Chania, also transliterated as Hania, is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania Prefecture. It lies along the north coast of the island, about 70 km west of Rethymno and 145 km west of Heraklion. The official population of the municipal area is 53,373 but some 70,000 people live in the greater area of Chania. Most of the visitors believe that Chania is Greece`s most beautiful city... Chania is a unique city bearing a rich and long history and culture. Its name is often glorified in historical documents as the city raised brave soldiers, groundbreaking politicians, intellectuals and artists. It is considered the city of Justice and Freedom and its rare beauty justifies its characterization as the "Venice of the East". The city of Chania was a crossroad between the East and the West for many centuries, and for this reason it was claimed by its enemies and suffered the presence of many conquerors. Always the first thing you hear about Chania - the Venetian Harbour, the old port, the narrow shopping streets and waterfront restaurants. Chania is also one of the places you are most likely to see on arriving in Crete. It is beautiful - that is to say much of the Chania you will want to see is clustered close to the harbour - old buildings, museums, churches and crafts shops (some with genuinely interesting and sometimes local, products on offer). Food is offered in great variety and sometimes great similarity - there are many restaurants and also cafes, at which to reflect upon the experiences of places you have just explored together with the enjoyment of some tasty food - we have suggestions for restaurants further on. The atmosphere has a touch of Florence and Venice (a few years ago when those cities still had some room to walk), combined with the culture and character of Cretan people and traditions. The Chania harbour is wonderful and at any particular time of day the light produces a different result, creating a "different place". This is the best chance to see some of the old buildings - of Venetian and Turkish design, that Crete once had across the island - many have since been destroyed by the ravages of war and plunder. Chania is surrounded by numerous rich options for sightseeing, exploration and discovery. Mountain villages provide a view into the "inner Crete". The Samaria and many other gorges can be hiked, archaeological sites abound. What to see at the city Explore the waterfront and streets just behind. Walk along the harbour wall to the Venetian Lighthouse. Visit the wonderful Naval Museum (Maritime Museum) - it delivers a superb introduction to the History of Crete and is by no means only for maritime mavens, you will learn more here in half an hour than most could teach you, about the events that filled Crete's moving past. Excellent, well done. Open: 10.00 to 14.00 daily, except Monday. Tel: 28210-91875. Admission: 2.50 euros. The Archaeological Museum on Halidon Street is smaller than its grand Heraklion cousin, though well worth visiting and appealing even to non archaeologists. Open: 8.00 to 17.00 (to 19.30 April-October) daily, except Monday. Tel: 28210-90334. Admission: 1.5 euros Historical Archives (museum): Open 9.00 to 13.00, Monday to Friday. Tel: 28210-52606. Admission: Free. Byzantine Museum. Open: 8.30 to 14.00 daily, except Monday. Tel: 28210-96046. Near the waterfront (at the back of the Naval museum). Outside Chania; trips to the many surrounding monasteries, the Samaria Gorge (take a bus to Omalos or a tour as you will walk the Gorge, take a ferry from the end at Agia Roumeli to Sfakia and then a bus back to Chania), Venizelos Graves and visit nearby villages where the old men talk, argue, discuss, play cards at their local kafeneio or simply find a stretch of beach and immerse the cares of yesterday in the waters of today. With children you might treat them with a visit to the water park at Limnoupolis. Rethymno, Crete's other Venetian town is an hour away by car or bus. The Therissos gorge, Kolymbari and its monastery, the wide sweep of Falassarna beach, boat trips to Gramvousa & Balos, a longer and most scenic trip to Elafonissi and villages en route - the list is long enough to fill many days. (all information can be changed without prior notice) Historical facts about Chania The Historical Years During the so called Historical Years, Kythonia seems to have been a powerful city-state, whose domain extended from Hania Bay to the feet of the White Mountains. Kythonia was constantly at war with other city-states such as Aptera, Falasarna nad Polyrrinia. In 69 B.C. the Roman Consul Cointus Metellus defeated the Cretans and conquered Kythonia to which he granted the privileges of an independent city-state. Kythonia reserved the right to mint its own coins until the 3rd century A.D. The Roman conquest put an end to the civil wars and a period of peace began, unique in the history of the island. The Kythonia of the Historical Years was of the same size as the city of Hania at the beginning of the 20th century. First Byzantine Period Information about the Kythonia of the Christian Years is limited. The most important archeological finds are those of the remains of a Basilica, discovered recently near the Venician Cathedral in the centre of Kasteli. Various sources mention the Kythonia Diocese and the Bishop Kythonios, who participated in the Sardinian Synod in 343. Kythonia is mentiond among the 22 most important cities of Crete in the "Document of Ieroklis" in the 6th Century. The Kytonia Diocese is also mentioned in all the "Ecclesiastical Minutes" (taktica), before and after the Arabian Occupation. The Arabian Occupation The occupation of Crete by the Arabs was effected gradually from 821 to 824. The consequences of the arrival of the Arabs in Crete were rather painful for the local population, who were subjected to a long and horrible period of slavery, resulting in the alienation of Crete from the Byzantine empire. St. Nicholas Stouthitis was born in 763 in Kythonia, which he left at the age of 10 to go to Constantinople. In 961, Nikiforos Fokas managed to free Crete and bring it back under the control of the Byzantine empire. The Byzantine Period The first action of the Byzantine empire, after reconquering Crete, was to re-establish their authority and power. Not only should all traces of the Arab occupation be abolished but also the defense of the island had to be organised quickly in order to avoid any Arab attempt to take back the island. Thus, strong fortifications are constructed along the coast and at strategic positions. The hill of Kasteli is fortified with a wall along its perimeter. This was constructed with building materials taken from the ancient city. It is still regarded as a remarkable military accomplishment and a proof of the continuous existence of the city in the period between the Arab and the Venician occupations. The Venician Occupation After the 4th Crusade and the dismantling of the Byzantine empire, in 1204, Crete is given to Bonifacio, the Marquis de Monfera. He, in turn, chooses to sell it to the Venicians for 100 silver marks. In 1252 the Venicians manage to subdue the locals as well as the Genoans, who, under the leadership of the Count of Malta Henrico Pescatore, had seized Crete. Hania is chosen as the seat of the Rector (Administrator General) of the region and flourishes as a significant commercial centre due to the fertility of the land. Contact with Venice leads to the social, economic and cultural conditions necessary for the growth of a culture strongly affected both by the Venician and the local element. The Turkish Occupation The Turks land near the Monastery of "Gonia" (Corner) in Kissamos, which they plunder and burn. They seize the fortified isle of "Agioi Theodori" and, after a two month siege, the City of Hania on 2nd August 1645. A new state of affairs prevails in the city, where churches are turned into mosques and Christian fortunes come to the hands of the conquerors. The Turks reside mostly in the eastern districts, Kasteli and Splanzia, where they convert the church of St Nicholas of the Dominicans into their central mosque "Houghiar Tzamissi" (The Sovereign's Mosque). Besides turning catholic churches into mosques, they build new ones such as "Kioutsouk Hassan Tzamissi" on the harbour. They also build public baths (Hamam) and fountains. In 1821 many Christians are slaughtered and the Bishop of Kissamos, Melhisethek Thespotakis is hanged in Splantzia. In 1878, the Treaty of Halepa is signed and the Christians are granted certain rights. In 1898, the semi-autonomous "Cretan State" is established and the city of Hania flourishes as the Capital of Crete.
Places near Chania Town
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Giali Tzamisi is the unique preserved Mosque of the city and was built during the second half of the 17th century. It is located at the Venetian Port of Chania. The Mosque Kioutsouk (meaning "little") Hassan or Giali Tzamisi (meaning, the Mosque of the Seaside), as it is commonly known, is a unique sample of islamic art of Renaissance.
It was built to honour the first Sergeant of Chania, Kioutsouk Hassan. Nowadays, the Mosque has been totally renovated and is used as a place for events and exhibitions mainly during the summer period, constituting one of the charakteristic buildings of the old port of Chania.
The church of Agios Nikolaos, located in Splantzia Square, was built before 1320, during the Venetian period, as a monastery of Dominican Order. After the dominance of Turks in Chania in 1645, the church was transformed into a mosque and was given the name Hiougkar Tzamisi (the Emperor’s mosque), in honour of sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Imbraim.
The sword of the Turk dervish, who was the first one that entered in the city, was considered to be blessed and wonder-working, and was reserved there. Its importance is highlighted by the existence of two- instead of one- balconies on the minaret on the southwest corner of the temple. The morphological elements of the minaret are of great interest, as they follow the Venetian tradition.
The Museum of the Greek National team is unique in Greece and one of the few that exist worldwide at national team level. Inside this museum, the history of the Greek National footballteam comes to life again and the visitor can learn it through the hundreds of objects and shirts of the current National team, as well as of previous teams.
Some of the most popular objects that somebody can see in the Museum are the shirts of the International Greek Team from historical games and more, the replica of the Cup from the European Championship 2004, the ticket of the final game Greece-Portugal, the ball from the game Greece-Nigeria 2-1, the unique victory of the National Team in the World Cup etc…
It is located in the internal part of north-westernside of the fortification walls that was renamed to Monastery of Saint Salvatore. The exhibition is focused on the historical and artistic identity of region of Chania during the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine period.
The exhibits have been separated in units according to their category (Mosaics, Signs, murals, ceramic, sculptures, coins etc.) and are placed in chronological order, accompanied by information tables and maps.
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The rampart Sabbionara still preserves its Turkish name "koum - kapi (Kum Kapisi = the Gate of the Sand), is located on the northeast corner of the Venetian walls and is completely constructed in the sea. On the front of the rampart, the circular Venetian emblem of the lion of Agios Marcos is still preserved. It is the only preserved gate today and its external side had been modified during the Turkish period.
It is the only preserved gate today and its external side had been modified during the Turkish period. The port of Chania cannot be used by modern ships because of the shallow water, which contributed in preserving its old character, maintaining the signs of its conquerors till today.
The Folklore Museum of Chania is located at the centre of the old city of Chania, in Halidon Street, next to the Catholic church. It includes folklore and traditional exhibits that allow the visitor to have a representative picture of the way of life of older residents of island during the 18th and 19th century.
Among others, in the museum is availabe a collection of tools, raw material of and products of traditional home handicraft, small industry and rural life. There are also representations of rural occupations, home arts, craft-based work as well as representations of the interior of a rural house. Interesting is the workshop of the museum that revives the Cretan embroidery art and where embroidery paintings are being created.
The clock tower of the city is located on the north-east part of the Municipal Garden. Its construction started in 1924 and ended in 1927 and constitutes one of the most remarkable buildings of the City of Chania.
The modern city of Chania is founded in the site of a significant ancient Minoan settlement, Kydonia or ku-do-ni-ja as it appears on Linear B script. According to the tradition, Kydonia was one of the three cities founded by King Minos in Crete.
The settlement that is presently excavated in the city of Chania has as center the hill of Kasteli and is the most important of the prefecture. Large habitations with well-built rooms, elegant floors with circular cavities- fireplaces, coated walls with deep red mortar, door frames and ceramics of excellent quality are some of the findings that indicate the existence of a significant proto-Minoan centre. The extended excavations in the archaeological site of Kasteli, which constitutes one of the most important monuments of the prehistoric period of Crete, are carried out since 1966 until today by the 25th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Some of the most important findings of the excavation are available in Chania Archaeological Museum.
The Grand Arsenal is the last of the 17 Neoria to the west. Its construction started in 1585 by the Intendant Alvise Grimani. A new era began for the Grand Arsenal with the addition of the second flour in 1872 during the Turkish period. The building hosted several important public services and authorities.
Nowadays, it has been transformed from a roofless ruin into an impressive building that hosts various events and exhibitions. Since 2002, after its reformation, it hosts the Center of Mediterranean Architecture, organizing important cultural events, artistic exhibitions and international events related to architecture.
Along the famous waterfront there are built numerous cafes, bars and a few traditional tavernas with wonderful views to the sea and a part of the Venetian Walls. The locals usually prefer this part of the waterfront to have a coffee in the evening or a first drink during the night.
The history of Kum Kapi starts during the last years of the Turkish occupation when the Arabs grew "Halikoutes", a small village, near a sandy beach and next to the Venetian fortifications. This district was called in Turkish "Kum Kapisi" (meaning Gate of the Sand) because of the Venetian Gate built there.
If you want to have a coffee in the Kum Kapi waterfront you can try the following cafe-bars; Elliniko at the start, Thema at the centre, Il Nostro at the end, and the rock-cafe Other Side near the end. There are also many choices for food like the first two restaurants at the start of the waterfront (O Aswtos Yios, Diachroniko) or the restaurant next to the Thema.
The area of Kum Kapi is quite near the old Venetian Town so that you can walk to get from the one place to the other. While walking , if you follow the seafront, you will meet more seafood restaurants (try the Dinos Restaurant) and cafes (try the Dio Lux).
The Egyptian Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest in the world, prevails in the old Port of Chania. The sea-tossed stone lighthouse that is located at the edge of the breakwater, is not only the “guard” of the old Venetian port, but also its most famous jewel.
The lighthouse was constructed by the Venetians at the end of 16th century. It has been reconstructed by the Egyptians during the period 1830-40, when English had assigned Crete to the regent of Egypt, Mehmet Ali. At the end of the Ottoman empire, the project had been completed with the addition of the ladder in its east side, as well as pipes, through which passes sea water under the surface of its base. The lighthouse has a hight of 21m, height from sea surface 26m and its light reaches a distance of 7 miles. Its base is oktagonal, the middle part has 16 angles, while the top part is circular.
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