Chania, the second largest city of Crete lies along the north coast of the island, approximately 70 km west of Rethymno and 145 km west of Heraklion, capital of Crete. What today is known as the modern-day city of Chania was once known as the Minoan settlement that the Greeks called Kydonia, and appears to have been inhabited since the Neolithic era. During the early Christian period under Byzantine rule (First Byzantine Period, 395–824 AD) and the rule of the Arabs, the name was changed to Al Hanim meaning “the Inn”. However when the Byzantine Empire retook the city in 961 AD the name was changed into Greek Chania.

 

The Venetian era began after the Fourth Crusade (1204) and the fall of Byzantium in the Hellenic area. The Venetian rule was initially strict and oppressive yet the relationship between the two slowly started to improve, intertwining the Cretan and Venetian cultures. The city’s name then became La Canea and fortifications were strengthened, giving Chania the form that it still has today. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, many priests, monks and artists took refuge in Crete, reinforcing the Byzantine religion and culture on the island. It is during that period that the city of Chania followed a blend of Byzantine, Venetian, and Classical Greek cultural elements. Many of the significant buildings of the town were built during this era.

Today the city of Chania is divided into two parts: the old town and the new city which is slightly larger in size. Truth be told, there has been a lot of talk about the beauty of the Chania’s Old Town, but once you have been there you will understand the reason why. The borders of the Old Town are shaped by an old Venetian wall which has been mostly destroyed during World War II. The central part of the old town is named Kasteli, located on a small hill facing the seafront. To the west end of Kasteli you will find the Old Town’s main square called the Eleftherios Venizelos Square, this is the heart of all the touristic activities in the area. Next to this lies the Topanas district which is very picturesque, with many narrow alleys and old charming buildings, some of which have been restored as hotels, restaurants, shops and bars.

The very characteristic area of the Old Town is the harbour itself and this is where you will find the Chania Lighthouse and the Turkish Mosque Yiali Tzami which dominates the harbour and is now used for art exhibitions. Akti Tompazi, Akti Kountouriotou and Akti Enoseos all feature several historical buildings and a thriving nightlife. During the summer period a variety of cultural events take place on a daily basis, and if you are lucky you may get a glimpse of a theatrical play, concert or exhibition.

If you wish to explore this historical city even further there are several museums, art galleries and theatres to choose from. For example the Archeological Museum of Chania in Saint Francis Monastery, houses findings from different parts of the county and from several historical and prehistorical periods of the local history (Neolithic to Roman). There is also the Folklore Museum, House of E. Venizelos, War Museum, Nautical Museum of Crete, Byzantine/Post-Byzantine Collection, Museum of Chemistry and a few more.

Chania is not only famous for its extraordinary architecture and scenic surroundings, here you will also find some of the most popular beaches. Here is to name a few: Balos lagoon located approximately 56km northwest of Chania and 17km northwest of Kissamos. This is surely the most photographed beach in Crete. Falassarna beach is located in the western part of Cape Gramvousa. At the northern end of the beach are the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Falassarna.

This beach has been awarded as the number one beach in Crete and one of the 10 best beaches in Europe. Elafonisi beach is definitely one you shouldn’t miss. Located 76km west of Chania and 5km south of Chrysoskalitisa Monastery, in the southwesternmost point of Crete. This beach with its turquoise waters and white sand will surely remind you of the Caribbean.