A Weekend Trip to Chania a city in Crete, Greece...
Think of Greece. Now, what are you thinking of? Mykonos? Santorini? The main spots of tourism and travel? Are you thinking of the sweetest air and the juiciest fruits on a Greek yoghurt parfait? The bluest waters and the most colourful cities filled with kind, warm people? If you are thinking of these wonderful things and more then you are thinking of Chania in Crete, Greece.
Chania is a small city on the northwest coast of Crete. It is well known for its 14th-century spectacular Venetian harbour, colourful narrow streets and vivid city life. Where Anthony Quinn danced in the 1964 film Zorba the Greek, the winding alleys of Chania are filled with energy and bordered with bougainvillaea and jasmine. Chania is known for its traditional leather crafts, which are woven in the curving streets where there are excellent boutiques for island-friendly fashions and crafts.
It was my first time visiting Chania in June for four days, and let me tell you, it will be a recurring annual visit. Even though the weather was beautiful clear blue skies, the temperatures were quite high ranging around 98°F or 36,6°C. Chania, Crete proved to be one of the most spectacular quaint Greek cities to visit. As a close family friend of ours had spent her 20s there learning the ways of life she has always returned and this time we were able to spend some time with her there! The majority of our short stay there was spent in the city and walking distances from the city centre. However, if you plan to stay longer than a weekend, I highly recommend renting a car to explore the coast and neighbouring beaches and cities.
One of the best things about Chania was the terrain. Having it been my first time to experience the Mediterranean Sea and the landscape of Crete, I was astonished at what this marvellous island consisted of. Enormous white mountains created the background to a crystal clear blue calm sea with warm water. Chania showcased a variety of vegetation, colourful tropical flowers at every corner, with the sweetest scents sometimes creating a doorway or walkway in the city streets. With a variety of sand, earth, greens, browns, blues and purples, Chania is a colourful bouquet on Crete. The sea was one of my favourite parts of the scenery stretching endlessly into the horizon. It was constantly clear, still, warm, and a bright blue. It was a fantastic feeling to swim in the sea in Chania. It felt like being wrapped in a warm soft blanket.
With fantastic weather and rich land offerings, Chania is a haven for growing tropical plants and crops. The food, all locally grown, was the best thing on earth in Chania. Everything I tasted was of the purest, wholesome natural state and all the most affordable prices. The Greek yoghurt breakfast parfaits under 5£ at a restaurant were always topped with the fresh local fruit, local honey-golden as the sun and a variety of oats and nuts. The olives of the purest flavour, especially in the Greek olive oils. From feta cheese caramelized in Philo to Greek and Cretan salads, these were my favourite dishes, perfect for a hot day on the island.
The Cretan Diet
The "Cretan Diet" posted on many restaurants menus was a beautiful point of the whole Mediterranean diet and food culture. It follows eating foods locally and in their purest and natural forms free of preservatives, added sugar or oils. Fruits and vegetables are emphasized in their diet along with a balanced consumption of dairy and other animal products. Everything that needs to be cooked is cooked with olive oil and sweetened with honey. It is such a simple approach to food, but our world's mass industrialization of the food and diet industry has made the Cretan diet a problematic task. However, we can all do our part in helping our bodies and the environment by buying and eating locally and, most importantly, seasonally.
Every person I met in Chania was kind and warm. While life after Covid may have changed lives, people were still opening their arms and extraordinarily open and kind to travellers. This makes the experience all the better when you're in a city. While I cannot speak for the population, many people in Chania all seemed to radiate a content vibration and presence. That they were happy with what they have, where they are and their lifestyle. They loved their city and planned to stay there.
This goes just along the lines of practising gratitude and awareness for what you have. Which we can all try to practice in our daily lives. By being thoughtful and grateful for what you have, your whole perspective in life will change, and everything will come good!
Now to my favourite spots...
The Chania Port
At the harbour entrance, you will find a 16th-century lighthouse with Venetian, Ottoman and Egyptian influences. On the opposite side is the Nautical Museum, home to naval objects and photographs. Near the Nautical Museum is the former monastery of St. Francis, which houses the Archaeological Museum of Chania. Strolling in the fascinating footsteps of Chania’s history while admiring the beautiful scenery was exquisite.
Take a walk to the Lighthouse
One uniquely magnificent stroll along the sea wall will give you a completely different perspective of Chania and will take you to the lighthouse at the end of its peak. It was an even more beautiful view at night, with the romantic city lights reflecting off the calm waters below us. The view from the sea wall is a sight to see and an excellent spot for a takeaway dinner which many couples were doing.
The Old Town of Chania
Compromising much of the city, the Old Town of Chania comprises four distinct areas, each with its own vibe and looks. Kastelli is the part of the town that is quite old and hilly with twisty walkways; following is Topamax located at the back of the old port. Next, the Jewish District is identified by its more extensive walkways alongside the Splantzia District, which has many outdoor cafés and restaurants primarily located around a massive tree in front of the Church of St. Nicolas.
Chatzimichali Ntaliani and Tsouderon are two streets you must hit for a great lunch or dinner. Filled with vibrant nightlife and a great atmosphere, delicious restaurants serve the freshest mixes of Cretan cuisine along these streets. Each night we picked any restaurant on this street to hit and had a fantastic experience each and every time. For a quick and fresh to-go meal or late-night snack at 3 am, Pork to Beef Wild is a trendy spot to get anything from flavorful wraps, to salads, to pitas to go.
Kibar: The Monastery of Karolos is an excellent place with friendly and lovely staff, a great atmosphere and groovy music. It was my favourite bar to go to. Alongside Kibar was Sinagogi, which offered an awesome outdoor indoor vibe, music, and drinks. Beach bars and clubs were also a great place to chill out, given the spectacular nature of the landscape and the Sea. With many beach clubs and bars driving distance from Chania, my favourite was close to the centre, just 15 minutes walking from where we stayed along the water. Many bars and restaurants are neighbouring the Nea Chora, which translates to New Town, the main beach of Chania.
Where to Stay
A 2-min walk from the Venetian harbour Palazzo Ducca is the hotel we stayed at, and can I say it was beautiful. Each room was beautifully decorated, spacious, and complete with wifi, breakfast, air conditioning and included a mini-fridge stocked with the greek digestive liqueur, Raki, similar to Ouzo.
Rooms at this hotel overlook the city, and there is a rooftop where you can get a full view of Chania's streets, harbour and neighbouring buildings below. Tavern Strata is where we enjoyed breakfast for a couple of days, and for such an affordable price. It was a fresh delicious meal.
A Bit Farther... Rented a Car or Taking the Bus?
Elafonissi Beach is another top-rated tourist attraction of Chania with its clear turquoise waters and pink sand beaches. Elafonisi (or Elafonissos) is a small islet connected to the rest of Crete by a shallow reef that can be crossed, this islet lies 82 km northwest of Chania town and can be reached by boat from Paleohora or by car from the village of Vathi, until a point and then cross the reef.
Balos is another one of Crete's spectacular beaches. If you choose to visit independently by car, the road to the beach is complete with steep drop-offs, goats, and lots of dust. Next, you will need to hike down a steep footpath for about 20 minutes from the car park to arrive at this enchanting white-sand beach, extending to a stunning turquoise and emerald-green lagoon. From here, you can wade through the knee-high Sea to the tiny islet of Gramvousa, crowned by a 16th-century Venetian fort. The beach is blissful after 5 pm when the excursion boats leave, and you're with nature. Prince Charles and Princess Diana swam here during their honeymoon in 1981.
Is Chania, Crete worth visiting? The answer is absolutely, yes! Luckily, there are more than enough places in Crete where you can immerse yourself in food, culture and the sea. But there are few cities like Chania with its colourful old town, charming people, and breathtaking coast to really wow, any visitor. My visit to Chania was definitely a memorable one and I think you will love it too!
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