Chania old Venetian Harbor – A masterpiece of the Crete Venetian era
Chania old Venetian Harbor is probably the most known sight in West Crete. The harbor was made in the 14th century, during the Venetian era of Crete. Its construction started in 1320 and lasted for decades.
Apart from its basic role as a commercial maritime hub, Chania old Venetian Harbor was also used as a base for the Venetian navy in order to protect their ships from the pirates, who frequented the area in those years.
Going around Chania old Venetian Harbor
Chania Venetian Harbor is located at the point where the very picturesque Old City of Chania meets the sea. Being an extension of the Old City, the Venetian Harbor is the historic open air promenade that you reach after strolling around the alleys and the small shops of the Old City.
The most prominent structure in the entrance to Chania Venetian Harbor is the Arabian Lighthouse. The old lighthouse, dating back to the Venetian era, was restored in the decade of 1830 by the Egyptians (hence their name “Arabian Lighthouse”). The lighthouse has recently been very well renovated, and for many people is the rightful landmark of Chania city.
From the lighthouse, there is a sea wall upon which you can walk and stroll around the wonderful Chania old Venetian Harbor. This sea wall was protecting the numerous ships of the harbor, but, according to the historians, was the main reason that the sand from the sea was trapped inside the harbor, making it a constant concern to periodically excavating the bottom of the harbor in order to keep it deep enough. On a part of the sea wall today lays a characteristic café-restaurant.
On the opposite side of the sea wall, we find the Neoria buildings, the biggest of which,Megalo (“Big”) Arsenali, today houses the Center of the Mediterranean Architecture. Neoria have a characteristic roof and it’s hard not to notice them. These buildings were used as shipyards, but when the Ottomans and the pirates besieged Chania city, they were used as large storehouses that contained huge quantities of food supplies, enough for the entire city.
Finally, at the corner of the Venetian harbor opposite the Arabian Lighthouse there is a building with a circular roof and distinctive design, the Kioutsouk Hasan mosque. The mosque was built in the 17th century, after the Ottoman Empire occupied Chania city and Crete.
Chania old Venetian Harbour and Firkas fortress
When walking towards the other edge of the Venetian Harbor to the west, there are numerous cafes and taverns all around, but a large building on the west part of the entrance of the harbor dominates the horizon: the famous Firkas fortress.
Firkas fortress was also built during the Venetian era, but after the Ottoman occupation of Crete it was mainly used as a prison – one of the worst prisons in Crete Island. Firkas fortress today houses the Maritime Museum of Chania, and is another very interesting place to visit in Chania old Venetian Harbour.
Firkas fortress today also contains an open air theatre, and is of particular historical importance for Cretans, as it was the first place where the Greek flag was raised again in 1913, when finally Crete was reunited with Greece after many centuries of foreign occupation.
Chania old Venetian Harbour is possibly the most interesting sample of the Venetian architecture in Crete, a real masterpiece of its era. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the harbor every year, in order to admire one of the rare places that combine the Venetian, the Greek and the Ottoman architecture in such harmony: Chania old Venetian Harbour is a place unique all over the Mediterranean Sea.