Chania Venetian harbour
Chania Venetian harbour with its lighthouse is the trademark of the city of Chania.
One rarely finds a place so full of historical memories, which unfold before our eyes with exquisite skill through the architecture of the buildings looking onto the Venetian harbour, bearing scents from past times, drawing the visitor into a nostalgic game of the senses, a mixture of East and West. The modern restaurants, cafés and bars add to the charm of the harbour, providing the necessary notes of life and familiar comfort throughout the year.
How to go to the Venetian Harbour of Chania
To reach the Venetian Harbour in Chania, follow Halidon Street, ending at Eleftherios Venizelos Square.This used to be known as Sindrivani (Fountain) Square because of its Turkish fountain, now in the courtyard of the Archaeological Museum of Chania.
If you are facing the sea, to the right (east) of Eleftherios Venizelos Square is Kastelli Hill, the area of Chania which was first inhabited in the Neolithic period and the site of the Minoan city of Cydonia.
On your right there is also the Turkish mosque and, past it, the shipyards where the Venetians repaired their galleys. On your left you can see Firkas Fortress, with the Maritime Museum of Crete next to it.
In the summer you can enjoy a romantic stroll through the Venetian harbour of Chania, sip your coffee or have breakfast with a view of the lighthouse and enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants and ouzo shops.
As night falls, the harbour remains busy and the glimmer of the lighthouse reflected in the dark waters charms every visitor. The harbour is so magical that even the touts’ annoyingly insistent invitations to attract customers to their tavernas will be forgotten as soon as you ignore them and walk past.
In winter many tavernas shut to avoid the waves which wash in unhindered over the quay opposite the harbour entrance. The cafés and restaurants on the side past the Turkish mosque, however, are untouched by the waves and remain open all year round. Even on winter days, as long as the sun is out, hundreds of people come here to enjoy the quieter aspect of the Venetian harbour, when foreign tourists can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The history of Chania Venetian harbour
1. The lighthouse, 2. The St Nicholas Bastion
The Venetian harbour of Chania was built by the Venetians between 1320 and 1356. The harbour was used for commerce and also to control the Sea of Crete against pirates.
The Venetian harbour had room for 40 galleys, but it constantly silted up and was never very deep, so it kept having to be dredged, a difficult job with the equipment of the time.
On its north side the harbour is protected by a breakwater. Near the middle of this is a small bulwark like a gun emplacement and the tiny chapel of St Nicholas. This was where the Venetians and Turks executed condemned prisoners.
The Firkas Fortress at the harbour entrance and the St Nicholas bastion in the middle of the breakwater defended the harbour from raiders.
Today, the Venetian harbour offers moorage for fishing boats and other small craft, while the commercial and passenger port of Chania is seven kilometres to the east, in Souda Bay.
The lighthouse is a distinctive feature of the harbour. It was built at the harbour entrance by the Venetians and restored in its present form by the Egyptians (1830-1840). The lighthouse of the Venetian harbour of Chania always fascinates visitors and is one of the most-photographed monuments in Crete.