The 20 best sights of Chania – description and photos

The 20 places to see in Chania

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Chania is the second largest city in Crete. It is definitely worth a visit for anyone vacationing on this Greek island. There is a lot to see in Chania – beautiful landscapes, rich history of the city, traditional local villages, exotic beaches surrounding the city.

Such a variety of interesting places will impress any tourist! Here is an overview of the most famous landmarks of Chania, Crete.

Archaeological Museum of Chania

Archaeological Museum of Chania

Archaeological Museum of Chania | Photo: wikimedia

The beautifully restored 16th century St. Francis Cathedral, which houses the museum, is just one of the reasons to visit this amazing museum with a wonderful collection of artifacts from the Neolithic to Roman times.

An ancient sarcophagus from the Minoan era attracts particular attention, as well as a large glass display case with a large number of clay bulls. Other valuable artifacts include a Roman floor mosaic, ancient Greek gold jewelry, clay tablets with linear writing, and a marble sculpture of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Address: Archaeological Museum of Chania, Chalidon 28, Chania 731 32, Greece.

Venetian harbor

Venetian Harbor

Venetian harbor. | Photo: JP Newell / Flickr.

There are few places where the charm of the history and grandeur of Chania is more felt than in the old Venetian harbor. Pastel-colored buildings line the shoreline – woven into the maze of narrow streets filled with stores and tavernas.

On the eastern side of the harbor rises the domed Kucuk Hasan mosque, now used as an exhibition space.

And a few steps further east is the beautifully restored Great Venetian Arsenal. The building now houses the Center for Mediterranean Architecture, which regularly organizes all sorts of thematic exhibitions.

Address: Old Venetian Harbour, Agiou Markou 8, Chania 731 32, Greece.

Maritime Museum of Crete

Maritime Museum of Crete

Maritime Museum of Crete.

This museum is located in the grounds of the massive fortress of Firkas, built by the Venetians at the western entrance of the port. The museum exposition presents the visitors with the nautical traditions of Crete. Among the exhibits are models of ships, nautical instruments, maps, paintings of marine subjects, photographs and memorabilia.

One of the rooms is dedicated to the historic naval battles, and on the second floor there is an impressive exhibition about the Battle of Crete during the Second World War.

Address: Maritime Museum of Crete, Akti Kountourioti, Chania 731 00, Greece.

Museum of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art

Museum of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art

Museum of Byzantine and Byzantine art.

The museum occupies the thoroughly restored building of the Venetian church of San Salvatore. Its small but incredibly interesting collection includes artifacts, icons, jewelry, and coins and covers the period from 62 to 1913.

Among the highlights are fragments of floor mosaics from an early Christian basilica; an icon of St. George slaying the dragon; and a painting recently attributed to El Greco.

Address: Byzantine Collection, Theotokopoulou 82, Chania 731 31, Greece.

Church of Saint Nicholas

Church of St. Nicholas

Church of Saint Nicholas.| Photo: wikimedia.

One of the most curious structures of Chania is the church of the Venetian period, which has a bell tower and a minaret with two balconies (it was built to replace the second bell tower during Turkish domination). The interior is dominated by bronze chandeliers hanging from the vaulted coffered ceiling.

Address: Church of Agios Nikolaos, Rousou Vourdoumpa 5, Chania 731 32, Greece.

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The Cretan Botanical Park & Gardens

The Cretan Botanical Park and Gardens

Cretan Botanical Park and Gardens. | Photo: mary_mac_82 / Flickr.

Thanks to Crete’s warm and sunny climate and rich, fertile soils, olives, grapes and even tropical fruits such as avocados and bananas are grown in Crete. The meticulously manicured park sits at the foot of the White Mountains, and its winding two-kilometer-long, signposted path passes through a lovely garden planted with exotic flowers and fruit trees from around the world.

There are many shady spots where you can relax on the benches, enjoying the scent of spicy herbs – sage, mint and thyme. At the café-restaurant you can taste traditional recipes of Cretan cuisine, cooked with your own seasonal products, grown in the park.

Address: Botanic Park & Gardens of Crete, Skordalou, Greece

Firkas Fortress

Firkas Fortress

Firkas Castle | Photo: wikimedia

The fortress stands on the northwestern edge of the old port of Chania. It is the best preserved part of the massive fortifications erected by the Venetians to protect against invading Turks and marauding pirates.

Despite the defenses, the Turks invaded Chania in 1645 and began to use the fortress as a barracks and prison. Nowadays part of the fortress premises are occupied by the Maritime Museum of Crete. The view of the harbour from the top of the walls is breathtaking.

Address: Firka Fortress, Chania 731 31, Greece.

Walls of the Bastion of Schiavo

The Walls of the Bastion of Schiavo

Walls of the Bastion of Schiavo | Photo: wikimedia.

Of the massive outer fortifications in the old part of Chania the best preserved are the western walls, which stretch from Firkas Fortress to the Bastion of Schiavo.

It was once one of the four bastions completing the defensive complex which was begun in 1538 by the engineer and architect Michele Sanmicheli who also designed the Heraklion fortifications. From the bastion you have a panoramic view of the old part of the city and the sea.

GPS coordinates: 35°30’53.9″N 24°00’57.5″E.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse.

This lighthouse at the mouth of the Venetian harbor is one of the main attractions of Chania. It sparkles at sunset and emits light after dark. The stone structure is 21 m high and was built by the Venetians in the 16th century but it has undergone many changes over the years.

It’s a great place to walk around and take picturesque pictures with a view of the promenade.

Address: Lighthouse, Chania, Greece.

Etz Chaim Synagogue

Etz Chaim Synagogue

Etz Chaim Synagogue.

The only remaining synagogue in Crete, dating back to the 15th century, was severely damaged during the Second World War and was reopened in 1999. The synagogue has a mikveh (ritual bath), rabbinic tombs and a memorial to the Jews of Crete who were murdered by the Nazis.

Today the synagogue is open to the public and regular services are held here. The synagogue is located in a small alley accessible only from Kondylaki street.

Address: Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Greece.

Grand Arsenal

Grand Arsenal

The Grand Arsenal | Photo: michalis fotinakis / Flickr.

Carefully restored from ruins, the 16th-century arsenal is the last of the 17 shipyard docks in the Venetian harbor of Chania. At various times the premises of the arsenal have been used as a Christian school, a hospital, and a municipal building.

Today it houses the Centre for Mediterranean Architecture, which regularly hosts exhibitions and events of all kinds.

Address: Grand Arsenal, Michail Afentoulief, Chania 731 32, Greece.

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Cathedral

Cathedral

Cathedral | Photo: wikimedia

This three-aisled basilica with a high bell tower is dedicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Another name of the temple is the Cathedral of the Three Martyrs. The building of the present cathedral was erected in 1860 on the site of an old church from the 14th century, which had housed a soap factory during the Turkish occupation.

Address: Presentation of the Virgin Mary Holy Metropolitan Orthodox Church, Mpetolo 18a, Chania 731 32, Greece.

Kucuk Hasan Mosque

Kuchuk Hasan Mosque

Cucuk Hasan Mosque.

This former mosque on the west side of the Venetian harbour is one of the most attractive surviving remnants of Turkish culture. It was built in 1645 and is the oldest structure in the city and is an example of Ottoman architecture. The mosque is open to visitors during art exhibitions.

Address: Mosque of Kioutsouk Hasan, Sourmelis 18, Chania 731 32, Greece.

Municipal Art Gallery

Municipal Art Gallery

Municipal Art Gallery.

The interior of the Gallery of Modern Art of Chania resembles a sea vessel. Three exquisitely decorated and brightly lit floors regularly host temporary exhibitions of works by contemporary local and international artists.

Address: Municipal Art Gallery, Chalidon 98, Chania 731 32, Greece.

Historical Museum/Archive

History Museum/Archive

Historical Museum/Archive.| Photo: wikimedia.

The Historical Museum and Archive of Chania is located about 1.5 km southeast of the old harbor. Through the exhibits, the museum introduces visitors to the entire history of the Cretan state, including the periods of devastating wars and struggles against the Turks.

There is also a folklore collection as well as personal belongings of Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), national hero, famous politician and Prime Minister of Greece.

Address: Historical Archive of Crete, Ioannou Sfakianaki 20, Chania 731 34, Greece.

Municipal Market of Chania

Chania Municipal Market

Chania Municipal Market | Photo: Erik Cleves Kristensen / Flickr.

The market is located in the heart of the old part of Chania, where the main fortifications of the city once stood. The market was officially opened in 1913 by the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos.

It is one of the most impressive covered markets in the Balkans with 76 stores and stalls, including meat, fish, grocery, pharmacy and many others.

The address is Old Chania Market, Chania, Greece.

Holy Trinity Monastery

Holy Trinity Monastery

Holy Trinity Monastery | Photo: wikimedia

The Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity is one of three monasteries located on the rocky peninsula of Akrotiri, 10 km east of Chania. The temple, also known by its other name, Agia Triada, was founded in 1612. It is located in the center of a closed courtyard, surrounded by well-kept olive groves and orange orchards.

Here you can buy olive oil made by the monks. A few minutes from Agia Triada is the monastery of Gouverneto, built in 1537. From here a path leads past the cave of Arcudiotissa (Bear’s Cave) down 140 steps to the abandoned monastery of Catolico, built in the rock.

Address: The Monasteries of Akrotiri Peninsula, Moni Agias Triados ton Tzagkarolon 731 00, Greece.

Balos beach

View of Balos beach

View of Balos beach. | Photo: Nicholas Turland / Flickr.

The best beaches in Crete tend to be the hardest to reach, and Balos is no exception. This picturesque white sand beach stretches all the way down to a lagoon of stunning turquoise and emerald green. From here you can wade across the sea to the tiny islet of Imeri Gramvousa, famous for its historical 16th century Venetian fort.

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After 17:00 the beach is quiet and calm. In 1981 it was the resting place of Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their honeymoon.

Address: Balos Beach, Peninsula, Γραμβούσα 734 00, Greece.

Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi beach

Elafonisi Beach.| Photo: Tiomax80 / Flickr.

This amazing beach is located about two hours from Chania (about 73 km), on the southwest coast of Crete. The combination of colors here is simply stunning – the sand has a pink hue (it gets it under certain lighting, since it consists of tiny pieces of shells and coral) and the blue-blue sea.

Straight across the water you can walk to a nearby islet, a protected area where birds migrating from Europe to Africa stop for the last time. This beach is ideal for families with children – shallow, warm sea; sun loungers for rent, snack bar.

Address: Elafonisi Beach, Kissamos, Greece.

Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge. | Photo: damian entwistle / Flickr.

The mountains of Crete are cut by deep gorges, the longest of which is the 18-kilometer-long Samaria Gorge. You can either travel there on your own or with a tour group.

The entrance of the gorge is at Omalos village, 42km south of Chania. At first the path descends steeply and unevenly through a thick pine forest. Deep in the rocky gorge, the path winds around huge boulders and at the narrowest point (called “Iron Gates”) it is only 4m wide. The gorge opens to the sea at Ayia Roumeli village.

Sightseeing of Chania

Chania is an ancient town in Greece, located in the north of the island of Crete. Until the early 1970s Chania was the capital of Crete and today it is the second most populated city on the island. Today it is a great place for beach and sightseeing holidays. There are archeological ruins, crossroads of Christian and Muslim cultures, great natural sights and so on.

The History of Chania

In the middle of the 13th century Crete was conquered by the Venetians who bought it from the Crusaders for 1,000 marks in silver. But a decade later they were driven off the island by the Genoese. Twenty years later the Venetians were able to return and take it back.

Chania - Crete

Under the Venetians Chania became the capital of the island and the most important trading city and Crete flourished. The relationship between the Cretans and the Venetians was positive, although the former were Orthodox and the latter Catholic.

In the middle of the 14th century, Constantinople fell, and many scholars, artists and religious leaders found refuge on Crete. It was during this time that a unique blend of Byzantine, Venetian and Cypriot cultures was formed on the island.

History of Chania

In the middle of the 17th century Crete was invaded by the Ottoman Turks. Christian churches were turned into Muslim mosques, the Church of St. Nicholas, which belonged to the Dominican order, became the main mosque. In the city appeared Turkish baths, opened oriental fountains.

In the beginning of the 20th century, after the long struggle of the Greeks against the Turks, Crete was officially included in Greece and the Turks fled from Crete to Turkey. Since then, the island has been significantly Europeanized. But Islamic monuments remain.

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The main sights of Chania in Crete

What to see in Chania? Here are the most interesting cultural, historical and architectural sights of Chania with brief descriptions and photos.

Promenade

Quay

This promenade was built during the Venetian period in the history of Chania. Tourists from all over the world come here for it, because the Venetian Promenade is one of the five best in Greece. Thanks to it, the city is often called the Venice of the South.

The promenade, built by the Venetians in the mid 13th century, gives this seaside town a special charm and sophistication, like nostalgia for Venice. Every day in high season, thousands of tourists stroll along the long walkway.

Around you can see the picturesque colorful houses, cafes, restaurants, shops, souvenir shops. Especially attracting holidaymakers is the old city lighthouse, a mosque of the Renaissance and so on.

Kucuk Hasan Mosque

Kucuk Hasan Mosque in Chania

This mosque is one of the main attractions of Greek Chania. It stands on its Venetian promenade and invariably attracts masses of tourists. The mosque was erected in the early 17th century and is a symbol of Muslim art.

It is a building with foundations and walls built in the shape of a cube, a large hemisphere-shaped dome, which is located on stone arches, and several other smaller domes, always interesting to architects.

The mosque was designed by a famous Armenian architect. It has survived almost unchanged, except for the minaret, which was destroyed in the early 20th century. In the courtyard of the mosque are buried pashas and janissaries who ruled and lived in Chania.

Old Town

Old City of Chania

The historical and cultural center of Chania was built by the Venetians. At that time Chania was the commercial and financial center of Crete and it was rapidly developing, expanding and flourishing. The old town is located at the ancient hill of Kastelli.

During the war the old town was surprisingly little affected by the bombing. Today it is simply magnificent and is by right one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.

Walking through the narrow streets of the Old Town you will feel yourself in the era of the High Middle Ages. The architecture of some buildings in this place was also influenced by modern times. This interweaving of styles made the old city even more beautiful.

Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge next to Chania

This gorge is one of the most beautiful natural attractions of Chania and the whole Crete. There are many caves and gorges, but this one is the most picturesque, amazing and longest – more than 16 km.

There is a European diploma recognizing the Samaria Gorge as a place of special beauty. It has been described by ancient authors with admiration for the local flora and fauna.

Temples were built in the gorge in honor of the ancient Greek gods a few thousand years ago, but today only ruins remain. During the Turkish yoke, the Greeks who were fighting the Ottoman Turks hid in the gorge.

Monastery of the Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity Monastery - Chania

This monastery is a must-see in Chania. In Greek it is called Agia Triada Dzangorolon. The monastery was built in the early 17th century, and today belongs to the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.

It was built by the Venetian brothers of Zangaroli on the eve of the Turkish yoke over the whole of Crete. The Orthodox monastery was built in the splendid Byzantine style, with a façade decorated with columns.

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At the monastery previously operated a theological seminary. Then for a long time it was destroyed by the Turks but after the Greek revolution it was restored. Today there is a museum and a big library with ancient icons.

Cathedral

Cathedral - Chania

This cathedral is located on the east side of Chania and is a three-aisled church with a bell tower. In the 11th century there was a small Church of the Presentation, but it was destroyed by the Venetians who preached Catholicism.

At the end of the 17th century the Turks, who conquered Crete, built a soap factory on the site of the Orthodox church. But in the mid-19th century, the Vizier Mustafa Pasha gave the factory to the Orthodox community of Crete and gave money to build a new church.

A decade later, the church was built and consecrated. Today it is active and the faithful come there. The cathedral is also accessible to tourists who love to view ancient Greek icons.

Archaeological Museum

Archeological Museum of Chania

This museum is definitely worth seeing in Chania. It was founded in the 1960s and is located in the center of the Old City. In the museum you can learn in detail about the history of Crete from the Neolithic to the Ancient Rome.

Today the Archaeological Museum itself is a historical monument, which was a mosque during the Turkish yoke. Then, before the war there was a cinema and after the war there was a military warehouse.

Today any visitor can see exhibits of the Minoan civilization, the era of development, greatness and fall of Rome, and artifacts related to the history of Chania: ceramics, sculptures, coins, weapons, jewels, sarcophagi, etc.

Gouverneto Monastery

Gouverneto Monastery - Historical attraction of Chania

The monastery was built in the middle of the 16th century, first in Venetian style and later some Baroque elements were added. It was designed not only for worship, but also for defense.

There are 50 cells where the brethren used to live. And in the monastery courtyard there are many sculptures depicting various monsters. Historians claim that in the 16th century the monastery was run by a Venetian monk.

In the early 19th century the Turks attacked Gouverneto, they beastly killed the monks and plundered the monastery. During the world war it was destroyed by the Nazis. Today, Gouverneto is being restored, with three monks living there.

Balos beach

Magnificent Beach of Balos in Chania

This is one of the most beautiful places in Crete, near Chania. Here the three seas of the Mediterranean join, and a comfortable lagoon is formed. The beach of Balos is famous for its pure white sand and turquoise sea water. The depth of the sea at the beach does not reach one and a half meters.

This is an ideal place for bathing children. The water is steamy, clean and very calm. Hundreds of shades of turquoise change throughout the day. In some places, the sand is not white, but pinkish, it is thousands of broken sea shells over the centuries.

On Balos, you can take a deep dive and see the unique nature of these places: marine life, which is not found anywhere else. You can also see plants that have taken on special forms due to the unique nature of the climate, etc.

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