The Old Town of Chania is one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean, for its picturesque alleys and colorful shops. The old town has been bombed and burned several times over the centuries, but it has survived and offers us a truly beautiful exploration of its alleyways, courtyards, narrow streets, cobblestones, and its beach. The old city is considered the part of the city of Chania that is inside the Venetian Walls.
In 961, the Byzantines led by Nikephoros Phokas recaptured Crete, so they built and fortified the city of Chania as well as other great cities of Crete. A wall from that era was found in archaeological excavations on Kasteli hill, in ancient Kydonia. In the 13th century, when the Venetians occupied Crete, they replaced the wall, fortifying the city according to the standards of the time. Michele Sanmicheli, a famous engineer of the time who had built palaces and fortifications in Italy and elsewhere and was a pioneer in the construction of bastion fortifications, a trend that dominated European fortifications until the 19th century, was the one who implemented the city wall of Chania, but also the city wall of Heraklion and Larnaca, Cyprus, which is why these cities have many elements in common in the design and structure of the wall.
At the same time, they improved the port, built the jetty and built 17 docks to serve their ships, while the city inside the walls had 8,000 inhabitants and an area of 40 hectares.
And while they fortified the city of Chania in a very methodical way, they strengthened their protection by fortifying the island of Agioi Theodoroi west of the city of Chania and the islet of Agios Nikolaos at the entrance to the Gulf of Souda, thus protecting the city from both the east and the west. West.
In the city of Chania there were 3 entrance gates into the city. One of them that has survived to this day is the gate of Splantzia (eastern gate).
The Venetians built many beautiful buildings in the Old City such as the palace of Retouri, the Church of Our Lady of Miracles, Venetian palaces for lords such as the Tzagaroli, the Premarina, the Damolini, the Palazzo of Angelos Premarinos, which also had inscriptions, coats of arms and lions.
The Ottomans in the 17th century, as conquerors of the area, used the fortress to house the lords of the city, such as the Pasha’s palace, and the residences of the Beys. A central road, today’s Canevaro Street, crossed the Kasteli hill from east to west and ended at the point we now call “Fountain”.
In today’s old town of Chania we will find a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, shops, fish taverns, gift shops and in general what a walker needs exploring its alleys and streets. The houses are preserved from the time of the Venetian occupation, and renovated with full respect for the timelessness and style of the buildings.
An alley may end in a door and by opening this door a whole neighborhood begins with a common yard, garden, trees, clothes racks and anything anyone can imagine.
Although the Municipal Market is not part of the Venetian buildings, it is a magnificent building that houses several traditional shops. It was built in 1913 on the Venetian rampart Piatta Forma. It is a majestic building in the shape of a cross and has 4 exits while it is oriented to the 4 points of the horizon.
From the western steps of the Municipal Market is Mousouron Street, which is a pedestrian street, with many shops, and to its left is Skridlov Street, where you can find the “Stivanadika”, i.e. shops that sell products made from authentic local animal skins. Proceeding along this road we reach Halidon, in which there are several interesting buildings such as the building of the Philological Association “Chrysostomos” and the building of the Municipal Gallery. In the middle of the street is the church of the Entry of the Virgin, which is also the patron saint of the city and celebrates on November 21, while across the street is the Catholic Church of Chania, and the church of Ag. Francis.
Towards the end of Halidon Street, to the right of Karaoli Dimitriou Street, are the Byzantine walls of the city.
On Canevaro Street there is the Minoan settlement, on Ag. Marcos there are still some elements of the Venetian Monastery and the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1615).
To the west of Halidon is Daskalogianni street, in which is the historic square of Splantzia and the Church of Agios Nikolaos built in 1204 with the Turkish minaret, and the Church of Agios Rokkos built in 1630.
Going down from the west side of Halidon towards the port, there is the Great Arsenal and next to it the fully restored Mediterranean Architecture Center, where various events, speeches and exhibitions take place. Opposite is the jetty that leads to the Egyptian lighthouse, the trademark of the port. In about the middle of this jetty, there is a small fort, San Nicolo, which in previous years hosted a beautiful cafe on the fort overlooking the city and the sea and a restaurant in the same area where you take customers by boat from Center of Mediterranean Architecture in San Nicolo. Unfortunately, this place no longer functions as a restaurant and tavern, but can be visited on foot.
Moving west from the Mediterranean Architecture Center, there is the Mosque where handicraft and painting exhibitions are held during the summer months. Moving west there is a small square with a fountain in the middle and restaurants, cafes and shops all around. At the western end of the port is the Maritime Museum, the Historical Folklore and Archaeological Society of Crete and the Firka fortress where on December 1, 1913 the Greek Flag was raised for the union of Crete with Greece.
From the entrance of the Maritime Museum, Theotokopoulou Street begins, where the church of San Salvatore (15th – 17th century) is located.
On Zambeliou Street is Obriaki, an old Jewish quarter.
To the east of the youths is the East Moat and then the “kum kapi”. This district is built with low houses without courtyards, stuck together because it was hastily built to accommodate the refugees during the Asia Minor disaster in 1922.
The Sand Gate (Kum Kapi or Championara) is the North-Eastern and the only one that has survived to this day of the three gates of the second (outer) Venetian wall of Chania
The Mocenigo Bastion, located in the sea, next to the Sand Gate, the south side of which is decorated with an emblem with the lion of Saint Mark, coat of arms and the date 1591.
Neorio Moro is one of the three neorios built in the 16th century and today hosts the Chania Sailing Club. The Minoan ship is housed in Neorio Moro, a faithful copy of a ship 17m long. and 4m wide.
Another notable building located outside the port is Dikastirio Square and the Chania Prefecture Palace.
In the port there are many good restaurants for any type of food the visitor desires.
A restaurant that stands out for its flavors and its beautiful creations is “To Stachy” at 5 Deucalionos Street, tel. 2821042589. It is only open in the summer and has wonderful gluten-free, meat-free, fish-free recipes. Creations for vegans and vegetarians. Stelios, who is the owner and cook, will visit all the tables to take orders and explain what each dish contains. He usually prepares his dishes for both vegans and vegetarians. This business is family-run and is very careful with the environment, while its raw materials are organic.
A little further down, on Deucalionos and Ikarou street, is the “Chrysostomos” tavern Contact Phone +302821057035
“Efgonia” Mylonogianni 120 Chania Contact Phone 2821059420
“Tamam” Zampeliou 49, Chania Contact Phone:+30 2821096080
“MICHALIS” restaurant – tavern 54-56 Sourmeli, Chania Contact Phone: 2821 058330
“Thrumbi In… Oilcloth” Hatzimichali Daliani, Chania Contact Phone: 2821 028175
“Semiramis” Skoufon 8, Old Town, Chania Contact Phone: 28210 98650
“Arismari from the Cretan land” 55-56 Akti Kountourioti, Chania Contact Phone: 2821 074419
“Enetikon “ Zanpeliou 57 Chania contact phone 28210 88270
“Oinopoieio” Xatzimichali Daliani 46, Contact Phone 2821059204
“Mikro kelari” Xatzimichali Daliani 80 Chania Contact Phone 28210 55805
“To adespoto” Episkopu Despotaki Melchisedek 18 Contact Phone 28210 51582
“O Stelios” Akti Enoseos 4 Contact Phone 2821054240
“Mesostrato” Old Harbur Contact Phone 2821072873
“Tholos” Agion Deka 36 Contact Phone 28210 46725
“Kouzina E.P.E.” Daskalogianni Ioanni 25, Contact Phone 2821042391
There are many touristic shops , coffee, taverns, restaurants, souvlaki restaurants at the old town, and it is importand to explore old town and to feel the smells, to see the alleys, the courtyards, the buildings, the flowery balconies and in general this beautiful atmosphere that gives the feeling of the absolute harmony of the old with the new.