Visiting the gorgeous Greek isle of Crete and looking for a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Chania, Crete and its surroundings?
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 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
- 2. Walk to the Venetian Lighthouse
- 3. Explore Chania Old Town
- 4. See the Maritime Museum of Crete
- 5. Join a Cretan Cooking Class
- 6. Visit the Greek Orthodox Cathedral
- 7. Join a Bohemian Sunset Tour
- 8. Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete
- 9. Take a Day Trip to Elafonisi Island
- 10. The Monasteries of the Akrotiri Peninsula
- 11. Discover Balos Bay and Lagoon
- 12. Hike to Samaria Gorge
- 13. Watch a Movie at an Outdoor Cinema
- 14. Feast at the Agora Local Food Market
- 15. Take a Day to Visit the Secluded Fishing Village of Loutro
- 16. Spend Time at a Sea Side Castle
- 17. Swim at the Beautiful Kedrodasos Beach
- 18. Stroll through one of Chania’s Many Public Gardens
- 19. Wine Tasting at Manousakis Winery
- 20. Visit The Historical Archaeological Site of Aptera
- 21. Explore Sougia – Places to Visit in Chania
- 22. Bungee Jump of the Bridge of Aradena for an Adrenaline Rush
- 23. Soak up the Sun at Saetan Limania
- 24. Enjoy a Chania Safari
- 25. Seek the “Golden Step” of the Chrisoskalithissa Monastery
- 26. Visit the Agios Nikolaos Chapel at Sea
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Greece Travel Essentials:
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- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Before you jet off to idyllic Greece, be sure you have all your essentials packed by reading our European packing guide.
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 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.
15. Take a Day to Visit the Secluded Fishing Village of Loutro
Spend an entire day, in one of the cosiest villages in Crete by embarking on a day trip from Chania to Loutro. This quaint little town is home to beautiful white-washed buildings, crystal clear blue sea, and the stunning mountainside that this secluded village is nestled on.
Loutro in Crete is one of Chania’s fishing villages, making it a great place to spend your time out on a boat, tasting fresh fish at local restaurants, or walking the trails that lead up the mountainside.
Currently, the only way to get to the village is by ferry from Chora Sfakion or alternatively by hiking along the coast to reach this charming village which will take around 2 hours from Chora Sfakion.
16. Spend Time at a Sea Side Castle
If you are a history buff you might enjoy visiting one of Chania’s historical, yet still standing fortresses. One of these large and amazing attractions in Chania includes the Firkas Fortress in the old town of Chania.
The Venetians built this fortress in the mid 16th century and were completed in 1645. It was home to the ammunition, cannons, and the city military commander. It was also a place used to hold prisoners until the beginning of the civil war.
Other castles to visit include Castel Selino, Koules Of Loutro, and Gramvousa Fortress.
17. Swim at the Beautiful Kedrodasos Beach
Kedrodasos is home to the fabulous Kedrodasos Beach, with clear blue water and incredible white sand making it the perfect spot for swimming. Getting to this remote area is a bit of a trip but definitely worth the hike and one of the best things to do in Chania.
This Chania beach is remote and not known by many, making it one of the island’s secret hideaways. With limited visitors, it is great for any naturist or couple trying to get away.
You can camp for free amongst the beautiful cedar tree forest enjoying your holiday away from fast pace society and busy agendas.
18. Stroll through one of Chania’s Many Public Gardens
The gorgeous gardens located all throughout Chania are a good way to slow things down and enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by local authentic restaurants in the area. Even on holiday, you need to remember to stop and enjoy exactly where you are at every moment, and what better way to do this than by picnicking in nature.
The Chania Municipal Garden, known to the locals as Kypos, is one area perfect for outdoor dining and in the area is one of the oldest cafes still standing in Chania, and still very popular amongst residents and tourists alike.
When taking a stroll through this spot, stop to visit the enclosure home to Cretan wild goats, or the old ficus tree, still standing since the 1800s and at an incredible size,
19. Wine Tasting at Manousakis Winery
Whether you are looking to spend time with your love or wanting to spend a girls night out, travelling the city tasting wine is an experience like no other. Chania vineyards offer some of the most delicious tasting wine flavours in the world and should be at the top of your “Chania Things To Do” bucket list!
One Winery you do not want to miss is Manousakis Winery. This family-owned winery is dedicated to keeping authentic flavours and locally grown produce and herbs their main ingredients in every bottle.
Manousakis also offers guests a one-of-a-kind dining experience at their restaurants, with tables sitting amongst orange groves and olive trees, as well as tours throughout their large vineyards.
You will be guided by a member of the winery who will walk you through their wine-making process and give you an idea of exactly what they do each day.
20. Visit The Historical Archaeological Site of Aptera
Aptera was an ancient city located in Western Crete in the Monan times. Historically this city was powerful and controlled a lot of ships and trading on the island. Unfortunately, Aptera was destroyed in 365 AD by a powerful and destructive earthquake.
Luckily, much of the ruins are still lying where they fell a long time ago, piquing the interest of many tourists coming to the area on holiday. The site is definitely one of the top things to see in Chania and well worth a visit.
For a small fee, you can enter the gated area to visit the Roman Bathohouses, Roman Cisterns, and the monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos. There is also plenty of free locations on the site to visit, full of leftover debris that was once an entire community.
You can also roam the area and take in the view of the natural vegetation and beautiful plants blossoming all around.
21. Explore Sougia – Places to Visit in Chania
Tucked into the seaside of Crete, the cosy village of Sougia remains relaxed and carefree. This area is best known for the beautiful beaches that are scarcely populated and offer visitors a nice quiet place to spend their days wading in the water or peacefully napping under the tamarisk trees.
There are a few nice hotels in the area, but many people still prefer to pitch a tent on the sandy beaches. You should also be prepared for the nudist that hangs out on the East side of the beach, although they have become less frequent.
When you start to feel hungry, head off to one of the local restaurants, tavernas, or seaside cafeterias for a menu full of delicious options.
22. Bungee Jump of the Bridge of Aradena for an Adrenaline Rush
The Bridge of Aradena is a breathtaking wood-plank bridge that spans 275 feet from one side to the other, hanging over the Aradena gorge. The bridge sits 138 meters high, and connects to the edge of the canyon, and leads you into the abandoned village of Aradena.
As one of the world’s highest bailey bridges, it isn’t a big surprise to see a bungee jumping station planted right in the middle. This is for all you adrenaline seekers out there and one of the best activities in Chania for those seeking an adrenaline-filled rush!
Once across the bridge, you enter the Village of Aradena that was abandoned in the 1950s. The houses are still standing and although they are empty, they are still full of traditional Cretan architecture.
It isn’t only the mysterious and empty village that amazing onlookers while crossing this bridge. The sides of the cliffs offer an array of beautiful flowers and greenery that can be absolutely breathtaking.
23. Soak up the Sun at Saetan Limania
Chania is definitely never lacking in the beautiful beach department. Another picture-perfect area to soak up the sun is the beaches in Saetan Limania.
This is a small and remote pebbly beach with brown sand and plenty of scenery. It is perfectly located in-between two lime-stone cliffs and the water is clean and clear.
Like many other remote locations on this island, you will have to hike quite a ways to get to this off-the-beaten-path area. However, once you are there it is a great spot for swimming, snorkelling, paddle boating, hiking, and so much more.
For those who are not the strongest swimmers, it is best to stay closer to the beach’s edge. There are deeps areas that can be dangerous for those with a lack of experience.
24. Enjoy a Chania Safari
Spend the entire day in a rough and rugged 4×4 landrover, navigating all of the remote roads and visiting popular landmarks, swimming in beautiful beaches, eating at local restaurants, and travelling through traditional Crete villages.
There are many companies that provide local guides to take guests all over the beautiful landscapes of Chania, teaching its history and showcasing all the land has to offer.
This is the perfect way to get social media-worthy photos while having the chance to explore a vast space in one visit. There are many great things to see in on the island that can only be visited by taking a 4-wheeler and exploring spaces that most vehicles can not go. This, making the experience much more exciting.
25. Seek the “Golden Step” of the Chrisoskalithissa Monastery
The Monastery of Panagia Chrissoskalitissa is a 17th-century Orthodox Christian monastery that sits on top of a cliff, placed directly above the Elafonisi beach. This white building was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Its name, Chrisoskalithissa, translates to “golden steps.” and it is said the 90 steps leading up to the monastery are made of gold, however, only those with the purest of hearts can see it.
It is alluring for the name and the traditions behind it, but also offers tourists an amazing experience with tons of fabulous views. The Monastery was originally built during the Venetian era and was used to help lost seaman find shelter from the storms.
Today, the monastery that towers above the surrounding landscape is definitely one of the Chania attractions worth visiting.
26. Visit the Agios Nikolaos Chapel at Sea
Rounding out our list of the best things to do in Chania is this next Chania sightseeing gem worth discovering.
If you are up for an adventure, the Agios Nikolaos Church is worth a visit. This chapel is a white-washed building that sits on a rocky islet, surrounded by clean, clear, beautiful blue water.
It is one of the largest venues for weddings on the island, for obvious reasons. And is also one of the most photographed buildings found in most media sources.
The chapel is a great place to sit down and pray, and the locals encourage you to do so as you light a candle and take your time.
This is a romantic place to spend time with the one you love, enjoy the view, take in the peaceful and silent atmospheres, but watch for the menacing crabs that tend to frequent this spot as often as visitors do.