In this destination report I cover my short stopover in Chania on a rainy autumn day.
Half a day in Chania
After a remarkably pleasant Ryanair flight on an almost empty plane I arrived at Chania Airport in the early afternoon.
Given the fact that my onward Ryanair flight to Budapest was only departing in the evening, I basically had half a day to spend at leisure in the city.
As I already wrote in the introduction of this trip report I’m certainly no stranger to Chania, having lived for a year in this picturesque Cretan coastal city.
Of course, spending just half a day in Chania is way too little time in normal circumstances and I’m certainly not suggesting you should do the same.
However, for me it was a great opportunity to revisit some of my favourite places and to feel again the special vibe of one of Greece’s most iconic cities.
Therefore you should see this article as a collection of my impressions during my half-day stopover and not as a full guide to Chania (which I do hope to write in the near future).
From the airport to Chania
Being one of the first off the plane I was through passport control in seconds.
As there was still plenty of time before the departure of the Chania airport bus to the city centre, I enjoyed a freddo espresso outside the terminal.
It was unfortunately a very rainy autumn day in Chania.
When the airport bus drove down the hill from the Akrotiri Peninsula on which the airport is located towards Souda Bay, the rain started again to fall from the sky.
It certainly wasn’t how I imagined my stopover in Chania to look like when I booked my ticket two weeks before.
From Chania’s KTEL bus station it’s a short walk to the old town, which was abuzz with activity despite the rainy weather.
I had completely forgotten that today was Ochi Day, a national holiday celebrated each year on 28th October throughout Greece.
On that day in 1940, Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini sent an ultimatum to Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas to allow Axis troops enter Greece and occupy some strategic locations throughout the country or face war.
The ultimatum was answered with a firm “ochi” (meaning ‘no’) by the Greeks, who managed to bravely hold off the subsequent Italian invasion until Nazi Germany sent in its own troops to aid their Italian allies.
Old Venetian Harbour
It being Ochi Day meant that lots of people were out for a walk on the city streets looking for a place to grab a family lunch.
As I was quite hungry, I decided to do the same and headed towards the old Venetian Harbour.
The old Venetian Port is one of Chania’s most beautiful areas and home to the city’s best-known landmarks.
At the tip of the harbour breakwater you can see Chania’s iconic 16th century Venetian lighthouse.
Opposite this lighthouse you can find Firka Fortress, which guards the entry to the port.
Besides the Venetians also the Ottomans left their legacy in Chania when they occupied Crete.
The Kyuchuk Hassan Mosque, also called the Mosque of the Janissaries, is perhaps the best example of this.
Lunch at the port
Although the restaurants lining the old Venetian Harbour have without doubt a fine view, they aren’t necessarily the best in Chania if you are looking for quality food.
Especially the restaurants along the western edge of the harbour are rather tourist-oriented.
In fact, when I lived in Chania I don’t think I actually ever ate at any of the restaurants around this part of the Venetian Harbour, although some of the taverns towards the eastern end of the old port are generally much better in quality and tailored more towards the locals.
However, during my short walk around the old town I quickly found that almost all of my favourite restaurants in this part of Chania were fully booked because of the national holiday.
When I therefore spotted an empty table under the canopy at one of the harbourside restaurants I therefore instantly decided to sit down.
Even if the food would disappoint, at least I could enjoy a fine view over the Venetian Port!
Fortunately, the food at the restaurant I chose (Michalis) was good.
I enjoyed some tasty dakos (barley rusk soaked in olive oil with chopped tomatoes, olives, cheese and herbs) followed by some calamari – all washed away with the local Charma draught beer.
As is customary on Crete, I also got a small dessert (brownie with ice cream) on the house as well as some complimentary tsikoudia (Cretan raki).
Walk along the quays
My favourite area of Chania’s harbour isn’t the circle-shaped Venetian Port but rather its eastern extension.
The quays here are dominated by warehouses, with some of them being converted to restaurants and others being abandoned.
Although you can normally walk on a path over the breakwater all the way towards the lighthouse, it was unfortunately closed temporarily because of some renovation work.
The point in Chania with the finest views over the old town and the Venetian Harbour is not well-known among tourists and even a bit of a hidden secret.
From the warehouse area in the eastern part of the old port, you need to walk uphill to a place called Roza Nera.
Roza Nera is a building on a derelict courtyard where the local anarchist squatters reside.
Just walk to the far western side of this courtyard, climb over the wall, and you can enjoy some sweeping views over the Venetian Harbour.
This used to be one of my favourite spots in Chania to sit down with a cold beer, although unfortunately the rainy weather didn’t really make this a viable option.
If you walk alongside the sea towards the east and get out of the old town, you will arrive in the residential neighbourhood of Koum Kapi.
The name is derived from the Turkish word ‘kum kapisi’, which means Sand Gate as there used to be a fine sandy beach here.
There isn’t a beach to speak of anymore as the Koum Kapi seashore these days exists out of some breakwater rocks and a pleasant pedestrian promenade, which makes for a great spot for a coffee or drink.
As I used to live in this very neighbourhood, it was of course a must-stop on my Chania stopover to rekindle some memories.
Cats of Chania
One thing I always love about Greece is the sheer amount of community cats roaming the streets.
During my walk through Chania I certainly encountered lots of Greek feline friends.
Splantzia Square and the surrounding area forms one of other favourite areas of Chania.
Although it’s located in the old town and just a few minutes walking from the touristy Venetian Port, Splantzia is full of local life.
Just like Koum Kapi, this is an old Ottoman-era neighbourhood, which you can clearly see from the unique architecture of the Agios Nikolaos Church, a former mosque which has one bell tower and one minaret.
The leafy square is lined with a couple of cafés where mostly local old men drink their coffee and beer.
Make sure you also explore the alleys around the square for some more local flair.
Close to Splantzia are two of my favourite streets in Chania: Chatzimichali Ntaliani and Sifaka.
Both of these streets are not only highly picturesque but also full of bars and restaurants – all with a primarily local crowd.
I ended up sitting at one of the Sifaka cafés for another freddo espresso, although it was tempting to order some warm rakomelo (honey raki) instead given the cold weather.
Of course, I couldn’t leave Chania without eating some souvlaki from my favourite local fast food restaurant Se Anammena Karvouna.
Se Anammena Karvouna does the best souvlaki in all of Chania and trust me – I tried out lots in this town!
Back to the airport
Unfortunately, my Chania stopover was coming to an end.
As the rain had finally stopped, I made one last walk around the Venetian Harbour and through some of the most beautiful backstreets of the old town before returning to the bus station.
Although the rainy weather didn’t make for the best conditions to visit Chania, I still had an enjoyable day in Crete’s most beautiful city.
Having lived for a year in Chania, it was great fun to stroll around some of my beloved city streets and neighbourhoods again.
Even though my stopover was rather short and walking around in the rain wasn’t ideal, I was glad that I made the detour to my beloved Chania.
I certainly need to come back another time and stay longer in Chania to fully reacquaint myself with the city.
Trip report index
This ‘Trains, Planes, Beer and Tapas: A Trip to Prague and Madrid’ trip report consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Ryanair Bucharest to Chania (Boeing 737-800)
2. A Rainy Chania Stopover (current chapter)
3. Ryanair Hell: My Bad Chania to Budapest Flight Experience
4. Review: T62 Hotel, Budapest, Hungary
5. Review: EuroCity Train “Hungaria” Budapest to Brno
6. A Walk Through the Historic Old Town Centre of Brno
7. Review: EuroCity Train “Metropolitan” Brno to Prague
8. Review: K+K Hotel Central, A Prague Art Nouveau Delight
9. Beer Boozing in Prague: Sampling Some Czech Brews
10. Praha Hlavní Nádraží – Prague’s Stunning Art Nouveau Station
11. Review: Leo Express Train Prague to Olomouc
12. Olomouc Guide: Baroque and Belle Epoque Beauty
13. Review: RegioJet Train Olomouc to Prague
14. Review: Erste Premier Lounge Prague Airport
15. Review: Air France HOP Business Class Embraer 170
16. Review: Air France Schengen Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
17. Review: Air France Business Class Paris CDG to Madrid (Airbus A220)
18. A Madrid Tapas Crawl: Bar Hopping in Spain’s Capital
19. Review: Ibis Madrid Aeropuerto Barajas
20. Review: Puerta de Alcala VIP Lounge Madrid Airport
21. Review: Air Europa Economy Class Madrid to Milan (Boeing 787)
22. How To Transfer Between Milan Malpensa and Bergamo Airport