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Things to do in Chania sit firmly on two stout pillars. One is biological and the other psychological.
From a biological point of view, the flavors of Chania, Crete will seduce and engage all your senses.
The amazingly fresh and luscious flavors are found in the Cretan food, produce, and wines.
On your visit to Crete choose the best things to do in Chania that will allow you to savor the island’s flavors.
From cooking classes, wine tastings, amazing local restaurants and olive oil and honey tours, there is something for everyone.
Curiosity is the psychological dimension of the best things to do in Chania. Since you’re traveling to Greece, you’ll likely want to learn more about the history of this Greek island.
Some of the best Chania attractions are visiting archaeological museums, Greek monasteries and even diving into Greek football history.
Your wonderment only expands as you visit some of the best beaches in the world or hike the Samaria Gorge.
Having spent about five months in Chania, Crete, we’ve compiled the best things to do for amazing memories.
Taking any of these 17 different activities will make you fall in love with the island, just like we did.
Top Three Best Things to Do in Chania
Best Overall Things To Do in Chania – Experience The Real Crete in The Villages
For the most authentic experience, go right into the heart of Cretan life and culture in the villages. This authentic village tour offers an intimate look into what Crete has to offer with locals. From cheese production visits, local food, rakia and more, you’ll get to know the “real Crete.”
Best Local Food Experience – Amazing Olive Oil Experience in an Ancient Olive Grove
Open up your senses to the subtleties of one of Crete’s most treasured products. In the middle of nature, in an ancient olive grove, learn about Cretan extra virgin olive oil.
Experience Greek hospitality, delicious food, and learn about this magical elixir. Prepare to disconnect and connect with your senses.
Best Beach Tour – Day Trip to Balos Beach
Consistently rated as one of the top beaches in Greece and in the world, Balos is one unmissable beach. The pink and white sand with pristine turquoise water and natural beauty is simply breathtaking. Balos beach and the lagoons is a definite must-visit.
1- Get Your Bougatsa Fix
One of the first things locals from Athens do when they arrive in Chania is get their bougatsa fix. Bougatsa is an iconic breakfast food from the island of Crete.
The bougatsa from Chania is famous throughout Greece for the specific local cheese used to make it.
Known as “Bougatsa Chanion” it is a Greek breakfast pie made with crunch phyllo pastry sheets and various fillings.
In Chania, this flaky breakfast pastry is made using the local mizithra or “pichtagalo” PDO cheese. Made from goat or sheep milk, this smooth cheese gives bougatsa, delicious slightly sour flavors.
Iordanis, considered the best bougatsa shop in Chania, has been making bougatsa for more than 90 years.
The store opens at 6:00 am to accommodate visitors to Chania coming in via ferry.
Starting your day with bougatsa is one of the best things to do in Chania.
Plan to stop at Iordanis, at least once or several times while visiting Chania.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Taste the exception flavors of Chania Crete with this traditional and easy to make recipe: Bougatsa Recipe: How To Make Chania-Style Bougatsa From Crete
2- Visit Chania Old Town
The Old Town of Chania is full of life and rich in history. The picturesque alleys and winding streets are filled with secrets at every corner.
Get lost in the Jewish quarter and admire the old Venetian architecture that has been transformed into modern hotels.
There is a lot to see in Chania old town and stories from all the cultures that have lived in the area since antiquity.
The fascinating archaeological excavations in the Kastelli part of the old town trace the history back to the ancient Minoans.
It’s easy to get lost in the atmospheric Chania old town. However, when you take a private tour with a local guide you’ll see the unmissable landmarks and learn the history and culture.
This Chania old town private tour with street food takes you through the labyrinth streets as you dive into Chania’s Venetian past and Ottoman influences.
On the 4-hour old-town exploration, you’ll sample the distinct flavors of Cretan cuisine including olive oil, cheese, wine and more.
Get more from your visit to Chania old town with a private tour and street food tasting.
3- Tour The Venetian Harbor and The Firka Fortress
Breathtaking sunsets in Greece are famous worldwide for being particularly spectacular. In Chania, you’ll be captivated by the orange glow against the blue water as the sun descends only to rise again.
Learning about the Venetian Harbor built in the 16th century from the water is a unique way to experience the harbor.
The Chania Venetian Harbour and Firka Fortress are important landmarks and also some of the best spots for panoramic views.
You will undoubtedly walk past the Firka Fortress built in the 1600s to protect the Venetian Harbor.
Within it is the Maritime Museum of Crete where you can learn about the union of Crete with Greece.
Towards the east of the Venetian harbor is an impressive complex of seven dockyards built by Venetians to repair boats.
Relishing the beauty of the harbor with a bohemian sunset tour is one of the best things to do in Chania.
4- Take an Authentic Chania Cooking Class In The White Mountains
There is nothing like waking up in Chania surrounded by the White Mountains or Lefka Ori. This was our favorite view to wake up to each morning.
The imposing mountain range gets its name from the bleached limestone in the summer and its snow-covered winter peaks.
Taking a trip up the mountains and learning how to cook authentic Cretan recipes is an experience worth having.
With crystal blue water views, you’ll discover the history of the famous Cretan and Mediterranean diet.
With Yannis as your guide, you’ll make traditional recipes using local ingredients including cheese and wine sampling.
If you want to learn how to cook healthy Mediterranean dishes, make time for this authentic Chania cooking class.
In a small group setting, you’ll learn more about Cretan food, discover Cretan wines as you fall in love with the spectacular views.
5- Eat at the Best Restaurants in Chania
Chania has a number of restaurants with a range of traditional Cretan dishes. The restaurants are scattered all over from the historic old town to the villages in the White Mountains.
During our five-month stay in Chania we made it a point to find the best restaurants serving traditional Cretan food.
Not only did we visit the restaurants, we also met with the restaurant owners to explore the secrets of Cretan cuisine.
Our in-depth guide featuring 14 of the best Chania restaurants goes into more detail.
No matter which local restaurants you choose to try, you will enjoy tasty food and experience true Greek hospitality.
Meals often include Crete’s local brand, tsikoudia or raki and ends with parting sweets. You’ll be welcomed warmly and feel right at home.
In most cases, you’ll arrive as a restaurant guest, and leave as friends.
Cretan cuisine is among our favorite cuisines and you are guaranteed to eat and drink well in Chania town.
6- Visit Some of The Best Beaches in Chania
There are several sandy beaches all around Chania town and a few within walking distance from the city center.
Nea Chora beach right in the center is a popular sandy beach that is often crowded. On the eastern side of town is Koum Kapi beach, close to the old Venetian harbour and popular for sunbathing.
If you go further east towards Halepa, you find smaller beaches and rocky creeks.
One of our favorite running paths was towards Halepa and just past the picturesque blue and white Greek Orthodox Church, Holly Sunday.
On the other side of town, west of Nea Chora beach, is the larger Agia Marina beach with warm clear waters and clean sand.
As you walk further west you’ll find even more sandy beaches and the further west you go, the less crowded they become.
However, the best beaches can be found in western Crete. Elafonisi beach is one of the most popular. It has consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
It is most well known for its pink sand and crystal clear turquoise waters. Elafonisi beach is located about 1.5 hours away from Chania and is best reached by car or with a guided tour.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving and just want to enjoy one of the best beaches, take a guided day trip.
This guided tour from Chania takes you on a 7 to 8 hour day trip to Elafonisi beach where you can enjoy several hours in the pink sand and swim in the pristine waters.
7- Taste Some of the Most Amazing Olive Oil
Olive oil features prominently in Cretan food. The oil is used copiously in local food for both sweet and savory meals or snacks.
Everywhere around the island are olive groves with the popular Koroneiki olive variety.
Olive oil in Crete has been used since prehistoric times. Archaeological evidence points to the early Minoan civilization using olive oil for food, rituals and medicine.
Cretan olive oil has sustained Cretans for several centuries and continues to be a part of every modern table.
One of our favorite activities in Crete was taking an olive oil tour to learn more about one of Crete’s richest culinary treasures.
Right in the middle of an ancient olive grove, we discovered the fascinating history of olive oil in Greece and Crete.
And the best part of the experience was an olive oil pairing with food. This YouTube video gives you a sense of the magical olive oil tasting.
If you want to dive deep into the secrets of Cretan cuisine we highly recommend this immersive olive oil tour and tasting.
Sitting in the middle of 2000-year-old monumental olive trees, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable experience.
As you explore the history and culture of Cretan olive oil, you’ll leave empowered on how to buy and cook with olive oil.
The lovely Aspassia, your host on this olive oil tour is one of the most entertaining and knowledgeable guides.
You’ll be well-fed, feel right at home and your conversations will be enriching.
8- Stop At The Greek National Football Museum
If you are traveling with football or soccer fans, stop at the Chania Greek National Football Museum.
While the museum pays tribute to the 2004 game in Lisbon, when Greece became the European Champion, it offers much more.
The collection features old footage of Greek championship games from Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and others.
Stories of modern-day superstars like Maradona, Messi, and Ronaldo are also shared.
What makes this such a must-see experience for fans is the owner. Nikos Flekkas, a passionate and lifelong football fan, shares his stories with contagious enthusiasm.
A former president of the “fans of the national team of Greece”, he attends every game Greece qualifies for.
Beyond Greek football history, Nikos will regale you with stories about football in Europe and in general.
The museum is very small and free and the collection is mind-blowing. You’ll easily find the Football museum located in the old town, a few meters away from the Venetian harbour.
Lots of surprises await at the Greek National Football Museum.
9- Enjoy An Ancient Greece Minoans World 9D Experience
One of the most fun ways to experience ancient Crete is to take a thrilling journey back in time in 9D movie projections.
If you are traveling with kids or looking to escape rain or heat, traveling through virtual reality is one of the best things to do in Chania.
With a Minoan’s World 9D movie, you’ll be transported through the myths and history of Crete. You’ll visit the ancient world with amazing virtual reality glasses.
This immersive experience includes rain, lighting, fog, earthquakes and other effects putting you close to Zeus, Minos and other important ancient Greeks.
This thrilling journey is both educational and entertaining. It’s where innovation meets history.
The Minoan World is located in the center of Chania town and it is a great way to get into ancient Crete.
10- Hike The Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is a popular hiking destination in Chania. It is the longest gorge in Europe, and one of the most famous nature spots in Greece.
The 10 mile or 16 km cuts through the rugged White Mountains with winding trails and stunning views that will leave you breathless.
The hike takes anywhere from 5 to 7 hours to complete depending on your fitness and activity level. You’ll see plants and animals that are endemic to Crete while walking through villages and rivers.
The hike ends in the coastal town of Agia Roumeli, where you can celebrate your completion with a swim in the sea.
The best time to hike the Samaria Gorge is between the months of May to October. If you want to organize the hike on your own, you will need to plan in advance for your return.
Agia Roumeli is accessible only by foot or boat.
Alternatively, one of the easiest ways to hike the Samaria Gorge is with a guide on a full-day hike.
Let the guide take care of all the logistics like park and ferry tickets allowing you to simply enjoy the hike
Hiking the Samaria Gorge is not to be missed in western Crete and best enjoyed with a guide.
11- Go Back In Time At The Archaeological Museum of Chania
Greek history buffs will not want to miss the Archaeological Museum of Chania. The museum was initially located in the Chania port area and in 2021 moved to the Halepa area.
Featuring exhibits that span over four millennia, the museum is a treasure trove for all history lovers.
Some of the most interesting galleries host archaeological remains from Chania and the wider western Crete area.
Other collections encapsulate Crete’s early history from the Minoan, Hellenic and Roman period.
This museum of Crete is worthy of visiting especially for those interested in ancient Greek history.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to visit the historic Palace of Knossos, consider going on a full-day tour from Chania or Rethymno. You’ll visit the archeological museum on your own and see original Minoan exhibits. An additional bonus is the opportunity to spend time in Heraklion.
12- Take A Cretan Winery Tour
On the island of Crete, wine has been produced non-stop for more than 4,000 years. Most of your meals on the island will most certainly be accompanied by Cretan wines.
Most of the wines produced are fresh and aromatic white wines like Vidiano, the flagship Cretan wine.
Before visiting Crete, we didn’t know much about Cretan wines. During our Chania Crete stay we visited several wineries and met the winemakers.
We discovered amazing Cretan wines with a focus on those made with distinctive local grape varieties.
If you love wine or simply want to learn more about winemaking in Crete, a visit to a winery should not be missed.
Manousakis Winery, one of the ones we visited, was one of our favorite wineries. Not only are the wines some of the best on the island, their commitment to quality and sustainability is admirable.
Otherwise, if you are up for an adventure, this safari with lunch and wine tasting is not to be missed.
In addition to wine tasting and olive oil sampling over lunch, you’ll enjoy off-roading in the mountains in Crete.
You’ll drive through olive, orange and lemon groves on your way to Theriso village, where the Cretan revolution began.
After a tasting of Cretan cheese, honey, and olives, you’ll descend to the winery for wine and a traditional lunch.
For wine lovers, this tour is one of the best things to do in Chania.
13- Visit The Ancient Theater and Archeological Site of Aptera
Just above Souda Bay is the ancient Aptera is one of the most important archaeological sites in western Crete.
Founded in the 8th Century BC, its panoramic geographical position ships were controlled making it an important trading center.
Unfortunately, much of Aptera was destroyed in earthquakes in the 7th and 12 centuries AD.
Much of what remains today of this archaeological site are impressive Roman ruins, massive fortification walls and a monastery.
Ancient Aptera was closed when we visited, but the spectacular views alone were well worth the visit.
There is a small war museum you want to visit first before exploring the archaeological site. Your visit will give you a clear window into the history of the island and how it has changed over time.
The best way to reach Aptera is to take a taxi or rent a car.
14- Experience The Real Crete In The Villages
Soak in the real and authentic Crete with a trip to the villages. Get to know the local life and culture and really see and feel the soul of Crete.
When it comes to the food, one thing heard over and over is that the “real food is in the villages.”
Consider taking a tour to Apokoronas villages, a collection of villages in the White Mountains.
This particular tour takes you to 7 villages, where you’ll be surprised by how much the traditional methods of doing things are still maintained.
You’ll visit a folklore museum, women’s cooperative, a cheesemaker, distillery and much more.
Lunch will be at a traditional “Kafeneio” eatery where you’ll meet locals and learn about life in Cretan villages.
One thing to note is that portions are generous in Crete. You’ll sample lots of Cretan local food and drinks before a copious lunch. Consider having a light breakfast before your village tour.
What we particularly love about this 7 Villages Apokoronas tour is the opportunity to explore Crete’s history, culture and food in one shot.
15- Dip Your Toes into The Paradise of Balos Bay and Lagoons
Before leaving Crete, everyone told us we had to visit Balos Beach and the nearby lagoons. And, we are so glad we heed that advice.
The lagoon known as Balos Beach is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean.
It has white-sandy beaches with clear crystal waters. The turquoise waters in the shallow lagoon make it safe for snorkeling or swimming.
And, the landscape is wild and untamed in this important protected area of the eastern Mediterranean.
Gramvousa, an uninhabited islet opposite the beach, is a natural reserve. On it is a Venetian castle from the 16th century which you can visit.
To get from Chania to Balos beach, we recommend renting a car or taking an organized tour.
Be aware that the last 6 miles from Kissamos are off-road along a steep cliff edge. Having done that drive, we recommend a tour so someone else drives and you enjoy the magnificent paradise.
This particular boat cruise to Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa leaves from Kissamos port for a full day trip experience.
Kissamos is about 25 miles from Chania city and easily accessible via rental car, taxi or private transfer.
From Kissamos where the boat departs, you’ll take the scenic journey to Gramvousa Island, your first stop.
After time to swim and explore the Venetian fortress, you’ll depart for Balos Lagoon. There, you’ll enjoy the crystal clear water, white-pinkish sand while relaxing in paradise.
Take an unforgettable boat cruise to Balos, one of the best beaches not only in Greece but in the world.
16- Tour One of the Many Greek Orthodox Monasteries
All around Chania are beautiful Greek Orthodox churches and stunning monasteries. These spectacular monasteries played an important role when Ottoman Turks invaded Chania.
Monasteries were centers for resistance against the Turks and provided refuge and food for the fighters.
Today, you’ll find some monasteries that are still in use while others are preserved. Visiting the monasteries and churches is one of the most popular things to do in Chania.
Agia Triada Tzagaroli Monastery is one of the most important and well-preserved monasteries in the Akrotiri peninsula.
Not far is the Gouverneto Monastery, another one of the oldest monasteries built in the Venetian period.
The Chryssopigi Monastery or Women’s convent, just south of the town of Chania, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Nuns at this peaceful and tranquil location will welcome you with absolute hospitality and courtesy.
Near Rethymnon, Arkadi Monastery built in the 16th century is not to be missed.
And, in the old town of Chania, Agios Nikolaos Church, a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, reflects the town’s unique history.
To discover Crete and the churches and monasteries in the Chania region, renting a car makes it easy to get around.
17- Sweeten Your Taste Buds With Cretan Thyme Honey – One of The Best in The World
Like Cretan extra virgin olive oil, thyme honey from the island is one of the pillars of Cretan cuisine.
Thyme honey from Crete is unlike any other honey you’ve ever tasted and is one of the best in the world.
As you eat traditional Cretan dishes, you undoubtedly come across thyme honey. It is used in many desserts and is most popularly eaten together with Greek yogurt.
Cretan thyme honey is light in color with intense floral aromas. It gets its many layers of flavors from the wild exotic flowers along the mountain slopes.
Once you taste thyme honey you will fall in love with it as we did. Be sure to ask for Cretan thyme honey at restaurants or at your accommodations for breakfast.
In the meantime, if you are curious, you can order Cretan thyme honey on Amazon and taste the difference for yourself.
In Chania, you can delve into the local specialties including honey and wines at places only locals know.
Taking a wine and food tasting tour while strolling the streets of Chania is a delicious way to taste Cretan thyme honey and more.
Which of these 17 best things to do in Chania would you like to experience? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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