Chania is the capital of the prefecture of Chania. The town is
one of the finest in Greece, largely retaining its old,
traditional Cretan atmosphere and many reminders of its history,
giving it a unique charm. The oldest part of town was built on
the ruins of a Minoan settlement, Kydonia, and is encircled by
walls dating from the Byzantine and Venetian eras with the sea
completing the circle. The Minoans have left behind magnificent
tombs as well as many interesting artefacts. Under the occupying
forces of both the Venetians and the Turks, the city of Chania
was very multi-cultural with people from different religions,
nations and cultures co-existing.
Today, There are complete districts from the Venetian period which are still intact, as well as well-preserved Jewish and Turkish districts. At the harbour entrance is the Firkas fort which was built in 1629 to protect the entrance to the port and its name derives from the Turkish firka meaning barracks. It was here that the modern Greek flag was raised in 1913 after the Unification of Crete with Greece. It is now the home of the Nautical Museum and a summer theatre. Directly opposite this is a Venetian lighthouse dating from the 16th century. The harbour itself dates from Venetian times and is a pleasant place to stroll or ride around the town in a horse drawn carriage. The Chania Archaeological Museum is housed in the large Venetian church of St. Francis and exhibits include finds from all over Crete. A feature of the harbour area is the Janissaries Mosque built in 1645 during the Ottoman empire.
Following the city walls from inside the city itself enables you to come across delightful alleyways and fine Venetian houses with stone coats of arms and wooden balconies. At the bottom of Moschon, not far from the Naval Museum, is the elegant arched Renieri gate, which is a covered passage leading to the beautiful Renieri Chapel, the remains of a private chapel which belonged to a Venetian nobleman.
Close by is the Chania cathedral, Trimartyri, dedicated to the Virgin of the Three Martyrs, Chania s patron saint. The date of its construction is not known although records show that it was in the town during the Venetian period. It had an interesting experience during the Ottoman period when it was turned into a soap factory, only being converted back to a church when the Pasha s son fell into a well, and after successfully praying to the Virgin to save his son he offered the church back to the Christians of Chania.
The grand covered market of Chania opened in 1913 as part of the Unification celebrations. It was modelled on the market of Marseilles and is a magnificent building, housing around 76 shops and cafes. With the increase in tourism some of the retail outlets have given themselves over to selling tourist souvenirs rather than fresh produce, but there is still enough hustle and bustle of a market place to ignite your interest. Open Monday to Saturday, many things are cheaper in the market than in the local shops, and the food in the restaurants is tasty and good value.
During the Ottoman Empire, several Turkish baths, or hammams, were constructed in the town. Two of these beautiful domed buildings remain and can be seen in the Old Town.
Close to the south of the town is the monastery of Khrysopigi, or Zoodokhos Pigi. Founded in 1600 it is surrounded by a fortification wall. Over many centuries it has suffered periods of booms and decline. It experienced attacks both by the Turks during the Ottoman Empire and, then again, by the Germans during the Second World War. Today, it operates as a nunnery.