Heraklion

Crete
Heraklion showing a marina, a castle and heritage architecture

This great historical harbour city is home to magnificent Venetian monuments, great food and wine and some of the most important archaeological discoveries in Europe.

Heraklion, also known as Iraklio, is the capital city of Crete. One of the oldest settlements in the Mediterranean, this ancient city has a deep and engrossing history. Once home to the mighty Minoan civilisation, Heraklion has seen periods of Venetian and Ottoman rule as well as a brief German occupation. Explore the great ruins and monuments of this fascinating city, then lie back on a tranquil beach or relax with food and wine at a local taverna.

Heraklion was once a prized possession of the Venetians, whose distinctive architecture left a mark upon the city. Take a stroll around the historical old town to see the finest of the Venetian monuments, from the Heraklion Loggia to the Morosini Fountain and St. Mark’s Basilica.

The old Venetian Walls are an imposing set of ancient fortifications around the old city. Follow these walls through old Heraklion and enjoy sensational views of the city and sea.

Head down to Heraklion Port to sit on the harbour’s old walls while you watch colourful fishing boats bobbing on the water. Stop in at a waterfront restaurant or take a boat for a daytrip to a neighbouring island. Meanwhile, in the old harbour, you will see the proud Koules Fortress overlooking the sea.

Delve deeper into Crete’s unique history with a trip to one of the great Minoan archaeological sites in the area. Visit the legendary ancient city of Knossos or wander through the ruins of the Palace of Phaistos. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum in town has an array of important finds on display, along with comprehensive information on the long-lost Minoan civilisation.

Crete has been gifted with a warm Mediterranean climate and a picturesque coastline, so beach towns are popular throughout the year. Matala, on the island’s south side, was a favourite hang for hippies throughout the 1960s.

After a busy day’s sightseeing, relax in town with some traditional food and drink. Camp out in a taverna by Eleftherias Square and enjoy regional wines as well as distinctive local fare, from seafood and spanakopita to baklava and bougatsa.

Reach Heraklion by ferry or by flying into its international airport.

Popular cities in Heraklion

Heraklion showing general coastal views
Heraklion

Reasons to visit

  • Heraklion Port
  • Heraklion Archaeological Museum
  • Palace of Knossos
Heraklion which includes religious elements, a city and a church or cathedral
Archanes-Asterousia
Head to the hills south of Heraklion to discover a lovely historical village, your gateway to an area rich in archaeological sites and fine hiking.
Gortyna
Gortyna
Lose yourself in ancient history as you explore the ruins and relics of this millennia-old city, home to one of the first written legal codes in Greece.