The Chania harbour front, created in Venetian times, is special, quintessential Crete partly because the iconic lighthouse adorns the cover of many a guidebook!
The Venetian Lighthouse
Though originally Venetian it was rebuilt 1825-32 by Egyptian troops in the form of a minaret. They were in Crete defending the weakening Ottoman empire. That’s the reason people often refer to it as “Egyptian”. Most recently a complete renovation in 2005 has straightened its lean and smartened its appearance!
Great place for selfies too!
From there we can see the sweep of restaurants and bars, backed by the, now well restored, Venetian merchants’ houses.
Chania harbour front
We love the gentle slap of the waves against the harbour walls. The sounds of the swifts swooping over the harbour and amongst the buildings. The enticing smells of fresh food from the restaurants.
We are often in town in order to get provisions, sorting issues and searching for things.
After we’ve done our chores and shopping we like to stroll the Chania harbour front, so that we can check out some of the sites, chillout in one of the bars, and end up with a meal. Here are some of our favorites.
Al Canea is a wine bar on the edge of the first harbour. Its across from the lighthouse and next to the Maritime Museum. A quiet relaxed place which is set a little bit back and up from the main harbour front. We like to watch folk stroll by, so it’s a great place for people watching.
Right at the other end of the second harbour is the Apostolis Taverna. Its a place to come because here the fish is delicious, the views are out over the posh boats, and they serve Lyra beer, brewed in Kissamos and one of John’s favourites!
Things to see
The old mosque now houses temporary exhibitions and markets, so its worth popping in to see what’s on.
In the second harbour, in a restored Arsenali, you can see a life sized and fully functional vessel modelled on the Minoan oared vessels. Its fascinating to look into this ship, with its tiny cabin aft, the rows of benches for the oarsmen, all in the open, its primitive sail, and finally the elegant leaping dolphins on the bows.
The row of seven arsenali, have been heavily modified for use as warehouses. But they are still a vivid reminder of the Venetians naval prowess. At the time their floors were at sea level so that the Venetian sailors could haul their galleys to be repaired and worked on..
Choosing a restaurant
Many of the restaurants on the waterfront are still very touristy. They have toned down the greeters, now “we don’t press you, we don’t stress you”. However, at one time they had become quite intrusive and bothersome to strolling tourists, trying to bully them into eating at their establishment. A place we like is the Amphora, with friendly staff and interesting and well cooked food.
After that we go back to the square with the Venetian fountain where we often get Tshirts from Kostas, who can print anything you have electronically on caps, mugs, Tshirts, you name it!
And what place would really claim to be on the map without a (S)tarbucks! We don’t like the coffee they brew but their range of single origin coffee beans is great.
After that you may be hot and tired, so just off this square is Lets Spoon, where you can finish off with delicious frozen yoghurt and a good range of flavours of creamy rich ice cream.
In the Evening
In the evening, as the sun is setting, Pallas is great for cocktails. Partly because its first floor bar and restaurant have great window views of the harbour lighthouse.
And although their restaurant is good, we prefer Salis, in a fine location on a corner in the second harbour. Its partly because at this place you can get top class dishes with Cretan notes but also because there is a more friendly atmosphere.
Afshin is co owner, an Iranian/Swede chef/sommelier married to Alex, who owns the Manousakis Winery. Therefore, as you would expect, the restaurant has a great (and huge) wine list!
After a long day in the City
Chania is a wonderful experience, but the intensity of the city with its busy bustle, its frenetic (particularly two wheeled) traffic, and its noise and pace need to be balanced against the quiet and peace of rural Crete. So its great to be able to come back to the villa to relax and chill out.
More about living in Crete
There is much more in our blogs. These show things to do in Crete, whether it be walking a gorge, hiking in the foothills of the White Mountains, or taking a drive to see the sites. Chania is a great town to visit, particularly to go to the street markets, and of course you’ll want to get the benefits of the Cretan diet – be it the yoghurt and cheese, or the olive oil.
This Dream Villa
And if you would like to live in a place where you can see these, here is just the place. This is a dream villa which we designed and built 10 years ago and now reluctantly are ready to sell and move on. Its in the Apokoronas, in the west of the island, 35min drive from Chania, 50min from the international airport.