Heraklion is the capital of Crete and one of the Mediterranean region”s most fascinating and vibrant cities. It is full of places to discover. With the current efforts to open up the wonderful mediaeval city centre, it speaks to us of a past full of history and great events that reflect its location at the crossroads of three continents.
The city is also the commercial and technological centre of the island. It has a strategic geopolitical position in the south-eastern Mediterranean Sea connecting three continents and many different cultures.
It offers a wealth of museums, a summer-long arts festival, historical sightseeing, amazing nightlife and events throughout the year. Whatever the purpose of your visit, your stay in Heraklion will be one to remember.
What to see
Coming to Heraklion for the first time, the visitor nowadays may be somewhat surprised by the changes that are taking place in Crete”s capital city; Heraklion is celebrating its rich history and moving onwards to a future full of potential.
Heraklion today is living between the fast moving currents of regeneration and a deep desire to maintain links with a past. Both these strands define its character. In the last hundred years alone, we have seen huge changes, which can be quite easily followed, in buildings and streets that reflect the changing fortunes of Crete. The ‘old town” areas of the city, established from mediaeval times, now offer visitors some fantastic walks in the heart of the city.
If you begin a walk around Heraklion, starting at the fishing harbour close to the modern port, what will strike you first is the Venetian fortress at the harbour gate. The fortess was originally built by the Venetians and called Rocca al Mare, but is now known by its Turkish name, Koules. It has a mixed history; for centuries it was used as protection against invaders, as were the great city walls and ditches. These are among the longest city walls in Europe.
With its huge dark hallways and cells, the fortress was also a prison to many Cretan rebels and those who broke the rules imposed by successive occupiers of Crete. Koules is built on two tiers and offers a commanding view of Heraklion from the battlements. Nowadays, the harbour itself is home to brightly coloured fishing boats and busy tavernas selling fresh fish.
In the heart of Heraklion you will find the Lion Square, where tourists and locals share the small space around the fountain, exchanging glances and perhaps a few words. Business and pleasure combine here, and it is the place to meet for whatever purpose or no purpose. To give some background, it might also be called the Morosini Fountain or, Liondaria in Greek or, more properly, Plateia Eleftheriou Venizelou, after Venizelos, Crete”s greatest man of state. The decorated fountain is composed of eight cisterns and decorated with stone relief, depicting figures of Greek mythology, Nymphs, Tritons, sea monsters and dolphins, while the main basin is supported by four sitting lions balancing a circular bowl on their heads. It was left by Francesco Morosini, the Italian governor who had it built to commemorate Venetian success in bringing much needed water, through a brilliantly executed viaduct system from Mount Youchtas, to the centre of the city. Morosini was still in charge when the Turks captured the city. Nowadays it is always interesting, the hub around which Heraklion revolves.
Are you up for some action on the water? A jet ski safari and snorkeling tour awaits!
Race through the beautiful waters around Heraklion, and stop in remote beaches such as Tripiti, Panagia, or Thiseas for a swim or snorkel. This is a fun way to explore,a nd the activity even includes photography so that you’ll never forget this awesome day.
The area is also famous for the Crete Half Marathon, a race which takes place around October and attracts professional and amateur runners from Greece and overseas. Some of the promo video of the races are just amazing and funny!
About 30km away from Heraklion, The Crete Golf Club is one of the most prestigious Golf clubs in Greece. Its philosophy is to meticulously maintain the distinctive elements of the natural Cretan landscape, hence the mountainous course has been built in an exciting desert style layout and each hole has been individually sculptured to blend into the existing typical landscape.