Chania’s history is remarkable. It was a superior city-state in Classical Greece when it was settled by the Dorians (also mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey). During Roman times Chania was an independent city-state with its own coinage and also an important centre during the Byzantine Era and the Arab occupation that followed it.
During the Venetian era of occupation that followed, Chania was the seat of the local ruler (Rector), a great commercial success and it was during this period that the magnificent Old Harbour was built. At that time the (captive) Greek Orthodox culture was respected and the city’s fortifications were also improved, resulting in much of present day’s Chania’s appearance.
Unfortunately much of Chania was plundered and burnt by the invading Ottomans in 1645, when most churches became mosques. However, new mosques (such as the harbour’s Yali Mosque and Küçük Hasan), as well as characterful public baths (hamams) were also built. Chania eventually became capital of the Cretan State in 1898, during the lifetime of the locally-born major Greek politician of the 20th century, Eleftherios Venizelos.
The crumbling Venetian harbour and the central square of the Old Town (Kasteli) on the small hill by the seafront are delightful and form the hub of all daytime, as well as most of the night-time activity. The old Jewish area, Topanas, full of lovely period houses along scented narrow alleys is also quite atmospheric.
The Archaeological Museum, the Nautical Museum, the Folklore Museum, the Municipal Art Gallery and the Byzantine/Post-Byzantine Collection are also worth visiting.
Chania’s Nea Chora is a sandy beach suitable for families due to the shallow water. It only takes a few minutes to walk to the beach from the Old Town.
Posted : Friday, January 6th, 2012 at 11:00
As well as writing about travel, Karen Bryan offers tips on saving money, frugal living and how to live well on less, on her site Help Me To Save