Heraklion, a city with long history and cosmopolitan character
Heraklion, lying along the north coast of Crete, is the largest city of the island that concentrates most of its economic activity. It has taken its current name since the liberation of Crete from the Turks, in 1898.
During the Minoan period, the city was used as the port of the legendary palace of Knossos. In its present location, Heraklion was built in 824 by the Arabs.
Taking a walk at the old town areas (established in the Middle Ages), you will get a keen sense of the glorious image of the past. It is obvious that Heraklion is living between the fastmoving currents of regeneration and the deep desire to maintain links with the old period; both these strands define city’s character.
Heraklion offers its visitors amazing places to discover: A wealth of
museums and archaeological sites, a summer cultural festival, an
extraordinary nightlife and numerous events throughout the year. The
city is easily approached by plane from all over the world and by boat
from Piraeus port or the nearby Greek islands.
The historical fortress (in a Turkish name) is located at the entrance of the old port of Heraklion and for many centuries was used as protection against invaders. Koules, is built on two levels and offers a commanding view of Heraklion from the battlements.
Nowadays, the harbour hosts many colored fishing boats and busy tavernas selling fresh fish. The view to the North takes in the uninhabited island of Dia, where evidence of ancient Minoan settlement was found by the famous diver, Jacques Cousteau. Boat trips can be booked from travel shops throughout central Heraklion for organized excursions to various places of interest.
25th OF AUGUST STREET
The pedestrian area of 25 August St. is directly opposite the Old Harbour and extends to Lion Square. The
street hosts mainly shops and some tourist offices. Some of the most impressive sights that you will see as you walk up the short hill, is St. Titus’ Cathedral, which was built during the second Byzantine period, the Loggia, a wonderful example of Venetian building and St. Mark’s Basilica which operates now as the Municipal Art Gallery and often hosts art and crafts exhibitions.
LIONTARIA (LION SQUARE)
Τhe heart of Heraklion where business and pleasure are combined in the small space around the fountain. The decorated fountain is composed of eight cisterns while the main basin is supported by four sitting lions balancing a circular bowl on their heads. You should taste the local bougatsa for breakfast, or the extra-large souvlaki that is served at any time of the day.
t runs in a historical boulevard, called 1866. The old Market Street of the town is still a place for the locals where they buy shirts and socks, but also herbs, fish and fresh meat. It’s a good place to find thyme honey, raki (the famous Cretan clear
spirit) from among shops selling everything from selections of Cretan music to the finest local cheese.
The Plateia itself is named after Vitsenzos Kornaros, composer of the epic poem Erotokritos. It lies at the top
of the Market, with a beautiful Venetian fountain of its own, the Bembo Fountain, built in 1588 by Venetian architect Zuanne Bembo.
AGIOS MINAS CATHEDRAL
The Cathedral is dedicated to the Patron Saint of Heraklion and is one of Greece’s largest churches,
completed in a cruciform shape with twin towers. It was inaugurated in 1896 with lavish celebrations
PLATEIA ELEFTERIAS (FREEDOM SQUARE)
It is built in a crescent shape alongside the Archaeological Museum, close to Heraklion’s
municipal buildings and the main foreign Consulates. The passage may still be accessed and operates as a venue for art exhibitions.
There are plenty of eating and drinking houses on the north side of the square.
THE CITY WALLS
The exciting medieval walls that surround Heraklion were used to protect the city from enemies. You may
walk along the top of these walls and enjoy a view over the city. As soon as you reach the Grave of the famous Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis, you will see written on it his famous proverb: “I hope for nothing, I fear nothing; I am free”.