Worth seeing are the fortifications which mark the limit of the old part of the city. These were first constructed in the Middle Ages but were strengthened by the Venetians making Heraklion one of the largest and most heavily defended cities in the Mediterranean.
During an exploration of the city you'll find many monuments from the Middle Ages when Heraklion was at the height of its prosperity. An example of this is the ornate Venetian Loggia, a magnificent, 16th century building, which served as a meeting place for the Duke and other noblemen during the Venetian period.
A typical feature of Heraklion is its Venetian and Turkish fountains, scattered all around the city. The most famous one is the Venetian-style Fontana Morosini in one of the main squares in Heraklion, known as the Lions Square by the locals as the fountain consists of four lions with water gushing from their mouths. This is one of the most important monuments the Venetians bestowed on Heraklion. When it was built, it offered a solution to the problem of supplying Heraklion with water, providing 1,000 barrels of water a day.
Among the churches of Heraklion the one that stands out is the imposing Metropolis of Agios Minas built between 1862-1895. Adjacent to it stands the chapel of Mikros Agios Minas and at the northeast is situated the church of Agia Ekaterini (16th century), which functions as a museum housing exhibits from the Cretan Renaissance. The church of Agios Markos (13th century) towers over Venizelou Square, while other important churches in the city are the Monastery of Agios Petros and Pavlos, the Panagia Akrotiriani, and the Panagia ton Stavroforon to name but a few.
Highly recommended is a visit to the Archaeological Museum, one of the most important museums in Greece; it contains almost all the unique treasures of the Minoan civilization unearthed at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and other sites.
This area is the richest in Crete in terms of archaeological sites. 5km east of Heraklion, Knossos is the most important and well known ancient site in Crete, inhabited since Neolithic times and famous for the Palace of Knossos built around 1900 BC.
Where to stay
An ideal choice for a stay in Heraklion, being a stone's throw from the city centre.
Situated on a rolling hillside, overlooking the Dichti Mountains, the Katalagari is a great alternative to staying in the city.
A superb location close to the city and near archeological sites, small gorges, walking and cycling routes and a short drive away from sandy beaches.
"All the accommodation was good. However, in Heraklion the room at Hotel Marin Dream was very cramped for two people with a double bed. The hotel was well placed and the staff were very helpful. Adrakos apartments at Elounda were rather basic. One day our room was not cleaned or made up as the only cleaner was not available. However, a member of staff was persuaded to make our bed and empty the bin in the bathroom."
R Vaughan Payne, July, 2015
"All hotels were good. The Marin Dream had a lovely rooftop restaurant with a great view. There were no shelves or drawers in our room. The Palazzo Greco had a lovely bed, but there was no where in the bathroom to put your things and the basin was flat bottomed so splashed a lot. The beds in most places were rather on the firm side, OK for my husband but I put a blanket over the mattress to soften it a little. It seemed that in Ag Nik they were about to put mattress toppers on every bed which would be a good thing. The hotel in Sitia had no drawers in the room and no table on the balcony, just chairs. The shower had a plastic curtain which stuck to you when you showered! That hotel has a lot of potential but needs some money spending on it to achieve it; but we enjoyed our stay there as we had a good view of everything going on. The hotel at Ag Nik was nice too. We also stayed at the Hotel Astron in Ierapetra and Lato Hotel in Agios Nikolaos. All in all we were very happy with all the accommodation and I don't think we would have found such good ones ourselves."
M Snowdon, May, 2015