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Idyllic Chania stands out from the majority of destinations in Greece, the Mediterranean, even Europe. Venetian ports and fortifications, Egyptian lighthouses, Islamic minarets and cobbled narrow streets make up the charming Old Town of Chania and best reflect the extraordinary blending of religions, countries, people and cultures the city has experienced. Search for cheap air tickets to Chania, if you wish to experience first-hand the exotic beauty of some of the world’s best beaches and the legendary nightlife, taste the delicious Cretan food and travel in one of the most significant era that defined the development of our modern world; the Minoan era! Plan ahead, book your flights and accommodation in Chania and get ready to have a journey of a lifetime!
Chania is the second largest city in Crete and proud capital of the westernmost prefecture of the island. The history of Chania begins somewhere around 4,000 years ago, when it was named Kydonia and it was a Minoan town. Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians and Ottomans came and go, leaving their mark on the island. Then came a time when Crete was an independent state, shortly before it was annexed to Greece, on May 1913.
The enticing beauty of Chania lies in the preservation of historic locations, temples, fortifications and monuments from all those different eras, rules, people and cultures that shaped Crete as we know it today.
The Old Town of Chania is compact, enclosed in Venetian walls and guarded by the historic Firkas Fortress. The modern part of Chania has a quite different face; bustling with life during summertime, Chania attracts thousands of visitors who cannot wait to enjoy the nightlife, the food and the incomparable beaches!
Visit Chania all year round, to see the different aspects of its charm – definitely a trip to remember!
The airport of Chania (Διεθνές Αεροδρόμιο Χανίων "Ιωάννης Δασκαλογιάννης") is located 14 kilometres from the city centre of Chania. Bus services run daily from the airport to the Chania and other towns and villages of the prefecture.
Getting around Chania
The city of Chania can be easily explored on foot, but you can also take the bus; fares start from 1.10€ and minimum taxi fare costs 3.50€.
Your day in Chania begins at the Eleftherios Venizelos Square, situated at the one end of the Venetian Port. To the East, you can see the Mosque of Kioutsouk Hassan or Giali Jamisi (Mosque of the coast), the first mosque built by the Ottomans, in 1645.
A fine example of Islamic Renaissance architecture, the mosque was built to honour Kioutsouk Hassan, the first sergeant of Chania. Fully renovated, having only lost the minaret that was destroyed in 1920, it has been serving as an exhibition centre since 1923.
Walking towards the port of Chania, you will come across the Great Arsenal, built in 1585 and now housing the Centre of Mediterranean Architecture.
Continue your stroll across the idyllic port and enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the many cafes that line the port, gazing at the Egyptian Lighthouse. One of Chania’s main landmarks, the lighthouse has a long history, tightly linked to the history of the island. The Venetians were the first to establish a lighthouse there, in 1320. However, the Ottomans that succeeded the Venetians preferred the port of Souda, leaving the port of Chania to decay, along with the lighthouse. During the time of Crete’s Egyptian rule from 1830 to 1840, the lighthouse was rebuilt and reinforced, resulting in its present shape.
Reaching the end of the Venetian Port, you will face some of the Venetian walls of Chania, parts of the island’s impressive fortifications designed by Michele Sanmicheli.
- First, you will come across the Firkas Fortress. The historic fortress now houses the Maritime Museum of Crete, with exceptional collections of maritime equipment, designs, photographs and other memorabilia, as well as a fascinating collection of historic ships, dating back to the Bronze Age.
- The renovated church of the fortress, built to honour San Salvatore, today houses a museum dedicated to Byzantine and Post-byzantine art, boasting interesting collections of icons, jewellery, coins, mosaics and the famous icon of St. George.
- The Etz Hayyim Synagogue is next; built in the 17th century, it was almost destroyed during World War II, but it was later restored and now ranks among the city’s most notable points of historical interest.
Continue to the Old Town of Chania and the Franciscan Monastery of Saint Francis. Built in the 16th century, the monastery was converted by the Ottomans into a mosque and later served as a cellar of the German military of World War II. Today, you can find there the Archaeological Museum of Chania, that holds important archaeological collections from western Crete, from the Neolithic era to Roman times.
Highlights of the exhibits include signs written in Linear A, a writing system of the Minoans that has yet to be deciphered (3,400 BC to 1,200 BC), ceramics from the Geometric Age (900 BC to 700 BC) and many statues from the Hellenistic Age (323 BC to 31 BC).
Visit the Municipal Gallery of Chania that features remarkable art collections of works by notable Greek artists, dating back, from the 18th century to modern times. A quick stop at the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary and then you will be on the way back to the Great Arsenal.
Head to the nearby 1821 Square, to see the impressive Church of St. Nicholas; half a church half a mosque – though only functioning as a church nowadays - , it has a minaret on one side and a bell tower on the other.
You couldn’t miss the magical beaches of the prefecture of Chania. Allow enough time to explore as many of them as you can; they are more than worthy of your time!
The beaches of the northern shores are the most popular, particularly among families, with warm and shallow waters. Follow the road across the northern coastline towards Kissamos to see them all.
The beaches situated across the southern coastline of Chania are more secluded, with more dramatic scenery, colder waters and a wilder beauty. Palaiochora, Agia Roumeli and Frangokastelo are perfect if relaxation and peacefulness is what you seek.
The western side of the prefecture though is the ultimate must-see in this side of Crete. No matter what you have read, how many photos you’ve seen, nothing can prepare you for what you’re about to witness. Crystal-clear blue waters, fine white, golden and pink sand for as far as the eye can see and Caribbean-like lagoons of radiant, exotic beauty! We’re talking of course about Balos, Elafonisi and Falassarna. Don’t miss them for the world!
The official language of Chania is Greek, though the vast majority of the locals speak fairly good English, French and German.