Chania, or ‘Venice in the East’, is the second biggest city in Crete, built on the site of old Kydonia. The distinctive colour of the old town with all that it has inherited from earlier manifestations, the iconic Venetian harbour and the unique architecture have together established Chania as one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island.
History of Chania town
Chania is built on the site of Kydonia, an ancient city that according to legend was founded in prehistoric times by Kydones, a son of Hermes or Apollo. Homer described the town as ‘important’ in Crete.
Chania has managed to keep its historic appearance and its authentic ‘colour’ in balance with the strong growth of the recent years. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece – rightly named ‘Venice in the East’, keeping alive the imprint of the various cultures that have passed through down the centuries.
In recent decades, Chania has emerged as one of the fastest growing tourist centres on Crete. Especially during the summer the Venetian harbour and the narrow lanes of the Old Town are swamped by visitors from all round the globe.
At the same time, cultural activities reach a peak with the hosting of sundry festivals and events in the renovated historical buildings, such as the impressive Moro shipyards.
But it remains a living city beyond the limits of the tourist season. The numerous student population and the active local groups continue the long intellectual and spiritual heritage of Chania to this very day.
A walk in the city of Chania
A walk here would certainly pass through the historical quarters of the Old Town, which are made up of individual residential areas, each with its own particular character and architecture.
On the way we will see details and structures representative of the Venetian, Ottoman and local building styles, Neo-Classical houses, churches, squares and so on.
Starting at the west end of the Venetian harbour, we can admire the view from the Firka fort, and then discover the stone-paved streets of the leading Christian families at Topana – with their unusual and multicultural forms. Next we pass through the lovely Jewish quarter and arrive at Venizelos Square – the meeting point of the Chaniots and with its historical resonance as it was here that Venizelos made his speeches.
Now we turn east into Splantzia, a predominately Turkish neighbourhood, taking Srydlof Street behind the Trimartyri church, where are the famous Bootmakers shops.
Keeping on towards Splantzia, we pass behind the impressive cruciform structure of the Municipal Market, one of the busiest spots in the town with its colours and smells
Arriving at Splantzia, one can still see today the plane tree where Christians were hung by the Turks, and the Venetian church of Aghios Rocco. Then we proceed towards the sea, to visit the dockyards and Grand Arsenal
A little further on we will encounter one of the most iconic structures in Chania – the Giali Tzami – or mosque: the first to be built in Crete, its name means the Mosque on the Strand. Today it hosts various exhibitions.
Opposite us looms the lighthouse – the most photographed object in Chania, as we continue our stroll along the colourful Venetian harbour always teeming with life. Once more we hit the paved lanes – in search of ‘new’ corners with their unusual mixes of architecture – a sure sign of the long history the city has seen.
- Tips, Suggestions, Iseful info
- History, Culture
- What to do (Activities)
- What to see (Culture, Nature)