Welcome to Chania!
This charming port town is full of flavors, aromas and a most distinct character. The ‘Old Town’ presents a colorful blend of architectural influences predominantly Venetian, and boasts a lively café culture. Visitors have a vast selection of accommodation from luxury hotels and resorts to camp grounds and youth hostels. As for your palate you will be delighted to savor scrumptious local delicacies and heavenly local wines and spirits.
There is a wealth of natural and historical sites to be explored and a diverse range of activities and excursions available. No visit to Chania however would be complete without a stroll through the central market – the assortment of fresh local produce, cheeses, meats and seafood is guaranteed to make your mouth water! Along the narrow alleyways you will discover tiny workshops that continue to ply traditional crafts such as cobblery, pottery, wood working and barrel making, chair lacing and embroidery and weaving.
Car rental is recommended for those who truly want to experience the plethora of terrain and wildlife to be found in the Chania region. The dramatic changes in the landscape and indescribable views will take your breath away. Only by car can you really experience the heartwarming hospitality of the tiny mountain villages – you haven’t lived until you have eaten home cooked slow-roasted mountain raised lamb from Crete (my apologies to any vegetarians, but it is simply divine!).
Whether you are a business or leisure traveler Chania will leave you with memories to cherish.
A Historical Overview
During the Historical Period of antiquity Chania, then known as Kythonia, seems to have been a powerful city-state. Its domain extended from Chania Bay to the foothills of the White Mountains. Kythonia was constantly at war with other city-states such as Aptera, Falasarna nad Polyrrinia. In 69 B.C. the Roman Consul Cointus Metellus defeated the Cretans and conquered Kythonia to which he granted the privileges of an independent city-state.
Kythonia reserved the right to mint its own coins until the 3rd century A.D. The Roman conquest put an end to the civil wars and a period of peace began, unique in the history of the island. Ancient Kythonia was the same size as the modern city of Chania at the beginning of the 20th century.
First Byzantine Period
Information about Kythonia during Christian Years is limited. The most significant archeological finds are the remains of a Basilica, discovered recently near the Venician Cathedral in the centre of Kasteli. Various sources mention the Diocese of Kythonia and the Bishop Kythonios, who participated in the Sardinian Synod in 343 A.D. Kythonia is also mentioned among the 22 most important cities of Crete in the "Document of Ieroklis" in the 6th Century. The Kythonia Diocese is mentioned as well in all the "Ecclesiastical Minutes" recorded before and after the Arabian Occupation.
The Arabian Occupation
The Arab occupation of Crete occurred gradually from 821 to 824. The consequences of the arrival of the Arabs were devastating for the local population. They were subjected to a long and horrible period of slavery, resulting in the alienation of Crete from the Byzantine Empire. Saint Nicholas Stouthitis was born in 763 in Kythonia, but he left at the age of 10 to go to Constantinople. In 961, Nikiforos Fokas managed to free Crete and bring it back under the control of the Byzantine Empire.
The Byzantine Period
The first action of the Byzantine Empire, after re-conquering Crete, was to re-establish their authority and power. Not were all traces of the Arab occupation abolished but also the defense of the island had to be organized quickly in order to avoid any Arab attempt to take back the island. Strong fortifications were constructed along the coast and at strategic positions. The hill of Kasteli is fortified with a wall along its perimeter which was constructed using building materials taken from the ancient city. It is still regarded as a remarkable military accomplishment and proof of the continuous existence of the city during the period between the Arab and the Venetian occupations.
The Venetian Occupation
In 1204, after the 4th Crusade and the decline of the Byzantine Empire, Crete was given to Bonifacio the Marquis de Monfera. He, in turn, chose to sell it to the Venetians for 100 silver marks. In 1252 the Venetians managed to subdue the locals as well as the Genoans who, under the leadership of the Count of Malta Henrico Pescatore, had seized Crete. Chania was chosen as the seat of the Rector (Administrator General) of the region and flourished as a significant commercial centre due to the fertility of the land. Contact with Venice lead to the social, economic and cultural conditions necessary for the growth of a culture strongly affected by both Venetian and local elements.
The Turkish Occupation
The Turks landed near the Monastery of "Gonia" (Corner) in Kissamos which they plundered and burned. They seized the fortified isle of "Agioi Theodori" and, after a two month siege, the City of Hania fell on 2nd August 1645. A new state of affairs prevailed in the city, churches were turned into mosques and Christian fortunes were commandeered by the conquerors. The Turks kept mostly in the eastern districts, Kasteli and Splanzia, where they converted the church of St Nicholas of the Dominicans into their central mosque "Houghiar Tzamissi" (The Sovereign's Mosque). Besides turning catholic churches into mosques, they built new ones such as "Kioutsouk Hassan Tzamissi" on the harbour. They also built public baths (Hamam) and fountains. In 1821 many Christians were slaughtered and the Bishop of Kissamos, Melhisethek Thespotakis was hanged in Splantzia. In 1878, the Treaty of Halepa was signed and the Christians were granted certain rights. In 1898, the semi-autonomous "Cretan State" was established and the city of Chania flourished as the Capital of Crete.
Much of the historical information above is from the official site of the Municipality of Chania