A first-time visitor to Chania is surprised by the great number of buildings and monuments with traces of great history and culture. The old town is located on and around the hill of Kasteli and was built over the ruins of the Minoan city Kydonia. It is surrounded by the Byzantine walls, the Venetian walls and the sea. The town of Chania, the first capital of Crete, kept its historical centuries-old heritage almost unaffected. Its flair has attracted scientists, philosophers, poets and artists from different countries and it has become a cultural centre.
The Minoan civilization left behind grand tombs and interesting pottery objects. During the Venetian and the Ottoman rule, people of different nationalities and religions co-existed. Christians (Catholic and Orthodox), Jews and Muslims, have left discernible traces and produced particularly interesting creations.
In the neighborhood of Topanas with its narrow paved streets, the visitor meets Venetian manors with elaborately decorated facades and Turkish houses with architectural protrusions. The Fort of Firkas, the Naval Museum and San Salvatore’s church of the Franciscan Monks (15th – 17th cent. AD), hosting the Byzantine collection of Chania, are there.
In the old Jewish neighbourhood is the synagogue and in Haledon Street the folklore museum (Cretan house) and the church of St. Francis. The church hosts the town’s archaeological museum and houses treasures from the Minoan to the Hellenistic period. Opposite is the Cathedral of the Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple with its exquisite images of saints. Close to it are the old Turkish baths.
In the area of Sintrivani, around the square with the same name, is the mosque of Küçük Hasan (1645) and opposite it the quay with the Venetian lighthouse. A little further you can see 7 of the originally 17 docks (14th-16th cent. AD). The Great Arsenal, which is used today as a convention and exhibition centre is eye-capturing. Along the harbour, small cafes and restaurants create an inviting atmosphere. On the hill of Kasteli there are still parts of the old Rector’s palace and its court. The excavation site of ancient Kydonia and the ruins of the church of St. Maria of Mirakoli (1615) are located near there.
At the “Stivanadika”, which still has oriental characteristics, one can buy leather goods. Next to it is Chrysostom’s building and the new public Art Gallery. In the old Turkish neighbourhood of Splantzia is the square of the former monastery οf St. Nicholas (1204) with a bell-tower and minaret. The small church of St. Rokkos (1630) of the Enlightenment can also be found there. The church of St. Anargyroi (16th cent. AD) with its priceless images of saints and St. Catherine’s church are near there.
Outside the walls, in the east of the old town, we come across the Koum-Kapi, where during the last years of the Ottoman rule Bedouins built a village. Today the area is a popular meeting place of the young people.
In the area of Halepa is the palace of Prince George, the house of Eleftherios Venizelos, the French School (1860), the church of St. Magdalene (1903) and the church of Evangelismos. Other places are of interest from later years: “Villa Koundourou”, the Workshop of Fine Arts and the Youth Centre, the Municipal Park (1870) with its clock, the Market (built in 1913, a cross-shaped building with hundreds of small shops), the Park of Peoples’s Peace and Friendship, the Court House, the Prefecture, the “Venizelion” School of Music, the Historic Archives Museum, the War Museum and the Museum of Chemistry.
In the neighbourhoods outside the walls there are many neoclassical buildings with beautiful gardens that smell of hyacinth, honey suckle and rose trees. In the area Akrotiri are the graves of Eleftherios Venizelos and Sofoklis Venizelos.