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Chania, Crete: Absolutely charismatic

Despite the growing numbers of tourists visiting this beautiful town, Chania has managed to keep its autenticity. Charming and magical with so many vestiges of its past, it is considered as the most picturesque town on the Greek Island of Crete. Chania, sometimes written as Xania, is where modern and old meet, blending together to make it a fascinating place. For those who want to do some exploring in beautiful narrow winding streets, spend time people watching and still laze on the beach, then this is the perfect choice.

History, archaeology, museums, market, churches, architecture and brilliant beaches are yours for the asking - and anyone considering Chania as a location for buying property will not be disappointed: the town is charismatic and a wonderful place to live all year round.

Divided into the old town and the new, the old town is where most people head for. Surrounding the harbour with Venetian style buildings, there are numerous winding streets with discoveries at every turn.

The town is arranged in various quarters, four of which are the oldest ones. The architecture here is really beautiful with interesting buildings packed into the tiny stone paved streets. At the Venetian harbour you'll always find plenty going on but keep an eye out for the usual tourist touts. The harbour is ringed with pristine cafes and smart restaurants. But our tip for a more authentic Greek food experience is to take to the little back streets to find traditional small cafes. At the entrance you'll see the Fort Firkas and opposite the Janissaries Mosque. This part of the town, is one of the most aristocratic quarters, where the wealthy lived.

From here you can keep strolling to the second harbour where you can take a ferry to the fortress, which saves weary legs. Try to get to the fortress in time for sunset and grab a chilled glass of wine to gaze at the sun going down.

A walk into the Turkish quarter of Splantzia (also called Plaza) is worth it, if only for a visit to the Church of Saint Nicholas, an interesting mix of Christian and Orthodox architecture.

Kondilaki Street is full of tourists, leading into the main interior of the historically rich old town. Shopaholics will not be disappointed if they want a spending spree in Chania. One of the most famous places is Leather Lane, where you just can't help to be impressed by the unending selection of locally-made leather goods. Crafts and jewellery are everywhere in the many small back sttreets. For an introduction to Cretan honey it's worth dropping into To Meli, where you might also be tempted by the choice of olive oil products.

But the real glory for shopping is the indoor daily market. Highly popular with both the locals and the tourists, you will find everything imagineable on sale here.

Many visitors say this is the best indoor market they have ever visited in Europe. A huge structure with a high glass roof supported by ornate ironwork. At the time when it was built in 1913, Chania was the commercial centre of Crete and the market signified the town's trading power. The building is in the shape off a cross and is packed to the brim with all sorts of goods and produce from all over Crete. Be prepared, the market is vibrant, bustling and usually full of people milling around, searching out ingredients and other foodstufffs. The stalls are enticing and the traders are active, used t otourists and some of them speaking English. Generally stalls specialise in one thing and you'll find the meat and fish stalls in the east-west part of the cross. Try out one of the small cafes here - they are usually full of locals and therefore an excellent sign of quality.

Accommodation in the town ranges from simple pensions to the beautiful Casa Delfino Hotel, once two private homes and now fully restored with 20 rooms. It is quietly located yet only 50m from the harbour. There are plenty of good choices to suit every budget.

Foodies will be delighted with the number of eateries. One of the most charming tavernas is Tamam, Zambeliou St. It is set in an ancient Turkish hamam baths and the menu is mainly authentic village cooking. If you are looking for fish, then of course the harbour is one of the main places to choose from any number of restaurants and the Antigoni seems popular and is decorated with care - a popular local venue. A delightful cafe / bar is Kriti Kafe, with live Cretan music and dancing. For a panoramic view of the entire town and the sea, then Ostria Cafe has the best views.

Getting to Chania is easy as it is accessible from both the Greek mainland and Europe via its airport. Car hire is worth considering if you want to explore as the island is large. There is an excellent cheap bus which connects Chania with most of the villages and towns of this part of Crete.

This really is only the briefest overview of this charasmatic town. If you stay here for as long as a week, you won't be bored. Chania is a bit like mixing up Greece, Italy and Venice altogether and it is certainly one of the most charming towns on any of the Greek Islands. Top marks!