What to see in Chania
The city of Chania is built on the area of Minoan Kidonia, at the end of the homonym gulf between Akrotiri and Onicha peninsulas. It was the former capital city of Crete (from 1847 until 1972).
Nowadays, it is the second largest city of Crete after Heraklion and capital of the homonym prefecture. Chania includes the old and new city. There are different architectural styles here presenting the historical route of the city. After Arabs and Byzantines it was conquered by Venetians in 1252 and was given to Turks in 1669, later it was annexed to the rest of the Greek State on December 1913 under the administration of Eleftherios Venizelos and King Konstantinos the 1st. The old town is an integral settlement with visible boundaries set by the Venetian walls surrounding it.
Chania has daily boat connection with Piraeus port from Souda port (7 km). Chania is also connected with Athens by airplane which you can take from Akrotiri airport 15 km E of the city.
The old town is built around the Venetian port and is also a relatively integral area where Venetian buildings and later Turkish elements compose a unique architectural style. Due to the historic center of Chania with its Venetian walls defining the borders between the old and new city and its ramparts, the city has been pronounced as preserved. It consists of five connected districts surrounding the Venetian port.
Its design was made by Venetian engineer Michelle Sammichelli. The Lighthouse is located at the end of the rock protecting the port from the north. It was built in 1570 by the Venetians and reconstructed in 1830 by the Egyptians and from there on preserves its current state.
On the east of Palea Poli is Splantzia (or Plaza) district built on the former Turkish district. Here you will see among others Aghii Anargiri church, the only Orthodox church which had the permission to operate during the period of the Venetian and Turkish occupations. You will also see the Sintrivani square.
Neoria (or Chiones) district on the northeast side is located in the area of the former port of the city and of the Venetian ship yards of 14th and 16th centuries from which it also took its name.
Kastelli district is in the center of Palea Poli (Old Town) west of Neoria. It is the exalted location of the Byzantine citadel where “palatso” (palace) of the Venetian commander and the lodgings of Pashas of Chania were later built. Venetians used to call the area Castello Vecchio.
On the southeast of the old city lies the Hebrew district or else Ovraika. It reminds us the times when the developing Hebrew community of Chania was obliged by the Venetians to move to a delimitated area called judeca where two synagogues were operating.
On the boarders of Ovraika, in Chalides Street, you will see the Folklore Museum of Chania and Aghios Fragkiskos church (14th century) which houses the Archeological Museum of Chania. On the north side is the Turkish bath (chamam). In the south side of Ovraika and on Skridlof Street lies the so called Stivanadika (from stivani, the Cretan boots). Among the shops selling leather items and souvenirs survive some traditional shoe ateliers.
Museums in Chania
The Archaeological Museum of Chania is housed in teh building of that once was the catholicon of the Monastery of Aghios Fragkiskos, built in the 16th century (30, Chalidon street). The museum houses a great collection of findings discovered in the wider area and date back from the Neolithic until the Roman era. Your guided tour of the museum will offer you the opportunity to observe findings of the Minoan period and inscriptions of Linear A and B. The findings dating back to the Historic period are also remarkable. The exhibition comprises of statues dating back to the
Classic period as well. Moreover, you can observe the interesting collection of mosaics dating back to the Roman period and the early Post-Christian years and representing Dionysus, Ariadni, the town of Chania, the liberation of Nymph Amymone by Poseidon among others.
The Byzantine Museum of Chania (82, Theotokopoulou street) exhibits excavation findings as well as collections and items donated by private individuals dating back from the Paleochristian years until the Turkish occupation. The exhibits are organised in sections and each section is part of a chronological order and includes mosaics, frescos, images, ceramics and other items. The museum intends to present the historical and artistic course of the Prefecture of Chania during the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine years.
The Maritime Museum of Chania is housed in the Firka building (1629), which has been renovated, in Topana quarter, Kontourioti coast. Its collection comprises various representative exhibits of the Greek maritime history and tradition, which are classified in sections covering the Copper Era until the present times. Among these, you will see models of ships of all periods, items recovered from the seabed, maritime instruments and navigational accessories, maritime maps, paintings and photographs as well as a shell collection.
The Museum of History was founded in 1932 and is housed in a two-story neoclassical building (20, Sfakianaki street). The Historical Archive comprises 6,500 books as well as a wide range of historical documents, such as the archives of the Turkish administration of Crete ans the ones of the Cretan State or the private correspondence of Eleftherios Venizelos. It is probably the second richest collection of archives, the first being that of the State General Archives of Greece.
Private Folklore Museum (46b, Chalidon street). The museum is housed in a room of the Municipal library, the entrance of which is located in the precinct of the Catholic Church of Chania. Its collection comprises popular art and tradition exhibits that give visitors the possibility to discover the life of the island during the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as a remarkable collection of laces and embroideries.
The Public Chemical Laboratory of Chania, established in 1830, was the first official laboratory carrying out analyses of foodstuff and products in Greece and it was equipped with the finest intruments of that period. The Chemistry Museum, nowadays housed in the building of the General Chemical State Laboratory of Greece (34c, Eleftheriou Venizelou street, tel.: 28210-42504) because its original fecilities where destroyed during the World War II bombings, provides an accurate representation of the Public Chemical Laboratory facilities in the beginning of the century, including working surfaces, glass containers, explanatory tables as well as photographs taken from the manuals of that period.