Chania Architecture

After four centuries of Venetian rule and long sieges, Crete has adopted a wide variety of architectural styles reflecting the strong cultural influence of the Venetian and Ottoman civilizations without losing its distinctive characteristics. Close to the ancient cities and the great medieval monuments lies the more contemporary architectural heritage of Crete in its simplest and most interesting form.

The architectural wealth of the island comes mainly from the remnants of Venetian and Cretan urban architecture of the last centuries. Stone-built houses, windmills, watermills, fountains, and shacks can be found in every part of Crete and mainly in the mountainous areas, which still remain untouched by tourist development.

During the Venetian occupation, all towns of Crete, from the smallest to the largest, were fortified due to the strategic location of three main towns which allowed them access to the Aegean. Fortification works began 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.
The most interesting landmarks showcasing the architecture of Chania are 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. During the 15th century, beautiful fortified houses which belonged to the noble families appeared in the countryside of Crete. As trade was considerably 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 continued to thrive throughout the post-byzantine period with the construction of new houses, most of which survive to this day. The ecclesiastical monuments are the best-preserved ones, featuring the architectural forms related to the Archdiocese of Venice.

Similarly, edifices of high architectural value can be found in areas constructed towards the late 19th century, when after long struggles and numerous revolts, Crete acquired a semi-autonomous state within the Ottoman Empire. Those years saw the modernization of the town, with neoclassicism playing a prominent role. The suburb of Halepa, with such monuments as the French Consulate, the House of Venizelos, and the residence of Baroness Von Schwartz, is a prime example of the town’s transformation into a significant administrative, commercial and cultural center.

Today, a walk through the historic alleys 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 also find many hotels that have been created with respect to traditional architecture.