Heraklion passed many times into the dominion of different empires, it was conquered and given away, burned and destroyed, but as fate would have it, the Greek city has become one of the favorite places to visit as a tourist destination. What to see in Heraklion on your own, attractions with photos.
Top 12 Heraklion attractions
The capital of Crete has a rich, centuries-old history. The first mention of the city is found in the annals of the 1st century, where Heraklion is described as a seaport. Today it is a tourist city full of interesting places and monuments.
Venetian Harbor and Cules Fortress
The first attraction that greets tourists is Venice Harbor. A stroll along the marina will begin your acquaintance with this amazing place. Today the harbor is the commercial center of the city, but as before, this is where the amazing journey to Heraklion begins, which will give an unforgettable experience to every visitor.
The pier is closed from the stormy waves of the sea dam, passing through which you can get into the fortress Kules. This defensive structure was built back in the 14th century. In those days it protected the port city from the Turkish siege. The thickness of the outer walls of the fortress reaches 9 meters. This structure even withstood the fire of the ship’s cannons. The structure is beautifully preserved, with a magnificent view of the city and its surroundings from the top of the battlements.
St. Titus Cathedral
The cathedral was built and named in honor of St. Titus, who was the progenitor of Christianity on the island. Through his preaching, he helped many to find faith and save their souls. The cathedral passed into the possession of the new owners of the island many times. It was both a Catholic church and a mosque, but in 1923 Orthodoxy returned to the cathedral. To this day, the temple is considered the island’s Orthodox shrine. The relics of the patron saint of the island are kept here.
In the heart of the old city is Venizilos Square. It is always crowded, because this place is loved by tourists and locals alike. In the center of the square, an unusual fountain attracts attention. Its stone bowl is held by four majestic lions. Although a true decoration of the city, the fountain was built in the 17th century with practical purposes. This is where the fresh water came from the slopes of the mountains surrounding the city. It was the first water main in the city.
Here on the square there is also the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Brand. This building is representative of Venetian architecture and bears little resemblance to classical temples. The basilica was built in the 13th century and is perfectly preserved to this day. Today the art gallery is located here, where exhibitions and expositions of local and foreign artists are regularly held.
A self-guided tour through the sights of the old city will give pleasure to lovers of unusual souvenirs and handicrafts. After all, it is here that the stalls, souvenir shops and small stores with goods made by local craftsmen are concentrated.
The Heraklion Museum of Archaeology is among the largest and most historically significant in the world. The museum has 20 halls, each of which presents the oldest archaeological monuments of world culture. The clay disk found at the excavations of Phaestos attracts particular attention. The ancient writing on it has not yet been deciphered, which makes this exhibit of particular interest to historians around the world.
The museum features exhibits of Minoan culture, as well as household items from the Neolithic and Greco-Roman periods. The Archaeological Museum is famous for its exhibits, which are more than 50 centuries old.
Natural History Museum of Crete
A visit to the Museum of Natural History will be of interest to both adults and children. Of particular interest here are recreated marvelous animals that lived on the island many centuries ago and are extinct. One such exhibit is the elephant Deinotherium, which lived 9,000,000 years ago and was of enormous size. There is an earthquake simulator in the basement of the museum that shows visitors the full horror of this destructive natural phenomenon.
The Palace of Knossos
This is another Greek open-air archaeological museum. Ordinary people know this palace as the Minotaur’s Labyrinth from Greek mythology. Remarkably, there are no windows at all in the palace; they are replaced by light wells in the ceilings. The area of the palace is more than 16,000 square meters. The whole area is densely built various buildings, which are connected with each other by stairs. Some stairs lead deep underground. You can wander here all day, because to visit the labyrinth of the Minotaur and get out of there, it is a dream of many fans of mythology.
Fest and Agia Triada
These are two more archaeological sites worth seeing in Heraklion. Festus is a famous settlement of the Minoan period. Until the 15th century, Festa Palace was the economic and political center of the city until it was superseded by the Palace of Knossos. The architecture of the palace is very interesting, all the buildings are located around the main building. In the photo you can see that here is a huge theater, and the grand staircase is striking for its pomp and grandiosity. It was at Festa that the famous undeciphered disc was found, which is now housed in an archaeological museum.
Agia Triada is the residence of the kings of Crete. The ruins of the residence tell tourists about the times of Greek mythology. The excavation of the residence has unearthed many unique exhibits, which are also stored in the archaeological museum.
A more accurate name is the Museum of the History and Folklore of Crete. There are thousands of unique exhibits that reflect the entire history of the island, from ancient times to the present day. The museum is located at 27 Sophocles Venizel Quay. Here you can see unusual collections of coins, sculptures, ceramics, trace the development of painting, learn how the history of the island changed during the conquest by different empires.
The pride of the museum is unique paintings by Dominik Theotokopoulos. The exhibits are ranked as part of the world’s cultural heritage.
Water City Water Park
To go to Heraklion and not visit the Water City water park is simply impossible. This modern entertainment complex is recognized as one of the best water parks in the world. The whole family can relax here. There are children’s slides, scenic waterfalls and extreme drops, which not every adult has the courage to take a ride.
Crete is famous for its marvelous gorges, the map of the island is literally dotted with these natural sights. Some of them are untouched by civilization and have preserved their pristine appearance. It will be interesting for hikers. The gorges are constantly changing and in a few decades they will probably look completely different. In Crete there are easy to pass gorges, and there are gorges that not every fan of extreme sports will dare to conquer. The most famous is the Samaria Gorge.
Gortyna, Archanes, Amnis, and Metala are ancient cities that are listed as monuments of world historical culture. In these places are concentrated archaeological sites, which should see every tourist. Here you can see the unique artifacts carved into the rocks by primitive people caves, House of Lilies, a sanctuary, where according to tradition buried the Great Zeus.
Beach lovers will be pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and pristine nature of the beaches of Heraklion. One of the paradises untouched by the destructive hand of civilization is the beach of Agiofarango. Here you will completely cut off from the hustle and bustle of the city and remain alone with the majestic nature.
If you want to swim in the sea in the place where King Minos bathed, you have to go to Trafoulas beach. Here you can see the interesting “moon rocks,” which are ranked among the attractions of the island. On the beach there are places for fishing and diving.
When you visit Red Beach, you can feel like an interplanetary traveler. Tourists say that the unusual contrast of red sand and azure sea gives the feeling of being on Mars, especially since there is nothing nearby that reminds of Earth’s civilization.
Video overview of Heraklion sights
Heraklion sightseeing map
Of course, it is impossible to visit all the interesting places of Heraklion in one vacation. To become fully acquainted with them you need to come here every year for several years and use the map. Locals say that this city is full of mysteries and secrets, which can not comprehend the average person, but lift the veil everyone can.