Chania is an exceptionally charming town with cobblestone streets abounding with history. In the old town area you will find quaint hotels and buildings butted up against byzantine walls, nearby to an amiable Venetian harbour lined with waterfront restaurants, cafes and historic monuments.
Hotel Bozzali in Chania is a delightful old hotel with a mean set of stairs that would give any Dutch apartment a run for their money! But the owner of the hotel happily helps intimidated guests up the stairs with their luggage, which makes it all achievable after all! They serve a delightful complimentary breakfast each morning including fresh orange juice, coffee, amazing honey and yoghurt, and a selection of European breakfast items. You can choose to sit in the vibrant little courtyard, or on the front terrace overlooking the Byzantine wall. After you have taken a leisurely breakfast, it is time to set off on your day exploring the historical old town in Chania. The first stop would be the Venetian Harbour which is only a short walk from the hotel after all.
On the way to the harbour you will pass a section of the original Byzantine wall which has been preserved as a monument. The Byzantine wall, which had four gates, was the boundary which separated the old town from its fortified acropolis. The outline of the fortifications surrounding Kastelli hill is visible in the old maps of the town, and to some extent in the modern urban network. The wall, built in the 7th century, fell into disuse when the Venitian fortifications were built, extending the protected area around the town and incorporating the Firka Fortress. In time, the byzantine wall was incorporated into houses built around and on top of it, as you can see in these photos taken on Sifaka St.
Venetian Harbour of Chania
Upon arrival at the harbour, a leisurely walk around the water’s edge will take you past several historic monuments, starting with the Giali Tzami – (the mosque of the seaside ) built in the 17th century, which is the only preserved mosque in the city from that time.
Walking past the numerous restaurants with staff standing outside to beckon you in to their restaurant, (little do they know you have just finished breakfast….) you will come to what remains of the Dockyards built by the Venetians during their occupation, for the maintenance of ships. Firstly, an individual structure which houses the Centre of Mediterranean Architecture, and a little further on there are 7 continuous domes remaining from this time.
Continuing on along the water’s edge will bring you around to the beginning of the breakwater. There are two levels on the breakwater, one higher for the more adventurous among us, and then a pathway down at water level for those of a more cautious disposition. Strolling along the breakwater brings you to St Nicholas Bastion in the centre of the breakwater and then on to the lighthouse, all the while providing favourable views back across the pretty harbour as you go.
The Lighthouse was also built by the Venetians on natural rock around 1595 – 1601, stands 21 metres high and is the jewel and trademark of the township. It functioned as an open flame torch with a focal height of 26 metres from the sea surface, its light covering a distance of 7 miles. You can still climb up the large stone steps to the gate of the lighthouse for a nice photo opportunity.
From the end of the breakwater you can look across the opening of the port and see the the “Firka” Fortress on the northwest side of the harbour, constructed to protect the entrance to the port. This maintains its Turkish name “ Firka “ (meaning barracks). A chain from “Firka” to the lighthouse blocked the entrance to the port in case of intrusion.
After making your way back around the harbour, you can wander in the cobbled streets and take in a museum or two if that appeals. Or take a horse and carriage ride around the streets of the old town. You will find the row of carriages waiting along the harbour side.
Places to eat
For dinner in Chania there are two restaurants I can recommend:
- The Well of the Turk restaurant for the best vegetarian lasagne I have ever eaten. They also have many other dishes that were all just as well received. The food here is amazing – just because I had vegetarian doesn’t mean that the meat / fish / chicken dishes were not good – please go and try it out. You will not regret it!!
- Oinopiio – traditional Cretian food, which was delicious, and interesting, and very appropriate, given our location.
Such a beautiful part of the world!
For a more detailed guide through Chania, you might like to try this book:
Greater Than a Tourist – Chania Crete Greece: 50 Travel Tips from a Local
Or try a few more Greek Islands from this guide book: Fodor’s Essential Greek Islands: with Great Cruises & the Best of Athens (Full-color Travel Guide)
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