Chania Old Town is one of the most photographed landmarks on Crete and it’s easy to understand why. The charm of the old Venetian architecture, the food, the music and the people are just as many reasons for you to fall in love with Chania from the very first visit. The sunsets and the night time in the Venetian Port are among the best photo opportunities you’ll find on Crete.
I’ve seen Chania Old Town for the first time more than ten years ago. At that time I was living in Agia Galini, in Southern Crete. I spent a couple of months on the island, but I only had the chance to walk in Chania for 3-4 times. My next trip took place in 2016, when I spent a lovely holiday in Stalos, a small resort between Chania and Agia Marina. Last but not least, I’ve been to Chania in June 2021. I’m happy to share my travel notes and my photos to help you with your Crete travel planning.
What To See in Chania Old Town
Experiencing the old town of Chania is all about wandering around, observing the buildings and allowing yourself to “feel” the spirit of the place.
In order to learn more about the history of Chania Town, you can book a private guided tour with street food tasting, here.
If you’d rather sail while learning about the Venetian and the Ottoman history of this place, check out this sunset boat tour with guide which departs from the Venetian Harbour and takes you just near the old leper island.
The Old Venetian Harbour
The Old Venetian Harbour, with its photogenic lighthouse, the Küçük Hassan Pasha Mosque (also known as the Mosque of the Janissaries or Giali Tzamisi) and the Firkas fortress, is the heart of the old town. All streets emerge from this spot like arteries from a heart, in a network of shops, tavernas, bars and homes boasting an architectural mix of Venetian, Ottoman and Neoclassical styles.
Once a flourishing port with ships coming and going, with sailors and fishermen and shoppers, the Venetian Harbour is now a purely touristic spot with tavernas, bars and souvenir shops. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make it less charming.
Firkas Fortress, the Lighthouse & the Maritime Museum of Chania
The name of Firkas comes from the Turkish “firka”, which means military division. The Turkish army used this fort as barrack for their troops.
Today, you can walk alongside the fortifications to get to the lighthouse. Make sure you wear sunscreen and a sunhat, as that’s a 4000-step walk in full sunlight.
For a glimpse into the interior architecture of Firkas, visit the Maritime Museum of Chania, hosted inside the fort. The museum is small. It consists from one big hall with explanatory billboards and a few artifacts such as a collection of guns, a gear mechanism, a deck of playing cards and a board game. The entrance fee is 2 Euro.
Visit the museum after you take the walk to the lighthouse, to cool down and to unwind before delving into Chania Town.
Chania Old Town Hotels
Spend one or two nights in Chania Town to enjoy the landscape by night. The Venetian Harbour, especially, is very beautiful by night, with its colorful lights, the lighthouse, and the animated atmosphere.
I don’t have specific recommendations, but I’d choose one of the many boutique hotels on the old town of Chania. Here’s a “deal finder” that allows you to do this research on Booking.com:
I took photos of some hotels during my walks. Some of these hotels didn’t seem open just yet (as it was the very beginning of the season), but they can help you get in the mood of doing this research yourself.
Chania Old Town Shopping
If you like silver and gold, you’ll find some real gems in the jewelry shops in Chania. Just take time to look at those rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces until you find the best ones for you.
There are also lots of souvenirs, extra virgin olive oil, olives, honey, spices and cosmetics.
One thing I was not impressed with was Lukum. On the other hand, olives, olive oil and spices are excellent.
Also, there’s a Cretan cheese called Graviera, which is absolutely wonderful. Taste it, if you have the chance. You’ll want to take some home with you.
Where To Park in Chania Old Town
If you come from the west you’ll find a free public parking on Talos Square, just before the Firkas Fort walls.
If you come from Souda, you’ll find several parking lots near the Old Chania Market.
You may also park on the street. If you visit Chania in the shoulder season, you’ll find parking quite easily on those narrow streets around the fortified walls.
Beaches Near Chania Old Town
To the west of the Venetian Harbor and the Nea Chora Chania Marina, there is Nea Chora Beach, a long sandy stretch with a neat beachfront promenade scattered with small hotels, bars and tavernas.
To the east, there’s Koum Kapi Beach, rocky and extremely narrow, accessible via stairs. According to locals, Koum Kapi is very nice for swimming, as the sea is usually gentle.
I beg to differ: I’ve been there on a rough sea day, so swimming seemed dangerous. There was one swimmer, though, fighting the waves and wandering among rocks.
As you can imagine, we didn’t feel the urge to swim in those waves. Nevertheless, what a great day for photography that was!
Click here to check out more beaches in the Chania area. They are farther away from Chania Town, so you’ll need a car to get there. There’s also public transport to some of these beaches.
Here’s my Crete travel guide with lots of hopefully useful info and fresh photos.
Chania Old Town Photo Gallery
Just take a look at these Chania photos and tell me you don’t like them!
If I were to choose a place to retire, Chania would be very high on my list. I think I could live here all year round, surrounded by waves and olive trees. I’d come to the old town to have my morning coffee, then I’d go for a very long walk on some of the beaches near Chania Town such as Stalos and Agia Marina.