Chania is a coastal city in northwestern Crete, one of its most important ports and the capital of the prefecture of Chania. It occupies an area of about thirteen square kilometers and is the second largest city on the island after Heraklion. The municipality of Chania has 108,642 inhabitants (2011), and beyond Chania the wider urban area includes the largest suburbs which have been united with the municipality of Chania, such as: Kounoupidiana (8,620), Mournies (7,533), Souda (6,418) , Nerokourou (5,531), Daratso (4,732), Orchards (3,986), Galatas (3,166) and Aroni (3,003). It was an important Minoan city and has been identified with ancient Kydonia.
The city has the typical Mediterranean climate, which
is hot and dry in summers and mild in winters. Between April and
October the sky is clear. The atmosphere is almost always warm and
hot episodes (with temperatures above 38 ° C) are not very common,
as there is a constant sea breeze (the "Meltemia"). It usually snows
only in the mountains of the prefecture with very rare exceptions,
such as the one on February 13, 2004 where 250-760 mm of snow fell
in the city. Some small hot episodes also occur in March and April,
when dust from the Sahara is carried by a strong "downhill" wind
(Siroko type), which is called Libas (because it comes from Libya).
The highest temperature ever recorded was 42.5 ° C, while the lowest was (February 13, 2004) -1 ° C at noon.
Chania is the location according to which the Minoans built "Kydonia". From excavations carried out in various districts, such as the one in Kastelli, it became known that the area was inhabited since the Neolithic era. The city was after the Minoan era an important city-state with borders from the sea to the foot of the White Mountains. The first colonists from mainland Greece were the Dorians around 1100 BC. Kydonia was in constant conflict with the other city-states of the region, such as Aptera, Falassarna and Polyrrenia. Homer also mentioned it in the Odyssey (iii.330). In 69 BC. The Roman consul Caecilius Metellus conquered Cydonia, which received the privileges of an independent city-state from the Romans, where it retained the right to have its own currency until the 3rd century AD.
The first Byzantine period lasted from 395 to 824 AD. There are not enough records for her. During the Arab occupation (827 - 961 AD) that followed the small town was probably called Rabdh el Djobh (Tirupoli, city of cheese) or Al Hanim. During this period the Christian populations moved to the mountains of the prefecture due to persecution. The Byzantine general Nikiforos Fokas recaptured Crete in 961 AD. The second Byzantine period lasted until 1204 AD. and its name was changed to Chania. The Byzantines began to fortify the city with fortifications, using ancient building materials, in order to prevent another Arab invasion. During this period Chania was also the seat of a bishop.
Venetian Period - Establishment of a new city
After the fourth crusade (1204 AD) and the fall of Byzantine rule in the region, Crete was given to Boniface of Momferrato. He decided to sell it to the Venetians for 1000 silver marks. In 1252 the Venetians managed to subdue the Cretan revolutionaries and the Venetian Senate with the decree of April 29, 1252 (Gregorian calendar) ordered the Military Commander to occupy Western Crete and establish a new city or rebuild an old one. Chania then, like all of Crete, flourished as a commercial center and as a rural area.
At first the Venetians were cruel and oppressive, but slowly their relations with the locals warmed up. Their contact with Venice helped to blend the two cultures, but without the locals losing their Greek-Christian traditions. The name of the city was changed to La Canea and the Byzantine fortifications were strengthened giving Chania its current form. Also, after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, several priests, monks, artists and literati found refuge in Crete helping to strengthen the island culturally. Chania, during this period, contains a mixture of Byzantine, Venetian and classical Greek culture.
However, its walls failed to prevent the Ottomans from capturing the city in 1645 after a two-month siege. The Ottomans decided to approach the city from the west and landed near the monastery of Gonia in Kissamos, which they looted and burned. They besieged Chania on August 2, 1645. The losses on both sides were enormous (especially of the Ottomans). The Ottoman commander was executed on his return having lost more than 40,000 men. From this campaign, which for the Turks was still considered a great achievement, the phrase To See Chania and the Corner ("Hanya'yı Konya'yı gormek") has remained until today, which means to understand a job in depth and to be agile. .
Most of the churches were later converted into mosques and the
city's wealth was transferred to the Ottoman Empire, the seat of
Constantinople. The Turks settled the eastern quarters of the city
(Kastelli and Splatzia), where they converted Saint Nicholas of the
Dominican monks into their Central Mosque ("Houghiar Tzamissi"
Turkish: Hünkar Camisi). They also built new mosques, such as that
of Kioutsouk Hassan in the old port. The public baths (hamam) were
built by the Turks a little above, on today's Halidon Street. In
1821, with the beginning of the Greek revolution, there were
conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Chania, which led to the
massacre of the Christian population in the city of Chania. . The
bishop of Kissamos, Melchisedek Despotakis, was hanged by the Turks
on a plane tree in the square of Splantzia, which still exists
After the Revolution of 1821, Crete was ceded by the Ottomans to the Egyptians of Mohammad Ali, who maintained it until 1840. During the Egyptian occupation, the lighthouse dates back to the Venetian port of Chania. During the Egyptian occupation, the first newspaper in Crete, in Chania, the "Cretan Voice", was published, which was bilingual. During the Egyptian occupation there were two administrations in Crete, one in Chania and the other in Chandakas.
In 1841 the island returned to Ottoman occupation. From 1850 onwards, the Pasha of Crete lived in Chania, when the Ottomans moved for defense reasons (the existence of a safe port for the Ottoman fleet of Souda) the capital of Crete from Heraklion. Until 1850 the Pasha of Heraklion was also the Pasha of Crete.
In 1878, the treaty of Aleppo was signed, which granted some important rights to the Christian population of the island.
In 1898, during the last movements for independence and union with Greece and especially the unrest in Heraklion on August 25, 1898, the Great Powers created the semi-autonomous Cretan State with Chania as its capital, with Prince George as its High Commissioner. The palace is located in the district of Halepa, east of the old town, next to the house of Eleftherios Venizelos.
During these years Crete printed its own currency and stamps. The city ceased to be a remote vilayet of the Ottoman Empire and became cosmopolitan, regaining its role as a crossroads of European and Eastern cultures. Many important buildings were built during this period, mainly on Nearchou Street, as well as in the suburb of Halepa, where the consulates of the protection forces were located.
Union with Greece
Nevertheless, the main goal was the union with Greece, which took place after the stand of Eleftherios Venizelos towards Prince George. After several controversies, the revolution of Therissos on March 10, 1905, managed to oust George and bring Alexandros Zaimis to Crete. Finally, in 1908, Venizelos succeeded in consolidating a revolutionary government, which was recognized by the Great Powers. His subsequent election as Prime Minister of Greece in 1910 managed to unite Crete with Greece on December 1, 1913. The Greek flag was raised at the fortress of Firkas in the old port in the presence of Venizelos and the King of Greece Constantine. Venizelos, who comes from Mournies, Chania, was the leader of the Cretan revolution of 1896-97 against the Ottoman Empire and prime minister of Greece (1910-1915, 1915, 1917-1920, 1924, 1928-1932, 1932 and 1933). He died on March 18, 1936 and his tomb is located in Profitis Ilias above Chania.
Settlement of Asia Minor
A key historical event is the arrival and settlement of Greek refugees from Asia Minor in Chania, after the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 and the exchange of populations. As a result, the local population and culture of the city were enriched. It is noted that the coexistence and interaction between natives and refugees was more peaceful and smoother than in other parts of Greece.
World war II
Another important moment in the history of Chania is the invasion
and occupation by the Axis forces during the Second World War. With
the transfer of the Greek government to Chania after the occupation
of mainland Greece, the city becomes the de facto capital of the
country. (The capital is defined as the seat of government). But
then after a relentless bombardment of the city by the German air
force in May 1941, German paratroopers invaded the city from the
west (from the Galata and Maleme areas). ) and were repulsed by the
British on the hill of the Reservoir to the south of the city. King
George was staying in a villa in Perivolia, near Chania, trying to
escape the Germans in Egypt. The Jewish community of Chania suffered
significant losses during the 5-year occupation. Most of them, like
other resistance fighters, were taken by the Germans to
concentration camps in central Europe. In 1944, a British torpedo
sank the ship "Tanais", which transported most of the Jewish
community of Chania. Chania was the last European city to be
liberated by the Germans in April 1945, with the Germans executing
locals until the last minute.
In the 70's Crete became a major tourist destination for international and domestic tourism, which contributed to the prosperity of the economy and cultural development of the city. Chania ceased to be the capital of Crete in 1971, when Heraklion returned as the capital of Crete.
The city of Chania is divided into two main parts. The old town, with the old port, and the new town, outside the walls. The old town is built around the Venetian port and is surrounded by the Venetian fortifications of 1538, which preserve their eastern and western parts. On the south side, these fortifications were destroyed in the early 20th century, to be used as materials in the construction of the market and various other public and non-public buildings. From there the new city was developed whose main districts are Halepa, Agios Ioannis, Pachiana, Nea Chora, Pasakaki, Lentariana which extend around the periphery of the city center.
Although bombed and burned several times in its long history, the old town of Chania is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean. In various places the traveler can meet samples of all the cultures that passed through it. In the center is the hill of Kasteli which is inhabited since the Neolithic era and is a fortified place next to the old port. In it are the palace of the High Commissioner of Crete during the period of the Cretan State, as well as archeological sites from the Minoan era.
A little further east of Kastelli is Splantzia, the old Muslim quarter, which is very atmospheric. There are many taverns in its picturesque alleys. There is also the church of Agios Nikolaos, which during the Venetian rule was the church of Agios Nikolaos of the Dominicans and during the Turkish occupation was the main mosque of Chania and has been operating as an Orthodox church since 1918. Outside the church is the Square of Splantzia with the plane tree on which the Turks hanged the bishop of Kissamos Melchisedek Despotakis and the deacon Kallinikos from Veria. At the corner of the square is the Venetian church of St. Rocco. In the same area are the small churches of Agia Irini (Sarpaki street) and Agios Aikaterini and Ioannou tou Erimitis (Melidoni street). Walking towards the sea we see the Venetian neoria (of 1497), the carnagas, which once built war galleys, today still operate repairing boats and boats. There one will see the large Arsenal, which hosted the town hall of Chania, until its bombing by the Germans in 1941, which now houses the Center for Mediterranean Architecture. In the eastern part of the Venetian Port is Neorio Moro, which currently houses the Chania Sailing Club.
On the west side of Kasteli is Santirvani Square (or El.
Venizelou Square), which is the tourist heart of the city. From
there one can board boats that visit the Venetian castles on the
islands of Ag. Theodoron and Gramvousa. A little further is the
square of Trimartyri with the metropolis of Chania and the
archeological museum that is housed in the Venetian church of St.
Francesco. "Stivanadika" are also located there. It is the area
where there are shops that process leather and manufacture various
leather goods. They got their name from the stivania, the Cretan
boots, where they were made there for centuries. Also, a little
further east are the "Macheradika", where there are many traditional
shops that still make Cretan knives.
Even further west, from Kastelli, are the districts of Ovraiki and Topanas. Ovraiki was the Jewish quarter of Chania in the last centuries until the mass extermination of the Jews of Chania by the Axis forces in World War II. In the area there is the Etz Hagim synagogue which reopened in 1999. Topanas has always been the Christian mansion of the city. Its name comes from the Turkish Top-Hane (The inn with the landscapes - artillery balls - Arsenal), since the Venetian military depots were located there. This district, together with the Hebrew (or Jewish), are considered the most beautiful districts of Chania. In it is the fortress of Firkas (Turkish Fırka - Division), where the flag of the union of Crete with Greece was raised (1-12-1913) and today operates the Naval Museum of Crete.
Finally, the port of the old town is the most beautiful and touristic point of Chania. The coast of Tombazi, the coast of Koundourioti and the coast of the Union with several historic buildings, such as the neoria, the Glass Mosque (Yalı camisi - The mosque on the shore) and the large Arsenali, where today hosts the center of Mediterranean architecture. Its center is ρadırvan, where the main streets of the old town, Halidon Street, Kanevaro Street and Zampeliou intersect. On Zampeliou Street is one of the most beautiful examples of the Venetian mansion in the city, the abusively called Loggia of the Venetians, retaining a coat of arms, a Latin saying and almost all the architectural elements of the facade. The identification of the coat of arms allowed the identification of the person (Nicolo Clado) and the dating (1615-1625) of the mansion. Opposite the coast one can admire the 19th century Egyptian lighthouse in the shape of a minaret, built on the foundations of the oldest Venetian lighthouse, which is the trademark of the city.
A little further south from the square of the trimartyr is the square of the New Stores, which is the border of the new city. The official name of the square is 1866 Square. The square was named in honor of the great Cretan revolution (1866-1869) against the Turks. There are the city's shops from the beginning of the 20th century. Today one can find many picturesque shops and cafes. There are also city and intercity bus stations.
Nea Chora and Synoikismos
To the west of the old town is Nea Chora while to the southwest is Synoikismos (center of the modern city, OTE and KTEL area). It is the wider area where Greek refugees from Asia Minor lived after the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922. It is a very quiet and beautiful area. Near the beach of Nea Chora are the Nautical Club of Chania and the old factory of AVEA, which is the first industrial unit of Crete in the 19th century and today hosts a school. In Nea Chora is the historic Church of Agios Konstantinos built since 1915. On the main road Kissamos that separates the two districts has been erected the monument of Manas Asia Minor.
To the east of the old town is the beach of Kum kap καs ((Turkish: Kum kapısı, The Sand Gate). In the middle of the 19th century it was inhabited by Bedouin Arabs (the Halikoutes), who moved to work during the concession period in Egypt. In recent years, the whole night life of Chania is located there with numerous taverns, cafes and bars. South of it is the national stadium of Chania "Elena Venizelou", the state conservatory of Chania and the picturesque municipal garden (1870), work of Reuf Pasha, built according to the standards of European parks as the first public benefit project of the city, and today hosts the municipal summer cinema. In its eastern corner is the 1924 Clock.
Municipal Market and Courts
Between the New Stores and Kum-Kapi is the municipal market of
Chania. It is a cruciform building, built in 1913 according to the
standards of the Marseille market and since then hosts various
traditional shops and taverns. From there begins Dimokratias Street,
which passes between the Municipal Garden (inside which is the
historic cafe "Garden" which has been operating since 1870, having
housed in its premises the Parliament of the Cretan State, as well
as part of the Municipal Library of Chania) and the stadium, a
little further down meets the "despotic", the mansion of the
metropolitan of Chania and ends at the court square. The beautiful
Turkish military hospital of the 19th century, where today it houses
the courts and services of the prefecture of Chania. Behind the
courts is the church of Peter and Paul, where the ancient cemetery
of the city was found.
To the west of the courts is the Peace and Friendship Park (on Andrea Papandreou Street) and next to it is the Cultural Center of Chania, the Historical Archive of Crete and the War Museum, housed in the 19th century Italian barracks. In a recent fire in 2018, the War Museum burned down completely.
Halepa and Tabakaria
The courts also start from Iroon Polytechniou Street, which leads to the districts of Tabakaria (the old tanneries) and Halepa. In Halepa there are many neoclassical buildings from the period of the Cretan State, as well as the then consulates of the Great Powers. There is also the house of El. Venizelou, which hosts the National Research Foundation "Venizelos", the old French school and the TEI of Chania. Also in Halepa there are many churches, such as Ag. Magdalene in Russian style, or the Evangelist built in Baroque style, as well as the later palace of Prince George. On the hill above Halepa, is the Prophet Elias with the Tombs of El. and S. Venizelou. There you can enjoy your coffee and dessert with the most beautiful view of Chania. There is also the polytechnic campus of the Technical University of Crete (Kounoupidiana). The area is green and the view is magnificent. The new Archaeological Museum of Chania is being built in the Halepa district, while expansion projects of a total height of 110cm are in progress. euros at Chania Airport, after the completion of which it will be the largest airport in Crete.
To the south of the city of Chania are the districts of the reservoir, where very fierce battles took place in 1941, Ai Giannis and Koumbes, where there are Turkish koubedes (burial monuments).
Other districts of the city are Lentariana, Pasakaki, Varousi, Frangiko (where the Frankish cemetery is located), Pelekapina (where the 19th century politician K. Manos is located) and Chrysopigi with its monastery.
Seitan Limani beach is at a distance of 25 km from the country. It is a disorganized beach that needs a ten minute descent as there is no road to lead there. Its name (Port of Satan) is due to the very difficult descent and ascent during which athletic shoes are required.
Nautical Museum of Crete (in the Venetian port)
Archaeological Museum of Chania (housed in the katholikon of the Venetian monastery of Agios Frangiskos)
Museum of Asia Minor Memory (Museum - Center for Research and Study of Asia Minor Culture) (25 Sfakion Street)
Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection of Chania (church of San Salvatore)
New Archaeological Museum of Chania (under completion, in the area of Halepa)
War Museum (Chania)
Folklore Museum of Chania
Municipal Art Gallery
Museum of Chemistry
Museum of School Life
Old town and Venetian harbor
Kucuk Hassan Mosque (Yali Mosque)
Metropolitan Church of the Assumption of the Virgin (Trimartyri)
Church of Agios Nikolaos Splantzias
House El. Venizelou (Halepa)
Tombs of Venizelos
Etz Hagim Synagogue
Catholic Church of the Virgin (1879), in the old town
St. Rocos Catholic Church
Historical Archive of Crete
Center of Cretan Law
Center for Mediterranean Architecture (KAM)
Chrysostomos Philological Association
Ancient Aptera in Apokoronas
Monument of Manas Asia Minor (Kissamou and Mpotsari street)
Chania Lighthouse (Venetian port)
Municipal garden of Chania