It was the last stop on our Goodbye Europe tour, so we were determined to treat ourselves well in Chania. As our last hotel of the trip, there were some pretty high expectations to meet – we were looking for the nicest room in the nicest hotel that research provided – and luckily Room 1 of the Alcanea Boutique Hotel was everything we had hoped for.
The wow factor
An oversized antique doorway frames a stone interior dripping with large Ottoman lamps, tempting you to not turn around for a view of Chania’s famous Venetian Harbor. You’ll have plenty of time to see that from your room, unless you’ve chosen to overlook the Aegean Sea, the landmark Egyptian Lighthouse, or the imposing Firkas Fortress (or all three).
We watched photographer after photographer come to a dead stop as they rounded the last building by the Alcanea, and then slowly raise their lens to snap a shot. It’s just that pretty.
Tip: At most times, cars aren’t allowed to enter the pedestrian area of the Old Town but they can bring you within a short (thankfully downhill) block of the hotel. For an extra tip, the taxi driver might be willing to help you carry your bags (check before you get in the car) or you can call the hotel for assistance. Parking is limited in the area, so if you have your own car you’ll need to be prepared to walk further.
Step back in time: merchants sail the Mediterranean bringing products from afar: latticed iron lamps adorned with tassels, handwoven rugs with intricate designs; brass trays that double as table tops. The thick stone walls admirably block the outdoor heat, protecting an air that feels part colonial elegance, part bohemian chic. The hours float lazily past a small group lounging on low cushions as they take in the activity of a crystalline harbor framed by pastel-colored buildings.
Location, location, location
The Alcanea sits at the mouth of the Venetian Harbor – the focal point of Chania and arguably of Crete – in a Venetian mansion which served as the office of Eleftherios Venizelos (ex-Prime Minister and “maker of modern Greece”). Right next door is the Nautical Museum of Crete – an unmistakable red building often showcased in photos of the harbor – as well as the Turkish Firkas Fortress.
This is the quieter, more genteel side of the Harbor, with higher-end artisans luckily leaving no remaining retail space for tacky tourist shops.
Tip: Unfortunately, sound carries over water, and for the 2013 season several loud bars moved in to the busier side of the harbor [they used to be located on the city’s outskirts, but The (economic) Crisis limited peoples’ ability to pay for gas]. Although the heavy wood shutters do an admirable job of filtering the music, if you’re a light sleeper who can’t stand to wear earplugs, choose a room on the opposite side of the building.
Resting Your Head (Rooms)
With only eight rooms, each can be designed distinctively and lovingly. We think our superior room (1) was the gem of the property with its double-tall ceilings and windows, vantage point over the harbor, and warm-toned interiors (thankfully the room stayed cool, sheltered by the floor above). Room 7, above us, would be our second choice: It enjoyed a higher position and also a small terrace.
The details make all the difference: a pair of binoculars, hand-selected but minimal decorations, gorgeous antique kilim rugs and a vintage bureau, flower boxes on the balcony, an oversized king bed, glossy new (the entire building was renovated in 2011) minimalist bathrooms stocked with APIVITA natural Greek bath products (one of my favorite brands worldwide), an iPod dock, and doors that lock with antique iron keys. I also loved the gentle note in the hotel guest book reminding guests that their gorgeous wide-paneled hardwood floors were hundreds of years old, and to please step lightly for the comfort of guests below.
Sitting in this tranquility with the French doors thrown open as the heat of the day recedes and the moon rises over the Venetian buildings of the harbor is a moment I’ll relive again and again.
New hotels can take a while to find their groove, but here it’s impossible to tell that the hotel is only a couple of years old. The upbeat young staff – each sweeter than the next – keeps the vibe from feeling stuffy, without sacrificing professionalism. This might or might not have anything to do with the Aria Hotel Group that manages the property together with two other boutique properties on Greek islands.
Because of what seems like a genuine desire to leave guests as enchanted as possible, it’s easy to imagine that the welcome gift came straight from the heart. Not only was the carafe of rakomelo – the local raki spirit simmered with honey and spices – awaiting our arrival, but it was accompanied by a small recipe card, as well.
Due to the small size, there is no staff present in the late hours of the night. However, they are able to provide breakfasts and maintain a café throughout the day.
After last week’s article on food in Crete, it probably comes as no surprise that breakfast is amazing. Your a la carte selection covers everything from omelettes to local yogurt and honey plus local specialties like bougatsa (everyone raved about these cheesy pies from Chania’s local joint Iordannis, but in my opinion there was no reason to leave the Alcanea).
The Alcanea Café is one of Chania’s best-kept secrets in large part because of its quiet position on the harbor, but also because it is cool and shaded in the late afternoon. The rest of the harbor is illuminated in gorgeous light, and you can view it comfortably – along with in-the-know locals – without having to squint.
Wifi is complimentary throughout the hotel. As it should be.
There are very few hotels for which we provide full-length recommendations because, to us, what distinguishes great properties is our desire to return, regardless of the destination. While it’s true that great hotels inevitably reflect and enhance their surroundings, we can honestly say that we would revisit our favorite hotels even if they were smack dab in the middle of … Kansas.
If that doesn’t say it all, nothing does.
2 Aggelou St.
Tel: +30 28210 75370
Fax: +30 28210 75377
Mobile: +30 6951 689699
*We will always disclose sponsorships when applicable in any of our reviews (though opinions are candid, regardless). In this case, we stayed anonymously and received no sponsorship.