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Chania in Crete
Chania is the westernmost province of Crete with an area of 2,376 km2 and a population of approximately 108,000. The highest mountain Pachnes (2453 m) is located in Lefka Ori (White Mountains). The city of Chania has roughly 54,000 inhabitants, which makes Chania Crete's second largest city after Heraklion.
Venetian harbour in Chania.
Chania is spelled three different ways: Chania, Hania and Xania. The name is pronounced like the word "chess", or like the sound you hear when you clear your throat, the emphasis is on the last syllable: Chaniá. Clear your throat and emphasize the last letter and you'll get pretty close to the correct pronunciation.
Venetian harbour in Chania. Compare with the Venetian harbour in Rethymnon.
The Venetian harbour in Chania was constructed between 1320 and 1356.
Right from the start it was noticed that the thinking was wrong, partly
the harbour became far too shallow (clogged with sewage), partly there
were problems with the strong northerly winds. To solve the problem of
the strong winds, the breakwater was built, which is still there.
The beautiful breakwater and lighthouse in the Venetian harbour in Chania.
Odos Angeloy and Odos Theotokopoulou, which in my opinion is absolutely the most pleasant, and perhaps also the most beautiful, of all Chania's streets. At the quayside, where Odos Theotokopoulou has its beginnings, many tour buses and taxis stop because this part of the old town is completely car-free.
On Theotokopoulou street, and in the adjacent neighbourhoods, are the majority of old town hotels and pensions, almost all the houses along the street are renovated, it is a colourful street where many Greeks live.
Odos Angeloy is one of many beautiful alleys in Chania.
So what is it that makes Chania, and the whole province, so special? It cannot be explained in a few short sentences. But briefly, I can say that the greatness of Chania itself is partly the city itself: its historically interesting and absolutely delightful old town, the Venetian harbour with its teeming folk life and waterfront tavernas, the mix between old and new and all these impressions from different cultures: Ottoman, Venetian, Greek and Jewish, on the one hand there is the proximity to many other interesting cities, villages, beaches and attractions. Even the sunset is amazing.
The sunset in Chania seen from the tomb of Eleftherios Venizelos.
One of many beautiful houses in Chania's old town.
TRAVEL TO CHANIA
Nothing could be simpler, all major charter companies in Europe
fly to Chania. If you are already in Greece, it is a simple match to get
to Chania, by domestic flight or by boat. Chania is not only a good base
for exploring the rest of Crete, it is also a good starting point for
island hopping in other parts of the Greek archipelago.
Agia Marina just west of Chania is a very popular tourist destination.
Although all major charter companies sell trips to the Chania coast, few offer accommodation in the city of Chania itself. As a rule, one lives in one of the neighbouring villages west, south and east of Chania. Some examples are Agia Marina, Agii Apostoli, Kato Stalos, Platanias and Maleme west of Chania, Kalives, Almyrida and Georgioupolis east of Chania, as well as Paleochora in the south. Some charter companies also have trips to Chania's pleasant suburb of Nea Chora.
Almyrida is one of my favourites east of Chania.
If you are travelling on your own, it is of course easiest to fly directly to Chania, the next best thing is to buy an air plane seat to Heraklion and continue by bus (about 2½ hours) to Chania. Other options are to fly to Athens and onward by boat or domestic flight, or to Santorini and take a ferry from there. Airport bus from the airport to Chania runs often and does not cost much. Taxi costs around €40.
Paleochora is one of my favourites south of Chania.
Chania has a daily boat connection with the Athens port of Piraeus. The port of Chania is located in Souda about 10 kilometers east of the city. The easiest way to get between Souda and Chania is by bus or taxi.
TRAVEL AROUND IN CHANIA
As long as you're just moving around in Chania town, you don't need any other means of transport other than your feet. If you want to see other parts of the island bus or car are the best options. The roads are in good condition, the traffic is typically Greek: intense and chaotic, not least in and around Chania city, and along the major highways.
From the bus station in Chania there are buses to near and far.
With local bus (KTEL) you can get around all of Crete, the buses are of high quality, they usually keep on time and the prices are relatively low. The bus station is on Odos Kidonias, walk Odos Halidon to Plateia 1866, turn right where the square ends and continue for about a hundred meters. Tickets are bought at the newly renovated bus station. The bus station is great, there is even a tavern where you can sit and wait for the bus.
Bus timetable: http://www.e-ktel.com/en/
Mopeds are not the ideal means of transport in Crete, as I said, the traffic is quite lively and the distances are considerable. Mopeds are mainly suitable for short distances, such as to the beaches west of Chania and to the Akrotiri peninsula. A car is therefore preferable.
A good way to discover Chania with a guide is to go with one of the tourist buses.
Chania and the surrounding area are served by city buses, the frequency of trips is high and the tickets are cheap. City buses also serve the beaches west of Chania, the buses to, for example, Kato Stalos, Agia Marina and Platanias leave from the square Plateia 1866. From here the bus also goes to the ferry terminal in Souda. You can also ride around Chania and the surrounding area in the small Toy Train.
Excursion boats depart daily from the Venetian harbour in Chania.
From the Venetian harbour in Chania, excursion boats leave daily to Kalathos island and Stavros beach (where the movie Zorba was partially shot) on the Akrotiri peninsula, and to the small islands of Lazaretta and Theodorou west of Chania. From the harbour you can also go on short trips by glass bottom boat.
Taxis are everywhere, just wave and they will stop. The taxi station in Chania is located in one corner of Plateia 1866, phone number: 28210-94300 or 28210-98700. Be sure to settle the price before getting into the taxi if it does not use a taximeter.
BEACHES IN CHANIA
There are no beaches, or almost anyway, in Chania. The nearest beach is in Nea Chora which is approximately 1 kilometre west of the Venetian port of Chania. Walking from the tourism stronghold of Chania to Nea Chora takes just over 10 minutes.
The nearest beach is in Nea Chora which is near Chania.
There is also a small beach in Koum Kapi east of the old town. But it is not a beach you stay on for long, possibly you can take a swim. Koum Kapi is like its own district in Chania. It is located near the Venetian harbour and is considered one of the city's most lively and popular places for Greeks.
Koum Kapi east of the old town is a rather unknown part of Chania.
Koum Kapi is known for its picturesque alleys and the relaxed atmosphere that characterizes the area. There are many cafes, bars and restaurants where visitors and locals can enjoy food, drink and company. During the summer months, the area becomes particularly lively and often offers entertainment such as live music and other events.
Chania is a good base for exploring western Crete, for example Elafonissi.
EXAMPLES OF WHAT TO SE AND DO IN CHANIA
One of many good restaurants in Chania's old town
Chania's culinary heart is the Market Hall one block east of Plateia Square 1866. The Market Hall houses many shops, a few of which sell knick-knacks, most of the shops are there for the sake of the Greeks, not for us tourists. But that does not prevent a visit, if you have room in your suitcase you can buy home tasty cheeses, olives in all forms, liquid honey, olive oil from the area and fragrant spices and herbs. In the market hall there are also several nice taverns with good Greek food on the menu.
Note! The Market hall is closed for renovation. Will reopen in 2023 or 2024 again.
At Plateia 1866 begins the great parade street of Chania, Odos Halidon (Chalidon), which leads us into the older parts of Chania, the street continues all the way down to the Venetian harbour. If you come to Chania by bus or taxi, Halidon is the first street you come across. The street is closed to traffic in the evenings, taxis and local buses stop at Plateia 1886 and from there it is only a few meters walk to Halidon.
Odos Halidon and the cathedral Trimartiri on the right.
If you like leather goods, you can make a detour to the right where the famous "leather street" Odos Skridlof begins. The street feels more like a crowded bazaar than a street. Here you will find everything you can think of in the way of leather, but also other goods such as carpets, handicrafts, and of course some souvenir shops. If you're in the mood for shopping, you'll also find an ample selection along Halidon Street.
The so-called leather street Odos Skridlof.
We continue down the street, the port area begins to loom in front of us, at the square Plateia Elefterios Venizelos, Odos Halidon has reached its end. Just before we reach the square we pass a crossroads, on the left begins Odos Zambeliou, and on the right Odos Karaloi Dimitrou.
Plateia Elefterios Venizelos Square begins where Odos Halidon ends.
The square is also called Santrivani, which means fountain in Turkish. At the beginning of the 20th century, Eleftherios Venizelos Square was something of the heart of Chania, where intellectuals gathered to discuss. I don't know how intellectual the people are who gather here today, any deeper discussions are certainly not taking place. No, today it is instead the Starbuck café, taverns, bars and souvenir shops that attract. But it happens that concerts and dance performances are also held here.
The square Plateia 1821 and the church of Agia Ekaterina with its magnificent minaret.
Another interesting square is Plateia 1821 on Odos Daskaloyiannis Street. The square was to the Turks what Plateia Elefterios Venizelos was to the Greeks, a gathering place where people met to discuss.
At the far end of the square we see the church of Agia Ekaterina from the middle of the 16th century. When the Turks conquered Chania in 1645, most churches were converted into mosques, Agia Ekaterina was no exception. Even today there are clear signs that Agia Ekaterina was active as a mosque, the minaret on the right really gives the church a strange appearance. Plateia 1821 of today is a leafy oasis where Chania residents and tourists drink coffee and play backgammon in the cafes under the shady plane trees.
One of many cosy restaurants in Chania.
Other interesting sights are among other things the Maritime
Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Trimartyri Cathedral
and the Catholic Church, mosques and minarets, the lighthouse and
the breakwater, the docks, the Venetian port, and the tomb of Eleftherios
There are so many good restaurants in Chania.
EXAMPLE OF EXCURSIONS FROM CHANIA
Travel agencies offer various excursion packages for those who do not want, or cannot, travel around on their own. The advantage of going on organized excursions, for example to Knossos, is that a guide is included. The most common excursions are Knossos in Heraklion, hiking in the Samaria Gorge and the beach paradise of Elafonissi and Falassarna. You buy tickets at travel agencies.
A hike in the Samaria Gorge will be a memory for life.
Just like Elafonissi, Falassarna consists of several beaches. The first is called Big beach and is very long, but above all it is incredibly wide. It can accommodate as many people as you like, even in high season. If you walk to the end of the beach you will come to some smaller pockets of beach separated by stones and rocks.
The wild and beautiful Falassarna beach lies to the west and Chania.
ACCOMMODATION IN CHANIA
There are plenty of good accommodation options in Chania. We always live in the old districts, it's as cozy as it gets. Below are tips on good hotels.