Chania on the north coast in western Crete has been inhabited since neolithic times and the current town is built upon many layers of past civilizations. The beautiful town is filled with boho-chic boutiques selling clothes, ceramics, local artworks, museums, churches, Minoan excavations, covered markets and narrow alleys with picturesque houses. The city of Chania is definitely a place that you must visit if you come to the West of Crete.
TOP 8 PLACES TO VISIT
1.MARITIME MUSEUM OF CRETE
The red building on the western corner of the old harbour was previously used as a prison. Today spread over two floors, the museum traces Crete's centuries-old relationship with the sea, from the Minoans, to the Byzantine, Venetian, and Turkish periods, to arrive at the German invasion of the island during WWII. On display is a collection of video presentations, amazing models of ships, paintings, photos, and nautical equipment. You can also see the Minoa, a reconstructed 15th century BC Minoan ship at the Moro deck in one of the Venetian arsenals.
2.THE MONASTERIES OF AKROTIRI PENINSULA
The three monasteries were founded in 1612. Located 10 kilometers east of Chania in the rocky peninsula of Akrotiri, it is set amid meticulously tended olive groves and orange orchards, and centers on a cloistered courtyard and a lovely church. The fortress Gouverneto founded in 1537 is a short drive away. From here, a footpath leads past Arkoudiospilia, down 140 steps to Katholiko, an abandoned 6th century monastery, built into a cliff face.
The museum is housed in the Gothic Church of San Francesco. On exhibit is archeological finds such as ceramics, painted burial urns, gold jewelery, and clay tablets with inscriptions, from western Crete dating from Neolithic times through to the Roman era. Other exhibits include peculiar clay figurines of bird-faced women, votive ceramic bulls, a third-century Roman mosaic floor, and an impressive marble bust of Roman Emperor Hadrian.
4.THE LIGHTHOUSE OF CHANIA
The lighthouse is located at the end of a long mole that protects the Venetian harbour from the sea. The original Venetian lighthouse was built around the late 16th century to protect the harbour. The lighthouse fell into disrepair during the Turkish occupations, but was rebuilt between 1824 and 1832 in the form of a minaret. The base of the lighthouse is still the original Venetian base although the Lion of St. Marc which was carved there has long gone. During WWII the lighthouse was damaged due to bombings and earthquakes, but it was extensively renovated in 2005. Unfortunately the lighthouse itself is closed so you can't go up the tower.
5.THE KUCJK HASSAN MOSQUE
The mosque is the oldest Ottoman building in Crete and was erected in 1645 when the Turks captured Chania. During the bombings of WWII the minaret was destroyed. In 1923 the building stopped functioning as a mosque and was used for various purposes. In the past years it was renovated and has become a space for exhibitions.
6.THE FIRKAS FORTRESS
Located on the northwest side of the port the fortress was built in 1620 to protect the entrance of the harbour. Six arched cannon openings was positioned at a very low level in order to be able to fire at ships at water level. The barracks of the Venetian soldiers containing storerooms and large underground cisterns was housed inside the fortress. It served as the headquarters for military leaders. In 1913 The Turkish flag was lowered for the last time and the blue-and-white Greek flag was raised in its place.
The graves is situated in a small park on the hill of Prophitis overlooking Chania. It is the resting place of one of the most illustrious Greek stateman, Eleftherios Venizelos and of his son Sophoklis. The statue of Spyros Kagiales in the same park refers to a legendary feat of bravery that occured in 1897. Just below the small park there are two caf√©s where you can enjoy the superb views of the bay of Chania and the White Mountains.
8.THE CHURCH OF AGIOS NIKOLAOS IN SPLANTZIA
Previously the Turkish quarter of the town, the Splantzia is located to the East of the Byzantine fortification. The church was built in 1320 and was part of the Dominican monastery of Saint Nicholas. You can see a beautiful cross-vaulted arcade which belonged to the monastery on the North side of the church. The building was used for various purposes - it started as a basilica with a central aisle and a bell tower on the North side. En it was used as barracks and a mosque called the Hugar mosque during the Turkish times, they added a minaret with two balconies. The it became an Orthodox church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. The wooden roof was replaced by a concrete roof in the 1950s and the minaret underwent a complete restoration a few years ago.
OTHER PLACES TO SEE
Chania is very well organized for travellers. There are excellent bus, taxi and ferry services, as well as a good quality road system. Car hire is another option.
The best times to visit Crete are in late spring / early summer (from late May to July) and in autumn (August) when the weather is not too hot and the summer hordes of tourists have left.