Mama Nena

Chania, Crete, Greece Book from

A gorgeous boutique B&B in the heart of Chania's charming old town, with views over the picturesque harbourfront
We were thrilled when we stumbled - not entirely by chance - upon this gorgeous new boutique B&B overlooking Chania's picture-perfect waterfront. You enter from Zambeliou, a pedestrian lane 1 block inland which is lined with taverna tables and Aladdinesque boutiques; and even as you slip through the imposing arched doorway into the diminutive hall, with its natty surveyor's tripod lamp and glistening chandelier, it is clear that immense love and TLC has been lavished on this ancient house.

Wooden stairs lead up to the pretty, dove grey breakfast room, where Matina, Yiorgos or Eleni welcome you with bright eyes, fluent English, delicious homemade fruits glacés and excellent coffee. It is their mother Nena who lived here as a girl, and whose family heirlooms - a mannequin dressform, a battered leather suitcase - lie artfully scattered around. Nena also makes the quince, fig, lemon and pear jams which grace the breakfast table, alongside homemade fennel or cheese pies, creamy yoghurt and honey and other unexpected local delicacies.

The 3 bedrooms exhibit the same refreshing style and attention to detail. One is on the same floor, with French windows over the lovely horseshoe harbour and its buzzing restaurants; the other 2 are higher and larger, both with waterfront views and sofabedded sitting rooms. All are special, stylish and spacious; grab whichever you can.


  • We loved the colourful, funky interiors: high ceilings and thick walls keep them cool, designer fittings doubly so
  • You could hardly be better placed: 1 block from the waterfront (restaurants, boat trips), 2 from Chania's excellent little museums, plus all manner of craft shops, clothes stores and music bars round about
  • Each room gets harbour views or a private terrace, or both
  • Small touches of luxury - free WiFi, flatscreen TV-DVDs, spoiling toiletries and bathrobes
  • Excellent value for money


  • There's no lift - don't come with vast, unluggable suitcases
  • Despite careful insulation, there's bound to be some noise from the busy pedestrian streets around, especially if you sleep with the windows open (though A/C means you don't have to)
  • Availability is likely to become a problem as word spreads
  • No twin rooms (but the 2 suites can be made up as twins using the sofabeds)
  • It's a small team of 3 siblings: don't expect full round the clock service (though you do get daily cleaning and excellent post breakfast conciergerie)

Best time to go

The hotel is open all year, with June-September being peak months, though we would prefer April-May or October if you can manage it - especially as rates are lower. Winter stays (Nov-March) are not impossible if your main interest is in history and culture, rather than sunbathing and swimming. The rooms have wall mounted heater units (which double as A/C in the summer) and effective double glazing, so should be warmer than most Chania hotels.

Our top tips

If you want to eat where the locals go, walk 15 mins (or take a taxi) to Evgonia in the new town: its fish is among the best we tasted during a month of travels across Greece, and reasonably priced too. We had grilled mackerel one day, fresh cod another, and both were done to a tee, served with proper crispy chips and a multi-stranded salad, and without any pretentions at all. Leave space for an on-the-house dessert such as still warm semolina halva, washed down with fiery tsikoudia of course! It's at Mylonogianni 120, tel. 28210 59420 or 6977 423337 (but Nektarios does not speak much English).

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 3
  • Breakfast only
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service


There are just 2 suites and 1 double bedroom, one on each floor, all of them stylishly decked out with rich natural hues, contemporary fittings, designer touches and a dash of pop art. Gleaming wooden floorboards, exposed beams, curlicued iron railings and a scattering of vintage furniture point to the building's long history as a family home; eye-catching bulb-cluster lamps, liquorice-striped cabinets and sleek chrome bathroom fittings bring a refreshing modern twist. It's the very best in old-meets-new.

Each room has its own merits. On the first floor, opposite the breakfast room, Matina is the smallest and cheapest, but by no means the duff card. At 28 sq.m. (and 4m ceilings), it's still large and airy, with an olive green colour scheme and a very comfy queensize bed. French windows look out over Chania's horseshoe harbour and the restaurants which line it; one of these is next door, but excellent insulation keeps noise to a minimum. The ensuite bathroom has a wetroom and circular ceramic sink.

Next up is Argyri, named after their great grandmother, is a 2-room suite for 2-4. Its neutral stone-coloured bedroom (also queen) is on the quieter side of the house, facing the old town; the sitting room, with its squashy double sofabed and pretty apple green and mauve upholstered armchairs, looks over the harbour. But, again, with effective double glazing and A/C, you can shut out the noise if you have to.

Up on the top floor is ruby red Stella (a great aunt), another 2-room suite and our favourite, if it's available. The layout is cleverly reversed - harbour side bedroom, town side sitting room - to minimise any footfall below. Best of all, by way of compensation for having scaled 3 flights of stairs, you get a large private terrace facing inland towards the snow-clad peaks of the White Mountains. A round table and chairs for 4 mean that you could sit here with a cool drink from your mini-fridge or even a takeaway lunch (to avoid smells and fire risks, there are no in-room kitchenettes).

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Iron (on request)
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • Tv


A homely communal breakfast is served in the gorgeous dove grey dining room, at a long table lit by 5 white-beaded pendant lamps. Expect a panoply of local delicacies, including savoury dakos (rusks drizzled with oil, feta and pulped tomato), fluffy sfakianes pites filled with crumbly cheese or fennel, tangy olives, 3 types of bread including whole grain barley, fresh orange juice, and an array of jams - maybe mandarin, quince, pear, fig or lemon, depending on the season - all made by Nena using fruit from their own farm outside Chania.

They don't serve any other meals, but that's no hardship with so many eateries on your doorstep. The better ones tend to be away from the harbour, and one of them - Tamam - is no more than 30m away on Zambeliou, its tables lining the narrow lane; so you can easily stumble home after the complimentary glasses of tsikoudia (grappa) which are inevitably plied upon you. For a taste of North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, walk 10 minutes east to Well of the Turk which gets rave reviews for its aubergine meatballs with baba ganoush, its orange and avocado salad, and its light-as-air cheesecake in particular. Take a map and go early, as it's hard to find, and yet surprisingly busy when you do.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Communal dining
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby


  • Explore Chania's historic and charming old town: a maze of mostly pedestrianised alleys brimming with shops (which range from tacky souvenirs to tasteful clothes and homeware), incense-laden churches (light a candle and donate a coin as you go in), restaurants, bars and Venetian houses, some crumbling, others restored as boutique hotels or weaving workshops

  • The best shopping is to be had on Skridloff street (leather goods), in the covered market (herbs and delicatessen), on Sifaka street (hand carved penknives), and at jewellery shops all around (if you know your stuff)

  • Stroll round the pretty fishing harbour, enclosed by the mighty 500-year-old Venetian sea wall and lighthouse; regular boat trips run in summer to the island of Ayii Theodori, a kri-kri (wild goat) sanctuary, for snorkelling and swimming

  • Visit the city's 3 small museums, all a couple of blocks away (closed Mondays): the Archaeological collection, though much smaller than Heraklion's, gives a good insight into Minoan (and Hellenistic) culture, while the Maritime Museum and Byzantine Collection are worth a quick peek

  • There are decent sandy beaches 15 minutes' walk to the west, or you can drive a bit further afield: we loved the enclosed waters of Marathi bay, on the Akrotiri peninsula, while Balos beach beyond Kastelli is well worth the boat trip or bumpy drive

  • Also on that peninsula, beyond the airport, are 2 impressive monasteries, inhabited by a handful of black-clad monks and open to (appropriately dressed) visitors in the morning and late afternoon; Giagarolo (or Ayia Triada) is the more elegant, Gouvernetou the more remote

  • Beyond Gouvernetou lies a wonderful hiking trail to the cliff chapel of Katholikon and an azure-watered inlet below (where bathing is, in theory but not practice, it seems, prohibited)

  • Escape the city into the spectacular White Mountains, which reach well over 2,000m altitude, and are riven with deep gorges and snow-capped for 6 months of the year; popular hikes include the Samaria Gorge, Europe's longest (and one of its busiest), the Ayia Irini Gorge (a smaller, quieter neighbour) and the 2,080m summit of Gingilos (for experienced hikers only)

  • It's not impossible to make a day trip to legendary Knossos, seat of the Minoan palace culture and home of the Minotaur's labyrinth

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Wine tasting


A good option for families: 2 suites (Argyri and Stella) have an additional double sofabed in a separate sitting room, which can sleep 1-2 children. Kids aged 2-16 are charged a nominal fee to cover their breakfast and laundry; under 2's are free, with baby cots provided.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Family Rooms

Kid Friendly:

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