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 Its name is often glorified in historical documents as the city raised brave soldiers, groundbreaking politicians, intellectuals and artists.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
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 Municipal Market of Chania is located in the centre of the city and is an iconic building of Chania. With its 4,000 sq.m. this is one of the most important buildings of its kind in the Balkans. Since 1980 it has been declared as a protected monument.
In this place there was once the main venetian bastion, Piatta Forma, which was the entrance to the city. Like today, until the early 20th century took place here an outdoor street market of the villagers of the surrounding area. In 1908 by decision of the Municipal Authority began plans to create a building that would house the market, and would give the city a more organized image. The construction of the building began in 1911, with plans to the standards of the Marseilles market, influenced by the architecture of the industrial revolution, and was completed in 1913 where it was inaugurated on 4 December 1913, three days after the union of Crete with Greece, by the Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos.
The building consists of four wings with separate entrances, and joined together forming a cross shape in plan of the building. Inside of it are housed 76 shops consisting of butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, a pharmacy and several shops with souvenirs.
The prefecture of Chania covers the western section of the island. The prefecture is known as beautiful and mostly unspoilt part of the island. It has an area of 2,376 square km and approximately 134,000 residents, the second largest population in Crete, after Heraklion. Chania is subdivided into five provinces: Kydonia, Kissamos, Apokoronas, Selino, and Sfakia. The main cities of the prefecture are Chania, the capital, and Kastelli in Kissamos. The main towns are Paleohora and Kandanos in Selino, and Hora Sfakion in Sfakia. The prefecture of Chania offers a wide variety of tourist services and activities of all classes and types. The city of Chania has also maintained characteristics of the Venetian era. The Lefka Ori rise behind Chania and drop to the Libyan Sea in Sfakia and contain many gorges and canyons for the nature or hiking enthusiast. The sandy beaches and clear waters of Falasarna, Paleohora and Georgioupolis offer pleasant swims. The Minoan, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish archaeological sites attract those seeking cultural and historical information. The province of Kissamos in the northwest of the prefecture of Chania lies between the two peninsulas of western Crete. It extends west to the sea and south to Elafonisi Island. Kastelli is the main city of this area. The city has a variety of tourist services. On the coastal road from Kastelli to Elafonisi Island you can see the wild beauty of western Crete. The beaches at Elafonisi, Falasarna, and Gramvousa are among the finest in Crete. The many Byzantine and Venetian churches, as well as the ancient cities of Polirinia and Falasarna, may be of interest to tourists. The peninsulas of Gramvousa and Spatha are mostly inaccessible by car. Hikers can enjoy some parts. The province of Sfakia occupies the southeast area of the prefecture of Chania. The Lefka Ori cover most of the area. The province includes the plateaus of Krapi, Askifou, Niatos, Anopolis, Aradena, and Kalikratis. Sfakia has the highest peaks of the Lefka Ori: Pahnes (2,450m); Kastro (2,218m), and Troharis (2,409m). This wild terrain is one of the most impressive in Crete. The visitor may enjoy the panoramic view going from Chania to Sfakia by road. Very impressive also is the Samaria Gorge excursion and the subsequent boat trip to Hora Sfakion. There are many interesting things for a visitor in the area of Sfakia. The beaches near Loutro, Agia Roumeli, and Frangokastello offer the clear waters of the Libyan Sea. The Byzantine churches of Agios Pavlos (in Agia Roumeli), Michael Archangelos (Aradena), Agii Apostoli (Hora Sfakion), and the Panagia Thymiani and Agios Georgios (Komitades) are of cultural interest. The ravines and gorges through Samaria, Aradena, Imbros, and Kalikratis afford excellent hiking opportunities. The mountain hike to the refuge and plateau at Niatos, 1,500 metres above Askifou, may interest the visitor. With more than 40 peaks above 2,000 metres, the Lefka Ori offer numerous superb hiking possibilities. The province of Selino is in the southwest part of Crete. It borders the Libyan Sea and the south side of the Lefka Ori. The two major towns are the capital, Kandanos, and Paleohora on the south coast. The name of Selino is derived from the Venetian castle, Selino, in Paleohora. Near Kandanos there are many interesting Byzantine churches. The town of Chania, which is also the prefecture's capital, has obtained a great reputation throughout history. Walking on narrow streets of the Old Town you taste the historical atmosphere, meeting the ornaments of Chania, the Venetian harbour and castle . The old town is also the centre of night life. While visiting Chania, you have the chance to visit many archaeological sites which still bring memories of the foreign occupation. Arabs, Venetians and Turks left their marks in the town of Chania. You will be really enchanted by its picturesque houses, churches and its special architecture. Furthermore, the prefecture of Chania has the greatest beaches in Crete! Sandy beaches getting wet by the crystal light-blue waters of Libyan Sea creating an unforgettable landscape. The islets and the mountainous villages give an exotic image to this part of Crete! If you love unspoiled beautiful nature, you should visit the famous Samaria gorge or the steep mountains of Chania, called White Mountains . Chania is the ideal vacations destination. Luxury hotels, villas or apartments are waiting for you so as to experience what you will never forget!
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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.
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The 1866 Square in Chania is located on the west part of the city, on the way to the "Kisamos" exit. This Square is one of "green" areas of the city, with many plants and statues of the heroes of the Cretan revolutions and an elegant Arabic fountain.Its name refers to the grand and bloody 3-year Cretan revolution (1866 - 1869) against the Turks, which resulted to the holocaust of "Arcadi". On the northwest side of the plateau, next to the hotels "Samaria" and "Omalos", there is the public bus station (KTEL) of the city.
The bus station offers a large network of destinations with modern buses, which connect Chania with Heraklion, Rethymnon, other towns and villages of the Chania Prefecture, as well as to other cities of Greece (Athens, Lamia, Larisa, Thessaloniki, Korinthos, Patra, Ioannina, Mesologi, ect).
The fortress Revellino del Porto on the northwest side of the port of Chania was constructed by Venetians to prevent any enemy danger for the port. Its construction began in 1610 and completed a few years before the fall of the city in Turks in 1645.
The interior was organized to barracks and ammunition storage areas. It was also the headquarters of the Army Commander of the city. In about the middle of the courtyard, there is a large domed water tank that gathered rain water from the roofs. On the northern side of the wall there are six arched openings that included cannons for the protection of the entrance of the harbour.
During the Turkish period Revellino was used as barrack (Firka = barrack), for that reason the name Firka is still used today. The arched openings were used as prisons from the Turkish period to the civil war. On the corner watch tower of the Fortress the Greek flag of the Unification of Crete was raised on December 1st 1913 in an official ceremony. Today, at the entrance of the Fortress is situated the Maritime Museum of Crete.
At the centre of Chania, dominates the historical Trimartiri, the Cathedral Temple of Chania, the Temple of Eisodion of Theotokos. The Temple of Eisodion, as Cathedral and Metropolitan and Protector of the City, concentrates the religious, oblative and generally devotional interest of godly population of Chania.
During the 150 years of its life, the Temple has been identified with the fate, the life and the history of the City and has been valorised as one of the remarkable historical monuments of Crete. According to historical testimonies, in the place that the Cathedral Temple is located today, a small Temple existed since the beginning of the 11th century, dedicated to Eisodia of Theotokos. The Venetians demolished this small Temple, building in its place a big storehouse for the needs of their Monastery, that was located opposite of it, on the other side of the current Halidon Street. Afterwards, when Turks enslaved Crete (1695), they transformed the storehouse of Catholics into a soap making workshop that was open until 1850. The manufacture of temple was completed in 1860.
The Temple of Eisodion is also known with the characterization Trimartyri because it is composed from three aisles: the central, where Eisodia of Theotokos are honoured, the right, where the Three Hierarches, Fathers and protectors of Greek Language are honoured, and the left, where Agios Nikolaos is honoured, as substitution of the homonym Temple of Splantzia that Turks had changed into a mosque. The Temple celebrates on November 21, feastday of Eisodion of Theotokos, which is also a holiday for the City of Chania.
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.
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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.
The Nautical Museum of Crete is located at the entrance of the historical fortress "Firka". It was founded in 1973 in order to promote the nautical traditions and history of the island. The Museum cooperates and interacts with other Nautical Museums in Greece and abroad.
The permanent exhibition includes 2.500 items, such as relics, objects found in the bottom of the sea, paintings, maps, photographs, models of ships, nautical equipment etc. The exhibits are organized in units, in chronological order from the Copper Age until today. There is also a special exhibition of sea environment, with a rich collection of shells from different places of the world.
An important development step for the Nautical Museum is the creation of a permanent exhibition of ancient and traditional shipbuilding. The main exhibit of the museum is the reconstructed Minoan ship “Minoa” an experimantal model, faithful copy of the original ancient commercial ship. Other exhibits are the tools and the materials that were used for its manufacture, some photographs and a map of its experimental travel.
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 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.
East of Splatzia Square of the old city of Chania is located the church of Agios Nikolaos, which was built before 1320, during the Venetian Period, as monastery of Dominican Order. During the Venetian period it constituted the most important church of the city.
It was elegant and big in capacity, with wide arches in the interior. After the predominance of Turks in Chania the temple was turned into mosque and was named Hiougkar Tzamisi (mosque of the Emperor), in honour of the sultan of Ottoman Empire, Imbraim.
Its importance is highlighted by the existence of two- instead of one- balconies on the minaret. In 1928, after being seized by the Christians orthodoxe, the mosque was turned into a christian church and has been dedicated to Agios Nikolaos.
Bulwark San Salvatore
This is located on the North-west corner of the Venician fortifications and it was named after the Monastery of San Salvatore, still surviving in the area. Over this bulwark, there is a four-sided watch-tower which, together with the Fort of Fircas, could protect the sea and a part of the west side of the fortifications.
One of the most important constructions of the Venetian Period is the Entrance of Renier Mansion. It is a palace (Palazzo) of the homonym Venetian-Cretan family with a small family chapel of Agios Nikolaos and the impressive entrance with the Latin sign and the blazon of the family.
The largest part of this building is still preserved with some alterations. Over the arched gate of the entrance, the inscription is still preserved: “MULTA TULIT, FECITQUE AT STUDUIT DULCES/PATER, SUDAVIT ET ALSIT SEMPER REQUIES CERENAT, MDC VIII. IDI B. IAN” ("Many things he brought, done and studied, the sweet father, who worked hard. May he rest in peace 1608").
The Municipal Art Gallery of Chania constitutes a unique place of culture that hosts works of painting, engraving and sculpture of Greek creators and local artists, that are dated by the 18th century until today. Core of the collection of works that are exposed in the Municipal Art Gallery of Chania was the donation of Lykourgos Manoysakis during the end of decade 1950.
Then followed important donations, as that of Kostas Ioannidis and Panagiotis Grabbalos, as well as offers of individual works from many artists, natives and foreigners. The Municipal Art Gallery of Chania, centre of wider cultural creation, develops significant editorial activity while it organises and hosts exhibitions, speeches, meetings, educational programs and other activities, during the whole year.
The Etz Hayyim Synagogue (Hebrew: בית הכנסת עץ חיים) is the only surviving remnant of the once Romaniote Jewish community on the Greek isle of Crete. After being restored, the synagogue (with its Mikveh) has become a tourist destination.
Today the community is a symbol of a good living together. The community life has revived while almost all congregants are Non-Jews. Occasionally a Rabbi or (at the jewish holidays) someone who is able to blow the shofar visits the community. An International team takes care of the congregation work. Christians and Muslims are invited to visit the meetings and in opposition to other Jewish Congregations in Europe, the visitors have not to show their passport at the entrance.
Despite of the community's romaniote past, the congregation today uses primarily the sefardic custom of Greece and has developed its own Haggadah text.
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.