Crete can be divided in multiple regions. The far western region is called Chania with its respective capital Chania. Chania is also one of the oldest cities on Crete. The charming old town has many historical influences from different civilizations that characterize its architecture. You will see remnants and influences dating back to the Minoic civilzation of 2800 B.C, but also the Arabic occupation, the Byzantine era, the Venetian occupation and the Turkish occupation, have left their footprints on this city. A visit to Chania is therefore like stepping into a history book with legendary monuments and landmarks abound.
Roughly you can divide the old city in 4 parts: Splantzia, Kasteli and the old Venetian harbour, Topanas and Evraiki. My favourites were Splantzia and Topanas.
Splantzia (Turkish footprints)
Splantzia is dominated by the Turkish influences from the Ottoman Turkish conquests. The Turkish used to settle in this southeastern part of town, while the Christians mainly concentrated in the western side of the city; Topanas. It is a very colorful quarter with the 1821 square as a central meeting point. Here you’ll see old Greek man gather to have coffee and play cards. Wandering through the maze of alleys and narrow streets is a photographer’s dream. Each corner and building is photogenic. It is a fairly quiet part of Chania with not too many tourists, yet cute little shops and lunch rooms. The architecture is sometimes dilapidated but at the same time interesting and beautiful because of its heritage and historical value.
Topanas (Christian, Venetian footprints)
Topanas is the most beautiful quarter with its twirling alleys and streets that are boasting with bougaineville, flower pots, beautiful Venetian balconies and stately houses with. It is also a fantastic shopping district with cute boutiques selling handicrafts, artisan products, art, and jewelry. Small family restaurants with shady outside terraces lure you in to taste the Cretian cuisine. The fortress of Firkas that was built by the Venetians at the north end of Topanas, right next to the entrance of the harbor of Chania, and the remnants of the old Venetian walls evoke a feeling of stepping into ancient times and remind us of the historical value of this beautiful part of town.
Kasteli and the Old Venetian Harbour
Chania is most recognized by its old harbour with the lighthouse as its landmark. The quay is boasting with taverns and terraces. The towns history unravels in front of you as you walk along the waterfront. All the buildings along the waterfront used to be warehouses. The Giali Tzamissi which in Turkish means, “The Seaside Mosque”, is the oldest Muslim building in Crete. A part of its southern side is destroyed by the bombardments of the Nazis during the second world war. You will pass the arsenal and dockyards, and end at the breakwater that leads you to the lighthouse. From the breakwater you have a nice view on Chania.
Evraiki (Jewish footprints)
Evraiki is the Jewish quarter of Chania. Here you’ll find some of the best restaurants, shops, and the ‘Leather street” where you can buy artisan leather sandals, but also fabrics, typical Greek embroidery, olive oil products and souvenirs.
Chania old town can be visited in one day, like I did, but if you have the time, I would definitely recommend to spend 3 days here so you can really enjoy all it has to offer. There is plenty more to see, there are many museums and monuments, and it transports you back into ancient times.
This post was created in collaboration with TUI and Visit Greece