be heavy. With a wonderful view of Chania’s Venetian Harbour and the lighthouse, the outside terrace at La Bodega is a great place to enjoy a delicious Cretan salad over drinks. We ate at a casual psarotaverne (fish tavern) at the Agora. Our mixed platter of fresh calamari, sardines and shrimp were wonderful and inexpensive. Plan to have one of your lunches at the market. There are so many awesome restaurants in Chania along the harbour and Old Town. Look for crowds of locals and live music. You’ll have a fun time over a delicious meal. Virtually everything in Chania, Crete is a delight. Between fresh seafood, lamb, pasta and traditional Greek dishes, it is foodie heaven. Try the fresh grilled octopus too, it’s a local specialty that just melts in your mouth.


It’s nice to be able to walk around a town at night and feel safe. We frequently walked around some of Chania’s narrow laneways when they were desolate and never felt threatened. Bell also ran through the laneways by herself in the early morning and felt very safe. Touristy places where lots of locals are struggling in a tough economy often breeds a lot of crime. While crime happens everywhere, Chania is very safe by global standards.

Drinking, Dancing and an Awesome Nightlife

Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Crete and is famous for writing Zorba the Greek. Crete embodies the lively essence of Greece, with its own unique traditions and meals. Cretans know how to have a great time and that spirit is infectious. When we’re bogged down in city life, we daydream of returning to Chania, Crete…and just staying awhile.
photo credit: Myron Keilas

Getting In and Out of Chania, Crete

Chania International Airport serves many European destinations with direct flights during the warmer months. You can also fly into Heraklion and rent a car or take a bus to Chania. In our case, we flew directly into Heraklion from Vienna, then caught a bus to Chania. We flew out of Greece from Chania to Sofia, Bulgaria via Athens.
photo credit: Myron Keilas

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Planning to visit Crete and have questions?

You can leave a comment below or email me at [email protected] and I can assist. I’m a dual Greek and American citizen who’s traveled to Greece 10+ times. I’ve visited Crete 3 times and counting. You can also check out the Crete section on the official Greek tourism board’s page.  people sitting at cafe terraces in the old town of Chania

More Articles on Greece

I’ve written many articles on Greece over the years. Here are a few more posts you might find useful for planning your trip! 6 Fantastic Greek Islands to Visit in 2018 5 Tips for Visiting Athens in 2018 Tips for Visiting Naxos: Best of Greece Athens One Day Cruise: 3 Greek Islands in 12 Hours Palace of Knosos, Europe’s Oldest Civilization (just outside Heraklion, Crete) Is Athens Worth Visiting? Syros, the Best Greek Cyclades Island to Visit in Winter 7 Reasons Athens Might be Europe’s Best City to Visit

About the Writer and this Website

Alex Kallimanis is a UCF graduate who grew up in the Orlando, Florida area before living in destinations like Australia, the Netherlands, Ireland and east coast destinations like Boston and Washington, DC. As a travel journalist and travel consultant, I enjoy assisting readers with getting amazing experiences and value from their trips. I’ve visited 58 countries and counting. Alex working on his computer along the beach in Sanibel Island, Florida I’m also a Greek citizen that has made 10+ trips to Greece. My wife of nearly 17 years, Bell, is an Australian scientist working in cancer research. We first met in a hostel in Brugge, Belgium while backpacking Europe solo after college. You can read more on that story in our about page if you’re interested. I encourage you to browse some of the other destinations we’ve covered for helpful tips. I also share advice in our resources page that could save you thousands on travel costs! Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission when you book or sign up directly through these links and it costs you nothing extra. Thanks for supporting independent travel journalism during a challenging time for the industry.  


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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10 thoughts on “The Many Reasons You Will Love Chania, Crete

  1. I did mainland of Greece, I know I missed the beautiful islands. Crete looks so complete and beautiful through your lens.
    Food of course is good! I am reminded of the dishes I had. 🙂

    1. Ahhh it is always tough to fit everything in, the islands are amazing, but there are lots of beautiful places in the world! But if you do get a chance to see some of the islands you won’t regret it!

    1. It was a few months back since we were there and we still talk about the food 😉

      Thanks on the video!

  2. Looks like you had a wonderful time in Chania! The old town looks so cute and is exactly where I’d like to wander! I will definitely keep this place in mind when visiting Greece!

    1. You totally should, it’s easy to get in and out of Crete and there are so many amazing things to do aside from Chania!

  3. Chania paints a different perspective of Greece. Different from its exotic islands and magnificent ruins from history. Chania comes across as a charming and endearing place, no wonder it has captured your hearts.

    1. Agree that is isn’t typical Greece, but it has it’s own interesting history and architecture due to the Venetians. And up the road you have Knossos for those who love ruins!

  4. I adored Chania when I was there. So glad you loved it too. I wish I had stayed there instead of just heading out there on a day trip. It was by far my favourite place I visited in Greece (so far).

    1. Hi Adelina. Glad to read it was your favorite place in Greece too! There are so many beautiful places in Greece, but Chania has just about everything you could ask for, so that makes it tops in our book. For purely dramatic beauty, I’d say Santorini though.

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