Chania, the ancient capital city of Crete is perhaps one of the most visually stunning ports on the island. The city has a rich history due to many cultural influences and rulers of the Byzantine, Ottoman, Venetian, Crusaders and the early Minoan civilization along with the current Greek government. This has created any diverse architectural landmarks, monuments and buildings around the city and port worth visiting with many attractions and things to do in Chania and exploring Chania, Crete. Many of these have been converted from their original build into newer uses based on the incoming conqueror to the island state and then later to fit tourism and local needs. You’ll see that there are many things to do in Crete starting with exploring the historic seaport of Chania.
What to do and see in Chania
The city views are stunning looking down to the old town and harbor area (below). From a higher vantage point, you can start to see some of the main points of interest and monuments that create the city’s skyline. Part of the fun of exploring the different streets is just getting lost around Chania and discovering any interesting landmarks or gorgeous vista like the harbor view below.
Crete Harbor area
Exploring Chania’s historic harbor area is a wonderful place to d view and walk from one end of the waterfront all the way down to the docks where large private yachts and boats are moored. The picturesque waterfront area is lined with outdoor cafes and bars, all selling fresh seafood and local Greek specialties, it’s fun to explore the Greek menus to find something that sounds unusual and stands out from all the tourist menus offered. The entire harbor is colorful with all the different shaped buildings right on the edge of the vivid blues in the harbor. Created initially by the Venetians in the 14th century, the port was built for commercial purposes and fortified to protect the city from any raiding pirates during that timeframe.
Towards the opening of the harbor is the lighthouse designed in Moorish style with flourishes (below). It is noted for being one of the oldest lighthouses in Greece and was originally built by the Venetians between 1595-1601. Later changes where made by the Egyptians between 1831-1841, when they added a Moorish influence with a Minaret style tower to the base.
On the other side of the harbor fronting the lighthouse is Firkas fort, also built by the Venetians to protect the city from pirate invasions. The fort used to house the Venetian naval guards and is now used as the Maritime museum, offering a collection of artifacts and objects. The museum shares the rich history of Chania’s port from the early Venetian rule and influence through other occupations.
The small attractive port of Chania
Carriage rides for hire at Chania’s harbor
Colorful yachts docked in Chania’s port
Chania’s many different churches
It’s fascinating seeing the many religions that are practiced on the island from Islam, to Catholic, Greek Orthodox and to contemporary religions which all live cohesively in these tight spaces. The main Greek Orthodox basilica (above) also known as the Church of the Trimartyri sits prominently in Plateia Mitropoleos. The factory sits on the site of an Venetian church which was later converted to a soap factory by the Turks.
There is a legend involving the Virgin Mary and an icon of her stored in the soap factory. The Virgin Mary showed up as an image to the workers saying that she did not want her ‘holy’ house to be a soap factory, disturbing the workers and one of them who took the icon away for safety. As the legend continues, the owner’s child soon afterwards fell into a nearby well and the owner prayed to the Virgin for help to rescue his child. He promised to give the factory and proceeds to build the church again for the Virgin Mary, miraculously the child was saved. The owner lived to his promised and the church now standing is the Greek church we see. The icon of the Virgin Mary was later returned and is located inside the church for viewing.
The main altar at Church of the Trimartyri
Walking along Chania’s small promenades and passage ways is an eye opener, in a good way. You will find a variety of Cretan, Venetian and Ottoman influences all mixing in the narrow alleyways that makes these discoveries so fascinating. Many of these have been repurposed into cafes, shops and galleries to attract the tourist crowds but many local shops and sundry stores still exist for locals to shop daily. It’s a nice combination of tourist attractions with real daily life and shopping to make exploring the area authentic and stimulating to visit the many streets around Chania.
Just a few of the major Islamic buildings remain and all have been repurposed into cultural attractions, galleries or in the case of the main Islamic temple below, converted into a catholic church. Chania’s history is rich with many invaders adding on to the architecture, culture and the delicious food from so many regions that ruled this island. The city is filled with an amazing history that is complex and filled with so many influences that make it what it is today.
Chania’s public market at the Agora
Just outside the historic old town is the public market inside a large cross shaped building called the Agora, and it is huge. Offering a huge array of local delicacies, fresh seafood, perishable fruits and vegetables and other specialty foods, the market is the place to visit to see the foods grown produced and made on the island of Crete.
The market also houses some small Greek restaurants offering some delicious specialties of the day worth trying out. The market is a wonderful place to see daily life, try something interesting or even eat at one of the cafes on site. The best part for me is taking some beautiful pictures of the market and showing the abundance of food produced or grown locally. If you’re hungry, check out all the best Chania restaurants for all these authentic and local foods from the island.
There are lots of fresh local seafood for sale every day
Chania street scenes
A view of Chania from the Minoan hill
Looking inland from the Chania Minoan hill
Where to stay in Chania, Crete
There are many coastal communities to stay around the island, but you’ll find the majority of inns and hotels around the two larger cities of Chania and Heraklion.
You can also check into Air Bnb accommodations all around the island with both cities central to visiting all the different areas around the island. For reviews and current prices in Chania, Check out these Trip Advisor reviews here for an updated calendar and availability.
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