Chania town, in Crete
City map - Chania
The Chania region, western part of the island is the White Mountains, the most mountainous region of Crete. The range is 40 km long, Pahnes is the highest peak (2453 m), and it is snowed in until May. The high mountains are home to the famous Samaria Gorge. In the south of the region there are
The region covers an area of about 2400 km², has mountainous soil and dense vegetation with oak, pine and
Chania is one of the most beautiful towns in Crete, with its wonderful houses, parks and squares and a well-designed town plan. The new town has been established according to modern plans with wide streets, parks and
Chania is the capital of the prefecture of the same name and is the second largest city in Crete,
Although Chania is a modern city, its heart is a labyrinth of old Venetian houses through which you can wander with only an occasional reminder of the 20th century. Chania, in addition to its natural beauty, is home to a wealth of archaeological and historical treasures. Its history has been turbulent throughout the centuries, from the Minoan era to the German bombings of the last world war, with a population of 60,000. It is the administrative, economic, communication and commercial centre of the prefecture.
The port of Chania, located in Souda, is connected daily to Piraeus by ferry. The bay of Souda, port of Chania, is the largest and safest bay in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Chania airport is located in Sternes on the Akrotiri peninsula, 14 km east of the city. Chania is connected by air to Athens but there are also several charter flights to Europe during the summer.
Eleftherios Venizelos is particularly honoured in Chania. He was born in the village of Mournies near Chania and is buried outside the city on Akrotiri. He is one of the greatest men of the new Hellenic Republic. Venizelos' influence on Greek history was paramount with his participation in the talks with the Ottomans that resulted in the granting of independence to Crete in 1897 and the final union of Crete with Greece in 1913.
The old town has preserved much of the distinctive atmosphere and charm of the Venetian and Turkish periods. Entire Venetian, Turkish and Jewish quarters are preserved with well-preserved buildings in picturesque narrow streets. One of the most significant buildings is the large Byzantine church of Aghios Frankiskos, which now houses the Archaeological Museum of Chania. The old town is enclosed within its 'walls', which consist of bastions, ditches and some ruins of the city wall. There is also a Venetian harbour and lighthouse of Ottoman construction, a fortress (Firkas), the Turkish mosque of the Janissaries, an "Arselani" and a Venetian maritime complex dating from the 15th century.
The venetian old harbor has regained its charm thanks, among other things, to the Architects' Commission.
The only thing missing are the boats, which can no longer be parked on the quay during storms. All around the harbour are various restaurants. Beware of soliciting! The Janissary Mosque was built in 1645 by the Turks and is said to be the oldest mosque in Crete. It is recognisable by its domes and arches, but was heavily damaged during the bombing of the Second World War.
The Venetian lighthouse, located opposite the Firkas fort, was built in 1570 and restored by the Egyptians in 1830.
The harbour is protected by a breakwater, also Venetian, built of huge stones, and in the centre of which are the ruins of the Venetian fortress of San Nicola, now transformed into a cafeteria (open at night). Near the harbour, six Venetian arsenals from the 15th century still remain. Two of them are now used as conference centres, while the others house small industries, repair shops or depots. A short visit is worthwhile to see the architecture and the passages that connect them.
The fortress of Firkas and the Venetian fortifications, located at the entrance to the port, were built in the 14th and 16th centuries. The fort dates from 1629. Under Turkish rule, Cretan insurgents were imprisoned here. On 16 February 1897, the flag of the Great Powers flew there, declaring Crete's autonomy. On the same spot, 16 years later, on 1 December 1913, Eleftherios Venizelos witnessed the union of the island with the rest of Greece.
Today there is the Chania Maritime Museum and a summer theatre where ancient dramas are performed.
On the fortification side, we can see the Sabbionera Bastion to the north-east, the Santa Lucia Bastion to the south-east, the Schiavo Bastion to the south-west and, finally, the San Salvatore Bastion. In some places, we still find the emblem of Venice. The "Rethemniotiki" or "Kalekapi" gate was destroyed when the Turks finally surrendered.
The Archaeological Museum of Chania is 25 Odos Halidon (tel. +30821 90334), an imposing renovated Venetian church dedicated to Agios Fragiscos (San Francesco or Saint Francis) and whose garden hides a lovely Ottoman fountain.
It was established in 1963 and contains impressive finds from the excavations of the ancient city of Kydonia, Idramia, Aptera, Polyrinia, Kissamos, Elyros, Irtakina, Syia, Lyssos, Chania, Axos, and Lapa (the last two are in the prefecture of Rethymno). All the exhibits, the painted larnakes (tombs) from the Late Minoan period, the vases and instruments from the Geometric period, the statues from the Hellenistic and Roman periods and the beautiful Roman mosaic floor are exceptional. There are finds from excavations in Western Crete, such as utensils, statues, pots, icons, buckets, jewellery, mosaics, etc. from the Neolithic, pre-Minoan, Minoan, post-Minoan and Roman periods. Amongst others, there is a clay Pyxis depicting a man playing the lyre and flights of birds dating from the Late Minoan period around 1310-1200 BC.
The garden is decorated with Venetian doors from collapsed houses and two fountains, one Turkish and one Venetian. The latter is still in use and comes from Sindrivani Square.
Returning to the purely Venetian style building with pointed arches, the central wing was flanked by three domed chapels (to the right and left of the present entrance) and a bell tower existed (to the left of the present entrance). During the Turkish occupation it had a large central wing and two side wings separated by arches. The north wing has four chapels and the ruins of the minaret are visible in the garden.
The naval museum of Crete is housed in the fort of Firkas. Models of ships ranging from ancient to modern are on display, along with icons and legacies of Crete's glorious naval history.
In the Kastelli neighbourhood, the archaeological site of ancient Kydonia is located near the port. Neolithic pottery, Bronze Age artefacts, Minoan tombs and the remains of a Minoan city that was important in the late Minoan and post-Minoan periods and dominated the western region of the island have been found here.
Odos (street) Agiou Markou, the remains of the monastery and the church dedicated to Panagia Thavmatourgi (Santa Maria dei Miracoli) built in 1606 can be found.
Its northern façade still has four blind arches of different sizes and its dome was supported by a drum of stones of different colours. The monastery is currently converted into a small hotel.
Odos Lithinon, at the end of the street you can see Venetian doors and, at the end of the street, a group of buildings forming the house of the Venetian rector known as the Palazzo.
The Venetians rebuilt the existing fortifications using many Greco-Roman ruins, of which columns and stones are still visible in the wall of the Odos Katre. In this street you can also still see one of the gates.
At the place "Platia Sindrivaniou", thePalazzo hotel is of Venetian construction. Its exterior staircase is Venetian and there are remains of a fountain below.
The square "Platia 1821" was a meeting point for the Turks, as evidenced by the Turkish bath located under the square and partially excavated. Still under the square, we find a large Venetian cistern which could have supplied the city with water for six months. It fell into disuse after the earthquake of 1595 which changed the course of the river feeding it.
In the square, a plaque commemorates the hanging of Bishop Melhisedek from a plane tree in 1821 by the Turks who feared a
There is also the Byzantine church dated 1630 on its facade and dedicated to San Rocco, the patron saint of cholera, and the church of Agios Nikolaos, which was once part of the thirteenth century monastery of the same name and of which traces of the cloister can still be seen at the northern corner of the church. Considered one of the most important churches in the city under Venetian rule, it was large and elegant with wide arches inside. Later, under Turkish rule, it was converted into the Sultan Ibrahim Mosque, whose minaret stands next to the church. During the small earthquake in May 1994, it was feared that it would collapse into the square.
To the south of the church of Agios Nikolaos, there is a small Byzantine church dedicated to Agia Ekaterini.
The square "Platia 1866" is also a small oasis of shade and coolness. It is decorated with statues of local heroes and a Turkish fountain. A few metres further on, behind the Samaria Hotel and the Omalos Hotel, is the bus station (KTEL).
Thestreet "odos Skridlof" is the famous leather street. A real bazaar, the leather shops follow one another.
Odos Halidon, next to the entrance to the Roman Catholic Church is a very interesting doorway which was probably part of the monastery originally surrounding the church of San Francesco. It bears a Latin inscription dating back to the Venetian period and serves as the entrance to a
Orthodox Cathedral of Panagia Trimartiris
was built in 1864 on the remains of an old two-winged church. Transformed into a soap factory during the Turkish occupation, it has always been considered a sacred place where one could intercede with the Virgin Mary (Panagia) to ask her for a favour. At the end of a narrow passage opposite is the Catholic Church of the Assumption. In the courtyard is the entrance to a small private local museum of Cretan art.
The single-winged Byzantine church dedicated to San Salvator is located on Odos Theotokopoulou, near the bastion of the same name and its gunpowder depot. In the northern wall of the church we find a tomb. The whole is completed by two small pareklisia (chapels) covered by a dome.
Near the bastion of Santa Lucia is the ancient cathedral of Agii Anargiri, dating back to the 16th century, with a fine collection of icons. Even under Turkish and Venetian rule it remained Orthodox.
The Renieri Chapel, recently restored, is the remnant of a private church of a Venetian nobleman.
The Market (or covered Market), which resembles the one in Marseille, is an impressive building built in 1911 in the centre of town, offering some 80 food shops including grocery shops, butchers, a fishmonger and a vegetable shop. Shaped like a cross (unique in Greece), it was built on the site and with the materials of the old Pittafora Bastion, of which there are some remains to the west of the front door. Also open in the evening on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The public garden or Dimotikos Kipos, located next to the market, is ideal for those seeking shade and tranquillity. This green oasis, a recreational centre for the residents, was laid out in 1870 and houses a small zoo. To the north-east of the gardens is the Chalepa district, where the residences of Prince George and Eleftherios Venizelos (EleuqerioV BenizeloV) were located (Bolari district).
The historical museum and the archives are located in Odos Sfakianaki. The museum displays objects related to the history of Crete, while the archive has a wide range of historical collections including old documents.
The town hall with the municipal library is located in odos Karaiskaki. There is a collection of texts from the Venetian period.
In the Halepa district (east of the city) you can see the house of the famous Eleftherios Venizelos (odos Eleftherios Venizelos), the Russian-style church of Agia Magdalini (odos Dagli), the Galiki Skoli (French School) located in the former convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and the house of the first governor of Crete located between Venizelos' house and the school.
But Chania is also home to the San Marco gallery, a 15th century Venetian loggia, Turkish baths (near the Agia Triada cathedral), a folklore museum, synagogues and mosques as well as the minaret of Ahmet Aga located odos Hatzi Michali Daliani (behind the Agora), the churches of Eissodion and San Rocco (1630), an athletic stadium and the court (Dikastiko Megaron) located on Platia Dikastirion or Platia Eleftherias, at the end of Odos Iroon Politechniou. This 19th century building was originally intended to be a hospital. In the middle of the square we find the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos
A short walk: We start from the municipal park between Dimiokratias and Tzanakaki streets and walk along Odos Dimokratias towards the agora and then Karaiskaki street. Near Kydonias Street is the town hall, which houses the municipal library. We then continue westwards to the 1866 platia and turn right into Halidon Street. At the beginning of this street, built on the ramparts, is the centre of the literary collection "Chrissostomos". Further on, you can see the Cathedral of Chania, the three-vaulted church of the three martyrs (converted into a soap factory under Turkish rule). Opposite is the church of the San Franciscan monastery and next to it the former Catholic church, now an archaeological museum. Odos Halidon ends in Syntrivani Square, right next to the Venetian port and the old mosque.
Chania can be the starting point for an excursion to Western Crete, a part of the island with magnificent natural beauty. There are a number of interesting places to discover, the most famous of which is the Samaria Gorge. It has been classified as a National Park of Greece and starts at the village of Omalos, at an altitude of 1227 m and ends after a walk of approximately 18 km at the beach of Agia Roumeli. It is open from May until early October and is certainly a must for everyone. (see our page)