Crete’s former capital is perhaps its most idyllic town. With its intertwined Venetian and Ottoman legacy, there’s an east and west magic to its grand harbor, narrow lanes, sea walls and port buildings.
Minoans lived near Hania’s harbor at Ancient Kydonia, and today’s beach lovers head to the modern seashore at Nea Hora. There are waterfront cafes to relax in at Koum Kapi, the old Turkish quarter.
Hania’s archaeological museum traces the history of this part of Crete since Neolithic times, and it’s housed in a 16th-century Venetian church that’s an impressive sight in itself. If you like ships, head to the Naval Museum in the headland fortress, once an Ottoman prison, and the Venetian shipyard museum by the harbor. Both museums exhibit maritime displays from the Bronze Age onwards, including memorabilia from WWII. You’ll also find displays of Byzantine jewelry, mosaics and artifacts in the fortress’ Byzantine museum.
Wander around the Old Town, and walk the fortified walls leading from the fortress for views of the old quarter. Amid the church towers are the minarets of mosques, along with the great Venetian arsenal, a synagogue and the excavated remains of Ancient Kydonia. Hania is also the place to plan and organize adventure activities, from hiking Samaria Gorge to mountain-bike tours, rock climbing, kayaking and diving.
Hania is the island’s second-biggest city, nestled at the base of the Akrotiri Peninsula on Crete’s northwest coast. It’s the main access point for hikers walking the Samaria Gorge