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
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: Α 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.
It 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”.
Knossos is the heart of the Minoan civilization; the seat of the legendary
king Minos and the birthplace of some mythical stories, such as the
myths of the Labyrinth with its Minotaur and of Dedalos and Ikaros. The
site of Knossos was inhabited since the Neolithic period (7000-3000 BC)
until the late antiquity, and operated as a significant centre of trade and
economy. Large palace buildings, extensive workshop installations and
luxurious rock-cut cave and tholos tombs, are some of its remarkable
The largest monument of the site and most spectacular is the Palace,
which covers an area of 20.000 square metres. The location of ancient
Knossos was first spotted in 1878 by the Cretan antiquarian and
merchant, Minos Kalokairinos.
In the same site, some must-seen monuments are the little Palace, the
Royal Villa, the Caravan-Serai. The numerous finds from the Palace, such
as high-quality art, pottery, vessels, figurines, the archive of Linear B
tablets and the original wall-paintings are all housed in the
Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
Tel.: +30 2810 231940
Tickets: Full: €15 – Reduced: €8
The second in size Palace in Crete -after the one in Knossos- Phaistos
Palace (18.000m 2 ) was built on a rise in the western part of the large
plain of Messara. The location had been selected in order to allow the
local king to inspect the products of the plain and control the exit to the
sea. This low hill is part of other small ones which extend towards the
east, between Mount Ida in the North and Asterousia in the West.
The Palace of Phaistos is considered to be a typical sample of a Minoan
palace, due to its perfect construction and architectural structure.
According to the Greek mythology, Phaistos was ruled by the king
Rhadamanthus (son of Zeus and Europa).
Tel.: +30 28920 42315
Tickets: Full: €8 – Reduced: €4
THE HERAKLION ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Located in the town centre, the Museum was constructed between
1933-1937. It is regarded as one of Europe’s most significant museums.
It brings together archaeological finds from all over Crete, covering over
5.500 years of the island’s history, from the Neolithic period to Roman
times. Justly regarded as the home of Minoan civilization par excellence,
the Museum houses the most important collection of Minoan antiquities
worldwide. Twenty-seven galleries are housed in the two-storeyed
building houses, as well as a gallery for audio-visual displays, extensive
modern laboratories and a museum shop that sells museum copies,
books, postcards and slides.
Xanthoudidou 2 & Hatzidaki Str., Heraklion
Tel.: 2810 279000
Tickets: Full: €10 – Reduced: €5
NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS MUSEUM
Nikos Kazantzakis is widely considered a “giant” of modern Greek
literature, as he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in nine
different years. The important author, philosopher and politician was
born in Heraklion in 1883 and died in Fryberg of Germany in 1957. His
works have been translated in more than 30 languages worldwide.
The Kazantzakis Museum is located in central square of the historical
village Varvari (Myrtia), and consists of a cluster of buildings. The
Museum Exhibition is housed on a site formerly occupied by the home of
the Anemoyannis family, which was related to Nikos Kazantzakis’ father,
The Museum was founded in 1983 by Yiorgos Anemoyannis, a
pioneering figure in Greek theatre with the mandate to preserve the
author’s memory and promote his work and thought. More than 50.000
items are exhibited in the Museum, grouped in a variety of collections
(letter archive, photo and sound archive, manuscripts, artworks etc.)
Myrtia, Archanon-Asteriousion Municipality, Heraklion
Tel.: +30 2810 741689
Tickets: Full: €5 – Reduced: €3
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF CRETE
The Natural History Museum of Crete showcases in an innovative way
the natural environment of the wider Mediterranean area, with special
emphasis on Greece and Crete. The realistic representations of
ecosystems found in the Eastern Mediterranean region, called Mega-
Dioramas, constitute the biggest part of the Museum’s exhibition. The
visitors have also the opportunity to visit the “Living Museum”, a special
arranged area with small scale aquariums and terrariums housing living
animals from Eastern Mediterranean region.
An educational seismic table (earthquake simulator) is operating at the
Museum offering visitors the opportunity to learn about earthquakes
and experience, in a safe environment, real earthquakes.
Knossou Ave., Heraklion
Tel.: +30 2810 324366
Tickets: Full: €7,5 – Reduced: €4,5
HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF CRETE
The Cretan History -from early Christian times to the present day- is
presented in a comprehensive view in the Historical Museum of Crete.
The Museum was founded in 1953 by the Society of Cretan Historical
Studies, with the goal to collect and preserve valuable archaeological,
ethnographic and historical material deriving from the medieval and
modern periods of Cretan history. The process of enriching the
collections, extending exhibition space and redefining the museum’s
aims has never ceased.
The museum offers a genuine learning experience to visitors. Among the
exhibitions, you shouldn’t miss the Medieval and Renaissance Collection,
the Struggles for Cretan Freedom, the Folklore Collection, Nikos
Kazantzakis’ Room, Emmanouil Tsouderos’ Room, A.G. Kalokerinos’
Room and Ceramics’ Room.
27, Sofokli Venizelou Ave. – Heraklion
Tel.: +30 2810 283219
Tickets: Full: €5 – Reduced: €3
ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ARCHANES
The Archaeological Museum of Archanes is one of the most significant
archaeological sites of Crete. It hosts stone and clay objects as well as
the exact copies of some of the most important archaeological finds of
the area Archanes-Yuhtas.
Ano Archanes, Tourkogeitonia – Heraklion
Tel.: +30 2810 752712
Open after agreement
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF GORTYNA
Gortyna, is one of the most important cities in Messara plain, in south
central Crete. It is one of the most extensive archaeological sites in
Greece with an unbroken history of 6000 years. The place was first
inhabited at the end of the Neolithic period (3000 BC) and by the late
Minoan period (1600-1100 BC) it became a flourishing settlement.
Remains of the Archaic period (7th century BC) were located in the area
of the Acropolis.
The most important monuments of the site are: Odion, the Gortyna Law
Code (450 BC), the Isieion, the Temple of Apollo Pythios (7th century
BC), the Praetorium, the northeastern Cistern and the Nymphaeum, the
Acropolis on the hill of Agios Ioannis (10th-6th centuries BC), the Church
of St. Titus, (7th century AD), the Triconch church founded probably over
the tomb of the Ten Cretan Martyrs (5th century AD).
Agioi Deka, Heraklion
Tel.: +30 28920 31144
THE PALACE OF MALIA
The third in size of the Minoan palaces lies at 7.500 square metres. It is
situated on the North coast of Crete, 3 km east of Malia town. The
archaeological site was inhabited at the Neolithic period and its findings
reveal that the city was prosperous. The palace of Malia is of classical
Minoan style and according to tradition it was ruled by the third son of
Zeus and Europa, Sarpedon, brother of the legendary king Minos.
Tel.: +30 2897031597
Tickets: Full: €5 – Reduced: €3
MALEVIZI ARCHAEOLOGICAL COLLECTION
The Malevizi Archaeological collection consists of artefacts from all the
periods of Cretan History. It includes about 500 exhibits of the private
collection “Metaxa” and a numerous of other finds which are presented
in a large hall in the municipality building, in 40 display cases.
Gazi City Hall, Heraklion
Tel.: 281 340 0669
On the north-western part of the former American Base of Gournes, the
CretAquarium offers its visitors a wonderful experience of the Sea world.
As one of the largest and most modern aquariums in Europe,
CretAquarium “expertizes” in presenting species and ecosystems of the
Mediterranean, the sea of unique biodiversity. Offering 60 tanks of
different sizes, containing a total amount of 1.700.000 litres of sea
water, it houses 2000 sea animals and 200 different species found in the
Mediterranean basin. Additionally, CretAquarium designs and
implements educational programmes, treats injured animals and is
firmly enriched with new marine species. Each year, millions of visitors
from all over the world visit the Cretan Aquarium.
Former American Base in Gournes, Heraklion
Tel.: +30 2810-337788
Tickets: Full: €10 – Reduced: €6
Gorge of Agios Nikolaos Zaros
A 4 km length gorge that cuts the imposing mountain of Psiloritis from
the North to the South. The gorge links Rouvas’ forest to the valley of
Koutsoulidis’ river, near Zaros village -one of the most beautiful large
villages in Crete. It is undoubtedly the most impressive gorge in central
Crete as it combines a rare landscape of rich vegetation with an
extraordinary geomorphology. The gorge is also regarded as an historical
place hosting the old churches of Agios Nikolaos, Agios Minas and Agios
Euthymios, as well as the ruins of the Roman Aqueduct at the spot
Sterna. If you decide to visit the place, you will need one and a half an
hour of hike to discover its natural beauty.
famous for the caves in the rocks as well as the hippies of the 70’s.
The beach located 65km southwest of Heraklion where the plain
of Messara meets Asteroussia Mountains, offers an amazing scene
to its visitors due to its tenths of caves, caverns and hollows that
were formed by the fury of the waves, winds and saltiness of the
sea. In the Minoan era, Matala bay served as the port of Phaistos,
(the second largest palace of the Minoan civilization) while on theRoman Times, it became the port of Gortyn. The beautiful well-
organized sandy beach of 300m long, offers a crystal-clear deep
RED BEACH (KOKKINI PARALIA)
It is located 800m south of Matala.
As implied by its name, the characteristic of the coast is the red
sand, originating from the rocks of the region. The amazing blue-
green color contributes to an amazing scene. The secluded beach
is very beautiful though is vulnerable to the winds blowing
frequently in the area from the west side. The view from the hill is
great and is an ideal place for watching the sunset.
Malia, located 35km east of Heraklion is the most touristic
resort of Crete, famous for its wild nightlife. The main beach of
Malia lies in front of the town and is flooded by thousands of
people. It is the eastern part of the vast beach of 6km length
starting from Stalida. This wide beach with fine sand and shallow
waters, remains a vivid resort, attracting tourists from many
AGIOFARAGO (GORGE OF THE SAINTS)
A well-hidden beach that has
been a place where hermits used to live, due to the numerous
caves and caverns. It is located about 80km south of Heraklion
city, at the exit of the Gorge Agiofarago. The beach is stunning,
with clear blue water, which is usually calm. West of the beach a
beautiful rocky arch is formed, beneath which you can swim.
TSOUTSOURAS (OR TSOUTSOUROS)
Located 63km south of Heraklion,
the beach is slightly organized with umbrellas and several
tamarisk trees around. Tsoutsouras consists of two united
settlements which today are the harbor of Arkalochori. The area
might be developed touristically, but is still a destination for quiet
holidays, ideal for families. The sheltered bays with a total length
of 2km, have lovely coarse sand and crystal-clear water.
Swimming in Tsoutsouras has been traditionally considered
therapeutic and healing by many Cretans, because of its high
concentration of salt and iodine, assisting with healing
musculoskeletal and orthopedic problems.
Α very beautiful dark-colored beach about 58km south of
Heraklion, that is located in one of the most inaccessible areas of
Asteroussia Mountains. It is surrounded by almost vertical high
cliffs with wonderful caves in orthogonal sides, formed in them.
The water has a turquoise color, making swimming and fishing
two amazing experiences. Access to the beach can be achieved
only by boat to the nearest harbor in Tsoutsouras.
On the east side of the wild Asterousia Mountains,
you will see Agios Nikitas beach, a beautiful isolated beach with
crystal clear and deep green waters, that has taken its name from
the famous monastery. The short path inside the monastery leads
to the beach with 230 steps. There is a second twin called
Kalogerou Arolithos beach east of the main beach, that is mainly
accessible by boat or swimming. The two beaches are separated
by a huge smooth and steep rock on which according to the
legend, there are the footprints of Saint Nikitas’ horse.
It is situated 72km southeast of Heraklion, a few
miles east of Tsoutsouras and Ano Viannos. Keratokambos, with
the nearby seaside location of Kastri, have become a popular
family destination during the years. A sandy beach, several
kilometers long that lies in front of the village of Keratokambos,
stretches to both directions.
Even in the northern coast of Crete, the popular
tourist resort consists of beaches with a calm sea -phenomenon
that is not very often in this area, due to regular north winds. The
calmer beaches are located west of the port and are protected by
Cape Sarandaris. On the east of the port you will find the most
popular sandy beaches of the area, that are well organized and
close to the amenities of the city.
A sandy, well-organized beach with water sports and
diving centres. It is located 21km west of Heraklion, on the south
side of the small Cape Souda, surrounded by several coves with
beautiful beaches. The bay deepens relatively fast, but in the
middle of the beach there is a long and narrow rock which
provides a small safety area. The main beach of the settlement is
long and narrow with sand and greenish water.
The beach is located about 70 km southeast of
Heraklion and extends to the east to the serene beach Skouros. It
is not included in the “popular” list as Listis, Kastri and
Keratokambos beach are the famous ones in the area.