Exploring Historic Chania Old Town – Crete

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Exit45 Travels - Old Town Chania - Crete - Old Venetian Port

This detailed travel guide will outline the best way to explore the historic Chania Old Town – Crete, including how to get there and around, must see sights, and the history of this beautiful old town.

The mix of Venetian, Turkish, traditional and modern architecture has resulted in the perfect blend of East and West. A wander through the various districts will take you to some of the must-see sights including the Old Venetian Harbour, Maxeradika (the Street of Knives), Crete’s Maritime Museum located inside Firkas Fortress, as well as the Archaeological Museum of Chania that is housed in a former Venetian monastery.

In addition, the centre of Old Town Chania is full of amazing cafes, restaurants and Greek tavernas specialising in Cretan food. Do not miss the assault to your senses with a visit to the Municipal Market to sample products sourced locally from around the island of Crete.

Chania Old Town is vibrant, authentic, and unique, and a must visit destination in Crete, Greece.

Filled with lots of things to do and see, Chania Old Town in Crete is a great city to explore!


Did You Know?


“I have heard it claimed that Chania is the most beautiful city in Crete, even in Greece. These are quite some claims to make, but that anyone would consider making them should tell us something about the town. It is effortlessly sublime.”

– Richard Clark, ‘Crete, A Notebook

Table of Contents

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EXPLORING HISTORIC CHANIA OLD TOWN - CRETE

Where is Chania Old Town in Crete?

Chania Old Town sits on the North-West coast of Crete and Chania is the main city of the western prefecture of Chania. It is located about 145 kilometres / 90 miles from Crete’s capital city of Heraklion, and takes approximately 2 hours.


Chania Old Town – Crete

Chania Old Town is a must-visit destination if you are spending any time on the island of Crete. A walk along the narrow pedestrian-only streets show a unique blending of historical buildings with traditional and modern architecture. The influence of the numerous invaders such as the Venetians and Ottomans can clearly be seen throughout the town.


A Brief History of Chania Old Town

Neolithic Chania

  • First inhabitants created a settlement on the low hill of Kastelli, now above the Venetian harbour
  • The hill was chosen for its defensive properties

Kydonia, the Minoan Chania

  • The city grew into the largest city in west Crete due to sea trade from the harbour
  • Ancient Cydonia or Kydonia developed a flourishing handicraft industry and accumulated wealth through trade

Roman Occupation (67 BC – 330 AD)

  • The Romans conquered Crete in 67BC
  • The city continued to grow under Roman rule, but nothing of the Roman monuments is left because later invaders used the materials in their own buildings i.e. the Venetians used the stone and marble from the Roman theatre to build the city walls

First Byzantine Occupation (330 – 824 AD)

  • In 330AD Crete was liberated from the Romans and annexed to the Byzantine Empire

Arab Chania

  • In 828AD the whole island of Crete fell into the hands of Saracens from Cordoba in Spain, who flattened the city to the ground
  • The Arabs are responsible for the change of the city name from Kydonia to Chania.

Byzantine Chania (961 – 1204 AD)

  • Chania was liberated in 961AD when the Byzantines recaptured the island from the Arabs and rebuilt the city, fortifying Kastelli Hill with walls on all sides.

Venetian Chania (1204 – 1645)

  • In 1204 the Venetians conquered Crete
  • In 1252 they rebuilt Chania and fortified it with a fortress on Kastelli Hill and protective walls enclosing a much larger area of the city than the Byzantine walls
  • The harbour was improved to provide the Venetian fleet with effective protection, the shipyards (arsenals) were constructed for ship building and repair, and Chania became an important commercial centre
  • The city was adorned with imposing public buildings and private houses, giving it the air of a European city

Chania During the Ottoman Occupation (1645 – 1912)

  • In 1645 the Ottoman Turks conquered Chania after a two-month siege and destroyed much of the city
  • Muslims resided mainly in the eastern districts of Kastelli and Splantzia,
  • The Turks converted the churches into mosques, built new mosques with tall minarets, built public baths and fountains

Union of Crete with Greece (1913)

  • After almost three centuries of occupation, the Turks withdrew and Crete was reunited with Greece

The Districts of Chania Old Town

Old Town Chania is divided into numerous districts, all of which are easily and best explored on foot. The districts of Chania Old Town are:

  • Evraiki District – Jewish Quarter
  • Topanas District – Christian Quarter
  • Old Venetian Harbour
  • Kastelli District
  • Splantzia District – Turkish District

Evraiki District – Jewish Quarter

The Evraiki District or Jewish Quarter is located north-west in Chania Old Town. In the Venetian period, it was called the ‘zudecca’ or Jewish ghetto.

After the Turkish invasion in 1645, the Jewish community created their own neighbourhood behind the harbour, east of the Christian neighbourhood of Topanas. The main street of the Jewish district, Kondylaki, starts from the port and reaches to the southern city walls. Interestingly, Kondylaki Street is wider than the other narrow streets of the area as the Venetians built this street wider to allow carts carrying supplies from the ships easy access.

Today, Chalidon Street is one of the busiest streets in Chania Old Town and it is also the shortest route leading you from the centre of Chania city to the harbour. On this street is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption and opposite you will find a Roman Catholic Church (look for the blue dome) and the entrance of the Folklore Museum of Chania.

Next you will see the restored Monastery of St. Francis (dating back to the 14th Century). This Venetian church showcases a nave and two closed courtyards, and today it is home to the Archaeological Museum of Chania.

The famous Leather Street, otherwise known as Stivanadika Street, is an entire street dedicated to the art of manufacturing and selling leather goods. Here you will find artisans making traditional Cretan leather boots.

The Etz Hayyim Synagogue on Kondylaki Street is the only Jewish synagogue left on the island and the only remaining sign of a once thriving Jewish community. The 2,500 year history of this community came to an end in 1944 during the German occupation of Crete, and there were no survivors.


Sights to See in the Evraiki District of Chania Old Town:

  • Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption / Church of Trimartyri
  • Roman Catholic Church
  • Folklore Museum of Chania
  • Church of St. Francis / Archaeological Museum of Chania
  • Stivanadika – The Street of Handmade Leather Cretan Boots
  • Kondylaki Street
  • Etz Hayyim Synagogue

Topanas District – Christian Quarter

On the west side of Old Town Chania – Crete lies the Topanas district which was the Christian Quarter during the Ottoman period. Topanas is a Turkish word meaning ‘top hane’ – guns or cannons. This was due to the building in the area that served as a storeroom for cannons and gunpowder.

The main street in Topanas is Theotokopoulou Street, and when taking a stroll you will notice both sides of the street have little hotels and Airbnb’s to suit all tastes and budgets. Angelou Street is said to be the most picturesque street of Chania Old Town with typical examples of the Venetian architecture of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Another place to visit in this area is the recently restored Church of San Salvatore which has been converted into a Museum of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art. Very close by is Firkas Fortress which was constructed to protect the entrance of the port. It kept its Turkish name ‘Firka’, meaning barracks in Turkish, although it was originally built by the Venetians in 1620. The red building next door is the Maritime Museum of Crete.

This area provides a great panorama of the Venetian Old Port and is a great spot to take some photos.


Sights to See in the Topanas District of Chania Old Town :

  • Angelou Street – the most photographic street in Old Chania Town
  • Byzantine / Post-Byzantine Art Collection
  • Firkas Fortress
  • Maritime Museum of Crete

Old Venetian Harbour

The Old Venetian Harbor area of Chania Old Town is symbolic of Chania and the hub of the city. Today it is full of cute cafes, amazing bakeries, restaurants serving a variety of offerings including sophisticated Cretan cuisine, and plenty of traditional Greek tavernas to relax in and watch the sunset.

The construction of the harbour by the Venetians began in 1320. The harbour was home to the Venetian fleet, in addition to being one of the most valuable economic centres of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The west side was mainly used to unload imported goods stored in the various warehouses along the harbour side, and the east side of the harbour was designed for boat building and repairs – the Venetian Shipyards and The Grand Arsenal.

In order to protect the city against attacks by pirates, the Venetians built the Firkas Fortress at the entrance of the harbour. Unfortunately, this was not enough to stop Barbarossa, the famous pirate of Turkish origin, from plundering the city in 1537.

A walk along the picture-perfect Old Venetian Harbour will also provide views of the 16th Century Egyptian Lighthouse located just opposite the harbour, and the Giali Tzami Mosque, a well-known landmark in this area, and is the oldest Muslim building in Crete.


Sights to See in the Old Venetian Harbour of Chania Old Town :

  • Venetian Shipyards / Neoria Dockyards / New Marina
  • Egyptian Lighthouse
  • Giali Tzami Mosque / Mosque of Janissaires
  • The Grand Arsenal
Exit45 Travels - Chania Old Town - Crete - Old Venetian Port with Snow Capped Mountains in the Background
Old Venetian Port with Snow Capped Mountains in the Background

Kastelli District

The Kastelli District is the oldest district of Chania Old Town in Crete and was the administrative centre of the city situated on a small hill overlooking the old harbor. It was built within the first Byzantine walls, and then the Venetian walls but sadly, there are few remains of the ancient past after the Second World War.

At the archaeological site of the Minoan City of Kydonia, current excavations have uncovered the ruins of large habitations, thought to be villas, from around 3650 – 3000BC, the late Neolithic era. The most important findings of the excavation can be viewed at the Archaeological Museum of Chania.

Kanevaro Street was the main thoroughfare that went from the east gate to the west gate of Kastelli. Along this street were the beautiful Venetian mansions of the noblemen Premarin, Da Molin, and Zangaroli. Unfortunately, they were all destroyed in the air raids at the beginning of the Battle of Crete in the Second World War. You can see the portals from the Zangaroli mansion in the garden at the Archaeological Museum of Chania.

For the best views of the harbour and lighthouse, head to the top of Kastelli Hill. To get there follow the hidden steps from Afentoulief Street on the right side of the Grand Arsenal. Go up the 47 steps to the top of the hill, take the first turn right, and at the end of street, and pass the semi-closed gate for incredible views.


Sights to See in the Kastelli District of Chania Old Town :

  • Minoan City of Kydonia Ruins
  • Kanevaro Street – main thoroughfare
  • Kastelli Hill – Best views of the harbour and lighthouse

Splantzia – Turkish Quarter

The Splantzia district is located south-east of the Old Town of Chania – Crete, and it became the Turkish Quarter during the Turkish occupation. Chania’s central religious area during Turkish occupation was Splantzia Square, now known as Plateia 1821.  

Off the square you will find the imposing Church of Agios Nikolaos which unusually has both a steeple and minaret. Another beautiful church to visit near Agios Nikolaos is the small Church of Agia Eirini. Also worth a visit is the former Catholic Church of San Rocco dating back to the early 1600’s. Interestingly, it was dedicated to the saint that offered protection against the Plague.

It is easy to get lost in the labyrinth of streets in Splantzia as you discover lots of weird and wonderful things. One street to intentionally seek out is Maxeradika Street, or the Street of Knives.

Today the district of Splantzia is one of the most popular neighbourhoods of Chania offering lots of cafes, tavernas and restaurants serving traditional Cretan food to high-end fusion cuisine. During the day Daliani Street is a quiet street, but as the sun goes down, the street transforms and is a favourite hangout for the locals. 


Sights to See in the Splantzia District of Chania Old Town :

  • Splantzia Square / Plateia 1821
  • Church of Agios Nikolaos with a Minaret
  • The Little Church of Agia Eirini
  • Church of San Rocco
  • Ahmet Aga Minaret
  • Street of Knives – Maxeradika
  • Daliani Street – The place to go in the evening

Things to Do Chania Old Town

Angelou Street – Most Picturesque Street in Old Town Chania

The narrow Angelou Street is an upward alley which is one of the loveliest backstreets in the Topanas District. It features some of the best examples of Venetian architecture characteristic of the 16th and 17th Centuries. This area was the most distinguished part of the old town and home to important, and very wealthy Venetians.

The Ottoman influence, however, can be seen in some of the buildings with the characteristic use of timber and hai-arti (or Harem room). The Turks added a projecting wooden façade to Venetian buildings on the first and / or second floor so women could look out of the windows but men looking up from the streets below could not see them.

In recent years, many of the buildings have been extensively renovated and turned into boutique hotels, retaining the original characteristics of the Venetian architecture.

Top Tip: This is the most photographed street and picturesque street in Old Chania Town so don’t miss it!


Archaeological Museum of Chania

The Archaeological Museum of Chania is the right place to visit if you are interested in exploring Chania’s ancient past and history. Since 1962 it has been located in the former Franciscan Monastery of St. Francis, one of Crete’s largest Venetian churches.

The exhibits in the museum give a historical overview of the cultural history of Chania from the Neolithic Age to the Roman period including prehistoric and Minoan findings from the city, the caves and various parts of the county. Other findings include a collection of coins from all Minoan cities, jewellery, sculptures, inscriptions, columns, portals, Romanesque mosaic floors etc.

Top Tip: Allow about 1 hour for your visit.

Exit45 Travels - Chania Old Town  - Crete - Archaeolgical Museum of Chania
Archaeological Museum of Chania

Byzantine / Post- Byzantine Art Collection

The restored Church of San Salvatore has been converted into a museum displaying a small Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art Collection, and can be found at 82 Theotokopoulou Street in Topanas. The icons, mosaics and frescoes of religious subjects are completely at home here, and are intermingled with finds such as coins, ceramics and funerary inscriptions that give a clue to Crete’s historical past. Items from the collections of private citizens are included alongside the finds from official archaeological excavations.

Top Tip: Allow about 30 minutes for your visit.


Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, also known as the Church of the Trimartyri, was completed in 1960 and can be found in the Plateia Mitropoleos square on Chalidon Street. It was built with three aisles with a raised middle aisle, and the three aisles gave the name “Trimartyri” to the church. Today the Cathedral is adorned with large and impressive icons by important painters.

Originally, the Cathedral was built in the exact position of an older temple, dating back to the 14th Century. During the Ottoman Rule, this temple was turned into a soap factory. However, in a warehouse inside the temple, there was the image of the Virgin Mary which had a candle always lit in front of it. At this time, the Turkish Pasha of Chania reluctantly tolerated this.

In the mid-19th Century a man named Tserkaris was working at the soap factory when, according to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to him in a vision and told him to leave because this place was her home and not a place for a soap factory. Tserkaris left and took the picture of the Virgin Mary with him.

The legend says that shortly after, the Turkish Pasha’s child fell into the well to the south of the church. Full of despair, the Turkish Pasha pleaded with the Virgin Mary to save his child and promised that in return, he would give the church back to the Christians. They got the child out of the well safely and the Turkish Pasha was good to his word, and started the construction of the new cathedral.

Top Tip: Every year the Cathedral celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on November 21st.


Church of Agia Eirini

Not far from the Church of Agios Nikolaos in the centre of the Turkish district of Splantzia you will find the beautiful Church of Agia Eirini, dating back to the 13th Century. The temple was originally constructed during the Turkish Rule and served as a significant meeting point for Christians during those challenging times. Sources indicate that it was built using the ruins of more than 70 older Byzantine churches, as well as parts of the ancient ruins of the Acropolis Hill.

For many years it was used as a private house. The house was then demolished and the church was recently restored by the Greek Archaeological Service with funds from the European Union.

Top Tip: Opposite you will find The Well of the Turk which is a popular restaurant to grab some lunch or relax with a drink to the sounds of Middle Eastern music.


Church of Agios Nikolaos

The Church of Agios Nikolaos is located in Splantzia Square. It was part of a monastery of the Dominican Order of Chania and was built in 1320 during the Venetian period by the brotherhood of Kantia. The original monastery consisted of the temple which had a high bell tower and a two-floor arcade on the north side.

During the Turkish period in 1645, the church was converted into a mosque and given the name Hiougkar Tzamisi (the Emperor’s Mosque), in honour of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Imbraim. This became the main mosque in the city for all Turks. A minaret, which you can still see today, was added with two balconies instead of one to indicate its importance.

In 1918 the Orthodox Christians of Chania took over the church and dedicated it to the memory of Agios Nikolaos.

In Splantzia Square, beneath the giant plane tree there is a commemoration stone because this was where Christians were hanged during the Turkish occupation.

Top Tip: During Saturday Easter locals gather in Splantzia Square in front of the church in anticipation of the resurrection, and at midnight they receive the Holy Fire. Tradition says that you should then carry your lit candle to your house for protection.


Church of San Rocco

At the opposite end of Splantzia Square, the former Catholic Church of San Rocco dates back to 1630. It’s dedicated to Saint Rokkos that offered protection to Chania against the plague (probably after an outbreak at the time – this has not been determined).

During the Ottoman rule, it was converted into a military guardhouse, and during the Cretan State and until 1925, it served as a police station. Today, this single-aisle vaulted church is used as an exhibition hall for art exhibitions.

Top Tip: You can still see the inscription in Latin along the entire length of the front of the church:

“Dedicated to the most good and greatest God and Holy Rocco, 1630”.


Daliani Street – Nightlife District

Daliani Street, or Chatzimichali Ntaliani in Splantzia District, is home to traditional jewellers, boutique fashion shops, bars, cafes, and restaurants, and when the sun sets, this is where you will find the best nightlife in Chania. The area is very popular with locals of all ages since as the area offers a variety of restaurants and bars that suit all tastes and budgets.

Some of our favourites to visit were:

  • Kibar: The Monastery of Karolos – a stylish bar with a beautiful interior patio
  • Rakaki – Cretan cuisine and tasty Cretan Kaiser beer
  • Throumbi sti Ladokolla – amazing reasonably priced Greek food (arrive hungry as the portions are huge!)

Top Tip: Find a table outside so you can enjoy people watching.


Egyptian Lighthouse

Built on a stone base and reaching 21 metres in height, the Egyptian Lighthouse is a well-known landmark in the Old Venetian Harbour. Although Egyptian in name, it is actually a creation of the Venetians built around 1595 – 1601 to protect Chania’s harbor. It is considered to be the oldest existing lighthouse in Greece, and one of the oldest restored lighthouses found in the world today.

In the early 19th Century, the lighthouse collapsed in a storm following years of neglect by the Turks. The Egyptians rebuilt the lighthouse between 1824 – 1832 in the shape of a minaret.

Today, the Egyptian Lighthouse has a very distinctive architectural style: the original octagonal shaped base (contains a recess where the emblem of Venice, the Lion of St. Mark, was originally in place), the middle section with 16 sides, and the circular top resembling a minaret!

Top Tip: The lighthouse is no longer functional and entrance to the tower is prohibited, however it is still an impressive, especially at night time when the whole lighthouse is lit up.

Exit45 Travels - Chania Old Town - Egyptian Lighthouse
Egyptian Lighthouse

Etz Hayyim Synagogue

The Etz Hayyim Synagogue of Chania closed its doors in May 1944 when the whole Jewish community of Chania was arrested by the Nazis. After earthquakes in 1992 and 1995, Etz Hayyim was listed as an “endangered site” by the World Monuments Fund.

It lay in ruins until 1995 when Nikos Stavroulakis, born to a Greek Orthodox father and a Jewish mother from Istanbul, decided to dedicate himself to the restoration of the abandoned synagogue. He believed that by allowing the synagogue to remain in ruins was a victory to the Nazis.

Today the synagogue stands proudly renovated although the Jewish community of Crete is virtually non-existent. The synagogue is home to the occasional prayer service.

Top Tip: From May until October, guided tours are provided to visitors with information about the history of the Cretan Jewish community, the history of Etz Hayyim Synagogue, and the historic Jewish quarter of Chania.


Firkas Fortress

Firkas Fortress can be found on the port’s north-western side in the Topanas District near the Venetian waterfront. Part of it is now home to the Maritime Museum of CreteThe fortress was constructed to protect the entrance of the port and maintains its Turkish name ‘Firka’ which means barracks in Ottoman Turkish although it was originally built in 1620.

In times of siege, the harbour was closed by a chain connecting the Firkas to the base of the lighthouse. Within the stone wall outside the fortress, there are six arched cannon openings along the northern face.

The Firkas Fortress has a typical Roman fort layout with two levels of rooms and a central courtyard. The building inside housed the barracks of the Venetian soldiers, with storehouses for military equipment and large underground water cisterns situated in the central open courtyard. Above the gate entrance, you can still see the symbolic stone of the Venetian Lion of St. Mark.

Here, Prime Minister Venizelos raised for the first time the Greek flag on Crete, on December 1st, 1913. The ceremony marked the end of successive invasions and occupations of Crete, and the Union of Crete with Greece.

Top Tip: This is one of the best spots for panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, Old Venetian Port and Egyptian Lighthouse.


Folklore Museum of Chania

This small private museum is tucked away in a courtyard next to The Cathedral on Chalidon Street. Traditional 19th Century Cretan life is recreated inside the Cretan Folklore Museum with the themes of the museum portraying the life and daily activities of the people in the countryside until the first half of the 20th Century.

The museum houses a collection of agricultural tools as well as depictions of traditional home occupations such as preparations for making the daily meal, or handicrafts such as weaving on the loom. You’ll also see an example of inside a small rural house.

In addition, there are also models of the workplaces of traditional professions such as a cobbler, a tailor, and a rope and basket maker. Other exhibits include various ornaments, objects of daily use, musical instruments and furniture such as the bridal bed and the sitting room settee.

Of particular interest are the textiles and embroidery in the museum which are creations of its founders and their students. These are replicas of rare embroidery that have been collected from all over Crete. Of equal importance are the embroidery tables depicting scenes from the local customs.

Top Tip: The museum can be a little tricky to find but look for the building with stairs going up to the entrance.


Giali Tzamisi Mosque

The Giali Tzamisi Mosque (‘the mosque by the sea’ in Turkish), is the oldest Muslim building in Crete being built in 1645. It is also referred to as The Mosque of the Janissaries and Küçük Hasan Mosque which means ‘small’.

The mosque was built on the site of an old Venetian church for the first governor of Chania, Küçük Hassan Pasha. It was a place of prayer exclusive for the Janissaries, the Turkish soldiers stationed around the island to keep law and order. The Janissaries were the Christian sons that the Ottomans captured in different conquered countries and converted to their faith.

Its central dome is part of the original construction and is made up of four ornate stone arches dating from the 1800’s and are of neoclassical design. The west and north sides are surrounded by a vaulted roof of six small domes. Originally there used to be a minaret at the south-west corner but that was destroyed during heavy bombing by the Germans during the Second World War.

In 1923, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and evacuation of the Turks from the island, the mosque has been used as a warehouse, museum, café, restaurant, and as the headquarters of the Greek Tourism Organization. Today, the building is used for art exhibitions and various cultural events.

Top Tip: Go in and check out the current exhibition as most of the items on display are for sale and at very reasonable prices.

Exit45 Travels - Chania Old Town - Crete - Old Venetian Port
The Iconic Giali Tzamisi Mosque

The Grand Arsenal

At the very end of the dockyards on the western side of the Old Venetian Port lies The Grand Arsenal. This stone building was originally the end of the Venetian arsenals-dockyards. The 17 vaulted buildings were built to construct and repair (including their masts and sails) their ships. During Turkish occupation the barrel-vaulted roof was replaced with a second floor.

Built in the 1600’s but becoming fully functional in 1872, The Grand Arsenal has had many uses over the years including home to a Christian School, a hospital, theatrical performances, and it served as the City Hall of Chania up until 1941. It was partly destroyed by German air force bombardment in 1941 and in 1997, the Centre of Architecture of the Mediterranean in Chania decided to restore and reconstruct the Grand Arsenal.

Today, The Grand Arsenal hosts the Centre of Mediterranean Architecture, organizing important cultural events, art exhibitions and international events related to architecture. 


Maritime Museum of Crete

You will find the Maritime Museum of Crete in the ochre-painted mansion beneath the Firkas Fortress. The main complex dates back to 1620 and it is the second oldest Maritime Museum in Greece.

The museum provides an immersive introduction to the long nautical past of the region. It has an interesting collection related to the Battle of Crete (1941) and a permanent exhibition of traditional shipbuilding. 

Its exhibits include just about anything related to life at sea from the Bronze Age until the present. The collection includes ship models, nautical objects and findings, authentic photographs, among other things.

Top Tip: Allow 2 hours for your visit.


Maxeradika – Street of Knives

Maxeradika, also known as the Street of Knives, is on Sifaka Street in the Splantzia District. In the past, it was the knife maker’s neighbourhood, a picturesque place where many shops and workshops of traditional Cretan knives were located during the Turkish time.

The traditional Cretan knife is an integral part of the traditional Cretan male costume. Cretan men would carry two knives on their waist: they used one for their food and the other was to defend himself. The knives have handles made from horn or wood, and the blades were engraved with Cretan poems or songs.

Today, few workshops produce and sell traditional Cretan knifes. However, the street is still interesting to visit and has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Top Tip: If you are looking to buy a traditional Cretan knife as a souvenir, you are sure to find something in the shop, Skalidakis Cretan Knives. For three generations this family has been making knives and the shop is definitely worth a visit even if you are planning on buying.


Minoan City of Kydonia

The ruins of the Minoan City if Kydonia can be found in the Kastelli District and supports the theory the history of Chania started in the Neolithic era on this hill. Kastelli hill was the optimal place to settle as it offered safety with advantages such as views of potential enemies and difficult access for invaders.

History shows Kydonia was founded by King Kydon, son of King Minos and Akakallis. The city of Kydonia is mentioned in Homer as one of the most important Cretan cities. During the Minoan period, Kydonia became the most important city in western Crete and very rich. Its port was small, yet very important as the people were sea traders.

Excavation of the archaeological site of Kastelli began in 1966 and continues today. The excavated settlement that can be seen today depicts large houses with well-built rooms, elegant floors with circular cavities, fireplaces, coated walls with deep red mortar, door frames and ceramics of excellent quality. Interestingly, it is believed a Minoan palace lies under the centre of the modern city of Chania and is yet to be excavated.

Top Tip: Some of the most important findings of the excavation can be viewed in the Chania Archaeological Museum.


Municipal Market of Chania

The Municipal Market of Chania, also known as the ‘Agora’ in Greek, is where both locals and visitors can sample and buy the essential ingredients used to prepare delicious Cretan dishes.

It was built in the centre of Chania city between 1909 and 1913, the year Crete was united with the rest of Greece. The building is in the shape of a cross and each section is dedicated to particular products i.e. west side is fish, east side is butcher shops, north and south sides can find fresh fruit and vegetables. Also, the 75 stalls sell everything from herbs and spices to Cretan products such as cheeses, olives, raki and more, sourced from across the island of Crete.

There are also several cosy cafés such as Mon. Es and Oinoa serving amazing Greek meals as well as shops selling souvenirs. The market is located just a 5-10 minute walk from Chania Old Town, so it’s ideal for self-catering holidays.

Top Tip: The Municipal Market is very popular with locals in the morning, so it’s best to visit later in the day for less crowds.

Exit45 Travels - Chania Old Town - Crete - Municipal Market
Municipal Market

Neoria Dockyards / New Marina

Beside The Great Arsenal you will see a preserved complex of seven dry docks (“Neoria” – arsenals in Greek). These surviving dockyards, originally seventeen, of the old port provide an insight to the port during the period of Venetian rule.

The dockyards were built between 1467 and 1599 in order to repair the ships during the winter months. These long rectangular vaulted structures were 50 meters long and 9 meters wide, opening on the side facing the sea so the ships could be pulled out of the water directly into the dockyards.

Under Turkish rule, the port was not maintained and resulted in the alteration of the original function of Neoria to space for military storage. From the initial seventeen Neoria complex, nine were demolished. Today, only a group of seven continuous domes has been preserved along with another one further to the west, The Great Arsenal.

Today, this area is host to a vibrant New Marina and night time hotspot of the city with lots of cafés, bars and tavernas.

Top Tip: The restaurant Pallas is famous for its modern atmosphere and cuisine. The building dates back to 1830 and was the home to Ali Pasha, a ruler during the Ottoman occupation.


Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church, opposite the Cathedral on Chalidon Street, was built on the site of the old monastery of Capuchin Monks who arrived in Chania in 1566. They also set up a hospital in the building, adjacent to the temple, which they named “College”.

Built in 1842 by the first Catholic Bishop of Crete, the Roman Catholic Church served the entire Catholic population of the region and it has been functioning ever since.


Splantzia Square

Splantiza Square, also known as Plateia 1821 as there was a large local revolt against the Turks in 1821, was the heart of the Turkish district in Chania. It was in this square the Bishop Melhisedek Despotakis was dragged out of the church by a Turkish mob, together with other clerics, and hanged on the large tree in the middle of the square.

In the centre of the square you can also see an underground fountain that during the Turkish period, was used for ceremonial washing. During the Second World War this underground chamber was used as a bomb shelter.

Top Tip: This is the perfect spot to have a coffee or enjoy a raki with a meze under the shady trees.


Stivanadika – Leather Street

Stivanadika, or Leather Street, can be found on Skridlof Street. It used to be the place for manufacturing and selling leather goods, in particular, the traditional leather Cretan boots “Stivania”. These boots were high and extremely durable, and are an integral part of the Cretan male costume.

Today, besides Cretan boots, you will find leather goods such as bags, sandals, and purses at relatively affordable prices, and other souvenirs.

Top Tip: Some of the old workshops offer made-to-measure items such as beautiful handmade boots.

Exit45 Travels - Chania Old Town - Crete -
New Marina in the Old Venetian Harbour

FAQ’S About Chania Old Town in Crete

Is Chania Old Town Safe?

Chania Old Town, as well as the entire island of Crete, is a very safe place to visit and explore. When wandering around the neighbourhoods, everyone was extremely friendly and we felt very comfortable walking around the town at any time of the day. Will do advise though to remain alert of your surroundings and be cautious as you would in any new city when travelling.

We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance when travelling overseas. Insurance will cover important things like emergency medical hospitalisation / evacuation, baggage delays and trip cancellation. We recommend World Nomads for quality travel insurance you can trust, at affordable rates.


When Is The Best Time To Visit Chania Old Town?

Old Town Chania in Crete has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters. This makes it a great year-round destination.

  • High Season (July to early September) – Hottest and sunniest months of the year so there are lots of tourists and prices are at their peak.
  • Shoulder Season – (May to September, and early October) – Sunny and warm weather, but not too hot, making it perfect sightseeing weather. Some businesses will start to close up in May and October in preparation for the low season.
  • Low Season (late October to April) – The winter season brings cool weather and rain, and limited options for ferries and flights.
  • Most Affordable (April, May and October) – This is the best time to save on the cost of accommodation.

How Long Should You Stay in Chania Old Town ?

Exit45 Travels - Chania Old Town - Crete

How to Get to Chania Old Town

Chania has an international airport with scheduled flights year-round and abundant charter flights serving much of Europe during the season of April to October. Ferries also sail to Chania daily from Athens to the Port of Souda

Bus

From the International Airport of Heraklion

The bus will drop you off at Chania Bus Station directly in the centre of Chania city.

Cost: From €15 per person one way

Travel Time:  Approx. 2 hours 45 minutes

From the Port of Souda

Souda is located 6.5 km east of the city centre you will find the station for the bus to Chania at the exit of the port. You can buy the ticket from the automatic machines or directly on the bus.

Cost: From €1.50 per person one way

Travel Time:  Approx. 30 minutes


Taxi

From the International Airport of Heraklion

The bus will drop you off at Chania Bus Station directly in the centre of Chania city.

Cost: From €150 one way

Travel Time:  Approx. 2 hours

From the Port of Souda

Cost: From €7 one way

Travel Time:  Approx. 10 minutes


Car Rental

Car rentals are very popular in Crete and they provide freedom and the ease to travel to other attractions in the surrounding areas of Old Chania Town. They can be booked online for collection at the airport or the Port of Souda.


How to Get Around Old Chania Town in Crete

Old Chania Town – Crete is very small and easy to get around and you can easily see the local sights within town by walking. This is one of our favourite ways to really explore a new city and take our time admiring its architecture and finding hidden streets full of character and funky little cafes and restaurants.

Alternatively, there are an endless number of tours of the city catering to everyone’s interests and abilities.


In Summary – Chania Old Town

If you are a planning a trip to the island of Crete in Greece, allow enough time to explore the historical area of Chania Old Town. Wander around the unique old town city and witness the various influences of the Cretans, Venetians, Ottomans and Egyptians.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our post on our favourite things to do in Old Chania Town – Crete! It’s truly a unique place to visit and it’s one that will stay in your memory.

Have you visited Chania Old Town in Crete? Are you planning a trip and looking for things to do in Chania Old Town? Post your tips and questions below.


Exit 45 Rating

The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories.  As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating.  N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkelling and water related activities.

Value for Money4
Cuisine4.5
Friendliness of Locals4.5
Ease of Language Barrier3.5
Climate3.5
Activities and Tours5
Ease of Travel5
Culture Barrier4
Safety5
TOTAL EXIT45 RATING39 / 45

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EXPLORING HISTORIC CHANIA OLD TOWN - CRETE

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By Peta Wenzel

We are Peta (Australian) and Jonas (Swedish/Australian), a couple in our mid 40’s / early 50’s who have been travelling the world fulltime since January 2018. We met and lived on the Gold Coast, Australia and spent many evenings researching and watching YouTube vlogs about travel and dreaming of the day we would retire and be able to enjoy a lot more travel ourselves. Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends and an opportunity arose which made us decide to not wait but to instead take a “Gap Year”. We are now in our 3rd year of travel and still hunger for new adventures and embrace the uncertainty that comes with full-time travel. If you want to know more about who we are, why we choose this lifestyle and how we do it, please follow our adventures and see how you can do it too.

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