Eastern Crete is home to Heraklion, on the northern side of Crete. It is both the largest city, a major port and the capital of the island. Here you will find constant activity because most tourists arrive here first when they come to Crete. It is a place rich with history and archaeological sites, including the Palace of Knossos. Crete combines natural wonders with plenty of industry to accommodate the tourist's desires to shop, eat, relax, and learn all at once. Tourists will delight in the family-run tavernas that supply the hungry visitor with meat like lamb and pork, and a host of specialty cheeses and wines.
However, Crete's landscape is probably its biggest asset. Its coastline has earned it the nickname Big Blue. Cretans enjoy the water that surrounds them, as do tourists. A favorite sport at most any beach is windsurfing, and rentals are normally available. Much of the terrain on Crete is rough, but this can also make for a nice challenge if you are a hiker, biker, or nature enthusiast. For those less physically inclined, Crete offers plenty of museums and unique activities that will allow you to take it easy and enjoy. Bird watching, for example, is common in Heraklion, where migratory birds fly en masse. Regardless of your interests, Crete is sure to inspire awe with its rich history and modern splendor. To search and book a car rental so that you may explore Heraklion and the rest of Crete, click here now!
Archaeological evidence shows that Heraklion probably arose during the 9th century B.C. and was named in tribute to the Greek goddess Rhea, mother of Zeus. And like most Mediterranean cities, Heraklion has a long and turbulent history. Officially founded by the Saracens in the 9th century, the Byzantine Empire invaded in 961 only to lose control to the Crusaders who sold Crete to the Venetians in 1211 for a thousand silver coins.
|Heraklion Food and Wine Tour |
Crete is a foodie paradise, and Heraklion is the capital.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum is world famous, and is renowned for its vast array of exhibits from Crete and all over Greece, including a collection of treasures from the Minoans – the oldest European civilization. The museum was just honored as the 2017 European Museum of the Year by the European Museum Forum (EMF) that took place in Zagreb, Croatia May 3-6, 2017.
20-25 minutes from the center of Heraklion, the visitor will find the Palace of Knossos, Crete's archaeological gem, and the largest and most important of the Minoan palaces. Dating back 7,000 years, Knossos was the mythological home of King Minos who kept the menacing Minotaur in the palace's underground labyrinth. For some it is the major reason to visit Crete. You could spend anywhere from 1 - 3 hours or more here, depending on your interest in archaeology.
Kera Kardiotissa Monastery
Considered Crete's most important Byzantine church, inside you'll find remarkably vivid frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries. The monastery is equally famous for its Virgin Mary icon, which is believed to have performed miracles.
Thrapsano is renowned for its pottery and ceramics. This ancient art form has flourished here dating back over 4,000 years and Thrapsano's craftsmen are said to be descendants of Minoan potters.
The Battle of Crete Museum.
The Venetian Loggia on 25th August Street, a two-floor Venetian mansion completed in 1628, used to be a meeting place for the local nobles.
The Municipal Gallery and Basilica of St. Mark with an ever-changing variety of exhibitions from early photographs of Crete, to specific works of art - have a look to see if there is a current exhibition.
The Koules Venetian Fortress on the harbor walls, built in the early 1500's. Both for the impressive stone mass of its fortification and unfathomably solid walls, the pleasure of views from its turret and roof, restored interior and exterior reliefs of the Lion of St. Mark.
The Natural History Museum of Crete. The museum is in the converted old electricity power plant. Has wonderful displays and good descriptive details about the flora and fauna, the wildlife, of Crete. An exciting feature is the "experience an earthquake" platform in the basement of the museum. It's a thrill for kids and educational for adults. There is also a not-to-be-missed childrens' area with caves and all sorts of play/learning materials (it's actually even fun for adults!).
CretAquarium - Thalassocosmos. is a 5000 sq. meter structure, it is both a research center (housing the Institute of Marine Biology & Genetics and the Institute of Oceanography) and a fun, impressive aquarium with 60 tanks (representing interesting underwater Cretan sea landscapes) and over 100 viewing points. 2500 organisms of 200 Mediterranean marine species, from hunter sharks to lobsters, to colorful jellyfish.
On the walk down 25th August Street from Dedalou to the sea (before most of the shops are turned over to car rental offices) is the church of Agios Titos, a beautiful building, Byzantine in origin, then rebuilt in the 16th century by the Venetians. The building was taken over by the Turks who converted it into a mosque and rebuilt it after the 1856 earthquake. It was renovated and re-consecrated by the Greek Orthodox Church in 1925. Fronted by a spacious square which accommodates a municipally run outdoor restaurant in the summer months and the interesting Pagopoieion restaurant/cafe/bar by the side of the church.
The church of Agia Ekaterini Sinaites - now a theological museum, is on the edge of the square surrounding the much larger and better known Agios Minas. It has some very fine Byzantine icons.