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Chania Old Town: Complete Guide (Things To Do, Where To Stay And More)

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the view of Chania Old Town from above
a man sitting on a bench with a fishing pole in Chania Old Town

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Chania Old Town is one of the most charming historical European cities that I’ve visited and I have no doubt that you’ll fall in love with it.

From its colourful and narrow streets riddled with authentic cafes to the waterfront lined with boats, the magic of this small island city is beautiful.

In this guide, I’ll cover all the best things to do, where to eat, where to stay, how to get here from the airport, the parking situation and much more.

Basically, it will be everything I know after visiting here with the tourism board!

🚗 Getting around: the best way to get around is to rent a car (taxis are expensive here)

🎟️ Must-do activities: Venetian Harbour, glass bottom boat with snorkelling & try Bougatsa Iordanis

🏨 Best hotel: Ambassadors Residence Boutique Hotel

🥘 Best restaurant: Arismari

📱Data: install an eSim from Airalo rather than buying a local sim – it’s much less hassle! Get $3 off with code ‘AMELIA2423’

🩺 Best travel medical insurance: at 80% cheaper with just as much coverage than what I was previously paying, I’ll never stop sharing how great SafetyWing is as a full-time traveller!

Things to do in Chania Old Town

Visit the Kucuk Hasan Mosque

a group of people walking on a dock by the Kucuk Hasan Mosque
Kucuk Hasan Mosque and many buildings in the background

One of the most prominent buildings that sticks out like a sore thumb in the best possible way is the Kucuk Hasan Mosque.

With huge pink domes and incredibly detailed stonework on the side of the building, it’s a real piece of artwork.

Whilst Kucuk Hasan Mosque was previously used for religious purposes, today its sole function is to serve as a venue for artwork to be showcased and cultural events to be held.

Whether you’re interested in these things or you simply want to photograph its beauty, it won’t disappoint.

Check out the Lighthouse

a lighthouse on a small island in the middle of the ocean in Chania

The Lighthouse is a pretty big thing to miss if you’re walking along the waterfront of Chania’s Old Town as it stands 21 meters tall and protrudes out of the sea.

It’s one of the most photographed and iconic spots in the city that was originally built by the Venetians around 1570 – although, later renovations were made in the 19th century by the Egyptians.

Although it’s in the middle of the sea, there is a path that connects the lighthouse to the harbour which enables you to walk all the way to the base which is quite unique.

By the way, I also have some other blog posts on Chania:

Visit Fort Firkas/Maritime Museum

Situated along the Venetian Harbour is Fort Firkas – also known as the Maritime Museum.

It was built in the 17th century in order to protect Chania from the Ottoman invasions, yet today it’s home to many artefacts and relics from ancient to modern times.

With entrance tickets of less than five euros, this is a great budget-friendly thing to enjoy in Chania.

Dine at the pink Pallas

a palm tree in front of a restaurant
a group of people sitting at tables outside a restaurant

Another spot along the waterfront is an incredible restaurant called Pallas, which, in my opinion, is the prettiest restaurant in the city.

Its pink facade, balcony dining areas and waterside seating lit with twinkling lights make it the ultimate spot to enjoy some incredible Greek cuisine.

If you’re visiting Crete from May onwards, I’d recommend booking a table as this place gets quite busy.

See the Church of Agios

The Church of Agios has a blend of Venetian and Ottoman history to it, which really shines through in the unique design that includes a minaret.

It was originally built in the 14th century during the Venetian period, but it was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in the 17th century.

Today it’s a Greek Orthodox church that’s worth stopping by as it’s not very often you get to see such unique architecture that has a layered cultural heritage.

Head to the Greek Football Team Museum

the football museum with a group of sports jerseys

The Greek Football Team Museum is a real hidden gem in Chania that’s completely free to visit. It gets a whopping 4.9 out of 5 stars from over 800 reviews and is run by the sweetest man named Niko who is clearly incredibly passionate.

Niko has collected a tonne of memorabilia and is super knowledgeable about football – remembering even the tiniest of obscure details that he is more than willing to sit and chat about for ages with guests who visit the museum.

As I said, it’s free to visit, but tips are welcomed and there is plenty of opportunity to purchase memorabilia.

Wander around the Folklore Museum of Chania

The Folklore Museum of Chania is like stepping back in time and offers a small glimpse into the traditional Cretan lifestyle.

You’re able to wander around the rooms that have been created to transport you back to years ago whilst admiring the number of artifacts on display.

It’s pretty inexpensive and it’s a great place to swing by if you’re looking to learn more about the culture and history here.

Try Bougatsa at the infamous Bougatsa Iordanis

Bougatsa covered in sugar
a man in aprons making food

Bougatsa Iordanis is well-known as being the best spot on the island for its bougatsa – a traditional Greek pasty. However, unlike others which are usually filled with custard of cheese, Bougatsa Iordanis has put a unique twist on things.

They use salted mizithra cheese and often sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon. It’s then cut into pieces and served with a hot drink – usually Greek coffee or mountain tea – which is an interesting mix of herbs and spices.

This family-run cafe has been going since 1924 and since I was here with the tourism board, we were invited around the back to witness how Bougatsa is made using the same tradition that has been passed on for over 100 years!

Grab some drinks at Sinagogi Cocktail Bar

Sinagogi Cocktail Bar is somewhere I didn’t go whilst I was in Chania that I’m quite gutted to have missed.

And, the only reason I didn’t visit is because I visiting with the tourism board who couldn’t squeeze this onto our itinerary sadly – there are clearly just too many amazing things to do in Chania.

However, from what I have seen and researched, this place is nothing short of stunning and by far the most popular place to grab a cocktail in the Old Town. People also say that the prices are really reasonable too, which is always a bonus. Let me know if you try it out!

Stroll allong the Venetian Harbour

a group of boats over the Venetian harbor in Chania Old Town

The Venetian Harbour is situated next to Old Town, although some consider it as part of the area. I think the reality is that there is an overlap but to what extent, I am unsure to be honest.

Either way, it’s a lovely place to be during the day and the night and it’s certainly not somewhere that you should miss off of your Chania itinerary.

Historically, it was the critical link for trade between Europe and the East, yet today it’s nothing more than a docking point for boats and somewhere for tourists and locals alike to stroll by.

See Splantzia Square

Splantzia Square is on the edge of the Old Town – around a 10-minute walk from the harbour.

It’s a common place for locals and tourists to relax and enjoy a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants and cafes that surround the area, however, the most notable thing to see here is the Church of Saint Nicholas.

The church is pretty on the inside and out, but if you’re not into your churches then I’d recommend wandering up the street towards the left of the church and exploring the colourful streets which sit behind.

Find some goodies in Chania Old Market

The Chania Old Market is a huge indoor market that sells everything from meats to souvenirs.

Regardless of which country I’m visiting, I always make an effort to find a local market like this because you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s going to be the most authentic items and food for the best price in the area. And this is true for Chania. You’ll notice many of the stalls inside the market are selling similar things to those outside of the market for a much cheaper price.

If you’re looking to buy some things to take home, then make sure to swing by here.

Visit the Municipal Art Gallery

Housed in a pretty Venetian building The Municipal Art Gallery is situated in the heart of Old Town and it’s filled with impressive pieces of both modern and historical contemporary and historical Geek artwork.

You can visit here for less than 5 euros and easily spend around 45 minutes soaking up all the information and marvelling at the artwork.

There are also regular exhibitions and workshops that take place here too, so be sure to pop in and check if this is the kind of thing you’re into!

Take a boat ride along the Cretan coast

a white boat in the water

I would say that ‘no trip to Chania is complete without a boat ride‘ but unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me as the weather had other ideas, which I am truly gutted about as it’s one of the best things to do here!

The Cretan coastline is one of the most beautiful sights with some of the clearest blue waters in Europe. Whether you want to hop on a glass-bottom boat or a fancy catamaran, there are plenty of options that will fit your budget.

Check the prices of some of the most highly rated boat experiences below:

Wander in and out of the boutique shops

a room with round mirrors and hats on the wall
a dress on a swinger

Last but not least on this list of what to do in Old Town Chania is exploring the boutique shops. Which – to be honest – you can’t really escape.

This area is the best place to find unique things to buy and you could easily spend hours wandering down the small alleyways where charming little stores are hidden.

It’s difficult to describe the areas where there are lots of boutique shops, but if you head to the waterfront then you’ll very quickly find the alleyways I’m talking about!

Best hotels in Chania Old Town

a staircase with a black railing in Chania Old Town
a bed with white sheets and pillows in Chania

If you’re wondering where to stay in Chania and you’re considering Old Town as your base then I want to tell you that you’ll be making a great choice if you choose to stay here.

As you can tell from this guide already, there is plenty going on here and even if you’re looking to do things that are further away, there are great connecting roads. Or, if you’re more into joining organised excursions then a lot of them leave from Old Town – so either way, it’s ideal.

What I will say though, is that you won’t find any resort-style hotels here. You’ll find plenty of nice hotels with pools and facilities, but they’re not huge.

This area is better for charming boutique hotels, authentic places to stay, as well as both budget-friendly and luxury hotels.

Here are some of the best hotels located in the Chania Old Town:

  • 🏨 Ambassadors Residence Boutique Hotel: this 5* place is absolutely stunning and what’s even better is the location which is right on the waterfront next to the Pallas restaurant I mentioned earlier.

  • 🏨 Madonna Del Mare: if you’re looking for a unique yet central place to stay, then this is for you. The grounds are stunning and the decor is just perfect.

  • 🏨 Monastery Estate Venetian Harbor: if you love swanky and stylish hotels then you’re going to love this one! It’s super sleek, has a pool and is located in an authentic building.

  • 🏨 Harismari Cozy Hotel: tucked away in the area where all of the colourful streets and houses are, this is a beautiful hotel to choose.

Best restaurants in Chania Old Town

a plate of food on a table
a plate of food on a table

When it comes to the best restaurants in this area, it’s a tough job to choose because there are so many.

From picturesque locations that overlook the waterfront to authentic family-run eateries that are hidden down cobbled alleyways, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Below are some of my personal favourites that I enjoyed whilst I was in Chania:

  • 🥘 Arismari: this dreamy spot along the waterfront serves some of the most incredible food in all of Chania – not just Old Town! From the atmosphere, service and of course, the food which not only tasted unbelievable but also had top-notch presentation, it’s a spot that absolutely shouldn’t be missed.

  • 🧆 Pallas: I’ve already covered more on Pallas above as it’s truly a stunning location so I won’t go over the same detail, but definitely get this one booked in advance!

  • 🥙 Salis: for a mix of Greek food with an Italian twist paired with some of the best wine in the city, this is the place to head check out. It’s on the edge of Old Town and overlooks the harbour.

Some other eateries that I haven’t personally tried but come highly recommended are:

  • Colombo Kitchen & Bar
  • Plateia
  • Señal Chania
  • Laganon Fresh Pasta
  • Ginger Concept
  • Magna Grecia

How to get from Chania Old Town to the airport

Getting to and from Chania Old Town to the airport is actually pretty straightforward. As with most cases, the easiest way is to rent a car – though of course, you can also take a taxi or bus.

I’ll break down each one in more detail so that you can make the best decision for yourself.

Taxi

Since there is no Uber or other ride-sharing apps that operate in Crete, you’ll need to rely on taxis if this is your preferred method of transport.

I’d recommend either using Welcome Pickups or speaking with your hotel in advance and arrange a trusted driver through them.

You can expect it to take around 30 minutes and cost approximately €30.

Bus

If you’re on a tight budget then taking the bus is really straightforward. It will take slightly longer than a taxi (around 40 minutes), but it will only cost around €3 and will drop on the edge of Old Town in Chania.

The buses usually operate from 6 am until midnight, but you can check the timetable and book on the KTEL website.

Tip: if you’re travelling during the peak months then I’d avoid this option, as the buses get super busy and the combination of lots of people, a bunch of luggage and the hot sun is not a great mix.

Car rental

For those looking to rent a car, then this will be much more ideal as you’ll be able to explore the island on your own schedule with ease.

You can rent a car directly from the airport and I’d suggest booking it via Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com as these two sites compare a bunch of companies, meaning you’ll get the best bang for your buck.

Most of the time Discover Cars is the best option, but sometimes Rentalcars.com has a better price depending on the country you’re visiting so it’s worth checking both.

The catch here is parking during the peak summer period, which we’ll get onto next…

Parking in Old Town Chania

So for starters, there are plenty of places to park, but the challenge comes with the number of spaces when the crowds are high and the lack of overnight parking availability.

The below are some places to park during the day:

  • Municipal Car Park
  • Avea Old Factory Car Park
  • Talos Square Car Park

For overnight parking, your best bet is just outside of Old Town in Parking Ermis. It will take you around 15 minutes to walk to the waterfront, so it’s worth double-checking where this car park is in relation to your accommodation unless you don’t mind the walk.

Beaches in Chania Old Town

Chania Old Town coastline
Chania Old Town coastline

There are technically no beaches in the Old Town, however, there are a few which are on the outskirts and easy to walk to.

These are:

  • 🏖️ Koum Kapi Beach: this one has a really narrow beach area, but it’s fairly long with shallow waters. It will take around 15 minutes to walk here from the centre of the Chanias Old Town.
  • 🏖️ Paralia Koum Κapi: this is technically part of the first beach, but it’s the preferred spot for those who like to sea swim since it has steps that lead directly into the water and there’s a shower available.
  • 🏖️ Nea Chora Beach: walking to this beach will take you about 20 minutes, but it’s definitely the preferable one to head to since there is more sand, plus sunbeds, umbrellas and cabanas to rent.

If you’re willing to explore the island more, then Crete has some of the best beaches in the world and you won’t be disappointed with what you find.

I’ll list the best ones below, but you’ll find a lot more detail about how to get to these in my best things to do in Chania guide which I’d recommend you read if you are considering visiting these beaches because I go into detail about how to get them – something that isn’t always straightforward!

  • 🏖️ Elafonissi Beach: this is a pink sand beach
  • 🏖️ Seitan Limania: this is a hidden cove that’s really pretty
  • 🏖️ Balos Lagoon: this is arguably the most popular of the three and is truly incredible

FAQ

chairs and a table outside a building in Chania Old Town
a bicycle parked on a wall next to a body of water in Chania

Is Chania Old Town worth visiting?

Absolutely 100% yes. It would be a terrible mistake to visit Chania and not go to the Old Town. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the city!

Can you walk to a beach from Chania Old Town?

There are no beaches in this area itself, but there is a beach within a 10-minute walk and another within 20 minutes.

Conclusion

To conclude, I highly recommend visiting Chania Old Town. It’s one of my favourite parts of the city and there is so much to see and do that you won’t get bored here – plus it’s so picturesque you’ll find it hard to stay away!

By the way, I have some other posts on Chania that you might like:

Mille / Stay Wild Travels.