Chania’s spectacular Venetian Harbour is a symbol of the town’s rich and varied history, built between 1320 and 1356 when it was first under control of the Republic of Venice. Made of butter-colored stone and with its walls stretching for just under a mile (1.5 km), it provided sheltered waters and safe anchorage and was originally a thriving trading port with berthing room for up to 40 galleys. A breakwater was constructed to the north of the harbor to protect the ships from storm damage, and on this St Nicholas Chapel and bastion were built. During Venetian times condemned criminals were executed on this spot. The Firkas Fortress (now the Maritime Museum of Crete) at the entrance to the harbor was built with the dual purpose of safeguarding Chania from invasion and housing Venetian troops.
However the most striking of the edifices along the Venetian Harbour is the lighthouse (no public access), which dates from around 1570 and looms majestically skywards at the harbor entrance to this day. It is Chania’s most-photographed monument and was restored to its original splendor in the 1840s; the lighthouse is magical when illuminated at night.
Today, the Venetian Harbour offers mooring for local fishing boats and pleasure craft; in summer it is a romantic spot to stroll and then enjoy eating and drinking in the many harbor-side restaurants, tavernas and ouzo shops. Even in winter, it’s usually warm enough to sit outside in a café while sipping coffee and enjoying the Cretan sun.
Best accessed on foot. Chania can be reached by daily ferry from Piraeus in Athens, and by plane via Chania International Airport, which is 9 miles (14 km) from the town center.