Are you planning a vacation to Crete, Greece soon and you’re wondering if you should include Chania (pronounced Haa·nee·uh) in your itinerary?
Well, you’re in the right place, because I’ve had the chance to visit this charming city before and I’m here to share my experiences.
This blog post will serve as your guide, detailing the top reasons why Chania is totally worth a visit, as well as a few considerations that might make you rethink adding it to your itinerary.
- Is Chania worth visiting? (Short answer)
- Reasons why you should visit Chania, Crete
- Reasons why you might opt out of visiting Chania, Crete
- So is Chania worth visiting?!
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Is Chania worth visiting? (Short answer)
In a nutshell, yes, Chania is absolutely worth visiting! Having walked around its charming Venetian harbor and explored its picturesque streets, I can personally say that it’s my favorite Greek city, out of the ones that I already visited. Not to mention that it’s also a good base from where you can explore the western part of Crete, including the most famous beaches on the island.
But of course, as with any destination, individual tastes can vary, so let’s dive deeper into why Chania has a special place in my heart, and perhaps, why it might earn a spot in yours too.
Reasons why you should visit Chania, Crete
Here are a few reasons why I believe Chania deserves a spot in your Crete travel itinerary.
01. Charming Old Town
One of the main reasons why Chania is totally worth a visit lies in its picturesque Old Town, which is a mix of beautifully restored houses, ruins, and structures dating back to the Venetian and Ottoman eras.
The area is compact enough to explore on foot, yet large enough to lose yourself in its captivating charm. As you wander through the labyrinth of alleys, you’ll really feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
As you explore the Old Town, you will stumble across many taverns, restaurants, bar and shops, but also impressive landmarks like the Chania Lighthouse, Kucuk Hasan Mosque or the Firka Venetian Fortress.
02. Architecture mix
Architecture enthusiasts (myself included) will love Chania’s unique blend of architectural styles, which is a testament to its rich and diverse history.
Walking around, you’ll see a fascinating mix of Venetian, Ottoman, and traditional Cretan architecture. I will mention that not all buildings are restored and some have quite a ruined look, but personally, I feel like this just adds to the charm of the city.
03. Beautiful Venetian port
No visit to Chania is complete without spending time at its main attraction: the picturesque Venetian historic port. This harbor, with its multi-colored buildings and stone lighthouse standing like a sentinel over the blue waters of the Mediterranean, is as iconic as it gets.
Watching the sunset over the port is nothing short of magical, so make sure you find the time to do this during your visit.
04. Lively nightlife
When the sun goes down, Chania truly comes to life. The city has a vibrant nightlife scene, offering a mix of traditional Greek and international music spots in the form of hookah bars, pubs, open-air restaurants, and even a few nightclubs.
In particular, the old town is a hotspot with music spilling out onto the cobbled streets from several establishments. Street performers are also a common sight (more so during the weekends), such as the talented girl I saw juggling with fire during one of my evening walks.
I will also mention that, at Mesostrato, a restaurant set in a ruined building, I had the most romantic dinner of my trip: under the night sky and with live music.
However, if you prefer a quieter evening, there are plenty of waterfront taverns where you can enjoy a glass of Cretan wine while overlooking the illuminated Venetian port.
05. Close to some of the most beautiful beaches in Crete
One of the biggest draws for visitors to Chania is its proximity to some of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.
While Nea Chora Beach is the closest one to the Old Town (about 10-15 minutes on foot) and it’s nice and large enough for a day of relaxation, I also recommend you explore some of the more famous beaches in western Crete, since they’re fairly easy to reach from Chania. And yes, they will be busier, but it’s worth it.
Also within easy reach are Balos Lagoon (the other pink sand beach in Crete and a popular day trip from Chania) and the beautiful Falassarna Beach.
If you plan to rent a car, you should also consider visiting some of the beaches located on the nearby Akrotiri Peninsula (they’re less known, but still really beautiful):
- Seitan Limania (Stefanou Beach): A stunning, yet tiny beach that resembles the calas of Mallorca, accessible after a 20-minute hike; Parking space is limited so try to get there early in the morning.
- Marathi Beach: Sandy beach with shallow, clean waters. Can get pretty crowded during the summer months.
- Kalathas Beach: Organized beach, popular among locals and expats.
- Stavros Beach: Sandy beach with shallow and calm waters perfect for families with kids.
06. Public bus hub
Chania isn’t just a beautiful destination in itself, it also serves as a convenient hub for public transportation. The city’s central bus station is a gateway to the rest of Crete, making day trips to places like Rethymno, Heraklion, and the southern coast a breeze.
The buses are fairly frequent, reliable and affordable during the high season, so they’re a viable option for visiting Crete without a car.
Whether you’re looking to explore the island’s archaeological sites, main towns, or beautiful beaches, using Chania as a base and doing day trips by bus is a great idea if you don’t plan to hire a car.
If you’re a cat lover, you’re in for a treat in Chania. The city, like many others in Greece, is home to a large population of street cats.
The felines add a unique and charming touch to the city’s ambiance and you’ll find them napping in the sun, roaming the old town streets, or playfully engaging with tourists and locals alike.
While they may be street cats, they’re well-loved by the city’s inhabitants, often receiving bits of food and plenty of petting. Their presence, in a strange way, adds to the city’s laid-back, welcoming vibe.
And if you want a souvenir to remember them by, you’ll find plenty to choose from at the shops in the old town, ranging from mugs to “Cats of Crete” calendars.
08. Water activities
Chania’s close proximity to the sea offers a wide range of water activities to choose from.
From kayaking and paddleboarding to diving and snorkeling in the clear waters of the nearby beaches, there’s something for every water enthusiast. And if you have a driving license, you can also rent a motor boat for an enjoyable trip along the coast.
09. Good weather
Given its southern location, Chania has pleasant weather even early or late during the shoulder seasons. This, combined with the fact that it’s also less crowded outside of the summer months, makes it a good Greek destination for sightseeing in spring or autumn.
10. It’s affordable
If you compare Crete with other popular Greek islands like Santorini or Mykonos, you’ll quickly notice how affordable it is. And Chania is no different. You can easily find a comfortable room or apartment for under 100 euros per couple, in high season, here.
Food is also fairly decent priced and usually, you can expect to pay between 8 and 15 euros for a dish at a local restaurant or tavern.
Reasons why you might opt out of visiting Chania, Crete
While Chania has many attractions, it might not be a good fit for everyone. Here are a few reasons why you might want to skip this city.
11. It’s a city
If you’re a traveler who prefers rural, more isolated locations or you dream of a small, picturesque Greek village, you might find Chania too urban. Although it’s not a sprawling metropolis, it does have the hustle and bustle, noise, and occasional traffic often associated with cities and towns.
This city vibe, while charming to some, might not align with the peace and quiet that some holidaymakers seek.
12. You’re looking for a beach-only vacation
While Chania is close to some of Crete’s most stunning beaches, it’s not a beach resort itself.
So if you’re after a beach-only vacation, you might want to consider another location to stay in or settle with the few resorts outside of the city.
13. You don’t like buildings with a slightly decrepit look
Chania is an ancient city with layers of history, and with that comes a certain level of wear and tear. It’s a place where beautiful restoration and slow decay coexist, creating an ambiance that’s both charming and slightly decrepit.
If pristine or ultra-modern cities are more your style, then the worn facades and aged structures in Chania might not appeal to you.
Remember though: these time-worn characteristics are part of what gives Chania its unique charm and authentic feel.
14. It can be crowded
During peak season, Chania, particularly its Old Town, tends to be bustling with visitors. While this creates a lively, island atmosphere, it might not offer the most tranquil experience.
So if you’re after a serene and peaceful getaway, then you might want to leave Chania out of your Crete itinerary.
15. There are no white-washed buildings in Chania
If you’re dreaming of seeing the iconic Cycladic white-washed buildings, then Crete is not the right place to visit and you should opt for Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Ios, or Naxos instead. And the reason for this is simple: it is not a Cycladic island.
The Cretan architecture (that’s also present in Chania), while very beautiful itself, is mostly characterized by stone buildings and muted or tanned pastel houses.
How many days is enough for Chania?
I recommend you set aside at least 3 or 4 full days to visit Chania. This will allow you to leisurely explore the town but also visit the beautiful Balos Pink Beach.
What is Chania known for?
Chania is mostly known for its rich history, picturesque Venetian harbor, and well-preserved Old Town with narrow streets, as well as its diverse cultural heritage.
Can you walk to the beach from Chania?
You can reach Nea Chora Beach by foot in 15 – 20 minutes from Chania Old Town.
Is Chania very touristy?
While Chania attracts quite a few tourists, particularly during the summer months, I didn’t find it excessively crowded. However, do note that the taverns along the waterfront are usually more expensive, which can be due to the fact that they appeal more to tourists.
Does Chania have sandy beaches?
There are several sandy beaches fairly close to Chania. One of the most well-known is Nea Chora, which is easily accessible on foot from the Old Town. Other sandy beaches around Chania include Agii Apostoli, Stalos, and Agia Marina.
So is Chania worth visiting?!
All things considered, the question of whether Chania is worth visiting is a resounding ‘yes’ for most. With its intriguing mix of architecture, charming old harbor, convenient location, vibrant nightlife, and a range of water activities, it’s a destination that packs a punch.
Of course, everyone’s travel preferences vary, and if you’re seeking a secluded beach resort or you’re looking for the vibe of a small, picturesque village, then you may want to explore other options.
And if you’re wondering how Crete compares with other Greek islands, I invite you to read my detailed comparison of Corfu vs Crete.