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Chania: A Guide to the Stunningly Beautiful City on Crete

Chania Crete
The beautiful port of Chania could be considered one of the most romantic in the whole of Greece. Credit: Greek Reporter.

Chania is a breathtaking city on the northwest coast of the island of Crete. The city is historically significant and a hotspot for young and modern Greeks, making it the perfect vacation spot. Chania is a city with something for every traveler!

History of Chania, Crete

In the town of Chania, ancient Greek, Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman buildings coexist in the landscape of the city. As far as Muslim architecture is concerned, one of the most emblematic corners of the city is the famous Mosque of the Janissaries.

The mix of architectural styles make for a stimulating but still largely harmonious skyline. However, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Chania’s history; the town has likely been inhabited since the end of the Stone Age, or the “Neolithic period.”

Excavations near and within the city have revealed some of its history to modern-day Greeks, and archaeologists have been able to find evidence of the city’s Minoan history as well as its more distant past. The modern-day city lies on the site of the Minoan settlement named Kydonia in Linear B, from which the name of the fruit quince derives.

After the fall of many Minoan cities around 1,500 BC, Chania was repopulated by a wave of Dorian Greeks from the mainland around 1100 BC. The city and its inhabitants played a prominent role in the political and cultural world of Crete. Homer even mentions the Kydonians in the Odyssey.

Later, in 69 BC, the Romans took over the island, and granted Chania (or Kydonia), the status of an independent city-state.

Venetian Harbor
The jaw-dropping Venetian harbor of Chania, Crete. Credit: Greek Reporter.

The first era of Byzantine rule lasted from 395 AD to 824 AD, and the city was briefly ruled by the Arabs for around a century. They renamed the city “Al Hanim” (the Inn) before it was retaken by the Byzantine Empire, which reverted back to calling the city by its Greek name, Chania.

After the Fourth Crusade (1204) and the fall of Byzantium in the Hellenic area, the city was once again conquered by foreign powers. This time, Venice began to rule over Chania, renaming it “La Canea” and strengthening its fortifications, giving Chania the form that it still has today.

Finally, the Ottoman Empire defeated the Venetians during the beginning of the Cretan War, taking over Chania. New mosques and public baths were built in the city, adding to the beautiful landscape that is still apparent today.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, after the island was liberated from Ottoman Occupation, much of the island’s local Muslim population moved to other Mediterranean islands or coastal cities. The population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922 resulted in the deportation of most of the island’s remaining Muslim residents.

Best Beaches in Chania

The prefecture of Chania hosts some of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Crete.

Falassarna on the west side is well known for its privileged location, ideal conditions for water sports, and unique sunsets. The beach is about 50km west of the city and can be accessed by car or bus. However, the trek is worth it in order to experience one of the most beautiful and well-known beaches not only on Crete but in the entirety of the country.

Chania Crete
The magical pink beach of Elafonisi. Credit: trolvag/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

To the south of Falassarna, the world-famous Elafonisi beach can be found. The beach is about an hour and a half drive from the main city, but you would be hard-pressed to find any tourist who does not try to visit it. The beach features crystal waters and magical pink sand, making it look like it was conjured up in a fairytale—certainly not one to miss!

For the more adventurous type, the peninsula of Gramvousa and the unique landscape of Balos beach are well worth the trip over the dirt path.

Perfect for tourists

Chania is the perfect place for a family, romantic, or even solo trip. The town is diverse and has something for everyone, as well as being very convenient for travelers, with multiple direct international flights arriving daily.

Travelers to Chania can expect to have enough cultural and local activities available, with the option to fill multiple days worth of time with these pursuits. However, the town also has much to offer the more laid-back tourist, with beautiful beaches and world-class restaurants abounding in the town.

Several times a week, farmers’ markets take place on the streets of Chania, providing visitors the opportunity to shop for local produce of excellent quality while enjoying the atmosphere of a traditional outdoor market.

Olives, honey, spices, herbs, and cheese are among the Cretan products often purchased by tourists.

Chania Crete
The stunning Mosque of the Jannisaries is nestled into the Venetian harbor. Credit: Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Furthermore, visitors can visit the historic and beautiful Mosque of the Janissaries. Located in the old Venetian Harbor, the mosque was built on the grounds of a former church with one nave. It no longer functions as a religious building, and it remains the oldest structure from the Ottoman period.

Also known as the “Kucjk Hassan Mosque,” the building dates back to 1645 when the Turks captured Chania; it’s the oldest Ottoman structure on the island.

The building stopped functioning as a mosque in 1923 and has, since then, been used as a café, restaurant, and tourist office throughout the years. In the recent past, the mosque was renovated, becoming a space dedicated to exhibitions.

Hiking the one-of-a-kind Samaria Gorge is another fun activity to do in Chania. The challenging seventeen kilometer (12 mile) long walk takes you through a stunning UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and some of the most unique scenery to be found in the entirety of Greece.

Where to stay in Chania on Crete

Flair hotel
The brand new Chania Flair Hotel has a location that can’t be beat. Photo Courtesy of Corissia Hotels.

Besides some exquisite boutique hotels in renovated historic buildings in the Old Town, one of the best places to stay in Chania, is Hotel Chania Flair. The adults-only hotel is a new facility and was completed in 2020— making it perfectly modern. It offers every creature comfort you could possibly think of!

Its location and adults-only status make it very peaceful. Located in Nea Chora, Chania, Flair is in a quiet location while still within the city. It’s situated steps away from the beach, and the Venetian harbor is also easily accessible by foot. Chania Flair manages to be both centrally located and peaceful, making it perfectly placed in the city.

The five-star hotel impresses with its elegant design, high-quality furnishings, and privileged location between the sandy beach, city, and old town.

“Chania Flair is neither a typical city hotel nor a secluded holiday resort,” says Labros Tsiledakis, Executive Manager of Chania Flair. “It is the new approach to a relaxing holiday: to feel the pulse of a romantic Venetian harbor city and at the same time enjoy a relaxing, regenerating beach holiday! With the quality guarantee of Corissia Hotels.”

In the hotel building, you will find spacious lounges with a garden area, as well as a reception area which is open 24 hours a day.

In the lounge area and sun terrace on the top floor, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the bay of Chania and the White Mountains of Crete with a drink of your choice. In the Rooftop Fitness Studio, you will find state-of-the-art equipment where you can work out with a magnificent view of the sea free of charge.

Chania Flair is a CO2-neutral hotel with very high energy efficiency and climate-neutrality through state-of-the-art construction and use of sustainable, renewable energy sources.

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