Chania harbour front
Early one morning at the old Venetian harbour

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 on Chania harbour front
Passing the lighthouse on the way to fish

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!

Taking selfies on the wall of the harbour front
Careful where you tread…!

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 at twilight
Gorgeous in the twilight

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.

Well preserved buildings above the restauranats in morning sunlight
Above the awnings the old buildings have been well restored

We are often in town in order to get provisions, sorting issues and searching for things for our business. 

Chilling out with tea and wine in Pallas
Chilling out with tea and wine…

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.

Our Favourites

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.

The harbour front from Al Canea, charming wine bar good for people watching
Al Canea, delightfully set back from the harbour

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!

Apostolis, great fish restaurant on the edge of the harbour
Apostolis offers great fish

Things to see

The old mosque now houses temporary exhibitions and markets, so its worth popping in to see what’s on.    

The old mosque on the harbour front, which house changing exhibitions
The mosque in morning sunshine

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.

National Maritime Museum reconstructed Minoan ship
They’ve sailed the ship too, in festivals!

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..

Arsenali in the second harbour of Chania
Arsenali in the second harbour

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.

View from Amphora restaurant over the harbour
Welcoming vista from the Amphora

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… 

Starbucks in the Square with Venetian fountain
The ubiquitous Starbucks – quite a hit with the Greeks!

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.

Frozen yoghurt and ice cream at Lets Spoon just off the harbour
Great ice cream and yoghurt

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.   

Sunset over Chania harbour front
What a joy to be here at sunset

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.

Salis, an excellent restaurant with quality international cuisine
A great restaurant in a wonderful setting
Seared black sesame crusted tuna at Salis
Seared black sesame crusted tuna at Salis

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!

Lights of Chania harbour front at night
cityHarbour lights

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.  Our guests love to visit the town, but escape back to the peace and tranquillity of the White Mountains to relax and chill out. We have walks and drives to suggest.

Retro deckchairs overlooking the mountains at Panokosmos
Retro deckchairs at Panokosmos!

So could you!  Take a look at Panokosmos – the luxury of a first class hotel, the privacy of a private villa, above all the atmosphere of staying with friends.

Dinner set for two on the balcony of Panokosmos
Evening meal, waiting for you

Lots more to see and do…

In any case for your holiday in Crete you might like to look at our blogs which 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 sitesChania 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.