Koum Kapi district is strategically located between two famous districts of Chania city: The Old Town of Chania, which is the center of visitors’ activity with its Old Venetian Harbour, and the eclectic Chalepa district. The district has its own small beach, the Koum Kapi beach.
The name Koum Kapi derives from the Turkish word “Kum Kapisi”, which means “Gate of Sand“, and refers to the Venetian “Porta Sabbionara” (which also means “Gate of Sand” in Italian), which separated the Old City – through the city walls of the time – from the district.
Getting to Koum Kapi district from Chania Old Venetian Harbour, and the Sabbionara Gate and Bastion
When you stroll on the Old Venetian Harbour and you reach its eastern edge, you can either go back – as many visitors do – or continue on the small street inlands, next to a small parking lot, and discover one of the “hidden secrets” of Chania city: the district of Koum Kapi.
After only about 200 meters from the Old Venetian Harbour, you find a small beach, Koum Kapi beach, lying about 2 meters lower than the coastal promenade. On the western edge of the beach, which you reach first, there is an impressive Venetian bastion built right on the sea, on which you can still see the big Venetian Lion Coat of Arms.
This is the Sabbionara Bastion, which, along with the Sabbionara Gate, lying a few meters inland, was built in late 16th century, in order to protect the city of Chania from the Ottomans. This is the “Gate of the Sand” of the Venetians that later, in the Ottoman period of the city, gave its name to Koum Kapi district.
The small peninsula on which the Sabbionara Bastion was built, is artificial, and was made by the Venetians in order to better protect the eastern edge of the harbour. The Sabbionara Gate, next to the bastion, is now used as an art exhibition space.
From this point, you can see Koum Kapi district spreading to the east, with its own small beach, and its own distinct cafe, tavern and bar culture.
The Koum Kapi of today is a nice area next to the Old Town of Chania, and beautifully located by the beach. Along the beach, there are many lovely cafes, taverns, and bars, lining one next to the other.
This coastal strip of today’s Koum Kapi, is buzzing day and night, as it is very popular with the local people of Chania. Nowadays, you can also find a lot of visitors here, as many of them have discovered this little gem, with some of the best spots in both day and night to recharge, after a long day of exploring Chania Old Town and the Old Venetian Harbour – or even before it, as in Koum Kapi beach you can also find great places for morning coffee and breakfast.
When you see how beautiful the modern Koum Kapi district is, you cannot imagine its – not so bright – past. Going back in time, in the middle of the 19th century, during the last decades of the Ottoman occupation of the island, the district was a very poor settlement of the time, like a small village.
This was the area where the workers of the harbour lived. Having been brought to Chania from North Africa by the Ottomans, these impoverished people lived in makeshift shelters, either tents, or small huts made of pieces of wood or tin. The whole area was essentially a “favela” of the time.
Things changed rapidly in the district after 1913, when the reunion of Crete with mainland Greece took place. During that time, most of the impoverished African population returned to their home countries in North Africa. About a decade after, in 1924, many Greek refugees from Asia Minor settled in the area, after surviving the holocaust of the Greek population by the Turkish army.
The new, hard working residents of the neighborhood, helped by the adequate funding from the Greek State, contributed to the fast development of the area. Today, with the additional help of the tourism development of the last decades, Koum Kapi district is a real hidden gem, right next to Chania Old Town.
When you visit Chania city and you want to try something different, and explore beyond the magnificent Old Town, all you have to do is walk a few hundred meters east of the Old Venetian Harbour, right by the Sabbionara Gate and Bastion. Here, you will find the distinctive Koum Kapi district, where you can enjoy a coffee, breakfast, meal, or drink in one of its select shops by its nice beach.