"CHANIA..." Chania by ghislain69
Chania Travel Guide: 239 reviews and 695 photos
To even begin to describe Chania and it's many facets is a truly Herculean task. Until 1971, when the commercial sprawl of Heraklion took over, it was the island's capital bearing both the scars and trophies of centuries of growth and occupation and is now a vibrant city with a fascinating blend of simplicity and sophistication.
Chania is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements, initially known as Kydonia, with some evidence remaining from Minoan times, a mention in the Odyssey, and a flourishing community in Classical times. After fierce fighting it was occupied by the Romans and became an important town right through early Christian and Byzantine times, each era leaving it's mark. The Venetians, after a brief spat with the Genoese, renamed the town La Canea and had the most lasting and appealing influence on its architecture. After another monumental struggle the town fell to the Turks who made it the seat of their pasha and they in turn left their mark by converting churches to mosques, with an imposing dome still adorning the harbour front
The Venetian harbour and the higgledy-piggledy streets behind, with their combination of tastefully restored and tumble-down buildings are natural magnets to all Chania's visitors, as are the famous covered market and the 'street of the leatherworkers'. Over the past few decades Chania's architectural attractions and sense of history, in juxtaposition with its backdrop of the powerful Lefka Ora (White Mountains) has encouraged many chance visitors to linger a while longer and consequently the city has a large cosmopolitan and artistic community.
Today Chania is primarily a living and breathing working city and a commercial centre for the local agricultural communities, with tourism coming a close second. The shops range from simple old-style Greek emporiums to smart international designer shops and from tacky tourist kiosks to stylish art galleries.
The new area of the city, about twenty minutes walk west of the old harbour, has a surprisingly well kept beach, fringed by some good fish restaurants but most sun-seekers choose to head west by bus or hire car where there are literally miles of sandy beaches, or up onto the Akrotiri peninsula where there are a number of quieter sandy coves and beaches.
In the early evening visitors from the surrounding beach resorts head for the old harbour, where the waterfront tavernas compete noisily for their business. Beyond the mosque, heading towards the old Venetian arsenals, lie some quieter tavernas and further beyond these in the inner harbour are some simple fish tavernas, much favoured by the locals and consequently never busy until late at night. In recent years a number of restaurants have sprung up in some of the un-restored buildings providing the unique experience of dining by candlelight in evocative surroundings, perhaps to the strains of the lyre, whilst watching the night skies.
After dinner some head home replete, whilst others stroll the cobbled back-streets or sip a brandy in a rooftop bar. The young and energetic can choose a frenetic music bar or club whilst the not so young, but nonetheless energetic, can choose a mellow jazz bar or Cretan cafe with impromptu traditional music and dancing.
With its diversity and energy Chania can be whatever the visitor wants it to be - and few are ever disappointed
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Stavros's almost circular bay forms a shallow lagoon ideal for children to splash happily and the few tavernas make an... more travel advice
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