The little Venice of Crete: the wonderful old town of Chania
In the west of Crete, just a few kilometres from the White Mountains, the old town of Chania awaits you, boasting a romantic Venetian harbour. This unique setting consists of the old lighthouse, the Firkas fortress, the mosque with its large white dome and the pastel-coloured houses from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. On the harbour promenade, where there is a unique view of the sea, there is a wide choice of restaurants, cafés and bars. Every evening, the whole town meets here for a stroll.
Besides the still preserved ship halls of the old Venetians, you will not only discover impressive buildings such as old city palaces, mosques and churches. With its colourful streets behind the waterfront, the charming town is reminiscent of Venice itself. After a stroll through the streets, past taverns and the shops and workshops of traditional craftsmen, enjoy a vibrant nightlife.
Although the two-thousand-metre peaks of the White Mountains are only a few kilometres away as the crow flies from the centre of Crete's second-largest city, the metropolis of western Crete seems to face the Aegean Sea completely.
A car-free promenade lines the huge harbour basin from Venetian times. Along it are not only many cafés and taverns, but also three museums, a mosque and large, partly still intact ship halls. The Venetians had their galleys built, repaired and stored for the winter in them. Today the harbour is heavily silted up. Ferries and freighters no longer fit in, only yachts, excursion and fishing boats are moored at its quays.
Just behind the waterfront begins the maze of alleys of the largely car-free old town, old town palaces and tall historic tenement houses line the often slightly curved streets. Many artisans and sophisticated shops have settled in the old town, and in sometimes roofless, romantic ruins of centuries-old houses from Venetian times, Cretan musicians play for dinner.
Chania is a town with a rich and fascinating history, believed to be built on the site of the ancient Minoan city of Kydonia. During the Byzantine era, the city was fortified, and later, the Venetians turned it into a massive castle with strong walls. In the 19th century, the Ottoman sultan visited Crete and decided to construct a naval base in the nearby Gulf of Souda. During the Cretan State period of autonomy, many impressive buildings were constructed in the city and its suburb of Halepa. The city reached its peak of glory during the hoisting of the Greek flag in the fortress of Firkas in 1913, marking the final union of Crete with Greece.
Today, visitors to Chania can explore many interesting attractions like:
- The Venetian harbour with its Egyptian lighthouse and the mosque
- The great Arsenal which houses the Center for Mediterranean Architecture
- The hill of Kastelli with the old palace and Minoan settlement
- The Maritime Museum of Crete in Fort Firkas
- The picturesque Ottoman district of Splantzia
- The Archaeological Museum of Chania
- The Historical Archive of Crete
- The Central Market
- The pedestrian road of Kum Kapi
- The pedestrian road and beachfront of Nea Chora
- The Chania Cathedral 'Mitropoli'
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