Chania

The main city in western Crete, Chania, is one of the most appealing on the island. Its setting, lively harbour, historical remains, busy market, museums and nearby beaches make it the ideal spot in many ways. It retains its unique charm and character no matter how many more visitors pack into the streets of the city whose name is variously spelt as Chania, Khania, Hania or Kania.

Photo by Mike Gerrard

However you spell it, it doesn’t take long to fall under Chania’s spell. It's big enough to have all the facilities of a city, as well the other features listed above, but small enough for anyone to quickly find their way round and start to feel at home in. It is a small city, on a human scale, with an identifiable character about it.

Photo by Mike Gerrard

Chania's Setting

The setting undoubtedly helps. To the north are the sparkling blue waters of the Sea of Crete, while to the south is the Lefka Ori range of mountains, the White Mountains that are the backbone of this end of the island. If you choose your harbour cafe carefully, you may be able to see snow-topped mountains and azure seas at the same time.

Photo by Mike Gerrard

Parts of the waterfront are lined with tall mansions, looking at certain times not unlike Venice, and the Venetians are just one of several groups of people who have made their impact on this beautiful mongrel of a place. It was, naturally, an important Minoan city, but one which we know less about as the modern city has been added layer after layer on top of the Minoan remains. The Minoan city was called Kydonia, and the site is being excavated within the city boundaries.


Always Check Those Opening Hours!
Photo by Donna Dailey

Chania's Archaeological Museum

The best finds from Kydonia are on display in Chania’s Archaeological Museum, which is also rich in remains from several other sites in western Crete. It has a good pottery collection, and several good sculptures and mosaics. The building itself is also of interest, although the outside belies the interior. It was once the Venetian Church of San Francesco, and later converted by the Turks into a mosque. The remnants of a minaret and a fountain can be seen in a lovely little courtyard.

The Mosque of the Janissaries

Mosque of the Janissaries

The Turkish influence can be seen elsewhere, such as the Mosque of the Janissaries right on the harbour, dating from 1645 and the oldest surviving Ottoman building on Crete. It was damaged during World War II, then restored and for many years made an unmissable Tourist Information Centre, but today it is used occasionally for exhibitions.

The Maritime Museum
Photo by Donna Dailey

The Maritime Museum

The bulk of the harbour shows Chania’s Venetian aspect, especially in the restored Firkas fortress. It’s an interesting if small place to wander round, with good views of the harbour, and in one of its towers is the Maritime Museum with its collection of model ships and accounts of sea battles in the waters off the coast. Even if you are not a naval type, it is worth visiting to see an incredibly detailed scale model of Chania as it was in the 17th century, town as well as harbour, including the 16th-century Venetian Arsenali, or boat yards, which can also still be seen on the harbour. The Nautical Museum also contains one of the most vivid accounts of the Battle of Crete that you will see anywhere on the island.

Photo by Donna Dailey

The Folklore Museum

Chania also has a Folklore Museum, tucked away in the southeastern corner of the city but well worth walking out to, perhaps stopping off on the way at the busy Central Market. The museum is housed in what was obviously a once-elegant town house, when this area was one of Chania’s more fashionable districts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In among the memorabilia of local worthies, meaning little to the foreign visitor, are some gems including excellent information on the Cretan resistance Movement during World War II, and the earlier struggle for independence from the Turks. Some of the graphic displays of events during the German occupation are not for the faint-hearted, but will tell you a lot about the Cretan spirit and character.

Chania's Old Venetian Harbour
Photo by Donna Dailey

Other Museums and Attractions and Further Information
Chania has several other museums in and around the city, and some old churches and monasteries well worth visiting. There are several small archaeological sites too, and you can find out details of all these on

Chania's official tourism website.

Chania on Video
See this delightful YouTube video giving you a very good impression of what Chania is like:


Where to Stay in Chania



Some other Crete pages

  • Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

  • Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • The Herb Man of Kouses

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

  • The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • Stilianou Winery near Knossos

    The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

  • Samaria Gorge

    The Samaria Gorge is one the longest gorges in Europe and doing the hike is one of the best and most popular things to do on Crete.

  • Rethymnon in Western Crete

    Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,

  • Phaistos Minoan Palace on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

  • Paleohora and the South-West Coast

    The area east from Paleohora along the south-west coast of Crete includes resorts like Agia Galini, gorges like the Imbros Gorge and quieter towns like Sfakia.

  • Our Hire Car in Crete

    The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.

  • Matala Beach

    Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.

  • Margarites

    Margarites is known on Crete for its pottery, with ceramics shops and workshops lining the streets of this charming small town not far from Rethymnon.

  • Manousakis Wine Tasting

    We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

  • Malia and its Minoan Palace on Crete

    Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

  • Maleme and the German War Cemetery on Crete

    Maleme near Chania is where the people who died during the battle of Crete are buried, in the German War Cemetery with the Commonwealth War Cemetery nearby.

  • Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • Knossos

    Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.

  • Irakleio

    Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.

  • How to Make Petimezi

    How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Hiking the Samaria Gorge

    Hiking the Samaria Gorge on Crete, one of the best things to do on Crete, by Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Hiking in Southwest Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets goes hiking in southwest Crete with Ramblers Walking Holidays based in Paleohora and hiking the E4 footpath and to Anidri and Azogires.

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