Good-looking Chania attracts a swarm of happy visitors every year with good reason: Between admiring the city’s 14th-century Venetian architecture, getting lost in quaint alleyways strewn with Jewish and Ottoman landmarks, exploring top-tier museums or tasting excellent food in postcard-pretty restaurants, you’ll not have even a minutes boredom on Crete’s arguably most picturesque city. If you’re looking to make the most of your time here, read on for more ideas on how to spend a whole day in the old town of Chania.
Feast your senses in Chania’s Municipal Market
The Cretan diet which is largely responsible for the local’s admirable longevity is based on the gifts of their land and sea. Health benefits aside, traditional Cretan products are little taste bombs bursting with flavours and aromas – and no visit to Chania would be complete without getting acquainted with them. The Municipal Market of Chania (Agora) * offers just that. Built between 1909 and 1913 – the year Crete was united with the rest of Greece – this characteristically cross-shaped market was modelled on the covered market of Marseilles, and in line with an ancient Greek marketplace. Extending over 4.000 square meters in a surrounding area of 17.200 square meters, it is designed to fit an extensive amount of shops within its premises.
The Municipal Market of Chania was declared a protected monument by the Ministry of Culture in 1980, while nowadays remains very much alive and kicking – the go-to-spot for all find all kinds of local goods, from vegetables, fish, meat, herbs and spices, to Cretan trademarks such as cheeses, olives, and olive oil. You can also find some souvenirs here, but most importantly a handful of cosy cafés with local fare. Make sure to wash your food down with raki – the Cretan fiery spirit, or some local wine – viticulture here hails back to Minoan times!
*please note that at the time of writing (July 2022), the Municipal Market has been closed for maintenance. But no feature on the city’s not to be missed would be complete without a mention of this enduring landmark of Chania. We hope you’ ll get to sample its delights on your next visit.
Explore Gyali Tzamitzi & the Grand Arsenal
Meaning “the Seaside Mosque” in Turkish, Giali Tzamisi, smack in the middle of the old harbour, is the oldest Muslim building in Crete. It was constructed in 1645, on the ruins of an old Venetian temple, in honour of Kioutsouk Hassan Pasha – the first Turkish military commander of Chania, and it was the very first mosque to operate on the island. The stunning cubic structure is covered by a large hemispherical dome that supports four ornate stone arches. On its west and north sides, it is surrounded by a vaulted roof of six small domes. A brilliant example of Renaissance Islamic art, the eye-catching Giali Tzamisi is a popular Instagram spot today. It also plays host to various cultural events and exhibitions, while, after the evacuation of the Turks from Crete in 1923, it has been used off and on as a warehouse, archaeological museum, folk art museum, as well as the headquarters of the Greek Tourism Organization.
The city’s rich heritage is also manifested in the neighbouring Grand Arsenal – the last of the 17 Neoria (shipyards) to the west. Its construction began in 1585 by the Intendant Alvise Grimani. It became functional once again in 1872, with the addition of a second floor in the Ottoman era. During the Second World War, the imposing building endured severe bombing and was deemed useless. Thankfully it has been given new life after its painstaking restoration in 2002. From a roofless, abandoned site, the building is now home to the Center of Mediterranean Architecture, hosting important cultural events and international exhibitions with a special emphasis on architecture.
Have a break in Splantzia
The old Turkish neighbourhood in the old town has been transformed from a quiet, semi-deserted residential area to a bustling meeting place for the city’s cool kids. Named 1821 in tribute to the Greek revolt that took place in the same year, the main square features a massive ancient sycamore tree making it the perfect spot for a respite from the heat and a leisurely coffee break during the day. This square is also home to the remarkable Agios Nikolaos church that dates from 1320. This one-of-a-kind monument sports both a bell tower and a minaret, attesting to the city’s distinctly multicultural character.
Watch the sunset at tabakaria
Koum Kapí is a formerly disreputable neighbourhood that’s nowadays a fashionable hangout spot with stylish restaurants and cafes you’d do well to sample. Yet, extending from its end toward the east lies one of Chania’s most spectacular “secrets”. The eerie area of Tabakaria – once the home of the leather tanneries that flourished from the mid-19th century right up to the 1950s – is an open-air museum of industrial architecture, brimming with surprises and wonderfully photogenic corners: Derelict machines, broken windows, skeletons of old factories and steep, narrow steps descending to sea level, form an evocative backdrop – and they are all silent reminders of Chania’s once booming, though odoriferous, trade. Today it might be hard to picture those hard-working men breaking their backs soaking and washing leather skins – a stark contrast to the residents of the aristocratic neighbouring area of Halepa. Only six of these tanneries remain in operation – some have been tastefully transformed into residences, lofts, offices and fine dining restaurants, like the fabled Thalassino Ageri, while others remain derelict and mysterious. Tabakaria, which translates to “tanneries” in Turkish, becomes distinctly romantic at sunset. With a loved one by the arm, everything seems possible – and if you’re planning to pop the big question this is as perfect a spot as it gets.
Nestled on a hill in Apokoronas, just 28km off Chania town, the Adeste – a complex of four independent seaview luxury villas – blends proximity to the landmarks and the sights with utter relaxation amid verdant nature. Choose the villa that suits you best – all come with jaw-dropping views, private pools and a host of luxurious perks, like hot tubs or BBQs – and start having the time of your lives. We’d love to help you make the most out of your stay – stay tuned to the Adeste villas blog for more local insights, tips and suggestions.