Hania by night. Crete




The best way to get around the island and get the most out of your holiday whilst your here, is of course to hire a vehicle. It is possible to see a lot of the island on a whistle stop tour. However, you then do not get the best from the island within one day. Albeit, if your not that confident or feel it could be hard to find a parking space then perhaps it would be wiser to catch a bus into to town.

One of the attractions which brings the visitor back time and time again to Crete is its natural beauty and the contrasts it has from one part of the island to another. Its mountain ranges, plateaus, green valleys, beautiful beaches and crystal blue and turquoise sea all offer something for everyone. Small secluded bays and coves still provide an escape for those who like to get way from the crowds and noise of the busier resorts and towns.


For those of you who want only to hire a vehicle for a week, then the following information I hope will help you get the most of the island, by choosing what suits you best. Crete is such a large island you can often spend more time travelling than seeing things, so for the moment at least, I hope this will help all of you within the Hania and western Crete areas to see as much as possible without travelling too great a distance. There is also a very frequent bus connection with Hania to most areas. You will however need a good map.




The city of Hania was the islands capital until 1971 and is today one of the most enjoyable of Crete's larger towns. Without a doubt the part of Hania you will want to explore first is the old city, surrounded by the Venetian walls of the 15th century, which are dispersed around the harbour with its bustling and shimmering waterfront. Its quaint back streets are full of Venetian and Ottoman buildings, museums, churches and craft shops, this alone could take you all day to explore! The web of back streets and harbour have an array of restaurants, tavernas and cafés to sit and take in the charm of the old quarter.  The atmosphere is Florentine and Venetian, combined with the culture and character of Cretan people and their traditions.  

Venetian pathway Hania Crete

You can still see the old Roman and Turkish buildings that once would have adorned the whole island but have since been destroyed by the ravages of war and plunder. The central part of the old town is named 'Kasteli'. It is located on a small hill right next to the seafront and has always been the ideal place for a settlement due to its secure position. The main square of the Old Town which is next to the west end of 'Kasteli', is called Eleftherios Venizelos Square 'Syntrivani', and is the heart of the tourist activities in the area. Next to this (on the west side) lies the 'Topanas' district, which used to be the Christian part of the city during the Turkish occupation.

Hania Harbour Crete


Its name comes from the Venetian ammunition warehouse 'Top-Hane' in Turkish, which was located there. The Jewish quarter 'Evraiki' or 'Ovraiki' was located at the north west of the old Town, behind the harbour and within the borders of 'Topanas'. Walk around the harbour and admire the Mosque of the Janissaries. The Turks built this to leave their mark on Crete after the 1645 Occupation, it is the oldest mosque on Crete.  The whole 'Topanas' area is generally very picturesque, with many narrow alleys and old charming buildings, some of which have been restored as hotels, restaurants, shops and bars. This makes it a lively and colourful place especially during the summer months.

Hania Market Crete


Hania has an impressive variety of goods to offer shoppers, from top designer labels and exquisite jewellery to fine antiques and superb leather goods. Crete is famous for its original jewellery designs in gold and silver and it is competitively priced. The city of Hania is without doubt the best place for handicraft shopping in the whole of Crete. Long famous for its leather handicrafts, especially its tough traditional Cretan boots 'stivania'. The shoemaker street 'Skridlof', off 'Halidon' Street has now grown into a tourist leather bazaar.  The quality of the work on offer has of course declined but it may be said in fairness that you can still find good quality work at good prices with lots of competition and even some real bargains around the end of the tourist season.  Apart from the stalls some more up-market leather shops have also opened in 'Leather lane' as well as elsewhere, and you can find some good bags, belts and other leather items at very keen prices.

Master Shoemaker Hania Crete


Knives were and still are very important items for the Cretans, to display as status symbols as well as showing an ability in defending themselves. There are several traditional knives shops in 'Sifaka' Street.  Before the famous indoor market was built in 1013, 'Sifaka' was filled with butchers shop, hence the knife makers setting up business in the same street. Located just outside the old Byzantine city wall, this area was originally known for its forges. It was where farmers used to come down from the mountains to service their cars, or shoe their mules, and of course buy knives. Today thankfully, most people don't feel the necessity to constantly have a knife stuck in the belt of their trousers. The skill however, is still very much alive, with blades often decorated with notches some even inscribed with a verse from an epic poem. Even the handles are shaped by hand some even diamond encrusted. Horn handles are stronger and used for working knives, but for the decorative ones bone is used especially for its whiteness.  If you visit before 10.00am in the morning you may be lucky enough to see the furnaces alight and to watch knives being made.

Knifemaker Hania Crete


Weaving and carpet making was and still is more common in Central Crete but you can still find a few good shops selling traditional work.


The new town is where the day-to-day business of Hania goes on, with its shops, offices, post office and banks, it even has a small Marks and Spencer!


You can walk along the harbour wall to the Venetian Lighthouse, which guards the entrance to Hania's Venetian harbour. Or nip across in one of the restaurants boats! The present lighthouse was originally built in 1838 during Crete's brief occupation by the Egyptians, until these devout Muslims demolished the Venetian's design in 1583. Perhaps visit the Naval Museum.  It has model ships, old maps, models of Hania in Venetian times and upstairs is a small exhibition covering the Battle of Crete. Open daily: 10.00am-4.00pm, there is an entrance fee. Take time to go through the arch, into what was the parade ground, known by the Turkish word 'Firkas' and you will be rewarded with a marvellous view across the walls to the lighthouse and the harbour.  

Lighthouse Hania Crete


Then explore the back streets toward the 'Schiavo' Bastion & Venetian Walls, built in the mid 15th Century as protection against the forthcoming Turkish invasion. Visit the Byzantine Collection of Hania next to the harbour fortress, this small museum has an incredible collection of beautiful Cretan icons spanning 1,000 years of Byzantine history. Tues–Sun 8.30am-3.00pm entrance fee charged. The Archaeological Museum of Hania is based in the 'Katholikon' of the Venetian Monastery of St. Francis.  During the period of the Turkish occupation it was the Muslim Mosque of Yussuf Pasha, while in modern times it was also used as a cinema and a storehouse for military equipment.  Since 1963, it has been functioning as the museum. Its excellent collection includes Minoan pottery and clay tablets, Hellenistic sculpture and glassware also some mosaics. Tues–Sun 8.30am-3.00pm entrance fee. 

Back streets Hania Crete


Visit the Cretan House Folklore Museum: Mon-Sat 9.00am-3.00pm. This quirky collection includes traditional looms and spinning wheels, richly coloured rugs, wall hangings and embroidery.


Etz Hayim Synagogue: open daily. Beautifully restored by a group of local Jews, Christians and Muslims alike this 15th Century synagogue was used by Hania’s Jewish population until the German occupation when they were deported to death camps which they never reached, as their steamship 'Tanais' was sunk by allied torpedoes, with no survivors.  The synagogue offers a wide variety of cultural events through the year, including meditation, music and even yoga classes'.

Synagogue Hania Crete


If your self catering or perhaps want to buy herbs to take home with you or would like to experience the local fish, meat and vegetable stalls - a must to see is the Municipal Market of Hania, for a real experience! best visited first thing in the morning when locals go shopping.  It is excellent for lots of different varieties of fish and competitively priced local produce, with some speciality dishes being served at the small snack bars and grills. You you'll find it hard to resist some of the local dishes on display.

Fish market Hania Crete


The boats start arriving at the Souda Bay fish market at about 2.30am and the market stall holders have to get there by at least 4am to find the best catch. Only a small portion of fish at the market is caught off the shores of Crete. Their day finishes at about 2pm when the market closes for lunch.


An evening in Hania can be as sedate or as active as you choose.  At dusk the Old Harbour is the centre of life in the town, people come out to have a drink and watch the world pass by.  In the summer months, most social life takes place out doors. Enjoy a meal in a range of charming garden tavernas, often set in the ruins of a majestic building of the past or perhaps you prefer a simple 'kafenion' with good basic home cooked food at incredibly low prices. The numerous bars and cafés offer everything from trendy to traditional.  You'll also find every type of music played, popular Greek, Jazz, Latin, Hard Rock and Euro Trash oops sorry Pop music! - whatever your taste you'll be spoilt for choice.



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