Despite being heavily bombed during World War II Chania’s Old Town is considered the most beautiful urban district on Crete, especially the somewhat crumbling Venetian harbour.
The borders of the Old Town are the mostly destroyed old Venetian wall (and bulwarks) and this has been the cradle of all the civilizations which developed in the area.
The central part of the old town is named Kasteli and has been inhabited since Neolithic times. It is located on a small hill next to the seafront and has always been the ideal place for a settlement due to its secure position, its location next to the harbour and its proximity to the fertile valley in the south. Nowadays it is more quiet than the neighbouring areas of the western part of the district.
The Splantzia quarter (next to the east part of Kasteli) is also largely untouched and very atmospheric. The local authorities have recently completed much renovation work here, and more of the ancient buildings are open to the public.
The main square of the Old Town is the Eleftherios Venizelos Square (“Syntrivani”). It is the heart of tourist activities in the area. Next to this (on the west side) lies the Topanas district, where Pension Lena is, and which used to be the Christian part of the city during the Turkish occupation. 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, and there is a nicely restored synagogue here. 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 warm period (April-October). In the winter, it still remains a centre of activities (especially for nightlife) but in a more quiet and atmospheric way.
A very distinctive area of the Old Town is the harbour itself and the seafront (“akti”). Akti Tompazi, Akti Kountouriotou and Akti Enoseos (the marina) all feature several historical buildings and a thriving nightlife.
The main street that links the modern town with the old town is Halidon Street – you will almost certainly use this as your meeting point.