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During the long sieges and after four centuries of Venetian rule, Crete has adopted a wide variety of architectural styles reflecting the strong cultural identity of Venetian and Ottoman civilizations without losing its local characteristics. Close to the ancient cities and the great medieval monuments lies the architectural heritage of Crete, in its simplest and most interesting form.
The architectural wealth of Crete island comes mainly from the remains of the urban and Venetian architecture during the last centuries. Stone built houses, windmills, watermills, fountains, and shacks are found in every part of Crete and mainly in the mountainous areas which still remain untouched from the tourist development. During the Venetian occupation, all towns of Crete, from the smallest to the largest were fortified due to the unique location of three main towns which allowed them to see the Aegean.
The addition of fortification works begun in the 14th century and lasted for 20 years in Chania leaving a plethora of strong castles and forts at the top of the hills and splendid buildings that survive to this day, such as the noble Venetian residence of Baroness Von Schwartz.
The Venetian characteristics are quite apparent in the architecture of Chania and the most important is the Venetian lighthouse at the port, the beautiful two-storey houses in the Chania Old Town, the Clock Tower as well as many Byzantine churches and mosques. The Venetian port of Chania is also a remnant of that period, with the Venetian arsenals at one side and the Ottoman baths at the other. During the 15th century, beautiful fortified houses which belonged to the noble families appear in the countryside of Crete.
As trade was much developed at that time, the Venetians also constructed ports and dockyards, such as the Venetian arsenals in Chania that host the Arsenali Centre of Mediterranean Architecture today.
The largest settlements in Crete continue their course through the post-byzantine period with the construction of new houses, most of which survive to this day. The ecclesiastical monuments are the best-preserved constructions in the passage of time presenting the architectural forms related to the Metropolis of Venice.
Today, a walk in the historical paths of Chania is a unique journey back in time, where visitors are left speechless by the beauty and charm of these structures within and outside the walls of the fortified city.
Visitors will find many hotels that have been created with respect to the traditional architecture.