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About city Gallery Where to stay

Heraklion is the economic and administrative centre of Crete, bearing the name of the legendary ancient Greek hero Hercules, and the first city tourists see upon arriving on the island.

Furthermore, it’s the fifth-largest Greek city, home to over 170,000 people, filling it with the festive bustle characteristic of every capital in the world. That’s even truer during tourist season, as Heraklion is one of Crete’s most popular tourist centres. It’s a truly picturesque city, defined by its unique charm and an abundance of historical and cultural monuments.

Panoramic view of the harbour
Photo taken by  Panoramic view of the harbour

The city’s marine coastline stretches for miles. Here you can see both large cruise ships and small fishing boats. After all, Heraklion is first and foremost a harbour city. Its Venetian Harbour is one of the oldest operational harbours in the world. Its 16th century Koules Fortress, which had protected the city from many enemy attacks, remains intact to this day.

Despite the many battles and devastating earthquakes, Heraklion has managed to preserve most of its historical and architectural monuments. Many of these can be found in the old part of the city, surrounded by the waterfront and the remnants of a defensive wall. In the central Venizelou Square you’ll find the famous 17th-century Morosini Fountain, adorned with lions’ heads; the spectacular Agios Minas Orthodox Cathedral is located nearby; and the majestic Mayor’s Office, as well as the Church of St. Titus, the patron saint of Crete, can be seen on a different street. The capital of Crete, by the way, is especially rich in spectacular temples, so those who are interested in them should definitely visit the 16th-century St. Catherine’s Church, now home to an ecclesiastical art museum, or the 13th-century Monastery of St. Peter and Paul.

Crete Aquarium
Photo taken by Thomas Kohler | Flickr.  Crete Aquarium

Heraklion’s museums, which are full of unique exhibits, is another place worth considering. The city’s Archaeological Museum, for instance, is known for its artefact collection from the Minoan Epoch. Here you can see the famous Disk of Phaistos, reminding us of the ancient civilization. The History Museum guards various findings and historical documents from the times when Crete was ruled by Byzantium and the Venetians. And the famous Palace of Knossos, also known as Minotaur’s Labyrinth, is simply astounding. According to some speculation, the palace is older than even the Egyptian pyramids. This unique complex, which used to be five storeys high with 1,200 rooms, was built without the use of metal instruments.

In Heraklion, you’ll find food not only for your soul, but also for your body. While here, be sure to enjoy the excellent Greek cuisine. Many traditional Greek taverns can be found on August 25th Street, where you can get some excellent national meat and fish dishes for a reasonable price.

Vacationers and beach lovers are advised to visit the suburbs or go just outside the city limits – the water here is cleaner, and the sand whiter. For instance, the excellent Ammoudara Beach is only 10 minutes away from the city centre by car.

Photo taken by Shadowgate | Flickr.  Heraklion

The capital of Crete is perfect for shopping. Make sure you visit the commercial Daidalou Street, where you’ll find clothes made by Greek fashion designers, and a wide selection of locally-made fur coats, leather accessories and jewellery. Olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables, honey, cheese, various herbs and spices, souvenirs, and inexpensive footwear can be found at the central market, located on 1866 Street. Just keep in mind that most local shops operate according to a rather unusual schedule. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays they’re open 10 AM to 3 PM, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays they also open between 5 and 9 PM. Sundays are always off.

Where to stay