Cruise ships, especially larger ones, dock at the Port of Souda, in the town of Souda. Chania, the most picturesque town in the island of Crete is only 5km away. The international airport of Chania is 14km away, about 17 min by car. Getting out and about is very well organised. There are public buses less than 100 metres from the port that run every 5 min when there is a cruise ship in town. The ride to Chania takes about 10 min and only costs 1.5 Euro. There are taxis available as well.
The local currency is the Euro and exchange money is fairly easy. Before you go, check whether the exchange rates are more favourable at home, or in Greece. There are a few currency exchange shops in the city of Chania, and you can also exchange money at bank offices and post offices as well – all of those should have more or less the same rates. There are plenty of ATMs as well to withdraw cash from – make sure you have notified your bank you will be abroad and are aware of any fees that your bank may charge you for getting cash abroad. Most establishments would still prefer cash payments, although most of them now are obliged to have a POS terminal. There might be a limit for purchases to be paid by credit cards.
The opening hours in Crete tend to vary quite a lot. Most of the smaller shops are closed between 2 and 5pm and stay open until 9 pm in summer and 8 pm in winter. They are mostly closed on Sundays and public holidays. Some of the shops in tourist areas tend to be open until as late as 11pm all week and would not close during the afternoon. Post offices normally work from 8 am until 2 pm. The museums and archaeological sites tend to work all week except for Mondays. Their hours also vary a lot and the best way to make sure one is open is to go in the morning.
Tipping in Chania is around the 10% mark, or you can simply round up your taxi fare or your restaurant bill. There is a cover charge on the latter, normally around 1 euro per person and it covers the bread and water with your meal. It isn’t the service charge that we normally get in the UK. You can also leave a few Euro for your hotel housekeeper and the bellboy. Any tipping above the 10% is considered very generous and means you have had an exceptional experience.
The local language is Greek, although most of the staff in tourist areas speak English. You will have no problems of being understood.
The local time GMT + 2 and the international dialling code is 0030 28210.
Things To Do
Undoubtedly a landmark of the city is the Old Venetian Port. Built by the Venetians, as the name suggests, between 1320 and 1356. It was an important centre, serving the Venetian army ships, as well as one of the most important commercial ports of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The harbour has been preserved through the Ottoman rule and the years of the Egyptian domination. The sights to see while wondering around are the Lighthouse for a wonderful photo opportunity, the Firkas Fort, built to protect the entrance to the port, the Maritime Museum for all things naval and you can continue to the Old Town for more lovely historical buildings, beautifully kept over the years and centuries.
Visit the Greek Orthodox Cathedral Agios Nikolaos, built in the 13th century during the Venetian Period as part of the monastery of the Dominican Order. It was the most important and visited church of the city. Later it was turned into a mosque, a minaret was built on the other side of the tower and its name was changed to Mosque of the Emperor. In 1928, the mosque was once again turned to a church, dedicated to Agios Nikolaos.
The Archaeological Museum of Chania will give you an insight of the history of the region. It’s located in the former temple of the medieval Venetian Franciscan monastery, built in the 12th century, that has been housing it since 1963. The exhibits describe the culture and character of the area through the ages, from the Neolithic period to the Roman era. There are two wings – the East wing showcases relics form the Late Neolithic period and the Bronze Age (Minoan era), and the West wing showcases objects dating back to the Iron Age (Historic era). Approximately one third of the exhibits come from the Mitsotakis collection, donated to the Museum in 2006.
One of the most important architectural examples of the Cretan Renaissance is the Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) Monastery, located at Akrotiri, about 30 min drive from Chania. According to the legend, the monastery was funded by the brothers Jeremiah and Lorenzo or the Venetian family of Zagoroloi, monks in the nearby monastery of Governeto. The Ottomans burnt down the building in 1821, and the monastery was renovated in 1830. The complex is impressive and combines elements of the Orthodox monastic style with western architectural forms, to reflect the spirit of convergence of the two dogmas on the island of Crete.
There are many beaches to spend a day at in and around Chania, some of them named amongst the best in the world! To mention a few – Agia Marina is Cretans favorite beach, only 15 min away from the city centre of Chania. Balos is a beach situated in a unique setting, only accessible by foot or by sea. The amazing, picture-perfect golden and turquoise beach of Elafonisi is amongst the most popular ones on the island. The Glyka Nera (Sweet Waters) beach was named from the fresh water flowing from the mountains and is shaded by the almost vertical cliffs. Falassarna beach has been awarded as one of the best beaches in Greece and is constantly mentioned alongside Balos and Elafonisi as one of the best beaches in the world. The pink endless sand, the warm blue water and the surrounding mountains offer some of the most beautiful scenery.
If you would like to find out more about the rich heritage of Crete, head over to the Municipal Art gallery of Chania, The Folklore Museum, the War Museum or the Museum of Typography.
To feel the unique atmosphere and buzz of the sunny city of Chania, explore the Agora Market for some local Cretan produce and especially the olive oil, wander around the beautiful Botanic park & Gardens of Crete and admire the butterflies, birds and the picturesque planted terraces on the hillsides, hike the Samaria Gorge for wonderful views and fresh mountainous air, visit the old Tannery (leather production) of Tabakaria .
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