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Chania is Crete’s second largest town and is the lively capital of the western half of this long, narrow Greek island. It is very ancient: 4,000 years ago Chania was called Cydonia. It preserves many handsome signs of a long history as a possession of Venice. The Old Town, alongside the Old Harbour, is enclosed by Venetian ramparts and guarded by a waterside Venetian fortress, Fort Firca. The modern city centre, just outside the old ramparts, offers the energy and character of a vibrant, authentic Greek town. Here are numerous shops, bars, restaurants and street life that are fun to explore. Chania is the focal point of western Crete’s coastline of small and charming beach resorts. Each resort has its own appeal, and all are just minutes from Chania by car or bus along the seashore highway that runs at the foot of high craggy peaks and rolling foothills green with olive groves.
Chania has a plethora of pursuits to offer you holidaymakers. Start with a stroll along the historic harbour, then go on a glass-bottom boat cruise and enjoy the wonderful sea life, descend underneath the sea surface under professional diving instructors' supervision, or try the Limnoupolis Water Park for an adrenaline rush on water slides. The Samaria Gorge trail is a definitive must-do for hikers, and culture vultures will have several small museums to choose from.
A multitude of restaurants in Chania's old town, harbour area, and along the coast offer excellent (often al fresco) dining, relaxed and informal. Grilled fish and lamb dishes are specialities, plus vegetable dishes like boureki (courgette, cheese and potato bake) and melitzanokleftedes (aubergine patties). Cooking relies heavily on seasonal ingredients, most taverns specializing primarily in organic, locally sourced produce.
Cafés, bars and ice cream parlours are all much the same thing in the resorts, and those often serve food, too. Watch the world go by or simply listen to the waves rustle, taking a long cool drink at a shaded outdoor table - it's all part of the pleasure.
For most visitors, the definition of nightlife in Chania is a leisurely al fresco dinner at one of the town's many taverns (many restaurants host live music), followed by a stroll under the stars. For something more dynamic, there are late-night bars and dance clubs in Chania’s harbour area and in the beach resort of Platanias, west of town - an area beloved by the younger generation of vacationers.
Chania is the main shopping centre for all of western Crete. Stroll in the narrow lanes of its Old Town to discover numerous interesting small shops. The town has a great covered market (Agora) and fascinating specialist shopping streets to explore. Good buys from around €7 include crochet bags and beadwork, local rugs and kilims and authentic Greek bath sponges. Do not miss narrow Skridlof Street, a traditional leatherworkers’ lane where bargains include high quality handmade goods such as handbags, purses, shoes and sandals. There is also a metalworkers’ lane, Sifaka Street.
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