Hania is the site of the Minoan settlement of Kydonia, which was centred on the hill to the east of the harbour. Excavation work continues, but the discovery of clay tablets with Linear B script has led archaeologists to believe that Kydonia was both a palace site and an important town.
Kydonia met the same fiery fate as most other Minoan settlements in 1450 BC, but soon re-emerged as a force. It was a flourishing city-state during Hellenistic times and continued to prosper under Roman and Byzantine rule.
The Venetians took over at the beginning of the 13th century, and changed the city’s name to La Canea. They constructed massive fortifications to deter marauding pirates and invading Turks but they did not prove very effective against the Turks, who took Hania in 1645 after a two-month siege.
The Great Powers made Hania the island capital in 1898 and it remained so until 1971, when the administration was transferred to Iraklio.
Hania was heavily bombed during WWII, but enough of the Old Town survives for it to be regarded as Crete’s most beautiful city.