Level up your Cretan escape with these fun, unusual and distinctly memorable things to do in Chania.
A vibrant blend of Venetian, Ottoman, Jewish and Arabic influences, Chania is a gem of a coastal Mediterranean town. Attractions take many forms and shapes here – from history buffs to architecture lovers, foodies or adventure seekers, there is something to tempt all. If you’re planning a visit soon, here’s our list of the top memorable things to do in Chania.
5 +1 unusual but memorable things to do in Chania
Beat the heat at the Chania Municipal Garden
When soaring temperatures get the better of you – or when you just want a small dose of nature without venturing into the mountains or the beach – this lovely park in the midst of the commercial centre of Chania City works wonders!
A project of the philhellene Reouf Pasam, it was designed in 1870 according to European standards and planted with evergreen plants as well as endemic and exotic trees. Since its opening, it has functioned as a public space where locals could relax and unwind amid the verdant surroundings. More than a century later, the park has been renovated – the cafe is a pleasant new addition – but still retains some of its original architectural and natural features, including a duck pond and a ficus that’s been there since opening day.
There is also an open-air cinema with artsy movies – a great idea for a summer night out!
Explore Chania’s past with a visit to the Church of St Nicholas in Splantzia Square
Chania’s tumultuous history and multicultural past are imprinted in its buildings – and a prime example is this 14th Century stunner. Built in 1320, it was originally part of the Dominican Monastery of Saint Nicholas. During the Turkish occupation, it was used as barracks and then transformed into the city’s largest mosque. And when the Turks left, the space was once again reverted to an Orthodox church. It is the only structure in Greece with a minaret and a bell tower side by side – and this eye-catching architectural pastiche gives you a glimpse into times bygone and how the alternating religious and political powers shaped the city’s identity over the aeons.
Tour the House of Eleftherios Venizelos
One of the most impactful Greek politicians, Eleftherios Venizelos shaped the fate of Crete and Greece in the early 20th century. Dubbed the Maker of Modern Greece, he played a pivotal role in the Cretan revolution and served as Greece’s prime minister for over 12 years, spanning eight terms between 1910 and 1933. If you’re into history, a visit to his family house in the aristocratic neighbourhood of Chalepa is one of the most memorable things to do in Chania. This Residence-Museum unfolds on three floors and features a total of 18 visitable rooms with authentic museum material – from period furnishings to works of art, original photographs and personal artefacts, that tell the story of the great man’s life and work. There is also an interactive – educational exhibition in the attic that elevates the experience.
Check out the Sabbionara Rampart
On the edge of the old Venetian walls, right by the water, the Sabbionara Rampart, also known as Kum Kapi, the Gate of Sand, gave its name to the whole area – which is nowadays a quaint and colourful hub of socialization with plenty of restaurants and bars. In the Republic’s heyday, it was one of the defensive gates offering a direct passage from a small beach on the seashore to the centre of the town. Today, it is the only surviving entryway of its kind in Chania – a memento of the city’s belligerent past. Make sure to check out the seal of Saint Mark, dating from 1591 at the wall facing the sea as you pass by the gate.
Embark on a boat trip to Lazaretta island
Boat tours abound in Chania – but one of the most interesting ones is at Lazaretta Island just off the city’s shores. The scenery, for starters, is really beautiful with quiet, sandy beaches leading to crystalline waters rich in marine life. This is a snorkellers’ paradise – but it’s also a spot brimming with evocative tales. Named after Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers in the Roman Catholic Church, Lazaretta, just like most islets off the cities of Crete, was used by the Venetians in the 17th century as a leprosarium. The building that once housed the lepers was largely destroyed by the Turks in 1645 as they wanted to place a large cannon to attack Chania’s stronghold at the mouth of the harbour, but it’s still visible remains, are a reminder of the island’s haunting past. There is also a small church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos which was erected in 1954 by an Australian who fell asleep on the island and then woke up with a sunstroke. He eventually, though, managed to swim back to the shore, where he was found and rescued – and as a return built a church in honour of the patron of sailors.
Get acquainted with the history of Agioi Theodoroi
Crete never ceases to amaze with its hidden gem, under-the-radar spots – and these are not exclusively confined to the hinterland or to the remote and inaccessible southern coastline, but can be also discovered in the surrounding minuscule islets. Among these are Agioi Theodoroi – or Thodorou – just half a nautical mile opposite the Oscar Suites and Village on the cosmopolitan shores of Agia Marina -Platanias. With a history that dates back millennia ago, this lovely little pair of islets has seen many human visitors over the centuries – from Minoan and Christian worshippers to Venetian, Ottoman, Greek and German soldiers. And as it once guarded Crete against her enemies, nowadays it is the protected habitat of the Kri-Kri, the endangered Cretan goat species, and of the rare Eleonora’s falcons – if you visit, check out the former grazing on the slopes and the latter performing acrobatics high on the sky!
Has our feature on unusual but memorable things to do in Chania awakened the explorer in you? Stay tuned to the Oscar Suites & Village blog for more tips and ideas for discoveries in and around Chania, as well as for more local insights and suggestions on what to see and do on the amazing island of Crete!