Escape To Chania – Where Venetian Charm Meets Greek Hospitality
“Hello Chania, I think we are going to become good friends”
Pronounced “Honn-ee-yah”, Chania Old Town is a magical place on the western coast of Crete, Greece, where Venetian, Minoan and Ottoman influences converge; most visibly at the 700yr old Venetian Harbour.
It’s one of the prettiest watersides I’ve been to, in fact, as I write, I’m sipping Greek coffee at the Veros Cafe, overlooking the water towards the lighthouse, Firkas Fortress and shuttered Venetian townhouses beyond, with their romantic balconies and colourful stucco finishes.
The cafe owner tells me the buildings on this side, Akti Tombazi, with their beautiful interiors and stone arched ceilings, are characteristic of most of the restaurants that line the quay; which originally stored merchant goods.
My favourites for coffee are Veros, Nama, or the Sailing Club with its huge glazed front, open from 7am and located at the quieter end of the harbour, beyond the old shipyard buildings.
You are spoilt for choice for dining, but for masterchef quality visit Palazzo al Mere and check out Pallas for rooftop dining – they have an amazing bakery in the adjacent building.
Wander inland from the harbour and explore the maze of cobbled streets, crammed with shops, cafes and more restaurants.
If you’ve visited The Laines in Brighton or souks in Marrakech, this is a combination of the two. You’ll love it.
From leather goods to natural sponges, ceramics, tasteful souvenirs (and some not so much!), to linens and boutique clothes stores like Just Brazil. (Further inland in the modern centre you will find stores like Zara and H&M).
I’m staying at the Ambassadors Residence Boutique Hotel, in the Brick Room, overlooking the creamy stone harbour wall at St. Nicolas Bastion and the Sea of Crete beyond.
The neoclassical building was the former home of Ambassador Kruger, a diplomat and merchant trader, photographer and scholar.
Each of the thirteen beautifully appointed rooms/suites references a commodity he traded; including paper, brick, glass, fabric and porcelain, as part of a considered, elegant and where possible, eco restoration.
Some rooms are linked for families and there is disabled access. That said, as with many of the hotels around the harbour, it is located above a restaurant with it’s entrance in the street behind.
Vehicles have limited access to roads which are pedestrian only during the day – this may mean a short walk with your luggage, or a call ahead to the hotel for assistance.
Take a boat trip or view what lies beneath on a glass bottom semi-sub and hope to see a giant turtle. Head to the nearest ‘Oasis Beach’ at Kalamaki (2km away), or stroll around the maze of cobbled streets and browse the Municipal market,
Explore further afield via an organised day trip with Attios, or hire a car from Europrent, both at the top of Chalidon street near 1866 Square.
Hiking at Samaria Gorge and Ancient Knossos are popular.
Good To Know
When to Visit:
May – June
Hot, around 24° less tourists, lots of flowers
July – Aug
Very hot 26-29° and busy
Sept – October
Less hot 20-24° less tourists
Tourism ends in late October when flights cease.
Nearest Airport: Chania
Post Brexit – Not Required for UK Residents with a full British passport (check latest at gov.uk & travel.gov.gr)
NHS Certificate of double vaccination & PLF – Passenger Locator Form.
Return: NHS Cert, PLF & Day 2 test, (visit gov.uk & travel.gov.gr for latest advice)
Currently cash only (Oct 2021) ATMs are within the baggage reclaim
Cards accepted, though you may barter with cash in the markets
Greek drainage systems have narrow pipes, so all toilet paper is popped into a bin. Don’t be horrified, or let this put you off, you will quickly adjust. Take nappy sacks and you’ll be fine.
*information correct October 2021.