Chania is a Cretan gem. This coastal town at the west end of the island retains Turkish and Venetian influences, has some spectacular natural sights as well as beaches nearby and has enough restaurants and nightlife to keep anyone happy.
Chania was Turkish and Venetian before it became Greek and the city has an array of historical sights, from the atmospheric harbor and the Venetian Church of Agios Nikolaos to the ramparts of Firkas Fortress.
Chania's long history has been presented in a cluster of great museums, including an excellent Archaeological Museum and the unique Cretan House Folklore Museum.
Not far from Chania, the Samaria Gorge cuts through southern Crete and is simply stunning. It's one of the most breath-taking hiking spots in Europe.
Well before the Venetians or Turks arrived, the Minoans ruled Crete and you can get a great sense of their achievements at the site of ancient Kydonia or on a tour of the Minoan ship in Chania harbor.
If the heat is too much, you can always get away to a nearby beach. Standouts include Elafonissi, with its emerald waters, and Platanias, not far from the city.
From Minoan times to Venetian rule to the Second World War, Chania's history has been impossible to separate from the Mediterranean Sea, and this museum is the perfect way to get a handle on that key relationship. See beautifully reconstructed models of ancient triremes, as well as a detailed model of the Venetian Port at the height of its glory, and don't miss the large exhibit documenting Germany's invasion of Crete in 1941. Try to get to the Moro Shipyard too, where the Museum has installed an amazing model of a Minoan ship made by local craftsmen.
Between 1250 and 1650, Chania was ruled by the city of Venice as part of its oceanic Empire, and the legacy of that era is the city's beautiful port district. Highlights include the Firkas Fortress, built to ward off Turkish invasion (unsuccessfully) and Angelou Street - a beautiful series of Venetian-style homes in the Topanas neighborhood. When you've absorbed the sights, the quay is lined with bakeries and tavernas where you can dine by the ocean - an ideal way to end the day.
Just south of the Venetian Port, you'll find the Archaeological Museum of Chania, and you'll be glad that you did. Located in what used to be a monastery, the museum shows off some of the most impressive finds from ancient Chania, including royal seals from 5,000 years ago, gracefully sculpted bird-shaped pottery vessels and a dazzling Roman mosaic - but there are so many striking artifacts that everyone will have their own personal highlights.
About 10 miles south of Chania, something amazing has blossomed in the hills of the Cretan interior. After a wildfire in 2004, locals in Skordalou made a creative decision to turn what used to be thriving centuries-old olive groves into a botanical tourist attraction. Now, their efforts are (literally) bearing fruit, with orange and cherry groves, gardens laced with the aroma of lemon trees and Mediterranean herbs, and a thriving population of wild birds, farm animals, and butterflies to explore. It's an amazing comeback and an inspiring place to visit.
Located on the mole poking out into Chania harbor, the lighthouse is unmissable from the Venetian Port. Originally, the Venetians built the lighthouse as a defensive measure, enabling them to stretch a chain across the harbor entrance, but it fell into decay in the 1700s. However, thankfully, the Ottomans rebuilt the tower and renovations in 2005 have left it looking more elegant than ever. You can't climb the lighthouse, but the views from the promontory offer some of Chania's most beautiful views, so it's a must-visit attraction.
Summer is a good time for beach lovers and the Chania Cultural Festival takes place in August. If you can't stand 100+ degree heat, try October or between April and early June.
Daily flights from Athens touch down at Chania International Airport, as do seasonal flights from the UK. Airport buses cost EUR2.30 and take around 20 minutes.
Those driving from Heraklion need to take the E75 along the coast to Chania, while the E65 runs from Kissamos to the west.
KTEL operates daily buses from Cretan cities like Rethimno and Heraklion. The bus from Heraklion takes 3 hours and costs around EUR15.
High-quality resort hotels near Chania include the Grecotel Kalliston and Cretan Dream Royal Hotel, while good options in town include Casa Delfino and the Ambassadors Residence.
The Old Town - Around in some form since 3,600 BC, Chania is certainly old. The Old Town is a beautiful neighborhood filled with alleys, lanes and endless tavernas.
Splantzia - Known as the Turkish neighborhood, Splantzia is full of Ottoman mosques and fountains.
Ovriaki - Once the city's Jewish neighborhood, Ovriaki is a bustling commercial center, particularly around Kondilaki Street.
Chania Urban Buses runs a local bus network. Single tickets cost just EUR1.20 and fares are paid when you board.
Expect taxis in Chania to charge around EUR3 for the first mile, then EUR1.50 or so for every mile after that.
You can rent a car of your own from the local branches Avis and Flisvos. Daily rates should be around EUR10-15.
Kondilaki, Zambeliou and Halidon in the center of town are the main shopping streets, but check out the Agora (covered market) as well. The city is particularly famous for its leather goods, so there may be some bargain accessories to be found.
Local supermarket options include ΣΥΝ and Carrefour. Expect a gallon of milk to cost around EUR4.80.
Some of the best tavernas in Chania - and there are plenty - include Chalkina by the harbor, Prassein Aloga (which also hosts live music most nights), and the slightly remote but superb Thalassino Ageri, where fish is the specialty. Prices vary, but a meal will typically cost around EUR15.