The old town
Despite being heavily bombed during World War II, Chania's Old Town is considered the most beautiful urban district on Crete, especially the crumbling Venetian harbour. The borders of the Old Town are the mostly destroyed old Venetian wall (and bulwarks) and this has been the cradle of all the civilizations which were developed in the area. The central part of the old town is named Kasteli and has been inhabited since Neolithic times. It is located on a small hill right next to the seafront and has always been the ideal place for a settlement due to its secure position, its location next to the harbour and its proximity to the fertile valley in the south. Nowadays it is a bit more quiet than the neighbouring areas of the west part of the district. The Splantzia quarter (next to the east part of Kasteli) is also largely untouched and very atmospheric.
The main square of the Old Town (next to the west end of Kasteli) is the Eleftherios Venizelos Square ("Syntrivani"). It is the heart of the touristic activities in the area. Next to this (on the west side) lies the Topanas district, which used to be the Christian part of the city during the Turkish occupation. Its name comes from the Venetian ammunition warehouse (Top-Hane in Turkish), which was located there. The Jewish quarter ("Evraiki" or "Ovraiki") was located at the north-west of the Old Town, behind the harbour and within the borders of Topanas. The whole Topanas area is generally very picturesque, with many narrow alleys and old charming buildings, some of which have been restored as hotels, restaurants, shops and bars. This makes it a lively and colourful place especially during the warm period (April–October). In the winter, it still remains a center of activities (especially for nightlife) but in a more quiet and atmospheric way.
Points of interest
The Archaeological Museum of Hania at Chalidon street. The original edifice was built in 1605 as a Franciscan Monestary dedicated to St Francis of Assisi. Before being turned into a museum it was converted into a mosque and a cinema. It now houses the Archaeological Collection of the city with findings from ancient Kydoniai (Chania) and Aptera. There is also a recent collection added by the ex-Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis who is born in Chania.
The venetian port. Reaching the port from Chalidon street there are a number of monuments to look out for. In front of you you can see the light house which was built during the Venetian rule of the city in 1595 and is considered to be one of the oldest standing lighthouses intenationally. It has undergone renovations at least 5 times and is considered to be the landmark of the city. Opposite the lighthouse you can find the Frikas Fortess which houses the naval museum, is still a military base and were the Greek flag was first raised after unification with Greece in 1931. To your right is the Yiali Tzami , the Sea mosque, built by an Armenian architect in the late 17th century. Today, it is used as a municipal art gallery.
The Grand Arsenali. The buildings in this part of the port were basically store rooms for the venetian fleet. In fall the venetians would pull their ships out of the sea, repair and store them until spring. The building itself, built in 1585 was also used as a school, a theatre, a hospital, the city Town house. Currently, it is being used as the Center of Mediterranean Architecture.
The Minoan Ship. Last Arsenali at the far end of the port. In 2003, a replica of the merchant ships that the Minoans used to control the trade in the eastern Mediterranean was built in Chania. Its maiden voyage was to Athens for the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. It's worth having a look.
Splatzia Square. Easily reached from Daskalogianni street behind the Agora. A huge plain tree stands in the middle of the square where you will find cretan men drinking 'tsikoudia' a local spirit. Behind, you will find St Nikolas' church. Originally built for the Dominican Order it was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation and now it is an Orthodox church. The minarets have recently been restored and not surprisingly, they do not follow the Ottoman architectural style but a more western venetian influence.
Chania Municipal Agora. Built in 1913 as vegetable, fish and meat market for the city of Chania, it officially opend to the public 3 days after the union of the island of Crete with Greece. The architect, K. Drandakis, built the market were the mortar of the southern venetian walls were. This is evident by the difference of hight between the north and south entrance to the building. During the Nazi occupation, most of the market place was used as a storage space for the German army. Today, although there are some shops selling local products, there are also many souvenir stores.
Chania Cathedral Trimartiti. Chalidon street. The church was built in 1860 during the Ottoman rule of the island. On the same site there was an original Byzantine church that had been converted into a soap factory after the sack of the city by the Ottoman Turks in 1645. The architectural style has influences from the venetian style and also the 'eikones', paintings of saints in the church itself are not according to the strict Byzantine style. On the contrary, the western influence is evident with background colours and softer facial features.
Our Lady Catholic Church. Chalidon street. It was built in 1879 in the site of a Capuccin monestary in existance since 1566. For a time the monks also ran a hospital..