This vibrant city, located on Crete about 90 minutes from the larger port at Heraklion, has a compelling beauty that’s uniquely its own. Chania is part Cretan and part Venetian — with a bit of Byzantine and Ottoman pedigree, too — and that makes for one very cool combination. The most striking part of the city is the distinctive architecture of its labyrinthine Old Town and waterfront promenade.
What We Love
The Venetian Harbor: Chania’s calling card is its gem of a harbor, which fronts the tangle of streets known as Old Town. Here, buildings and fountains reflect the styles of the Venetians and Turks who conquered the city in the 13th and 17th centuries, respectively.
Access to Antiquities: The Minoans, one of the ancient world’s most fascinating civilizations, ruled Crete about 5,000 years ago. From Chania, you can easily travel to Heraklion to visit the Palace at Knossos — with its porticos, colonnades, and stairways decorated with frescos of athletes, dancing women, and dolphins — and see its excavated antiquities in that city's Archaeological Museum.
Best Known For
Walkable Historic Neighborhoods: Old Town, still surrounded by its ancient ramparts, is divided into several districts notable for the populations that once called them home: the Turks in Splantzia, the Christians near Sintrivani Square, the Byzantines and Venetians in Kastelli, and the Jews in Ovraika.
The Sunsets: The Venetian Harbor is the perfect spot to salute the Greek sun god Helios as dusk silhouettes the landmark lighthouse.
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Who It's Best For
Health Nuts: Cretan cuisine is said to be among the healthiest on the planet, rich in fresh fish, olive oil, wild greens, honey, and legumes — and accompanied by dried and crunchy barley bread known as rusk.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Heat is On ... At Least in July and August: Summer temperatures on Crete can reach 90 degrees — so dress in light colors and bring plenty of sunscreen and water on excursions.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.