MUSEUMS & COLLECTIONS
The history of a place largely influences the local culture and customs. And if you want to get a deeper understanding of Chania, there is no better place than its museums. Crete has a rich history spanning many millennia, with many centuries being in the forefront of the development of human civilization.
In fact, Crete was the birthplace of the first organized civilization in Europe, the Minoan Civilization. In a glorious historical course that lasted for almost two millennia (3000 BC – 1100 BC), the Minoan Civilization set in motion a process that after many centuries turned into the Ancient Greek Civilization, the precursor of today’s modern European Civilization. The Minoans left behind stunning palaces, pieces of art and a commercial and naval spirit that was second to none.
Another historical period when Chania was blooming was during the Venetian era. For almost five centuries (1205 – 1669) the Kingdom of Candia (as Chania was called at that time) was a prime commercial, naval and financial hot spot in Europe. Today, all over the Old Town of Chania, and of course the one-of-a-kind Old Venetian Harbour of Chania, you can find magnificent buildings still preserved from that era, which can recount all kinds of stories to you, if you have your eyes and ears open.
Finally, in modern Greek history, the city of Chania played a central role through the personal story of a man that changed the historical course of Greece and the Balkans: Eleftherios Venizelos. Venizelos was the Chania-born Greek politician that took over the steering wheel of the country in extremely difficult historical times. He made no mistakes as he navigated through the rough times of the Cretan Independence from the Turks, and then the WWI and the Balkan Wars, giving to Greece its geographical and cultural identity of modern times. In fact, if you have come to Greece through Athens International Airport, by far the largest in the country, you have already come across his name: “El. Venizelos International Airport”.
Regarding the best museums in the city, it all comes down to your personal preferences. However, the Archaeological Museum of Chania will prove indispensable in educating you on the fascinating history of the place.
Another great museum to visit is the Nautical Museum of Crete, housed in the imposing Firkas Fortress, the big red building on the side of the Venetian Old Harbour. Crete has a world-leading naval tradition since the Minoans times, spanning more than five millennia, and in this museum with more than 2.500 items, you can get to know all about it.
If you are interested in modern Greek history, the Museum of Eleftherios Venizelos, in his family house in the district of Halepa, will impress you. Finally, if your interests are more specific, in Chania you will find a variety of niche museums that will inspire you, like the Museum of Typography, the Museum of the (well-known winning underdog) Greek National Football Team, and the School Life Museum.