The Old Venetian
Harbour of Chania

Think about the old Venetian harbour of Chania as the gemstone on the most priceless jewel of western Crete, called old town of Chania. It will amaze you whenever you visit it.

Chania Harbour entrance at sunset

The quay is the busiest part of the old town of Chania, filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, bakeries and other shops. 

However, the old Venetian harbour of Chania would have been just like another beautiful seaside tourist place, if there haven't been preserved its monuments since the Venetian rule period (1252-1645), the Ottoman rule (1645-1898 ), and the years of the Egyptian domination (1831-1841) that occurred during the Turkish period.

Chania Harbour quay with tourists

Below you will tour the harbour of Chania virtually, and you will know about the attractions that are here, so that nothing will miss your attention when you visit it. 

Some Historical Facts

The harbor was built by the Venetians during their colonization in Crete and specifically between 1320 and 1356. It was an important center, serving the Venetian military ships, as well as one of the most important commercial ports of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. 

In the 16th century, due to a perceived Turkish threat, the harbor was included to the new fortification plans of the city of Chania. A fort constructed next to the entrance of the harbour and enhanced with bastions even on the breakwater.

During the period of the Turkish rule, the port continued to be a trade center. 

Much later, the19th - early 20th century, the largest ships at that time, had to anchor outside the harbor and reach the pier by boat. Thus, the port gradually abandoned and used the large natural harbor of Souda, which serves the passenger and commercial traffic of western Crete until today. 

On the other hand, the old harbour of Chania hosts small boats and yachts, in its eastern basin. 

A Walk along the waterfront
of the old harbour of Chania

Your virtual tour to the pier of the harbour will begin from the north end side and will end up to the lighthouse, through the coasts of Kountourioti Coast   1  , Tombazi Coast     2  , Enoseos Coast   3   and the Breakwater   4  . A total distance of 1.767 meters of walking.

Entering the harbor from its west side, the first picture you'll see is the entrance to the harbor and the opposite nearby lighthouse. On your right, the walls are of the Firkas Fortress built by the Venetians to protect the harbour entrance.  

Moreover, if it was necessary, a thick chain that was tied underneath the fortress bastion and to the base of the lighthouse, was closing the entrance.

Walking Along Kountourioti Coast

At the end of the fortress walls along Kountourioti Coast, there is a red structure built inside the fortress and partially over its walls. This building once housed the naval garrison of the Venetians in Chania, and these days it houses the Maritime Museum of Crete

Right next to the entrance of the Maritime Museum, a steep alleyway might have escaped your attention. This is the Angelou street   1  , which has to show you some typical examples of the Venetian architecture of the 16th and 17th century imprinted on its buildings and is one of the most beautiful streets of the neighborhood of Topanas and the old town of Chania. 

Angelou street   1   as well as Theophanous   2   and Douka   3   streets that are perpendicular to the Kountourioti Coast, lead inside the district of Topanas, and Kondylaki street   4   drives inside the old Jewish neighborhood (Ovriaki or Evraiki in Greek).

Just have in mind to find these alleyways that are often hidden from the eyes of passers-by, because of the crowds strolling on the waterfront, as well because of the awnings and the tables and chairs of restaurants and cafes that extend many times their limits in order to serve the throngs of visitors to the harbour of Chania, during the summer and especially the evening and night hours.

Continuing your stroll along Kountourioti Coast, try to imagine what was happening on the waterfront during the Venetian and Tourkish periods. All the buildings along the waterfront that house today restaurants and cafes on the ground floor, were warehouses, where stored the goods that were unloaded or were to be load to the ships that tied only to the western basin of the harbour. And the upper floors were used to accommodate the seafarers and merchants.

Today, most of these Venetian buildings, above restaurants and cafes, have been converted into hotels offering beautiful views to the old Venetian harbour of Chania. 

Your ride on Kountourioti Coast ends at the intersection with the Sintrivani Square which used to be for many years the main square of the city of Chania, whilst today is still the central square of the old town of Chania. 

Walking Along Tombazi Coast

Passing by the intersection with the Sintrivani square, starts the Tombazi Coast.

The works of real artists, who put in their own coloured touches to the colorful harbour, will attract your attention and there will be many times that you will stop to admire them. 

A bit further, the typical Turkish architecture building will surely grab your attention. 

The Giali Tzamissi which in Turkish means, "The Seaside Mosque", is the oldest Muslim building in Crete. A part of its southern side destroyed by the fierce bombardment of the Nazis during the second world war. Today the small interior space of the building is primarily used as an exhibition hall. 

Just behind the Giali Tzamissi, on the Sourmelis Street you'll see a sample of the magnitude of damage caused by the bombardment of the German aircrafts in 1941. In front of the ruins of the three-storey building that existed at the point, there is a photo showing how it was before the bombing. 

Continuing your walk along Tombazi Coast, behind the restaurants, cafes and bars, you will see the Byzantine walls towering the Kasteli hill, which is known as the place where the history of the city of Chania began.

The history says that Chania is a continuation of an ancient city named Kydonia or Cydonia, whose foundation dates back to the late Neolithic times 3650-3000 BC. 

Apart from the significant findings of the Minoan Kydonia which you will see on the Kasteli hill, the panoramic view to the harbor is lovely, from the edge of the hill. 

At the end of Tombazi Coast, there are stairs that lead you up to the hill of Kasteli. Attn, there are not visible from the waterfront. You'll find them within the narrow Afentoulief Street next to the Grand Arsenal. 

The Grand Arsenal is the two-storey stone architecture and is the westernmost of the arsenals-dockyards built by the Venetians in order to repair and construct their ships. It has been renovated and since, it houses a cultural institution, the Center of Mediterranean Architecture. 

Walking Along Enoseos Coast

Right next to the Grand Arsenal there is parking space followed by the old customs' building and a second parking space, and then is preserved a complex of other seven Venetian docks. At this whole area, extending between the Grand Arsenal and the seven remaining docks, there was a single complex of 17 shipyards in total. 

Imagine how the eastern basin of the harbor was during the Venetian period. The docks were open to the seaside letting the water coming in, in order to be able to tow the ship. 

Nowadays, at this point there is a marina that hosts small boats.

Passing by the old Venetian shipyards, the fish taverns of Enoseos Coast, and the intersection with the Sarpidonos Str, where there are many youthful hangouts housed in the colorful buildings, you will reach the Porto Veneziano hotel, another waterfront hotel offering a beautiful view to the harbour.

Reaching the East end of Enoseos Coast, you'll see other three dockyards, the shipyards of Moro which took the name of the Venetian Governor who proposed to be built.

The construction of the leftmost started to be built, but its roof was never completed. It has been recently built and houses the Sailing Club of Chania. The rightmost of the Venetian dockyards ceded to the Maritime Museum of Crete, and it houses a sample model of a Minoan ship of the 15th century BC. 

The area in which lie the dockyards of Moro, is an artificial peninsula created by the Venetians. Southeast of the parking space which is right next to the docks, is located the Sabbionara bastion, entirely built into the sea. 

A few meters away you will have the chance to see the only preserved gate of the Venetian fortifications. Moreover, further to the east, lies the seaside area known as Koum Kapi. Do not miss visiting it sometime during your holidays in Chania, Crete. 

Your stroll in the old Venetian harbour of Chania finishes when you reach the Moro docks. From here, either returning, either continue along the breakwater that will lead you to the lighthouse. Avoid walking on the breakwater if you have your children with you. 

Walking Along the Breakwater

The Venetian construction plans about the harbor couldn't have missed the breakwater which protects it up today from waves created by the north winds. 

Walking along the jetty, there will be times that you'll stop to admire the beautiful view to the harbor and the old town of Chania.

Here is another view across the Venetian shipyards. Further behind is distinguished the steeple and minaret of the church of St. Nicholas, which is located within the district of Splantzia.

About half your way to the lighthouse, you will reach another bastion of Chania fortifications, the bastion of St. Nicholas. Its cannons, along with those at the Firkas Fortress, covered the entire north side of the harbour.

During summer, on the bastion you'll find a cafe and restaurant. Their boat awaits in Tombazi Coast to pass you across, in case you don't want to come here on foot.

Finally, your ride along the harbour, ends to the lighthouse. It was built by the Venetians and was reconstructed by the Egyptians taking a shape of a minaret that is preserved until today. 

If you get here, sit down on the seawall and enjoy the beautiful panoramic view to the old Venetian harbour and the old town of Chania from a different angle. 

Here is the Kasteli hill with its Byzantine walls, and there is, the turkish Giali Tzami in the western basin of the harbor used as the main port, with its Venetian colorful waterfront buildings of the Topanas neighborhood and the red building of the Maritime museum inside the Firkas Fortress, at the westernmost side of the harbour.

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