The heart of Chania is still the old town, and the hotchpotch of buildings from different eras illustrates the towns complex and turbulent history. The Venetian element is everywhere, from the harbour itself to the Firkas Fortress on the waterfront, which is now a maritime museum. The little streets that zig-zag the old town are full of elegant Venetian buildings, and you can still see the remains of the Venetian walls that once encircled Chania. By way of contrast there is also an ancient Turkish mosque on the waterfront, with Kastelli Hill rising behind it. The mosque is a great landmark, but is no longer used as a religious building, but as an exhibition space. The buildings of the old town are very much alive, and are now shops, restaurants, hotels, artisan workshops and private houses. The new town has grown up all around the old, but the two areas peacefully co-exist. The sandy beach is just a 5 minute walk from the harbour, so the town is very compact and manageable for the visitor.
The Agora is an indoor market with proper shops selling all kinds of things including meat, a wide range of fruit and vegetables, cheese and yoghurt, herbs and spices. It is all under one roof in an enclosed building in the shape of a cross, in Odos Minoos, near the eastern fortification wall. The market was completed in 1913, based on the market of Marseilles. The shops are not at all geared up to tourists, but are very much for locals, and so offer an insight into the 'real' life of the island. There are also several tiny restaurants cooking simple but tasty food.
The most popular street market in Chania is the ‘Laiki’ on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. The Laiki is like a farmers’ market, where growers and producers come to sell their produce on trestle tables with maybe a tarpaulin for shade. You can buy super-fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables, eggs, cheese, herbs, fish, honey and raki.
The nightlife of Chania is centred around the harbour which is the main hub for bars and clubs. Locals have a drink or two, then eat a leisurely meal at one of the waterside tavernas before heading for the bright lights and inventive cocktails of the clubs and dancing to an eclectic mix of modern jazz, Latin, rock or Euro pop till they settle for a strong coffee in the wee small hours.
On the east side of the harbour, you can see the last remaining Venetian shipyards, although not in their original state as the quay was constructed in the early part of 20th century preventing ships from entering. They are under renovation to be used as exhibition halls for local artists and commerce.