Bordering a private beach on Crete’s north-west coast, Domes Zeen Chania is an Arcadian idyll fit for the post-modern age. Berlin-based designers Lambs and Lions have teamed mid-century and brutalist shapes with stone, grainy woods and rattan, creating a tropical aesthetic with a distinctly modern lean. The restrained rooms have oversize windows and terraces in which to bask in the Cretan sun. Riffing on the concept of ef zeen, a classic Greek term for wellbeing, Domes also brings a duo of gourmet restaurants, a beachfront spa and classic island experiences to the table, including cookery and ceramics classes, wine tastings and coastal hikes. Children have just as much to look forward to, with the kids’ club offering everything from painting classes to sleepovers in a teepee (giving parents the chance for a night off).
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A free cocktail session in the Beach House Bar; GoldSmiths staying seven nights or more get a three-course lunch
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £157.32 (€179), including tax at 13.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include a buffet breakfast.
The top-tier rooms and villas are part of Domes’ Haute Living Selection, in which half-board, round-the-clock concierge service and a direct line to the Haute Living Selection Manager come as standard.
The inch-perfect interiors are the work of Berlin-based design studio Lambs and Lions, who used earthy materials to create mid-century and brutalist shapes. Concrete, stone, wood and rattan create an organic look that chimes perfectly with the tropical greenery, beach and rust-red hills outside. The modernist sensibility also means high ceilings, vast windows and large terraces. If it’s just the two of you, go for one of the Sapphire Bungalows for the Aegean views. For all-out luxury, book one of the pool-toting pavilions.
The vast, black-tiled pool is near the restaurant, overlooking the sea and surrounding hills. It’s more than long enough for lengths, but the closeness of the pool bar and a pergola-shaded lounge area make it more of a social hub. There’s a second, shallower pool for children.
The open-air Jungle Spa is right by the beach, ensuring treatments are soundtracked by the lapping waves. The menu includes massages, hot stone-therapy sessions and beauty treatments that are inspired by age-old traditions and the bounty of nature – two things Crete has in abundance. The spa also has a gym and a studio for yoga, Pilates and other fitness classes. Personal trainers are available on request.
The hotel’s private beach is mostly pebbly, so you might want to pack a pair of flip-flops or sandals.
All of the common areas are accessible for wheelchair users, as are two of the Tropical Bungalows on the ground floor.
All ages are very welcome. The hotel has several types of family room, an impressive kids’ club and children’s menus at its Beach House Restaurant.
Take inspiration from your surroundings and go for sleek minimalist threads in natural tones.
True to its name, Beach House has the laid-back looks of a oceanside Malibu home. The interiors are very much in the spirit of Geoffrey Bawa’s tropical modernism, with grainy woods, tropical greenery and stone sitting alongside concrete and vast windows that can be opened up to the sea breeze. Head chef Dionysis Pliatsikas has drawn up a menu with strong Cretan and Venetian influences, made with organic produce that comes from local farms and fishermen. Seating just 45 diners at a time, Estia Gourmet Fusion serves a medley of Cretan, Mediterranean and international dishes in a six-course degustation-style dinner, accompanied by local and fine wines.
The Beach House Bar is by the main pool, which means it’s only a short walk between your lounger or spot on the beach and hydration. The mixologists have drawn up a list of signature cocktails, and can also point you towards some of the best wines made on the island.
At Beach House, breakfast is available from 7am to 10.30am; lunch from 12.30pm to 4pm; and dinner from 7pm to 10.30pm. At Estia, dinner is served from 7pm to 10.30pm. The Beach House Bar serves from 10am to midnight.
Room service is available around the clock. The full menu is available during restaurant opening times, with a reduced selection keeping night owls sated through the early hours.
Domes Zeen Chania is on the beachfront on Crete’s north-west coast. Chania’s Old Town and Venetian harbour are a 10-minute drive away.
The best place to touch down is Chania Airport, served by seasonal flights from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Bristol airports. It takes around 25 minutes to drive from the airport to the hotel; transfers for up to four people are €45 each way.
Hiring a car isn’t a necessity, but it will make trips into town easier. Most of the large rental firms have outlets at Chania and Heraklion airports.
Worth getting out of bed for
Crete might be the keystone of Western civilisation, but the hotel makes a strong case for whiling away a day within its shapely walls. Before breakfast, salute the sunrise with a yoga class or charge your senses with a dip in the Aegean-facing pool. If you’re feeling the effects of a long journey, make a beeline for the Jungle Spa, where the therapists are experts at eliminating fatigue in all its forms. On a hot day, ask for an alfresco massage, which will put you within earshot of the lapping waves. If you have kids in tow, they'll be in equally adept hands at the kids’ club, where they can let loose in the miniature village or splash away in a dedicated pool. There are educational offerings too, including painting workshops, conservation classes and kids’ cooking lessons. There’s also a supervised sleepover in teepees, giving parents a chance to have a night to themselves.
The concierge can arrange tastings of Cretan wine and olive oil, ceramic workshops and private walking tours of Chania’s picturesque old town. Foodies will relish the Tastes of Crete cooking class, held in a 17th-century farmhouse. You’ll start by visiting a local market with the chef, using the fresh produce you pick up to prepare an authentic Cretan feast for lunch. For a dramatic coastal hike, head to the wild Gramvousa Peninsula, where hills covered in henna-red soil descend to the white beach and bright-blue waters of Balos. Falassarna Beach is one of the best spots for kitesurfing, and is famous for its soft sand and crystal-clear water. Mountain biking, horse-riding, diving and sailing can all be arranged by the concierge.
The Lighthouse of Chania is the old town’s most famous landmark, cresting the wall of the Venetian harbour since the late 16th century. It was given a facelift in the 19th century by Egyptians who had occupied Chania in support of the Ottoman Empire.
If you're looking for a laid-back lunch spot in the old Venetian harbour, try mod-Mediterranean restaurant Pallas, which occupies a waterfront building dating from 1830. The menu is full of hearty Cretan fare with an Italian influence, adding plenty of cured meats, fresh pasta and creamy risotto into the mix. Chania has countless seafood restaurants, but ask a local for their favourite and there’s a good chance they’ll send you to Neoria, where you can eat overlooking the boats bobbing in the harbour. Everything from the crispy calamari to the grilled sea-bass is a winner, and there are plenty of choice wines to pair them with. Oinopoieio offers the classic taverna experience, serving no-nonsense Cretan fare and bang-for-your-buck local wines by the carafe. You’ll find all the classics here, including zucchini flowers, stuffed peppers, fried snails and succulent braised lamb in a red-wine reduction. For a taste of modern Crete, have dinner on the pared-back terrace of Salis, where head chef Afshin Molavi deconstructs traditional island cuisine. The farm-to-table food is complemented by an award-winning wine list that runs to 900 labels. If in doubt, ask the excellent sommelier, who’s a veritable fount of knowledge.
The building that plays host to Boheme has been standing since Venetian times, when it was home to a cell of monks belonging to the Monastery of Saint Francis. Fast forward several centuries and it’s one of the best cocktail bars in town, serving divine wines and devilishly good cocktails. Take your drinks out to the terrace, where you can sit beneath a tree that’s at least 400 years old.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this design-lovers hotel in Greece and unpacked their Cretan olive oil, a full account of their beachfront break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Domes Zeen Chania in Crete…
What do Zeus, El Greco and Nikos Kazantzakis have in common? The god of thunder, renaissance painter and author of Zorba the Greek were all sons of Crete, an island that has punched above its weight since antiquity. History, legend and natural beauty abound here, and the island can even lay claim to being the birthplace of the first advanced civilisation in the Western world, the Minoans. Safe to say it’s a place that’s thoroughly steeped in tradition, but one look at Domes Zeen Chania and you’ll see it’s not all stuck in the past. Designed with 21st-century travellers in mind, the hotel is built in the style of tropical modernism, with natural materials and lush greenery mingled with smooth concrete, vast windows and minimalist lines. The earthy-toned rooms will induce inner calm at every turn, but the hotel is about much more than looks alone. The restaurants, spa and programme of activities are rooted in Cretan culture, and a stellar kids’ club ensures that children can also get involved, trying their hand at Cretan cooking, painting and pottery.
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