Wondering what the top things do in Chania, Crete is?
The historic port town of Chania in Crete, the largest of the Greek Isles, is a charming harbour town filled with incredible history, architecture and stunning natural beauty.
With so much on offer by way of exciting things to do in Chania as well as its surrounds, its easy to see the appeal of visiting this romantic Cretan jewel.
Whether you decide to explore the alluring alleyways and streets of the old town, visit the Venetian Harbour, check out a food market or take a day trip to gorgeous Elafonisi Island, we’ve got you covered on the very best things to do when visiting Chania!
1. Visit the Old Venetian Harbour
Chania is by far one of the best Greek islands to visit. It boasts an old harbour dating back to the 14th century and ringed by a promenade lined with cafes and seafood restaurants.
As you stroll east of the harbour, you’ll pass by a small mosque, built by the Ottoman Turks after they invaded Chania in 1645. Today, it serves as an art gallery and right behind it, you’ll find grand Venetian arsenals that were built during the 1600s.
To get the most out of your trip, I highly recommend you book a sunset cruise from Chania Old Harbour to enjoy a romantic sunset as you sail toward Lazaretta Island.
2. Walk to the Venetian Lighthouse
A 21-meter tall lighthouse dominates the entrance of the Chania town harbour. It was built by the Venetians in the 14th century and is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world. It underwent construction in 1830 and operated until 1933 as a port lamp, but it is no longer operational anymore.
Visitors aren’t allowed in, but you can walk along the pier and take beautiful pictures with the lighthouse as your backdrop.
A warm sea breeze and stunning sweeping views create the ideal setting for a romantic walk along the pier. I suggest grabbing a bottle of divine Cretan wine from Vidiano and enjoy it while watching the sunset by the lighthouse.
3. Explore Chania Old Town
One of the best things to do in Crete, Chania is to wander through a maze of pedestrian-only streets in the historic old town. There are shops lining the roads, and charming restaurants and cafes tucked into shady patios.
If you’re looking for a fun way to discover Crete old town, join in on a guided segway tour. Glide along narrow alleyways and visit local monuments with a local guide
4. See the Maritime Museum of Crete
The Maritime Museum of Crete is on the opposite end of the harbour’s lighthouse, at the Firkas Fortress.
The museum exhibits a plethora of maritime history from the bronze age until the present day. The collection includes nautical instruments, photographs and ship models, among other things.
5. Join a Cretan Cooking Class
Greek food is absolutely delectable, and there’s no better time to learn to cook Cretan food than when in Crete. It’s one of the best things to do around Chania, Crete, and I recommend you book this experience with a group of friends, as a couple, or simply do it alone.
6. Visit the Greek Orthodox Cathedral
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral was built where a Venetian church once used to be, at the Plateia Mitropoleos. When the Ottoman Turks invaded Chania, they turned the church into a soap factory, and the only thing that was left was the statue of the Virgin Mary.
The soap factory eventually went out of business, and the building was returned to the city of Chania. A new Greek Orthodox Cathedral was built with the original Mary statue.
7. Join a Bohemian Sunset Tour
I suggest joining an exclusive Bohemian Sunset Tour to explore hidden gems of the city. You’ll travel with a local guide to a secret spot and watch the spectacular sunset dipping under the Cretan horizon.
From there, you’ll be taken around the city, exploring cool cafes, artisanal workshops and photogenic streets.
8. Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete
Crete, an olive and grape island, produces some of the best products in the world due to the warm, sunny climate and rich, fertile soils. The Botanical Park & Gardens is nestled at the foot of the White Mountains, with two kilometres of pathways taking you through beautiful greenery.
As you pass through the park on foot, you will discover exotic flowers and fruit trees from around the world.
There are plenty of shady spots with benches offering places to relax amid fragrant herbs such as mint, thyme and sage. You should stop over at the restaurant in the park, and try out one of the traditional Cretan dishes that are prepared with the park’s seasonal products.
9. Take a Day Trip from Chania to Elafonisi Island
On the southwest coast of Crete, a two-hour drive from Chania, lies an incredible island. The sands take on pink hues from tiny pieces of shells and coral. In contrast to the turquoise-blue sea, it makes for a spectacular island getaway and is one of the best things to do in Chania.
There are sunbeds and umbrellas to hire and a canteen to buy snacks and cooldrink. You can wade through the water to a tiny islet which serves as a conservation area to thousands of migrating birds that travel from Europe to Africa.
I highly suggest doing a full-day tour to Elafonisi island to relax on the pristine beaches. En route to the island, you’ll pass lush green landscapes as you travel through Topolia Gorge. Along the way, stop for coffee and breakfast in the village of Elos, famous for its chestnut trees.
10. The Monasteries of the Akrotiri Peninsula
On the rocky peninsula of Akrotiri, situated 10-kilometres east of Chania, sits three monasteries: Agia Triada, Gouverneto and Katholiko.
Founded in 1612, Agia Triada sits nestled amongst tended olive groves and orange orchards, centred on a cloistered courtyard. There is a lovely church where you can buy olive oil made by the monks.
A short drive away lies one of the oldest monasteries in Crete, founded in 1537, the Gouverneto monastery. Although this monastery is closed, the location is exquisite, with footpaths leading down steps to the abandoned 6th-century Katholiko monastery.
11. Discover Balos Bay and Lagoon
If it’s beautiful beaches you’re after, Balos is one not to be missed. Although it may be challenging to reach, it’s well worth the mission. You can take a day trip excursion boat, or drive the 1 hour, but this will need a 4WD Jeep.
Be prepared to be awe-inspired once you arrive at the beach, with clear turquoise water meeting white sand beaches. There are facilities at the bay, where you will find a shower, toilets, changing rooms, and a beach bar. You can also hire beach umbrellas and sunbeds, to sit back and relax.
You can easily spend the entire day here, walking through the shallow waters and exploring the tiny islet of Gramvousa, where you’ll find a 16th-century Venetian fort. Prince Charles and Princess Diana swam here during their honeymoon in 1981.
12. Hike to Samaria Gorge
Crete boasts spectacular steep gorges, the longest of which is the 18-kilometre Samaria Gorge which is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1962, the Samaria Gorge was declared a National Park to protect endangered species such as the kri-kri – wild goats that are unique to Crete. Today, it’s a popular place for visitors to hike to.
It’s a challenging hike, which you can do independently or join an organized full-day excursion from Chania. The entrance to the gorge is located at Omalós, 42-kilometres south of Chania. On your hike, you will be able to marvel at all the natural wonders, from the White Mountains to an ancient forest.
Along your hike, you will reach the “Iron Gates”, that is a narrow, four-metre wide gap between the gorge.
The trail is almost all downhill, to the sea village of Agia Roumeli, located on a black-sand beach where you can take a dip to cool off after your hike.
13. Watch a Movie at an Outdoor Cinema
One of the most authentic and unique things to do in Greece during the summer is to spend an evening at one of Chania’s open-air cinemas. The Attikon cinema is located in Halepa and often showcases blockbuster movies for both locals and tourists.
Note: You can find the movie program in the Haniotika Nea, the local newspaper, or you can check out the schedule online.
14. Feast at the Agora Local Food Market
If you’re looking to experience a local market and stock up on fresh produce, take a stroll down to the Agora – a foodie’s paradise.
The Agora is the primary source point for selling herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables since 1913. Once you’re here, don’t forget to try the Cretan pastries like Kalitsounia, a sweet cheese pie.