An endless list of sights and attractions that will not leave anyone dissatisfied… The most “hard” part about Chania, is that one cannot easily decide where to go and what to leave “out” – until the next visit of course! We gathered the ten most interesting sights in Chania for the “the first time visitor” in order to… get to know at once the area and its importance in history and culture.
Architectural structures, castles and forts, lighthouses and churches, are among the impressive monuments encountered throughout the region and which together form the multicultural identity of Chania, from antiquity to the Byzantine era and from the Venetian to the Ottoman rule and finally the modern Greek state.
1. Venetian Harbour
Just one walk by the sea is enough to convince you that the Venetian port of Chania, the city’s trademark, is the beginning point of your tour. Not only because there beats the heart of the city, due to the multitude of restaurants, cafes and bars that give life to the ancient streets, but also because in every corner, at every turn, you encounter another monument, another landmark that deserves your attention. From the main square in Santrivani, the Yali Tzamisi, the Cathedral, the Franciscan Monastery that houses the archaeological museum, the Firka fortress and the Neoria (dockyards), you will not know where to go first and where to end your tour!
2. The Egyptian Lighthouse
The Egyptian Lighthouse is the “jewel” of the Venetian harbor and the most photographed monument in the city. Dating back to the 16th century, it is 21 meters high, its light covers a distance of seven miles and it is considered one of the oldest lighthouses in the world. It is reminiscent of a minaret in form and due to the internal stone staircase that leads to the balcony with the glass tower.
The predominantly Turkish district of Chania, which is dominated today by the Orthodox Church of Agios Nicholas, the Venetian church of Agios Roccos, the Turkish underground fountain, and the huge plane tree, beneath which dozens of Christians were tortured under Turkish rule. Today Splantzia is one of the most popular neighborhoods of Chania, with dozens of shops, restaurants, bars and malls giving life to the old alleys.
The huge building is considered one of the most important modern monuments of Chania and was built in 1913. Today it houses numerous shops selling to locals and visitors all the produce of the Cretan land, the traditional cuisine and traditional art.
5. Roloi tou Kipou (Clock of the Garden)
The clock dominates the Municipal Garden of Chania and from the early 20th century when it was constructed, it has earned a well-deserved place among the city’s most popular attractions. Even today, almost a hundred years after its construction, the Clock of the Garden is a reference point for Chania, while right next to it operates an outdoor cinema.
6. Tombs of the Venizeli
Located on top of the hill of Prophet Elias, at a location with a unique view of the city of Chania, the Tombs of Venizeli is the burial place of Eleftherios Venizelos and his son Sophocles Venizelos. This specific location was indicated by Eleftherios Venizelos himself, as it is located near to his house, which now serves as a museum, while not far stands the stone statue of Liberty that symbolizes the struggles of the Cretan people.
7. Franciscan Monastery of St. Francis
One of the architectural, religious and historical monuments of Chania, the Franciscan Monastery of St. Francis is the biggest Venetian church of the city that now houses the collections of the Archaeological Museum of Chania. It was built in the 16th century, and during the Turkish occupation was converted to Yusuf Pasha Tzamisi. In the early 20th century it functioned as a cinema and after the Second World War as a military warehouse.
8. Cathedral of Chania
The Cathedral of Chania, known as Trimartiri, is dedicated to the Presentation of Virgin Mary. It is located in the middle of Halidon Street in the old town and is believed to be built on the site of an older church of the 14th century. During the Ottoman rule it was turned into a soap workshop, while the construction of the cathedral was completed in 1860. It houses large and impressive icons, works of G. Kalliterakis, G. Stavrakis, E. Tripolitakis and D. Kokotsis.
The medieval Frangokastello is located just outside Sfakia, and it is estimated that it was built in 1371 by the Venetians. The legend of Drosoulites that accompanies the castle is one of the most popular, not only in the Cretan tradition but also in the Greek lore. According to this legend, Drosoulites, the residents of Chania that fought against the Turkish conquerors, return on some nights to the castle and appear as shadows on its walls…
10. The Castle of Gramvousa
One of the many castles and forts in the countryside of Chania, the Castle of Gramvousa stands out because of its location on one of the small islands of western Crete, Imeri Gramvousa. It is built on the highest point of the island, on the steep cliff over the natural “port” of the island, where today dozens of visitors enjoy swimming in the blue waters, next to the old shipwreck. The construction of the Castle of Gramvousa began in 1584 and one can get inside through a vaulted arch that is still preserved today. There you will see two large tanks for the collection of rainwater, the foundations of buildings, the church Evaggelismou (Annunciation) and the gunpowder storeroom, converted during the Turkish occupation into a mosque.