Chania Introduction Walking Tour, Chania

Chania Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Chania

The Dorians arrived in Crete circa 1100 BC. Before then, there was a Minoan settlement called Kydonia. Its remains was excavated in today's city of Chania.

In 69 BC Roman Consul Caecilius Metellus conquered the city. In 395, the Byzantines took over, replaced by Arabs in 824. The Byzantines returned in 961. Enter the Venetians in 1252. The ever ubiquitous Ottomans took the reins in 1645.

The city is a masala of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, Arab, and Minoan cultures. A walk through the Old Town amidst Venetian and Turkish architecture is a voyage through time. Most of Old Chania is gathered around the well-sheltered harbor.

Splantzia Square has cafes and restaurants ideal for a break. A stroll along the seawall leads to the harbor mole and the "Egyptian" lighthouse. The Grand Arsenal and the Giali Tzami Mosque line the shore. The Firkas Castle houses the Maritime Museum of Crete with a wide range of Nautical and military artifacts.

The Archeological Museum of Chania is in the old Franciscan monastery. It has mosaic floors with scenes from the Dionysian Mysteries and the myths of Poseidon, God of the Sea.

Skrydlof Street, also known as "Leather Street," is lined with shops featuring traditional leather goods of Chania. Daliani Street is a great street to end a day's walking. There are fine bars and restaurants that come alive at night, all in sight of the Cathedral of Chania and the Ahmed Aga Mosque.

The Municipal Market of Chania is close by. It has 75 stalls offering fresh foods and spices in a 4,000-square-foot covered area. Don't overlook the raki, anise-flavored liquor, olives, and cheeses.

At sunset, nothing beats a walk along the mole to the lighthouse. Climb up the stairs, and drink in the views of the sea, the harbor, and the mountains. This is Crete. There is no other place like Chania.
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Chania Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Chania Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Greece » Chania (See other walking tours in Chania)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Old Venetian Harbor
  • Kucuk Hasan Pasha Mosque
  • Nautical Museum of Crete
  • Assumption Cathedral
  • Skridlof Street (Leather Street)
  • Greek National Football Museum
  • Chatzimichali Ntaliani Street
  • Church of Saint Nicholas
  • Church of Saint Rocco
  • Grand Arsenal
  • Chania Lighthouse
Old Venetian Harbor

1) Old Venetian Harbor (must see)

A harbor of sorts has always existed in the area of Chania. A Minoan settlement was there long before the Dorians arrived in 1100 BC. The harbor, as we see it today, was built by Venetian occupiers over a period of 300 years. Construction started in 1320.

The harbor has two basins, west and east. The west side is where ship-borne goods were unloaded into warehouses. The east side was docklands, lined with "Arsenals," long dockside sheds used for shipbuilding and repairs. The commodious harbor was protected by a long mole with a lighthouse at the harbor entrance.

The Arsenals were built between 1467 and 1599. Seventeen structures were on a terrace on the eastern shore. Three additional ones, the "Docks of Moro," built in 1607, were at the eastern end of the harbor. The Arsenals were 164 feet long and 30 feet wide and open at the sea end. Ships were hauled out of the water to be worked on.

The Grand Arsenal was built last, with thicker walls. Today it is a venue for exhibitions and events. It is home to the Center of Mediterranean Architecture. The west basin shore is lined with cafes, shops, restaurants, and small hotels. In summer, excursion boats anchor offshore.

The Chania Marina holds small boats and pleasure crafts. Fishing boats anchor there. At the water's edge between the arsenals are tavernas familiar to fisherfolk, locals, and foreigners. Yali Tzamii, a restored mosque of the Ottoman period, is about a thousand feet further.

The Nautical Museum is located in the red-tinted Firkas Fortress. One of the Moro Docks houses a fine replica of a Minoan ship. Past the Saint Nicholas bastion, stroll along the mole to the iconic Egyptian Lighthouse. Do it at sunset and watch the Cretan sun go down.
Kucuk Hasan Pasha Mosque

2) Kucuk Hasan Pasha Mosque

The Kucuk Hasan Pasha Mosque is also known as Yali Camii or Shore Mosque. It was erected in 1649, four years after the Ottoman conquest of Chania. Built on the site of a pre-existing Christian temple, it was named in honor of the first Ottoman governor of Chania, Kucuk Hasan Pasha. "Pasha" means "ruler." "Kucuk Hasan" means "Little Hasan."

Chania fell to the Ottomans after a siege of two months. The takeover of the city was savage and bloody. In the religious and "ethnic cleansing" procedures that followed, most churches in town became mosques. The only exception was the newly built Kucuk Hasan Pasha Mosque. It was an active house of worship for 300 years until 1923.

The religious edifice ceased functioning as a mosque after the Greco-Turkish War. The war was followed by a general population exchange between Turkey and Greece. The mosque's minarets were demolished in 1939. In the years since its shutdown, the mosque has served as a warehouse, folk museum, tourist information center, and events venue.

The mosque is very similar to the mosque of Spaniakos near Paleochora, Crete. Both buildings were designed by the same Armenian architect. On the roof is a large dome supported by four graceful stone arches anchored in the four corners of the central building. On the sea-facing sides are seven small domes reaching the height of the main building.
Nautical Museum of Crete

3) Nautical Museum of Crete (must see)

Also called the Maritime Museum of Crete, the Nautical Museum was founded in 1973 by Vice Admiral Giannopolous H.N. The foundation date was also the anniversary of the Battle of Crete in 1941. The main collection of the museum is housed in the Firkas Fortress on the west side of Chania Harbor, close to San Salvatore Bastion.

"Firkas" means "barracks" in Turkish. The fortress was built in 1620 to protect the harbor entrance. A ship-stopping chain could be rigged between the Firkas and the Lighthouse at the end of the mole. Cannons could be zeroed in through arched gaps low in the walls to hit ships at water level.

The exhibits on the first floor of the Firkas include model replicas of ancient ships, and a scale model of Venetian Chania showing ship repair sheds with an oared galley inside. The second floor has models of modern Greek navy ships, including destroyers, missile frigates, and naval ships LSTs. One exhibit is a full bridge setup of a destroyer.

The Moro Shipyard part of the museum is at the east end of the harbor. Here is a special exhibition of ancient naval architecture. There is a 56-foot replica of a Minoan ship built between 2001 and 2004 and sailed from Piraeus to Crete. The museum is operated by the Municipality of Chania and the Naval Base of Crete.
Assumption Cathedral

4) Assumption Cathedral

In 1566, as commanded by Pope Pius V, formerly Antonio Ghislieri, a small group of Capuchin monks settled in Chania, which was then under Venetian rule. They originally resided in a small house by the waterfront. In 1675, 30 years after the Ottoman conquest of the city, they built a Catholic chapel next to the residence.

In 1844, the Egyptian governor of Crete, Muhammad Ali Pasha, allowed a small, single-aisled church to replace the chapel. In 1874 the replacement church was elevated to the status of a Cathedral. In 1879, the church, heavily damaged by earthquakes, was demolished. The present building was erected in its place.

In Athinagora Square, opposite Trimartiri, the Orthodox Cathedral is a small door. On the door is the coat of arms of the Capuchin Order. This is on Chalidon Street. The door opens in an inner courtyard. Dominating the courtyard is the Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption. Next to the church is the Capuchin Monastery.

Bishop Aloisio Cannavo inaugurated the Cathedral in 1879. It is a three-nave basilica with Neo-Classical and Renaissance elements. It was designed by architect Vitaliano Poselli. The facade is Neo-Classical with grand-looking arches and columns. The interior is understated with an altar, frescoes, and icons.

Next to the church is the Capuchin Monastery, renovated in 1991. Services are held regularly in several different languages, including English.
Skridlof Street (Leather Street)

5) Skridlof Street (Leather Street)

It is said one hasn't seen Chania if one hasn't seen Skridlof Street. It is a small, narrow alley close to the harbor. It is more well known as "Leather Lane." The street was the home of shoemakers and bootmakers for a long time. The popular "Stivania," tall Cretan boots, were made here.

The age of the bootmakers is long past. Nowadays, the shops lining the crowded alleyway are devoted to selling leather products manufactured elsewhere. Despite this, it is still possible to order hand-made boots like those worn in the countryside. The customary getup includes wide, baggy trousers called "vraka" and a black head scarf.

The street is open year-round but especially busy at tourist times. The low, low prices of yesteryear are no more, but the leather products are still high quality. The street also sells jewelry, ornaments, souvenirs of Crete, hand-crafted embroideries, and of course, T-shirts.
Greek National Football Museum

6) Greek National Football Museum (must see)

In downtown, Chania is a street called Tsouderon. On this street, behind a plain facade, appearing to be just another souvenir shop, is the Greek National Football Museum. The museum no way attracts as many visitors as Heraklion or the Parthenon, but it does attract a steady flow of football aficionados, many foreigners among them.

The museum houses some 1,800 exhibits gathered by museum founder Nikos Flekkas. "It all started a decade ago," says Nikos. "I received a T-shirt, so I started collecting them." Items are donated by players and fans, and some are bought from other collectors.

There are over 1,000 Greek jerseys and 300 foreign ones. The jersey David Beckham wore when he scored with a free kick in the last minute of stoppage time is here. Fans may even try it on. The crown jewel is the complete collection of shirts from players of the winning Greek team of Euro 2004. Plus, there is the autographed final match ball.

It takes about a half-hour to explore the two-room museum on Tsouderon Street. The admission is currently 10 euros. The rooms are crammed with items. The museum plans to expand soon.
Chatzimichali Ntaliani Street

7) Chatzimichali Ntaliani Street

Chatzimichali Ntaliani Street, also known as Daliani Street, is pedestrianized and lined with bars and restaurants that are all a-buzz at night. During the day, the street is thronged with souvenir shops and cafes. It is close to Dimotiki Agora, the Municipal Market. The Cathedral of Chania and the Ahmed Aga Minaret are within walking distance.

A walk down Daliani leads directly to the heart of the Turkish quarter of the Old Town. It was once the Ottoman Turkish district of the city. The dozens of restaurants lining the street serve traditional Cretan dishes every evening. In front of the Ahmed Aga Minaret is the 16th-century Venetian Monastery of Karolo. Wine is served on the patio.

A little further along the street brings one to the Splantzia neighborhood. Recently the area of Splantzia has been converted from a poor quarter to a popular "watering hole." There are dozens of cafes, restaurants, and taverns. All the different cultures that have passed through Chania can be felt here.
Church of Saint Nicholas

8) Church of Saint Nicholas

Here is a rarity. In Chania is a church sporting both a bell tower and a minaret. The Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in Splantzia Square was first a Catholic Church, then an Ottoman Mosque, and then an Orthodox Church. Built around 1320 by the Dominican Brotherhood, the church, in time, became a cathedral.

In the 17th century, the Ottomans arrived and made some changes. Saint Nicholas Church became a Turkish army barracks and then the Hunkar Mosque ("Sovereign's Mosque"). Until 1912, when Crete was annexed by Greece, the mosque/church held the Sacred Sword of Turk Dervish. As the Turks invaded, the legendary Dervish climbed the bell tower.

Brandishing his sword at the four corners of the horizon, he shouted, "There is only one God, and his prophet is Muhammad." In 1923, when Greeks and Muslims exchanged populations, the Sacred Sword left town. But Turk Dervish is not forgotten. In 1918 the mosque became the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas.

Architecturally, the Monastery of Saint Nicholas is a basilica. The minaret, at the southwestern corner of the building, is the tallest in the city. It is over 131 feet high. It has two balconies and a conical roof tiled with lead. The bell tower was added in 1918. The tower, about half the height of the minaret, is square and in four stages. The top two have six high-arched openings each.
Church of Saint Rocco

9) Church of Saint Rocco

On Splantzia Square, now Platia 1821, is the Church of Saint Rocco. It is a small squarish building constructed during the Venetian period of Chania in 1630. Saint Rocco is considered to be a protective patron against the plague. Under the building cornice is the inscription, "DEDICATED TO EXCELLENT AND MAXIMUM GOD AND ST ROCCO 1630."

The church served as a military command post during the Ottoman era. While the State of Crete and until 1925, it was a police station. The church was probably built after the plague outbreak. Saint Rocco was already charged with protecting against cholera. Today the church is used mostly for temporary art exhibitions.

The church is exactly located on the corner of Daskaloianni Street and 1821 Square. Here is a quiet corner under a big plane tree. It's a perfect spot to enjoy a snack and an espresso while immersed in history.
Grand Arsenal

10) Grand Arsenal

The Grand Arsenal in Chania is a historic building located in the Old Port of the city. Situated at the westernmost end of the dockyards, the Grand Arsenal is a standalone structure that has been an important part of the city's history for centuries.

Although the building was constructed in the 1600s, it was not used for functional purposes until the mid-19th century. In 1872, a second floor was added to the building, and it was subsequently used to house a number of important institutions over the years. These included the Christian School, theatrical performances, municipal hospital, and the City Hall of Chania, which occupied the building from 1928 onwards.

Unfortunately, during the German invasion of Chania, the Grand Arsenal was bombed, suffered significant damage, and was abandoned after the war. In the late 20th century, the Center of Architecture of the Mediterranean in Chania decided to restore and regenerate the building.

After a lengthy restoration process, the Grand Arsenal was reopened in 2002 and has since become a popular venue for a variety of events. These include conferences, seminars, theatrical performances, workshops, and concerts.
Chania Lighthouse

11) Chania Lighthouse (must see)

The Venetians built the original Lighthouse of Chania Harbor in the late 16th century. It had a fortified base and was fitted with a barrier chain that could seal off the inner harbor from invaders. The chain could be running from the lighthouse to the fortress of Firkas on the far shore.

The lighthouse, the fortress, and the chain failed to keep the Turks away. During Ottoman rule, the lighthouse fell into ruin. The lighthouse tower was rebuilt between 1824 and 1832. It took the form of a minaret. It is often called "Egyptian" because it was rebuilt during the Egyptian occupation.

The base of the lighthouse is the original fortified Venetian base but without the carving of the Lion of Saint Marc, the Venetian icon. The "Egyptian" version of the lighthouse was seriously undermined by bombings in World War II. The earthquakes didn't help either. The lighthouse was seriously renovated in 2005.

The Chania Lighthouse sits at the end of a long mole at the mouth of the enclosed harbor. The mole is a favorite stroll for visitors and locals. The minaret has an internal stairway leading to a balcony with a glass light tower. The light flashes red every 2.5 seconds.

The best time to visit the lighthouse is in the morning or evening to avoid the heat of the day while walking on the mole. The views from the lighthouse of the sea, harbor, and town are spectacular. On a clear day, the sunsets over the sea are unforgettable.