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A Taste of Northern Crete: 5 Fun Things to Do in Chania

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Crete’s second largest city seduces visitors with stunning harbor views, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking beaches. Needless to say, it doesn’t take much effort to find fun things to do in Chania.

Unsurprisingly, I fell under this harbor city’s spell in just three short days.

To enjoy your own tantalizing taste of Northern Crete, here are five fun things to do in Chania.

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Venetian harbor in Chania, Crete

Brief History of Chania

Chania was built on ancient Kidonia and was the birthplace of the Minoan civilization.

As such, this Greek city became a thriving commerce center after the Fourth Crusade. However, it remained under Ottoman rule until 1898 before Crete united with Greece in 1913.

Later, the island was occupied under Axis forces during World War II.

Post-World War II, Chania became the second largest metropolitan center on the island.

Fortunately, this waterfront city has preserved its historical character and original colors, despite the influx of tourism. The city’s unique architecture combines Venetian and Turkish designs.

Mosque of the Janissaries, Chania

5 Fun Things to Do in Chania for First-Timers

1. Visit the Venetian Harbor & Lighthouse

The Venetian Harbor was built between 1320 and 1356. Impressively, it was one of the most dominant commercial ports of the Eastern Mediterranean.

A stroll along this lively harbor will stimulate your senses. The ever-changing light around the water creates different moods throughout the day.

However, this popular area starts getting crowded around 9 AM, so plan accordingly.

Venetian Harbor in Chania, Crete
things-to-do-in-chania-crete

I recommend eating at one of the area’s traditional restaurants or enjoying a fun night at a local bar.

The Venetian Lighthouse:

The Venetian lighthouse, considered the jewel of Chania, is one of the oldest in the world.

I was impressed by this magnificent structure, especially after visiting a small lighthouse in Fiskardo.

Venetian lighthouse, Chania

Tips for Visiting:

If you’re traveling on foot, the walk to the lighthouse is much longer and rockier than it seems. For instance, I underestimated how long it would take and missed the sunrise. I suggest giving yourself ten minutes more than you think you need.

Also, wear flat shoes. I regretted wearing wedge heels!

Alternatively, if you don’t want to walk, there’s a tourist boat that crosses the harbor. Do keep in mind that visitors are no longer allowed inside the lighthouse.

How to Get Here:

The Venetian Harbor is located at Agiou Markou 8, Chania 731 32, Greece.

2. Indulge in a Cretan Wine Tasting

Each of the Greek islands offers a unique wine culture. I was inspired to try Cretan wine after a wonderful tasting experience in Santorini.

Actually, we enjoyed a wine and cheese tasting at Dourakis Winery.

Dourakis Winery, Crete
Dourakis Winery garden, Crete

Here, we sampled five Cretan wines and a variety of local cheeses for just 20 EUR each. This included two reds, two whites, and a sweet dessert wine.

Oh, and the cheese platter was delicious!

Cheese platter at Dourakis Winery, Crete

What to Expect:

The setting is informal, unless you’re with a large group. However, a guide will briefly describe each wine as its introduced.

In brief, expect a laid-back experience and the company of animal friends!

In fact, animal lovers will feel right at home, as the property comes with cats, a dog, and chickens.

Dog at Dourakis Winery, Crete

One cat gravitated to my husband and curled up in his lap. Of course, my husband wasn’t complaining, as he’s basically Dr. Dolittle!

Cat at Dourakis Winery

Here, you’ll drink (and pet) at an unrushed pace. Our tasting ran on “Greek time,” about two hours from start to finish. This allowed for plenty of cuddle time!

PRO TIP: The winery has a beautiful terrace with hanging gourds. Just do yourself a favor and don’t sit directly under them. Trust me. A gourd fell on my husband mid-way through the tasting! Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt. In fact, we laughed it off. See photo proof of the gourd remains below.

Smashed gourd at Dourakis Winery

How to Get Here:

Dourakis Winery is located at Alikampos, Apokoronou, Chania 730 07, Greece. I recommend getting a rental car or hiring a private driver.

3. Tour an Olive Grove

Biolea olive tree, Crete

Greek olive oil is one of my favorite things about this amazing country. In fact, I don’t even enjoy the California varieties anymore. Needless to say, I was sold when I discovered we could tour an olive farm.

I discovered Biolea online and was immediately intrigued by this family-owned company. They’re the only olive estate in Greece that produces stone-milled, cold-pressed olive oil on site.

Biolea, Crete

What to Expect:

Biolea has full autonomy over their oil, as all fruit is grown directly on the property.

You’ll tour the estate and learn how they produce and bottle their olive oil. Here, you’ll get an inside look at the machines that crush and press the olives before bottling.

Unfortunately, we didn’t witness the machines in action, but it was still neat to get a peek behind the scenes.

Biolea olive machine, Crete
Biolea olive machine

Unsurprisingly, the best part was the sampling!

Biolea olive oil, Crete

We sampled three varieties: original, orange-infused, and lemon-infused. The lemon was my favorite.

How to Get Here:

Biolea is located at Astrikas, Kolymvari 730 06, Greece. I recommend getting a rental car or hiring a private driver.

4. Unwind at Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach, Chania

Elafonisi Beach is a dream with its soft sand and warm water. It was especially intoxicating after visiting a small rocky beach in Assos, Kefalonia.

Plus, the sand is pink!

Elafonisi beach, Crete

Admittedly, the pink hue is subtle, but it’s visible where the water breaks.

In addition, this beach also has a heavenly lagoon that flows like a moving escalator. Here, you can experience the sensation of walking on water.

Elafonisi beach lagoon

In short, it was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve visited. This is saying quite a lot, considering I’ve been to Portugal’s Algarve region!

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit Balos Lagoon, given its steep 50-minute hike. Well, there’s always next time!

How to Get Here:

Elafonisi Beach is located in Elafonisi, about 75 kilometers from Chania Old Town. You can access it by car, boat, or daily bus service.

5. Stay Along the Venetian Harbor

Alcanea Boutique Hotel was the icing on the Chania cake. This unique, boho-chic hotel really impressed me.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel, Chania

The 8-room property is ideally situated right along the waterfront.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel exterior

Hotel Background:

Alcanea is a member of Aria Hotels. This property group has impressive boutique properties littered throughout the islands.

Alcanea dates back to the Venetian period, yet still retains its original character after its 2011 restoration.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel room, Chania

For instance, I loved the charming Venetian style windows. I opened them to healing sunshine and striking harbor views each morning.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel bedroom

Hotel Amenities & Food:

The property also has a cozy common space for visitors. I felt like I landed in Morocco!

Alcanea Boutique Hotel outdoor/indoor space

There’s also a relaxing reading area where guests can make coffee or tea at any time.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel lounge area

In addition, there’s a hotel bar and a beautiful outdoor patio on the first floor. Here, guests can select from a menu of sweet and savory Cretan dishes for breakfast.

Also, the harbor views were stunning! We took in the beautiful views while enjoying Cretan cheese pie, yogurt, and Greek coffee.

Harbor views at Alcanea Boutique Hotel

Actually, the hotel gave us an additional complimentary cheese pie on our last day.

How to Get Here:

Alcanea Boutique Hotel is located at Aggelou 2, Chania 731 00, Greece. It’s next to the Nautical Museum of Crete.

Alternate Hotel Suggestion:

The touristy harbor area may not be for everyone.

Therefore, I recommend Fileas Art Hotel for more of a laidback neighborhood feel. This boutique property is another Aria Hotels member. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Alcanea Boutique Hotel in the Old Town.

Fileas Art Hotel, Chania, Crete

We spent one night at this sister property and enjoyed the local vibe. Our room was spacious, clean, and colorful.

Fileas Art Hotel bedroom

I loved the décor of this property. They have a fun jungle theme with animal fixtures, zebra print pillows, and cute artwork.

Fileas Art Hotel rhino lamp
Fileas Art Hotel stairwell
Fileas Art Hotel dalmation lamp

Although Fileas Art Hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, we were warmly invited back to Alcanea for breakfast.

However, both properties are conducive to exploring this amazing city.

How to Get Here:

Fileas Art Hotel is located at Chania 731 31, Greece in Old Town Chania.

If you’d like to explore more of Crete, check out my guide to Agia Pelagia, including recommendations for Heraklion and Rethymno.

Have you been to Crete? What were some of your favorite activities? Let me know in the comments!

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Venetian harbor in Chania, Crete
Venetian harbor in Chania, Crete
Venetian harbor in Chania, Crete
Best things to do in Chania
First-timer's guide to Chania, Crete

I wrote this post in conjunction with Aria Hotels. They kindly hosted me and my husband at Alcanea Boutique Hotel and Fileas Art Hotel during our time in Chania. As always, all opinions are my own.

29 thoughts on “A Taste of Northern Crete: 5 Fun Things to Do in Chania

    1. Thank you, Taylor! Crete is seriously incredible – it’s like a country unto itself! I look forward to following your future Greek adventures 🙂

    1. Yes, but it’s not so little, actually! Crete is Greece’s largest island and bigger than many countries! 😉 I hope you make it here!

  1. Love this post! Perfectly detailed! Crete has been high on my list of places to visit in Greece. Going to definitely head there next summer. Thanks for all these tips.

  2. Gooorgeous! I really loved Chania. We spent a night there on our honeymoon (most of the time we relaxed further South in Loutro, which is also gorgeous if you go back!)

    Your poor husband, getting “gourded” during the wine tasting! At least he had some wine in him to soften the pain of the blow! Still! Poor thing! We totally missed wine tastings there, but I did LOVE the food.

    1. That’s so nice that you did Chania for your honeymoon! Yes, the food is SO GOOD. Oh man, the gourding, hahaha! It makes for some great stories 😉

  3. How beautiful Elena! I haven’t had the chance to visit Crete yet but I am hoping to go back to Greece to explore more this year or the next. Thank you for making me want to move it up my list with such a well written post 💗

  4. This couldn’t have come at a better time! My friend is going to Chania for his birthday so I’ll defijitely be sharing this great post with him!

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