Old Venetian Harbour Chania, Crete
Old Venetian Harbour Chania, Crete (Credit: dronepicr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Chania: Mythical history meets legendary hospitality

Cretan spirit, gorgeous landscape, remarkable history, rich culinary heritage, millennia-old traditions

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OVERVIEW

Chania, is one of the four regional units of Crete, covers the westernmost quarter of the island and is often informally termed ‘Western Crete’. The regional unit’s capital is the city of Chania, which is built on the area of Minoan Kidonia. Chania was also the former capital of Crete (from 1847 until 1972) and is the second largest city of the island. Chania regional unit borders Rethymno regional unit to the east. The western part of Crete is bounded to the north by the Cretan Sea, and to the west and south by the Mediterranean Sea. Chania regional unit also includes Gavdos, the southernmost island of Europe. The regional unit also includes three headlands, known as the “three heads” of Crete. From east to west, they are: Akrotiri, Rodopos (also called Spatha) and Gramvousa. Among the regional unit’s major tourist attractions are the Natural Park of Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in Europe (total length 16km), the White Mountains (Lefka Ori)- the largest mountain range in Crete- Lake Kournas, the only freshwater lake in the island and the exotic beaches of Falasarna and Balos.

.AT A GLANCE

Regional unit’s capital: Chania Area: 2,376 km2 Population (2021): 156,585 Climate: Hot-summer Mediterranean climate, with sunny dry summers and mild rainy winters.

.ADMINISTRATION

The regional unit Chania is subdivided into seven municipalities namely Apokoronas, Chania, Gavdos, Kantanos-Selino, Kissamos, Platanias and Sfakia.

.MUNICIPALITIES

CHANIA     APOKORONAS    GAVDOS    KANTANOS-SELINO 

KISSAMOS     PLATANIAS     SFAKIA


MUNICIPALITY OF CHANIA 

Area: 351.3 km2 Population (2023): 88,525 Website: https://www.chania.gr/

.HISTORY

Chania’s roots date back to ancient times when is was a Minoan settlement the Greeks called Kydonia, one of the most important cities of Crete according to Homer. The city has been shaped and influenced by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans over the centuries. In 1913, Chania became part of Greece under the administration of Eleftherios Venizelos and King Konstantinos the 1st. The Greek flag was raised for the first time at Fort Firka in the Old Harbor in the presence of Venizelos and King Constantine. Another important period for the city of Chania was the invasion and occupation by German forces during World War II. The Archaeological Museum of Chania is an excellent place to learn more about the city’s rich past.

.POINTS OF INTEREST

Old Town: With the intense Venetian and Turkish architecture, the Old Town is charming. The  Old Venetian Harbor, a historic port that has been in use since the 14th century, is the most characteristic spot of western Crete with the lighthouse having become over the years the trademark of Chania.

Splantzia: One of the most unique neighborhoods, built on the former Turkish district, located on the south of the eastern part of the Old Venetian Harbor.

Küçük Hasan mosque: Oldest Muslim building in Crete built in 1645 to honor Küçük Hasan Pasha. In 1939 its minarets were demolished.

Tabakaria area: A small industrial center of leather tanneries that were in operation until the early 19th century.

Frangokastello Fortress: This well-preserved Venetian fortress, built between the period 1371-1374 BC, was set up to maintain a military base for the Venetian army.

Grand Arsenal: Built in the 1600s but becoming functional in 1872, the Venetian shipyards in Chania were used for repairing the ships of the Venetian fleet in the Chania harbour.

Municipal Gardens (locally known as the Kipos): A small zoo, a summer cinema, and the historic café “O Kipos,” where many important Greek figures have passed.

Venizelos Graves: Located on a hill overlooking the city, this is the final resting place of Eleftherios Venizelos, one of the greatest statesmen of Greece, credited with being “The Maker of Modern Greece.”

Plus more fascinating sites waiting to be explored: Kum Kapi at Miaouli Beach,
Ottoman Baths (or Hammam), Kastelli Hill, to name just a few.

Samaria Gorge: A National Park of Greece since 1962 and a World’s Biosphere Reserve.

Aptera: About 13 km east of the city of Chania, an archaeological site notable for a two-part temple from the 5th century BC, a large three-vaulted Roman cistern, Roman baths, and parts of several Doric temples. An ancient theater and a Roman peristyle villa have also been discovered on the site.

. TOP BEACHES

Stalos: A picturesque sandy beach with crystal-clear waters.

Agia Marina: Clear shallow waters and golden sand.

Marathi: Two sandy beaches separated by a picturesque little port.

Kalathas: One of the more “touristy” beaches with fine sand and a little island one can swim up to.

Chrisi Akti: “Golden beach” in Greek, the beach stands true to its name.

Stavros: In Stavros beach was filmed the famous film “Zorba the Greek” starring Anthony Quinn.

Seitan Limania Beach (or else Stephan’s Beach): is 20 km southeast of Chania at Akrotiri.

.GASTRONOMY

Bougatsa Chanion: A pie with mizithra -a savory creamy cheese made from sheep and goat’s milk- topped with sugar and cinnamon. 

Kalitsounia: Folded pies most often filled with savory cheese or spinach, but they can also be made with sweetened cheese topped with honey.

Chaniotiko boureki: A baked layered dish made with potato, zucchini, mizithra and mint.

Dacos: Traditional hard Cretan bread accompanied with tomato, mizithra cheese and virgin Cretan oil. 

Kserotigana: Spiral pastries, topped with walnuts and honey, sometimes sesame seeds.

Dolmades/Anthoi: Grape leaves or zucchini flowers stuffed and rolled with rice and herbs like mint, dill, and oregano.

Hohlioi boubouristi (popping fried snails): Most commonly with fresh herbs like rosemary, tomato, courgettes and/or potatoes and vinegar.

Gamopilafo “rice of the wedding”: Goats, lambs, or chicken and rice are the main and essential ingredients of Gamopilafo.

.WINES & DRINKS 

Tsikoudia (also often called raki): Traditional Cretan spirits distilled from pomace, with a delicate aroma of ripe grapes, contains 40% to 65% alcohol by volume.

.SHOPPING

Chania’s Municipal Market: Familiarize yourselves with traditional Cretan products at this 4,000-metre square covered market, opened in 1911, which is known as ‘Agora.’

.FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Municipal Cultural Summer Festival: Takes place every year during the summer season, from July to the end of September.

Wine Festivals: Many wine festivals are held in August in various villages of Chania.

Dekapentavgoustos: On August 15 (or Dekapentavgoustos) the Greek Orthodox church commemorates the assumption of the Virgin Mary. This period also hosts some of the greatest Panigiria (festivals) in many villages of Chania. Panigiria is set in town squares or next to a celebrating church.

Sardines Festival: Held in the first week of September in Souda and Nea Chora.

September 15: A large feast in Fragkokastello in honor of Agios Nikitas.

.RELIGIOUS SITES

Panagia Trimartiri: A Greek Orthodox Cathedral at Plateia Mitropoleos.

Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) Monastery: It was built during the 17th century. The icon of Saint John the Theologian is considered the major relic of the monastery and was painted in 1500.

Monastery of Agios Ioannis the Hermit: Founded in 11th century by Saint John who lived inside a cave, where the church is built. 

Gouverneto Monastery (also known as the Lady of the Angels): Dated to 1537 and looking like a fortress the monastery is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin.

Monastery of Chrissopigi: Founded in the middle of the 16th century, the Monastery is dedicated to our Lady of the Life-Giving Spring, who is known popularly as ‘Chrysopigi’, the Golden Fountain.

Chryssoskalitissa Monastery: Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it rises on a rock, 35 meters altitude above the sea.

.ACTIVITIES

Water: The coastline is ideal to explore and enjoy water sports. Scuba diving, sea kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddle (SUP), and many more.

Land: Enjoy land-based activities, such as mountaineering, climbing, trekking, mountain biking, spelunking (caving), canyoning, horseback riding.

.ΑCCOMODATION

Τhere are 576 accomodation units, 26.382 rooms και 49.568 beds in the Chania regional unit, according to INSETE data. Among them 43 five-star hotels, according to the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.

.TRANSPORT

Chania International Airport: 14 km from Chania on the Akrotiri Peninsula. 

Port: Souda, Some 7 km from Chania, and 15 km away from the local international airport, Souda is the city’s port, with daily ferries to Piraeus. 

Venetian harbour: Moorage for fishing boats and other small craft.

.KEY MUSEUMS

Archeological Museum: Located in the area of Halepa, the new Archeological Museum covers an area of 6,000m2 and is holding an impressive collection of antiquities from sites around the island.

Historical Archive: Established in 1920 in Chania and operated informally until 1928.

Byzantine/Post-Byzantine Collection: Icons, frescoes, golden jewelry, Venetian coins, and many other exhibits.

Folklore Museum: A rich collection of artifacts of farming and domestic use, furniture, music instruments, decorative objects and textiles.                                                     

Nautical Museum: Housed in the Firkas Fortress, the museum exhibits war relics, ship models, and lots of historical photographs.

Museum of Typography: Located in the Park of Local Industries in Souda, the museum exhibits old seals, banknotes, pressing machines, rare books, and other items.

. MAJOR EDUCATIONAL & RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS

Technical University of Crete

Chania branch of the Technological Educational Institute of Crete

Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania

Merchant Marine Academy of Crete

National Research Foundation “Eleftherios K. Venizelos”

Center of Mediterranean Architecture

MAIN HOSPITAL

General Hospital “Agios Georgios”

.CONSULATES

Denmark

Tel: (+30) 2821 057330 Email: marlef@umgate.dk

Finland

Tel: (+30) 6948 803 989 Email: finconsulatehan@gmail.com

Germany

Tel: (+30) 282 10 688 76 Email: chania@hk-diplo.de

Norway

Tel: (+30) 282 10 57330 Email: nor.cons.chania@gmail.com

Sweden

Tel: (+30) 282 10 57330 Email: chania@consulatesofsweden.gr


TO DO & TO GO