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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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.
No trip to Chania would be complete without a visit to the area’s famous Venetian Harbor.
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.
Stop and eat at one of the area’s traditional restaurants or enjoy a fun night at a local bar.
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.
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.
The Venetian Harbor is located at Agiou Markou 8, Chania 731 32, Greece.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
Dourakis Winery is located at Alikampos, Apokoronou, Chania 730 07, Greece. I recommend getting a rental car or hiring a private driver.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Biolea is located at Astrikas, Kolymvari 730 06, Greece. I recommend getting a rental car or hiring a private driver.
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.
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!
Elafonisi Beach is located in Elafonisi, about 75 kilometers from Chania Old Town. You can get here by car, boat, or daily bus service.
Staying at Alcanea Boutique Hotel made our trip to Chania all the more special. This unique, boho-chic hotel completely wowed me.
This welcoming 8-room property occupies an ideal location along the waterfront.
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.
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.
I loved the common areas as well. I felt like I entered Morocco with their outdoor/indoor space, but I really just walked downstairs!
There’s also a cozy reading area where guests can make their own coffee or tea at any time of day or night.
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.
On our final day, the hotel gave us an additional cheese pie on the house!
Alcanea Boutique Hotel is located at Aggelou 2, Chania 731 00, Greece. It’s located directly next to the Nautical Museum of Crete.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.