Trying to find a vacation destination where you indulge both your curiosity and your desire to lounge on the beach can be a chore. The most interesting cities are often nowhere near a good beach and the best beaches often have very little else to see. But if you’re looking for a small city that’s packed with history and is close to world-class beaches, consider checking out Chania, an atmospheric old town in Crete that was built by the Venetians on the ruins of the ancient Minoan settlement of Kydonia in 1252.
Chania’s Old Town (see video below) is a lively stew of colorful old homes, narrow lanes filled with outdoor restaurants, and architectural treasures. On sultry summer evenings, the streets are packed with children playing in the squares, couples enjoying romantic meals and partiers guzzling beer and ouzo.Chania’s Archaeological Museum is small but packed with must-see mosaics, statues and artifacts. And when you’ve had your fill of history, head about 15 minutes northeast of Chania to Kalathas Beach, a beautiful sandy beach that has very shallow, clean water and a good taverna right next to the beach.
Initially, we stayed at the Halepa Hotel, just outside Chania’s Old Town, but, despite the glowing reviews we read on Trip Advisor, we thought the place was overpriced given its location and small rooms. We moved to a small, brand new boutique hotel just off the harbor in the Old Town called the Palazzo Duca, which turned out to be cheaper, nicer and in a much better location (see video). But one word of caution about Chania – we were there in June and it was already getting quite hot, so you definitely want to visit in the shoulder season.
[Photos and videos by Dave Seminara]