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35 Best Things To Do In Chania On The Island Of Crete

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chairs and a table outside a building in Chania Old Town.
Chania next to the sea

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Whether you’re looking for vibrant historical culture, hidden hiking trails, boat trips across the crystal clear sea water or a mix of all three and more, there are so many incredible things to do in Chania. 

After a trip to Chania with the tourism board where they crammed days to the brim with activities and gave us insider tips and knowledge to share with you, I’m going to cover all of the best things we did whilst we were here, plus a few more that we didn’t get chance to do but are well researched to help you (and are ready for when I return next time!).

At the end of the guide, I’ll also let you know a couple of the best places to stay and some other need-to-know information!

If you’re tight on time, here’s some key things to know:

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

🎟️ Must-do activities: Old Town, glass bottom boat with snorkellingTherisso Gorge, Balos Lagoon & a cooking class

🏨 Best hotel: Pilot Beach

🥘 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!

More Chania posts:

Best things to do in Chania

Explore Old Town Chania

a horse pulling a carriage in Chania Old Town.
a woman sitting on a rock by the water

One of the most vibrant areas of Chania is the Old Town and it’s somewhere that I recommend visiting more than once during your trip.

It’s a hub for activity – regardless of whether it’s day or night – and filled with charming boutique shops nestled down tiny lanes and top-notch restaurants that line the waterfront. 

If you can make it here for sunset, then you won’t be disappointed by the multitude of colours that blend into the darkness behind the water. 

Visit the old Lighthouse

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

The Lighthouse is situated between Old Town and The Venetian Harbour in Chania and is one of the most iconic spots in the city.

It was originally built by the Venetians around 1570, with later renovations being made by the Egyptians in the early 19th century, and stands at around 21 meters high.

Whether you’re looking for a picturesque spot to watch the sunset or you’re looking to take a stroll along the walkway between the harbour and the lighthouse, it’s a must-do/see whilst you’re in Chania!

Hop on board a guided sunset boat cruise

a boat on the water

A sunset boat cruise is a popular activity in Chania that’s very inexpensive.

On board, you’ll have a guide explaining the history of Chania, whilst the captain sails you around the coastline as you watch the sun setting in the distance.

The experience lasts around one hour and you’ll finish off with a shot of Raki – a very popular Mediterranean drink thats often served after a meal.

Check prices: Sunset Boat Cruise

Stroll through Chania Municipal Gardens 

a group of people sitting at a table
two men sitting at a table in the Chania Municipal Gardens

The Municipal Gardens are a nice location to walk through – particularly on a summers days.

Although it’s small, it’s a popular spot among the locals who like to watch the world go by and bring their children to play.

The gardens are home to dozens of trees which are gifted from other countries around the world. However, there is one tree that sticks out like a sore thumb and that’s the Bengal Ficus tree. It’s over 150 years old and looks like it’s been pulled straight out of the Tarzan movie set!

Horse ride through the mountains

a group of men riding horses in a field

Horse riding is always a fun activity no matter where you are in the world, but having the opportunity to ride along the paths that span across the Cretan mountains with views of Chania Bay is something that’s extra special.

With the Chania Horse Riding Nature Tour, you’ll be able to visit the stables and meet the family who own the horses, before heading out on a one-hour ride.

Whether this is your first time riding a horse or you’re more experienced, you’ll be provided with all the necessary equipment and training to enjoy this activity.

Check prices: Chania Horse Riding Nature Tour

Check out Splantzia Square

Splantzia Square is technically situated in Chania’s Old Town, however, it’s quite far back from the waterfront, so it’s not an area I necessarily associated with Old Town until I began writing this.

There are a bunch of restaurants in the square as well as the Church of Saint Nicholas – which is considered the main attraction here.

Whilst you’re here, I’d also recommend wandering around the narrow streets that sit behind the church. They’re quaint and colourful and filled with plenty of charming cafes and restaurants to try.

Visit the Kucuk Hasan Mosque

Kucuk Hasan Mosque from above

The Kucuk Hasan Mosque is something that you can’t miss if you’re wandering along the waterfront in Chania Old Town. It’s incredibly beautiful, with large pink domes and intricate stonework on the side of the building.

Although it was previously a working Mosque, today it serves only as a place to feature artwork and hold cultural events – plus it’s also a great spot to photograph as it’s right on the edge of the water. If you catch it at the right time, you’ll get a nice reflection in the water.

Go on a stand-up paddleboard adventure

a couple of people on paddle boards in the water

Paddleboarding is the perfect opportunity to see Chania’s pretty coastline, whilst spotting plenty of sealife – including Caretta turtles if you’re lucky!

You can either rent a paddleboard from various spots along the beach or you can book an experience where you’ll be guided to all of the best spots, have a higher opportunity of seeing sea life and enjoy a natural spa with white clay to detoxify in.

Check prices: Paddleboarding Experience

Visit the Archaeological Museum of Chania

a stone wall in the Archaeological Museum of Chania
a group of pottery on shelves in the Archaeological Museum of Chania

The Archaeological Museum of Chania is a relatively new attraction. If you’re keen to learn more about the history of Chania, then you won’t leave here feeling disappointed as it’s stuffed the to brim with incredible things! 

You’ll learn all about the Neolithic, Minoan, Hellenistic and Roman periods and find many incredible pottery, jewellery and other craftsmanship on display. 

Upon arrival, you’ll be given a device that works a bit like a phone. You dial the number at the relevant display and in-depth information will be played back to you.

Sail along the Cretan coast with a catamaran cruise

a white boat in the water

With such incredible blue waters and a pretty coastline, a catamaran cruise is a perfect activity to enjoy in Chania. If you’ve read my Chania Itinerary, you’ll know that a boat trip was unfortunately taken off of our itinerary due to bad weather, but here’s what I know about a catamaran trip:

There are a number of companies that operate catamaran cruises, however they all generally offer a similar experience.

You’ll get to enjoy food, drinks, music, kayaking, snorkelling and of course, plenty of incredible views – all of which lasts around half a day.

Check prices: Catamaran Cruise

Try Bougatsa at Bougatsa Chanion

a plate of food with a fork and a knife
a man in a kitchen making food

Bougatsa is a traditional breakfast food in Greece, and it’s certainly an interesting thing to try while you’re in Crete. 

It’s essentially a very thin pastry with cheese inside and you can have it plain or with sugar and cinema on top, which sounds strange, but it actually tastes pretty good!

Bougatsa Chanion is a family-run restaurant that only really sells Bougatsa. It’s known as being one of the best places in Chania for Bougatsa and if you ask nicely, they may even take you around the side of the building where you can see how it’s made. 

Check out Fort Firkas/Maritime Centre

Fort Firkas is an old Venetian fortress that was built back in the 17th century as a means to protect the city from Ottoman invasions.

However, today it’s home to the Maritime Centre Museum on the edge of the Venetian Harbour. Inside you’ll find a collection of artefacts such as ship models, nautical instruments, and relics from ancient to modern times.

It costs less than five euros to visit so if this is up your street, then it’s a bargain activity to enjoy for an hour or so – plus, it’s in a very convenient location.

Try the seafood at Apostolis

a plate of food on a table

To be completely transparent, I’m not a lover of fish. However, I was travelling to Chania with a group of girls – half of who do like fish – and they had a lot of great things to say about this restaurant.

Which, to be fair, so did I…just not about the fish, so I guess you could say this is a great spot to head to regardless of whether you like to eat fish or not.

It’s actually right next to the Maritime Centre and the Venetian Harbour, so it’s quite convenient if you’re strolling around the area!

Wander through the Open Air Market

a man sitting at a table with a sign at the Chania market
a man standing in front of a table with fruit at the Chania market

The Open Air Market on Minoos Street is a great way to get a glimpse into the local culture and sample some of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, meats, fish, and even snails.

Whilst snails are most commonly associated with France, they are in fact a local delicacy here in Crete – although they are certainly not something I am brave enough to try.

The Open Air Market on Minoos Street is open from 7 am until 2 pm every Saturday, so you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of this activity.

Stroll along the Venetian Harbour 

a group of boats in the Venetian harbor in Chania

Much like Chania Old Town, the Venetian Harbour is a location that can’t be missed off your list when it comes to the best things to do in Chania – and is almost certainly somewhere that you’ll visit more than once. 

In fact, Chania Old Town and the Venetian Harbour are two spots that blend into each other – although they are considered different things to do in Chania. 

The Venetian harbour was historically the critical link in the trade routes between Europe and the East, however today it’s simply a docking point for boats and somewhere that is very popular among tourists and locals alike.

Spot the streetart

a black panther painted on a wall

Whilst Chania is not particularly known for its street art, all over the city there are interesting pieces of artwork with meaningful stories behind them – even if the quaint alleyways – and they somehow fit into place quite nicely. 

Enjoy a cooking class

With Greek food being so delicious and cooking classes being so much fun, it would be criminal not to experience something like this whilst you’re in Chania. 

Although this was originally on our itinerary and something the whole group was really looking forward to, sadly there was an issue on the day and we didn’t get to experience this. 

However, from my research, here’s what I can tell you about what you can expect from a cooking class:

There are many cooking classes on offer, but the Authentic Cooking Class in the White Mountains looks like it’s the best one to go for. 

Set in the Cretan countryside with breathtaking views, you’ll get to pick your own produce from the garden and learn from a local expert about how to prepare, create and serve a traditional Cretan dish, before taking a stroll through the fields and learning all about the history of the area.

Of course, you can’t escape hearing about how olive oil harvesting works, and knowing the culture in Greece, you can be almost certain that you won’t leave empty-handed!

Check prices: Authentic Cooking Class in the White Mountains

Sail on a glass-bottom boat

a boat on the water

As I mentioned earlier when I was talking about the catamaran cruise we sadly didn’t get to take a boat right due to bad weather. However, if a catamaran cruise is outside of your budget, then hopping on a glass-bottom boat might be a better option for you.

Whilst you won’t get as much as you do with the catamaran cruise, you’ll still get to do plenty of snorkelling and enjoy the Cretan coastline from a new perspective.

Plus, you’ll of course be able to spot plenty of sealife from the glass-bottom boat throughout the trip!

The glass-bottom boat trip is a sell-out experience, so I’d recommend booking this ahead of your holiday!

Check prices: Glass-bottom Boat Trip

Sip on mountain tea

a person pouring tea into a cup

If you’re English and you love a good cuppa like me, you’re going to be slightly disappointed with the lack of places servicing English tea in Chania.

Instead, you’ll need to substitute it for mountain tea, which is a unique blend of herbs and spices. I’m not entirely sure whether there is an exact recipe as it seemed to taste slightly different depending on where we were drinking it, however, it’s a nice taste and has plenty of health benefits

Join a bike tour

a bicycle parked on a wall next to a body of water
a bicycle parked against a wall

A bike tour around Chania is one of the most popular things to do in the area and I can see why; it means you get to see way more of the city in much less time whilst having your own personal local guide to give you all the information you need.

Since I was with the tourism board on my trip to Chania, we didn’t have this included on our itinerary – probably because we had a driver ferrying us around! However, I have done many bike tours in various cities and I can confirm it’s always great fun.

Plus, the guide always shares lots of local recommendations that you may not necessarily have known about otherwise.

Check prices: Chania City Highlights Small Group Bike Tour

Shop in the boutique stores

a room with a mirror and hats on the wall
a dress on a swinger

All over Chania, there are beautiful boutique shops selling handmade clothes and crafts. More often than not, they’re tucked down cobbled narrow streets and you could easily spend an entire morning or afternoon getting lost on a shopping trip. 

Make sure that you leave some space in your luggage to bring back some souvenirs or gifts as these high quality items come at bargain prices.

Visit the Greek National Football Team Museum

a storefront with a group of sports jerseys

The Greek National Football Team Museum gets incredible reviews – over 800 with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5!

It’s a hidden gem in Chania for football lovers and is run by a man named Niko who genuinely loves football and wants to share his knowledge and memorabilia with the world. Niko will talk to visitors all day and knows even the tiniest and most obscure details that football enthusiasts will find interesting.

It’s free to visit, although you can leave a tip and purchase memorabilia if you want to.

Head to the beach

Chania next to the water
Chania next to the water

It’s no surprise that beaches are on this list of the best things to do in Chania, and each one offers a slightly different experience.

  • Koum Kapi Beach

    Koum Kapi Beach is a great city beach that has a thin strip of sand, but is quite long.

    Depending on the weather, it’s not usually super crowded, but has beautiful crystal clear water thats fairly shallow.
  • Paralia Koum Κapi

    Paralia Koum Κapi is part of the Koum Kapi Beach, however it’s better for those who like to sea swim.

    It has steps that lead directly into the water and a shower to rinse off after your swim.
  • Nea Chora Beach

    Nea Chora Beach is about a 20-minute walk or 10-minute taxi from Old Town Chania, however, it’s got more sand and you’re able to rent sunbeds, umbrellas and cabanas.

    If you’re able to get there, I’d recommend heading here over the first two.

These are the three beaches that are in Chania itself, however, there are much more impressive ones on the island if you’re willing to travel a little further which I’ll cover next.

Take a day trip to Balos Lagoon

an aerial view of Balos Lagoon

Balos Lagoon is insanely beautiful – I’ve never seen waters and landscapes so unique. It’s got shallow and warm waters with plenty of snorkelling spots, so needless to say this combination makes it a popular location!

However, its location is a little tricky and you’ll need to decide which way to get there.

Your options are:

To drive » from Chania, this will take around 1 hour and 20 minutes and due to the last section of the route being over rough terrain, you’ll need a 4×4. If you’re renting a car in Chania, you’ll notice that most companies have a clause explaining that you’re unable to use smaller cars to reach Balos Lagoon.

Once you arrive at the car park, it’ll cost a few euros per person to access Balos Beach which you’ll need to hike to. It takes around 30 minutes and there’s a 300 meter decline down some steep steps (which you’ll need to climb back up later on!).

To take a boat » taking a boat will mean joining an organised tour and factoring in a full day to enjoy the experience. This is undoubtedly the easier option if you have the time, however of course it is more expensive as the tours don’t include the boat ticket which is 30 euros per adult and 15 euros per child aged 5-12.

Check prices: Chania To Balos Lagoon Tour

Enjoy Seitan Limania‘s hidden beach

Seitan Limania beach with people swimming in the water

Seitan Limania is yet another incredibly beautiful beach thats completely secluded.

But the catch is that to get there, you’ll need to drive and hike – but don’t worry, it’s not that bad.

From Chania, it takes around 40 minutes to drive to the car park and from the car park down to the beach, it’s another 15 minutes down a pretty steep path.

It’s extremely beautiful and can get busy during the summer months given the fact it’s fairly small, so I’d recommend visiting earlier in the day to secure your spot on the beach.

Marvel at the pink sand on Elafonissi Beach

Elafonissi beach with pink sand and rocks
a group of umbrellas on a  Elafonissi beach

Situated 1 hour and 30 minutes drive away from Chania, Elafonissi Beach is the furthest away, but it’s extremely stunning thanks to the pink strip of sand that lines the beach.

There are three ways to get there:

Take the bus » hop on KTEL AC bus for approximately 20 euros per person.

Drive » you could rent a car and drive, but you’ll need to bear in mind that there are narrow roads and rough terrain.

Join a tour » as always, you can join a tour, which will make this super easy but will cost slightly more.

Best rated experience:  Elafonisi & Falasarna Shared Tour with snacks

Alternative option: Day Trip to Elafonisi Island Pink Sand Beach

Take a scenic drive or hike throguh Theresso Gorge

a road through Theresso Gorge
a car on a road through Theresso Gorge

Theresso Gorge is situated just 20 minutes outside of Chania and it’s well worth taking a trip to.

Whether you’re looking to explore one of the many hiking trails or simply go for a scenic drive whilst stopping at one, two – or perhaps more – of the family-run restaurants along the way, Therisso Gorge is a spot that shouldn’t be missed

We stopped at Leventogiannis restaurant which was super cute, but there are plenty of others along the way.

It’s a nice change of scenery for the beaches, however, it’s also much cooler so you’ll want to bring a jacket. 

Some popular hiking trails include: 

Hike through Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge is one of the best things you can do in Crete, however, sadly the tourism board didn’t include this on our itinerary because it would have taken a whole day out of our trip. After researching it myself, it would have been worth it in my opinion and so I’m sharing it with you.

It’s situated in the famous White Mountains on the islands – around a 1-hour drive from Chania. And, at around 16 kilometres in length, it’s one of the longest gorges in Europe!

The most popular thing to do here is to hike all the way through the gorge as not only is the nature incredible, but it also includes remnants of ancient settlements, Byzantine chapels, impeccable views and much more!

This national park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a must-visit spot if you love nature and can budget a whole day to explore what’s on offer here.

Hiking trail: Samaria Gorge

Have dinner at Pallas

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

Pallas has bagged one of the best spots along the Venetian Harbour and undoubtedly, it’s the prettiest to look at.

Its pink-washed walls, balcony seating and strings of fairy lights spanning from one wall to the next make it the ultimate environment to enjoy some Greek food – which of course lives up to the standards of everything else about this restaurant.

I’d recommend booking ahead if you’re looking to dine here during sunset as it’s very popular!

Wander around Aptera Archeological Site

ruins of a building in a field
a body of water with land and mountains in the background with Prasonisi in the background

The Aptera Archeological Site is great for two reasons. The first is that there is heaps of history to discover and soak up and the second is that the views are fantastic given its hilltop location. 

Whilst you’re there, it’s worth driving over to the Koules Ottoman Fortress. Although you can’t access the inside, it’s nice to look at and a great picture spot with excellent sea views. 

For just four euros, you can swing by here to learn all about Minoan, Byzantine, and Ottoman heritage.

Soar through the air with tandom paragliding

If you’re one for adventure sports, then tandem paragliding might just be the activity for you.

Having done this in Switzerland, I didn’t do it again here in Chania as it’s not cheap (although it’s definitely cheaper here than it was in the notoriously expensive Switzerland!). However, what I can say is that it is truly an unforgettable experience.

Launching yourself off the top of a mountain or hill can seem daunting initially, but once you’re soaring through the air and gazing down at the astonishing views below, your worries will diminish.

What I will say though is that if you suffer from motion sickness, it’s worth taking a tablet as this definitely has that affect.

If you know that this is something you want to do, then the below experience is one of the most highly rated and sells out in advance, so it’s worth booking ahead.

Check prices: Tandem Paragliding

See the Venizolos tombs and viewpoint

me sitting on a stone wall with a city in the background
Chania by the water

Venizelos Tombs and viewpoint, located on the Akrotiri Peninsula, is a site of great historical importance dedicated to Eleftherios Venizelos and his son, Sophoklis Venizelos.

These influential statesmen, who played pivotal roles in leading Greece through the Balkan Wars and World War I, are buried here.

The beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding the tombs feature statues, a church, and offer some of the most stunning views over Crete, its coastline, and the White Mountains.

When I visited in the morning, the area was almost empty. However, in hindsight, visiting at sunset would have been the better option for the stunning sunset views!

Dinner with a view at Carte Postale

a counter with bottles and other objects on it
a plate of food on a table

Next to the Venizelos Tombs and Viewpoint is Carte Postale – one of the most incredible restaurants with absolutely delicious food and stunning views. It was without a doubt, one of the best places I ate when I was in Chania.

I’d highly recommend booking ahead for this restaurant as it’s fairly small and understandably popular at sunset.

Check out Agia Triada Monastery

Asia Triada Monastery with a flag on the roof
me climbing the stairs in front of Asia Triada Monastery

The Asia Triada Monastery is a Greek Orthodox Monastery with apricot-coloured stone surrounded by mountains and it’s so beautiful – I definitely recommend that you find time to visit if you can!

Inside is a huge courtyard that’s perfectly framed by the archway at the entrance, with pristine gardens lining the edges. 

Monks (and lots of cats) are still living here today and wander around in between the tourists, so you’ll need to wear or rent appropriate clothing in order to visit the inside.

To the side of the Monastery is a small museum and winery – which takes us to the next and final activity in Chania!

Take part in some wine tasting 

a long table with wine glasses and wine glasses in a room with many barrels

If you enjoy wine then you won’t want to miss this spot! As I said, it’s situated next to the Asia Triada Monastery and even though I’m not a big wine drinker, I really enjoyed this experience!

The sommelier here is super knowledgeable and friendly, serving numerous breads, olive oils and balsamic vinegars to pair with the wines.

Inside there is also a small museum and plenty of opportunity to purchase goodies to take back home – which, to my understanding goes towards supporting the monastery.

Where to stay in Chania

a pool with a beach and trees

The best place to stay in Chania for convenience is Old Town. Staying here means you’ll be surrounded by plenty of places to eat and be relatively near to the most popular things to do.

Below are some recommended places to stay in Old Town Chania:

How to get around 

Since I was on a trip with a tourism board, we had a driver for the duration of the trip. However, we were told that taxis in Chania are incredibly expensive and local transport is primarily buses. 

Many of the attractions on this list are dotted around the island and for convenience as well as cost, you’re better off renting a car to make the most of what’s on offer. 

I personally always rent cars via Discover Cars as they compare all of the best prices on the market, meaning you get the best bang for your buck!

Best time to visit Chania

Chania and the sea at sun set

The best time to visit Chania is considered to be from May to June and September to October. This is when you’ll get great weather, yet have manageable crowds and reasonable prices.

That being said, if you’re heading to Greece for hot weather, you’d be better off visiting between July and August when temperatures are around 30 degrees.

For budget travellers who don’t mind cooler temperatures of 10-18 degrees, it’s best to visit from November to March as you’ll get some great deals on flights and accommodation.

Conclusion

Whilst Crete is the biggest island in Greece, Chania often gets overlooked for the capital city of Heraklion. However, for those looking for a more picturesque and less crowded holiday destination, Chania is perfect.

I hope you enjoyed learning about all of the best things to do in Chania!

You can check out all of my other Chania posts below:

Millie / Stay Wild Travels.