If you are traveling to Chania in Crete, you are most likely to spend long hours in the old part of the town and mostly in the Venetian Harbour, the trademark and most picturesque part of Chania.
The first thing everyone hears about Chania is about the Venetian harbour, its narrow streets and the waterfront restaurants and tavernas. Much of what you really want to see is clustered close to the Venetian harbour – and is truly gorgeous. Let’s see how you can spend a day in the Venetian harbor and around.
The Venetian harbour in Chania is gorgeous any time of the day, as the sun light produces a different visual result, giving you the impression of a different place each time you visit it.
You can leave you hire car at the nearby streets and enjoy a leisurely walk by the harbor, where you will indulge in the balanced mixture of Cretan, Turkish and Venetian architecture. The area around the harbour enchants everyone and will definitely reward exploration with the crumbling masonry and the lovely side streets with the craft shops.
Halidon Street and Firkas Fortress
In order to reach the harbour in Chania, you will go down Halidon Street, one of the busiest streets in Chania. You will see Chania’s cathedral church of the Three Martyrs, a Turkish hamam, the Cretan Folk Museum and the Archaeological museum of Chania. At the top of Halidon Street you will see Stivanadika, the leather shop street.
If you are into museums, you can start with a walk towards the Firkas Fortress of the harbour and the Naval Museum of Chania, which features a large collection of naval findings that depict the rich history of Chania and Western Crete. A little further stands the Firkas Fortress, which offers you spending views to the sea and the inner harbor and the chance to take magnificent pictures of the old port. If you are visiting during the summer months you might get lucky and enjoy one of the many artistic events that take place in the Fortress.
The Mosque and the Venetian Arsenals in Chania Harbour
If you go east from the Sintrivani Square you will see the great Mosque of Kioutsouk Hasan Pasha built towards the end of the 17th century and close by the coach rank.
A little further on the Eastern part you will see the Venetian Arsenals of Chania, with the arched dockyards; the bigger one, the great Arsenal as it is called, is transformed into one of the most beautiful ornaments of Chania and houses the Architectural Centre of the Mediterranean Sea, where conferences and exhibitions take place.
Along the shore, close to the arsenals, you will see a vast array of taverns and restaurants, catering Cretan and Greek cuisine, and offering splendid views to the lighthouse of the harbor. At the end of Tobazi bay you will see a small side street next to Hotel Porto Veneziano, where you will find many cafés; it’s a meeting point for the youngsters and is really cute.
Kastelli Hill – Splantzia
A little further, walking again towards the interior part of the town, you will come across Kastelli hill, the first area inhabited in Chania in the Neolithic Era, and Splantzia, one of the most traditional and picturesque neighborhoods of Chania, which used to be a Turkish neighborhood, called “Ponte de Viari”.
If you continue your walk towards the Miaouli Bay, you will end up in Koum Kapi – which means the Sand Gate in Turkish. Here is the main meeting point close to the harbor, full of cafés and bars where the youths of Chania spend their time both in day and night. The traffic there is high and if you want to find a nice spot, you should come early in the afternoon.
The Interior Part of the Venetian Harbour – The Lighthouse
If you feel up to something more romantic though, you should opt for one of the cafés and ouzo shops located at the interior part of the Chania harbour, which gets even busier as night falls. The harbor is ornamented by the lighthouse, which you can reach following the sea wall around the harbour. The lighthouse looks from afar like a minaret and is one of the most photographed spots of Chania.
The Venetian harbour of Chania looks like a splendid maze, awaiting for you to explore and discover it; you cannot help it but fall inlove with this romantic and subtly gorgeous place and bring it back to your memory long after you leave Crete.