Often referred to as the “Venice” of Crete, Chania is famous for its scenic old town and port with a strong Venetian character. A jewel of architecture and history, Chania is definitely a must-see during your visit to Crete and an ideal day trip destination, offering a variety of rewarding experiences. Apart from the beautiful setting, Chania has some of the best restaurants on the island and an exciting market for shopping!
The Venetian Port
The tour of Chania should always start in the Venetian port, undoubtedly the most beautiful spot of the old town with a line-up of important monuments. Starting from the western part, you will walk next to the walls of Firkas Fortress, built by the Venetians to protect the entrance of the harbor. From there you have a perfect view of the old lighthouse, so take your time for a quick photo shoot! Continue walking on the coastal promenade, crossing cafeterias and restaurants, until you reach the other side of the harbor and the imposing building of Giali Tzamisi, the mosque of Hassan Pasha, a characteristic sample of Ottoman architecture. Today, the mosque functions as an art space, so check if there is an exhibition or cultural event. Next, you will see the Venetian arsenals, constructed in 1599 to reinforce the Venetian fleet. The arsenals have been renovated and now house the Center of Mediterranean Architecture. After the arsenals, you will cross numerous fish taverns serving delicious fresh fish and seafood, until you reach Chania Sailing Club at the other end of the harbor. Housed in Neorio Moro, a Venetian shipyard, the Sailing Club often hosts exhibitions, performances, concerts and other cultural events, as well as a lovely cafe. From there, walk towards the old lighthouse and enjoy a splendid view of the old port and the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) rising over the city.
One of the most unique monuments in Chania, if not in the entire island, is located in Splantzia square, a former Turkish neighbourhood. The temple of Saint Nicholas is the only Orthodox church in Greece that has both a bell tower and a minaret, one on each side of the building!. A bit further away stands the two-aisled vaulted Church of Saint Catherine, a characteristic sample of Renaissance architecture. Splatzia Square is the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee break in one of the lovely cafes, under the refreshing shade of trees. Take a stroll around the square to discover more Ottoman buildings, witnesses of a bygone era, and walk the local-favorite Hatzimichali Daliani Street. Here you will also see Aga Camisi’s minaret and more Venetian and Ottoman buildings transformed into lovely cafés, bars, and exquisite restaurants.
The old town
The old town and market of Chania extends in the narrow lanes around the Venetian port and it is well worth dedicating a couple of hours to walk around and explore its atmospheric corners, historical monuments and specialized shops with traditional products, clothes and accessories by Greek designers, quality leather bags and sandals and some of the best souvenirs on the island! Don’t miss Zambeliou Street, an open-air museum of Venetian architecture, and the narrow lanes behind it, where the former Hebrew district once flourished. Here you can visit the lovely Synagogue of Kehal Hayyim, a small oasis hidden within the busy streets of the old town.
Koum Kapi city beach
Tired after a long walk in the old town under the summer heat? Perhaps it’s time to hit the beach, and you won’t even have to go far! The city beach of Koum Kapi is located right outside the eastern walls of the old town, starting from Sabbionara bastion. The Turkish name “Koum Kapi” means “Gate of Sand”, and a sandy shore is exactly what you will find after crossing that gate. Here you will find numerous cafes, restaurants and bars by the coast, a perfect spot to enjoy a drink with a view to the Cretan Sea.