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

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You won’t have to try very hard to find fun things to do in Chania. There’s plenty to keep you occupied in the second largest city on Greece’s biggest island.

I fell in love with this romantic and colorful Cretan city in just three short days. Between stunning harbor views, delicious Cretan cuisine, and breathtaking beaches, it’s easy to fall under Chania’s spell.

For a tantalizing first taste of Northern Crete, here are five fun things to do in Chania.

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A Taste of Northern Crete: First-timer's Guide to Chania

Brief History of Chania

Chania was built on ancient Kidonia. It was the birthplace of the Minoan civilization – along with the rest of Crete – and part of the Roman Empire.

It became a thriving center of commerce after the Forth Crusade under Venetian domination, until it was conquered in 1645. Chania belonged to the Ottoman Empire until 1898, when Crete became an autonomous island.

In 1913, Crete officially united with Greece. The island was later occupied under Axis forces during the infamous Battle of Crete during World War II.

Post-World War II, Chania has developed into the second largest metropolitan center on the island with a thriving tourism industry.

However, this beautiful waterfront city has preserved its historical character and original colors, despite the influx of tourism. The architecture is a fascinating combination of Venetian and Turkish design.

Mosque of the Janissaries, Chania

5 Fun Things to Do in Chania for First-Timers

1. Visit the Venetian Harbor & Lighthouse

No trip to Chania would be complete without a visit to the area’s famous Venetian Harbor.

Venetian Harbor in Chania, Crete

The harbor was originally built by the Venetians between 1320 and 1356, when they colonized the area. It was one of the most dominant commercial ports and economic centers of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The harbor was central to the reinforcement of Chania against the Turkish threat in the 16th century. It later declined around the early 20th century.

Today, your senses will awaken as you stroll along the harbor. The ever-changing light around the water lends a magical quality. It creates different moods throughout the day, giving you the sense you’ve traveled somewhere new.

things-to-do-in-chania-crete

Stop and eat at one of the area’s traditional restaurants or enjoy a fun night at a local bar.

The Venetian Lighthouse:

Chania’s Venetian lighthouse is one of the oldest in the world. Considered the jewel and symbol of Chania, it was originally constructed by the Venetians in the late 16th century. The lighthouse was later reconstructed by the Egyptians during the 1830s.

I was blown away by this magnificent structure, particularly after visiting a smaller Venetian lighthouse in Fiskardo.

Venetian lighthouse, Chania

Tips for Visiting:

You can reach the lighthouse by walking along the pier of the old harbor. However, visitors aren’t allowed inside.

The walk to the lighthouse is longer than it seems from afar. Give yourself an additional ten minutes or so to make the walk if you’re looking to take early morning photos.

The pathway is broken down in a bunch of places, making for a rather rocky walk. I highly recommend wearing flat, comfortable shoes, as you’ll need to walk across the walls at certain spots.

I was unaware of this and quickly regretted wearing wedge heels!

There’s apparently a tourist boat that crosses the harbor if you’re not up for the walk.

How to Get Here:

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

Indulge in a Cretan Wine Tasting

Wine culture is one of my favorite aspects of the Greek islands. My husband and I were first introduced to it at an Assyrtiko tasting while in Santorini. I was definitely excited to try some Cretan varieties while exploring a new island.

We actually enjoyed a wine and cheese tasting at Dourakis Winery.

Dourakis Winery, Crete
Dourakis Winery garden, Crete

For just 20 EUR per person, we sampled five Cretan wines and a variety of local cheeses.

We enjoyed two reds, two whites, and a sweet dessert wine for the finale.

Did I mention that the cheese platter was out of this world?

Cheese platter at Dourakis Winery, Crete

What to Expect:

This wine tasting was more informal than some others we’ve done. Don’t expect a full wine history lesson and debriefing unless you’re with a large group. You’ll get a brief description of each new wine as it’s introduced, but you’ll sip them without a guide.

Expect a laid-back experience where you’ll enjoy the company of the one(s) you’re with.

Speaking of laid-back, if you’re an animal lover, you’ll be right at home here. The winery is home to cats, a dog, and chickens who you’ll likely meet during your visit.

Dog at Dourakis Winery, Crete

One of the cats quickly took to my husband and spent almost the entire tasting curled up in his lap. My husband definitely wasn’t complaining, as he’s basically Dr. Dolittle!

Cat at Dourakis Winery

Here, you’ll drink (and pet) on “Greek time,” a.k.a an unrushed pace. Our tasting ran about two hours from start to finish, with just those five varieties. That said, the downtime allowed for plenty of cuddle time!

PRO TIP: The winery has a beautiful outdoor space that’s shaded by hanging gourds. Do yourself a favor and don’t sit directly under one of the gourds. Trust me. My husband got “gourded” mid-way through the tasting! Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt and we ended up having a good laugh! 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.

Tour an Olive Grove

Biolea olive tree, Crete

Greek olive oil has become my absolute favorite thing about this amazing country. When I first discovered we could tour an olive farm on this trip, I was sold.

I came across Biolea online and was immediately curious. They’re the only olive estate in Greece that produces stone-milled, cold-pressed olive oil. This family-owned company exclusively produces and bottles all products directly on their estate.

Biolea, Crete

What to Expect:

You’ll tour the estate to learn how their olive oil is produced and bottled (and to sample it, of course)!

On the tour, you’ll see the machines that crush and press the olives to extract the oil before  bottling.

Biolea olive machine, Crete
Biolea olive machine

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the machines in action, as there wasn’t an active production going on when we went. That said, it was still pretty cool to see what’s involved behind-the-scenes.

We sampled three olive oil varieties at the tasting: original, orange-infused, and lemon-infused.

Biolea olive oil, Crete

All fruit is grown on the property, giving Biolea full autonomy over every aspect of their oil.

I’ve never had fruit-infused olive oil before, but I really liked it! I preferred the lemon one, as the orange variety was a little strong for me.

How to Get Here:

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

Unwind at Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach, Chania, Crete

Elafonisi Beach was truly out of a dream, especially after experiencing some cold and rocky Greek beaches on Santorini.

Not only does this gorgeous beach have warm water and beautiful sand, but the sand is pink!

Elafonisi beach, Crete

While the pink color is subtle, you’ll definitely be able to see it on the shore where the water breaks.

If warm water and pink sand aren’t convincing enough, how does a dreamy beach lagoon hit you?

This was my first time wading through a lagoon, but let’s just say it definitely won’t be my last! Walking through the water was like gliding on a moving escalator into the heavens.

Elafonisi beach lagoon

This was honestly one of the most beautiful spots I’ve been to yet – and I was just on the beaches of Lagos, Portugal!

We were hoping to visit Balos Lagoon as well, but we just didn’t have the time on this particular trip. I heard there’s a rough 50-minute hike down to the beach, so we opted for the ease of Elafonisi instead.

However, we’ll definitely need to check out Balos Lagoon on a future visit!

How to Get Here:

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

Stay Along the Venetian Harbor

Staying at Alcanea Boutique Hotel made our trip to Chania all the more special.  This unique, boho-chic hotel completely wowed me.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel, Chania

This welcoming 8-room property occupies an ideal location along the waterfront.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel exterior

Hotel Background:

Alcanea is a member of Aria Hotels and part of an impressive roster of boutique properties scattered throughout the Greek islands.

The building that Alcanea now resides in dates back to the Venetian period. It still retains its original character beautifully, even after a restoration in 2011.

Our massively spacious room was one of the best parts about our stay. I was in awe of the high ceilings when we first opened our bedroom door. It felt like stepping into a palace from another time.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel room, Chania

I opened our gigantic Venetian style windows to healing sunshine, a seductive sea breeze, and striking harbor views each morning.

It was such a pleasure to get ready here. I truly felt like a princess.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel bedroom

Hotel Amenities & Food:

I loved the common areas as well. I felt like I entered Morocco with their outdoor/indoor space, but I really just walked downstairs!

Alcanea Boutique Hotel outdoor/indoor space

There’s also a cozy reading area where guests can make their own coffee or tea at any time of day or night.

Alcanea Boutique Hotel lounge area

A hotel bar and beautiful outdoor patio can be found on the first level. Here, guests can start their day with a delicious Cretan breakfast.

We selected from a delicious menu of sweet and savory traditional Cretan dishes each morning. All breakfast fees were included in our stay.

The view of the harbor was on point! I loved watching boats and people glide by while enjoying my Cretan cheese pie, yogurt, and Greek coffee.

Harbor views at Alcanea Boutique Hotel

On our final day, the hotel gave us an additional cheese pie on the house!

How to Get Here:

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

Alternate Hotel Suggestion:

You may prefer to be a bit removed from the harbor action, but still nearby. If so, I recommend staying at Fileas Art Hotel in the Old Town. This boutique property is also a member of Aria Hotels and only about a 10-minute walk from Alcanea Boutique Hotel.

Fileas Art Hotel, Chania, Crete

We spent one night at this sister property and really enjoyed the neighborhood feel. Our room was spacious, clean, and colorful with plenty of light.

Fileas Art Hotel bedroom

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

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

We were warmly invited back to Alcanea Boutique Hotel for breakfast, as there’s no on-site bar or restaurant at Fileas Art Hotel.

However, both properties are ideally located in the heart of Chania and perfect for exploring all this amazing city has to offer.

How to Get Here:

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

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

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A Taste of Northern Crete: First-timer's Guide to Chania
A Taste of Northern Crete: First Timer's Guide to Chania
A Taste of Northern Crete: First Timer's Guide to Chania
Chania, Crete Guide
Guide to Chania, Crete
A Taste of Northern Crete: First Timer's Guide to Chania

This post was written 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.

19 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 😉

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