Welcome to Chania port, Crete (Greece)!
The enchanting Chania is the second largest city on Crete island (Greece) and one of the most picturesque ports in the Mediterranean cruise itineraries. With its impressive colorful architecture, rich historic and cultural heritage, amazing food and shopping options, this lively port has everything you need for a perfect cruise vacation!
In this article, read about:
- Chania port guide (Chania cruise terminal, getting around)
- Top 10 things to do in Chania port & Chania shore excursions
Chania Port Info
Cruise ships dock in the town of Souda, located at the head of Souda Bay on the northwest coast of Crete, approximately 7 km/4.3 miles east of Chania city center. Souda Bay (aka Gulf of Souda) is the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean and home to the port of Souda, the main ferry and cruise port for Chania.
Souda port is a busy working port. There are daily ferries to Piraeus throughout all year and in the past years, Souda has also become a port of call for numerous cruise lines. Due to its geographical position and strategic importance, Souda Bay also hosts the naval base of the Hellenic Navy and NATO.
How to Get from Port of Souda to Chania?
To get to Chania from port Souda, the most convenient option for cruise passengers is to take a shuttle bus offered by port authorities for a nominal fee (approx. 3€ round trip). After you get off the ship, you’ll see the ticket booth 50 meters away from the pier. In Chania, the shuttle bus drop-off/pick-up point is normally in front of Chania’s Old Market/Agora building (currently under reconstruction), from where you need to walk 10 minutes to the Old Venetian Harbour of Chania, where the major attractions are situated. Shuttle buses leave frequently, every 5 minutes. The ride to Chania takes 15-20 minutes. Taxis in the port of Souda are limited, so it’s highly recommended to use a shuttle bus.
Alternatively, there is an option to take a public bus to Chania. However, this is not recommended for cruise passengers as shuttle buses are provided for almost the same price. The public bus station is located at the exit of the harbour, only a couple of minutes’ walk from the pier. You can purchase a one-way ticket from an automatic ticket seller at the price of 1.50€, or you can buy it on the bus from the driver for 2€. In Chania, you need to get off at Chania’s main bus station (address: Partheviou Kelaidi 24, Chania), from where you need to walk 10 minutes to the Old Venetian Harbour of Chania. The public buses run every hour, but when ships are in port, they run more frequently (approx. every 20 minutes). You can check the schedules on Public Buses Chania webpage
Chania Port useful info:
- The currency in Greece is EURO (€). Local currency and credit cards are widely accepted. See the currency converter
- From the shuttle bus drop-off point, you need to walk around 10 minutes to reach Chania Old Town. The town of Chania is a mixture of hilly and flat surfaces and is partially wheelchair-friendly (the area around Old Venetian Port is wheelchair-accessible while some parts of the old town aren’t).
- You can visit all the main Chania attractions and landmarks on foot, no need to get around by bus.
- The best shopping and dining options are around Chania’s old town and Old Venetian Port. The prices are slightly higher in the restaurants overlooking the harbour.
- To get around Chania easily, make sure you download the map of Chania on the app https://maps.me/
- Chania’s central bus station is located at the address Partheviou Kelaidi 24, approximately a 10-minute walk from the Old Venetian Port. Chania is well connected to Rethymno and Heraklion (Crete’s capital), as well as Chania Airport and other destinations. You can check the timetables on Public Buses Chania webpage
- Chania Sightseeing Tours (Hop on Hop off tours) are available in the city center. You can hop on these red double-decker buses at the Chania Old Market (Agora) and enjoy any of the 13 stops offered in the itinerary. If you are arriving by a cruise ship, you can hop off directly at the Souda port which is one of the stops. There is a limited number of buses so you may face delays on cruise days.
- There are two main international airports in Crete: Heraklion International Airport “Nikos Kazantzakis” and Chania International Airport “Daskalogiannis”. Chania Airport is located 14 km/9 miles (a 20-minute drive) northeast of the port of Souda, and also 14 km/9 miles (a 25-minute drive) northeast of Chania city center and Old Venetian Port.
- If you are planning to spend a day at the beach, make sure you check the weather in advance as Crete can be extremely windy, especially in July and August. The beaches in Crete can be assigned the red flag (swimming and water activities are prohibited), yellow flag (swimming is allowed with caution) and green flag (swimming is allowed). Before planning your beach day, always check out the weather forecast on https://poseidon.hcmr.gr/ first, as the wind can really spoil your beach time.
- The water on Crete is potable, but because this water is of slightly different chemical composition, it’s recommended to drink bottled water.
- Check out the best hotels in Chania
If you want to read more about Crete, check out my articles:
Top 10 Things to Do in Chania Port
Chania’s rich history is best reflected in the town’s one-of-a-kind and various architecture. Chania was originally the site of the Minoan settlement called “Kydonia” and was later ruled by the Dorians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians and Ottomans. All these influences can be observed while wandering around the streets of this unique city, particularly around its old town and the Old Venetian Port.
Before I share with you the top things to do in Chania cruise port, I invite you to sign up below and get my insider SHORE EXCURSION GUIDE for free!
1. Old Venetian Port
The Venetian Republic ruled Crete from the 13th to 17th century and left the most visible traces in the Cretan architecture and culture. In the 16th century, the cities on Crete including Chania flourished and lived major economic and cultural growth.
The construction of the Old Venetian Harbour as we know it today started in the 13th century and lasted over 300 years. It was built for commercial and defensive purposes. The port was divided into two basins: the West basin which was primarily used for unloading goods that were stored in warehouses, and the East basin which was used to build and repair ships.
Nowadays, the West basin is lined with authentic souvenir shops and tavernas where you can try local delicacies, as well as some landmarks including the Maritime Museum and Firka Fortress.
In the East basin, you can see the 15th and 16th-century Venetian shipyards (Arsenali Veneziani), rectangular vaulted structures that served as dry docks/ship repair yards. Some of these were demolished and some transformed into military storage buildings during the Ottoman occupation of Crete from the 17th to the end of the 19th century. The arsenals were later used for different purposes throughout history and were reconstructed several times. Nowadays, one of the main buildings of Venetian Dockyards (Megalo Arsenali) hosts the Center of Mediterranean Architecture.
Another interesting historic landmark in this area is the Yali Mosque, built during the Ottoman rule in honor of the first ottoman commander of Chania, today hosting art exhibitions.
The Venetians also built the long fortified mole leading to the lighthouse to protect the harbour from the strong winds, storms and enemy attacks. You can take a pleasant walk along the mole to the lighthouse as from here you can admire the most stunning views of Chania’s old town and harbour.
The Venetian Old Port is a vibrant and lively place full of life and activities, especially at night. Make sure you try some local dishes at one of the numerous waterfront tavernas and restaurants while soaking up the friendly atmosphere this city has to offer!
2. Lighthouse of Chania
Old Venetian Harbour is dominated by the picturesque lighthouse built in the late 16th century for defensive purposes. During the Turkish occupation of Crete, the lighthouse first fell into disrepair and was later reconstructed in the form of a minaret.
The modern lighthouse as we know it today is known as “Egyptian” because it was built during the Egyptian occupation of Crete in the first half of the 19th century (the Egyptians supported the Ottoman Empire during the Cretan rebellions). Built at the end of a long fortified mole that protects the Venetian port from the sea, the lighthouse is the symbol of Chania and one of its most photographed landmarks. Although it’s closed to the public, you can walk all the way until the end of the mole along the Venetian fortifications and take some incredible photos of Chania!
3. Chania Old Town
The old town of Chania has been inhabited since the Neolithic age and is located on a small hill overlooking the Old Venetian Harbour. It is a lively labyrinth of streets and winding cobblestone alleys that are home to historic landmarks, monuments, perfect little Greek tavernas, charming cafes, art galleries and authentic souvenir shops.
Wander around its amazingly preserved Venetian, Turkish, and Jewish quarters, visit Eleftherios Venizelos Square, the main square of the city, and see the remains of the Byzantine fortifications that encircle the central part of the old town known as Kasteli.
Allow yourself to get lost in the old town alleyways, admire its fairy-tale architecture and soak in the unique vibe of this charming port! You may find the prices in the old town slightly cheaper than in the waterfront area along the harbour.
4. Presentation of the Virgin Mary Cathedral
The Presentation of the Virgin Mary Holy Metropolitan Church is a Greek Orthodox church located on a beautiful Athinagora Square in the old town. The magnificent church was built between 1850 and 1860 and houses marvelous icons painted by well-known Cretan icon painters of the 19th century.
Across from the church you’ll find a small Folklore Museum of Chania, as well as the ancient Ottoman baths. Here, you can grab a coffee or mouth-watering ice cream in one of the neighboring coffee shops and gelaterias (Delizia Gelato located right on the square is highly recommended!).
5. Maritime Museum of Crete
This amazing nautical museum is housed in a striking red building located at the western end of the Old Venetian Port next to the Firkas fortress. The museum displays collections from the Bronze Age to the present times, including ship models, nautical instruments, paintings, historical photographs and war relics classified chronologically. You can also see the replica of a Minoan ship at one of the arsenals at the eastern end of the harbour known as Moro Docks.
6. Firka Fortress
The Venetian-built fortress is located at the western end of the Old harbour, behind the Maritime Museum (a part of the fortress actually houses the museum). You can climb this 16th-century fortress and enjoy stunning views of the port and old town.
Behind the fortress, you can visit the Byzantine/Post-Byzantine Collection of Chania, a small archaeological museum showcasing Byzantine artworks and artifacts, including mosaics, paintings and relics.
7. Archaeological Museum of Chania
The new Archaeological Museum of Chania is located in Chalepa (or Halepa) district, approximately 2 km (a 25-minute walk) from the old harbour. Housed in an extraordinary state-of-the-art building, the museum offers a unique insight into the rich archaeological heritage of the Chania region from the Neolithic age to the present. It is highly recommended for history buffs and those eager to trace Chania’s impressive past!
8. Taste the Cretan Cuisine
Chania is packed with all types of restaurants and taverns serving both traditional Greek food and international dishes. Along the old harbour, you’ll find dozens of cute tavernas offering local delicacies including fresh seafood and fish. Besides gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, Greek salad, and other typical Greek dishes, Crete is also famous for traditional lamb “Kleftiko” roasted with garlic, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.
You can join one of the food/wine tasting tours, or simply choose one of the eateries in the old town and harbour. To top off your visit, make sure you try Cretan wines and olives as they are believed to be of the best quality in all of Greece!
9. Beaches in Chania
Crete is known for its spectacular beaches with crystal clear water and there are dozens of them in the Chania region. The three most beautiful and popular beaches in Crete are Elafonissi (1h 30 min drive), Falassarna (1 hour) and Balos Lagoon (a 40-minute drive to Kissamos port, then take a boat to Balos), however, as you can see, they are quite far from Chania. You can read more about these fabulous beaches in my article Top 15 Things to Do on Crete from Rethymno, Chania and Heraklion
If you decide to stay in Chania, keep in mind that the old town of Chania around the old harbour doesn’t have a public beach. Instead, there are a few relatively near beaches such as Nea Chora beach, a bustling stretch of sandy beach located a 20-minute walk west of the old town. Nearby, you’ll also find Kladissos beach, Hrisi Akti beach (Golden beach) and the scenic Agii Apostoli beach further to the west, approximately 15-20 minutes driving distance.
Souda Bay and the peninsula of Akrotiri are also popular beach destinations. Here, you can visit the breathtaking Seitan Limania, a secluded beach surrounded by dramatic cliffs, Stavros beach, Katholiko beach, Marathi beach, Kalami beach, and many others. These beaches are located a 15-45 minute drive from the port of Souda, depending on their location.
When planning your beach trip, make sure you check the weather forecast on https://poseidon.hcmr.gr/. Keep in mind that swimming may be prohibited due to the strong winds.
10. Day Trips from Chania
Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, it is absolutely huge and takes many days to visit. However, you can explore some of its landmarks, remote villages, centuries-old monasteries and natural treasures from Chania. Some of these destinations are:
- Samaria Gorge – For those of you in great physical shape, a thrilling hike through the longest of the many Cretan deep gorges is a perfect choice! You can hike independently or book a shore excursion. Samaria Gorge is located in the White Mountains, up to a 1 hr 30 min drive south of Chania.
- Palace of Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum – The Palace of Knossos and Heraklion, Crete’s capital, are the birthplace of the Minoan civilization. The Palace of Knossos is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, while the archaeological museum houses the most impressive collection of the objects and artifacts found during the excavations. Heraklion and Knossos are located 2 hr 30 minutes drive east of Chania one way.
- The archaeological site of Aptera – Located a 15-minute drive east of Souda port, a hilltop archaeological site of Aptera was another Minoan settlement. You can visit the monastery of St. John Theologos, the remains of ancient theater, Doric temples and other ancient structures.
- Agia Triada Monastery – A Holy Trinity monastery dates back to the 17th century and is situated in the heart of the Akrotiri peninsula, a 25-minute drive north of the port of Souda. Here you buy olive oil and wine produced by monks and also visit a small museum.
- Katholiko Monastery – Located on the north of the Akrotiri peninsula, a 40-minute drive north of Souda cruise port, Katholiko Monastery is believed to be the oldest monastery in Crete founded in the 11th century by St. John the Hermit who lived in a nearby cave.
Crete is a truly special place and if you’re visiting gorgeous Chania, make sure you plan your day to get the most of what this great port of call can offer!
If you want to read more about Crete, check out my articles:
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