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Best Things To Do In Heraklion On Your Vacation In Greece

By Siddhi - July 23, 2020
Heraklion in Greece

Many travellers arrive in Heraklion on Crete and continue to other parts of the island without allowing a lot of time to see the sites, if any. But this town, the capital and principal port of the island is full of history and attractions in and around the Old City. It has a beautiful waterfront district with restaurants on the seaside, many important museums and nice squares where you can comfortably spend an afternoon in a street-side cafe. Visitors like to particularly involve in the lively Old City and it’s worth spending the time to visit. Check out the list of things to do in Heraklion on your Greece vacation!

The Palace of Knossos

Firstly, it is just five kilometres southeast of Heraklion lies the largest and best-preserved Minoan site in Crete. This is one of Crete’s most popular tourist attractions. Knossos is thought to have been the ancient King Minos Labyrinth, a massive colossal building with four wings constructed around a spacious central courtyard. It featured strikingly elegant ritual halls, dining quarters, storerooms, intricate furniture and a complicated drainage scheme. Though excavations show that there was a palace here as early as 2000 BC, what you see today dates mainly from 1450 BC, with some slightly over-imaginative early 20th-century reconstruction, plus replicas of many of the frescoes.

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Old Town

Old Town in Heraklion
Image Credits: Google Images

You can spend a simple morning or afternoon strolling around the Old Town, seeing the sights and soaking up the atmosphere. Heraklion grew up around the sea and the old town still concentrates on the harbour today. The most notable monument in the Venetian fort of Koules in the 16th century along the harbour. Fishing vessels line the river, where a waterfront walkway runs near.

Visit the Venetian Arsenals, situated across the road right at the front of the harbour, readily visible by the stone façade and massive archways. This is where the Venetians had their ships repaired. The scenic promenade stretches along the sea to the west of the harbour, and has lines of restaurants that serve seafood. The Old Town is covered by a network of huge defensive walls which were partly demolished. Inside, its pedestrian-only streets are lined with aristocratic buildings, churches, and boutiques and open onto leafy squares with fountains and busy cafes.

Koules Fortress

The Koules Fortress occupies a prominent location on Heraklion ‘s coastline, and is an elegant Venetian fortress from the early 16th century. A straightforward and scenic walk from the shoreline along a breakwater takes you to the right-hand main entrance. While from afar it’s an intimidating sight, the newly restored interior is similarly, if not more, impressive.

Wide wooden doors open into rooms where parts of the time are on view, and plaques give insight into history. It’s quiet and cool with walls as thick as 8.7 meters, making it easy to spend time exploring the 26 rooms and vaults that display historic artefacts such as old cannons, amphora and stone carvings. It is possible to get amazing views of the sea and the harbour to the city by ascending the stairs to the top. When it’s windy, keep an eye on sea spray from the waves roaring into the cliffs.

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Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Image Credits: Google Images

Magnificent 3,500-year-old frescoes from Knossos, including Prince of the Lilies and Bull-Leaping, are on display in this collection, as are the Snake Goddess, a glazed ceramic image of a lady carrying two snakes, dated 1600 BC, and the Phaistos Disc, a clay disk containing a strange pattern of symbols from about 100 BC. The treasures of the museum spread over 27 separate galleries and span over 5,500 years of history. The courtyard area houses the surviving ruins of St. Francis’ Venetian Convent. Later the place demolished completely in an earthquake in 1856. This world-class museum, aside from the actual site of Knossos, is Heraklion ‘s biggest tourist attraction and is situated in the eastern part of the town.

Natural History Museum of Crete

A visit to the Crete Museum of Natural History is an ideal place for families to do. Located right on the waterfront and just down from the Historical Museum, this is an amazing new museum showcasing Crete ‘s history. Children and adults have fun activities including an earthquake and tsunami simulator. See a whole floor dedicated to stuffed animals that live around the Mediterranean Sea, or once lived there. Make sure that you try out the exhibit of illusion. Artefacts from the Palace of Knossos are also on display. Displays have multi-linguistic detail. The building is bright and air-conditioned and provides a good escape from Heraklion’s midday heat.

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Cathedral of St. Minas

Cathedral of St. Minas in Heraklion
Image Credits: Google Images

The St. Minas Cathedral is an imposing structure devoted to the patron saint of Heraklion, situated in the Old City. This old church in Crete dates from the late 19th century and has a detailed Christian iconography. The interior of the church has finely decorated walls, illuminated by a dazzling candlestick. One of the must-see frescoes is in the dome which shows Christ Pantocrator. There is a beautiful square right in front of the church. It is an active church with frequent services, and is also the archbishop of Crete ‘s seat.

Historical Museum of Crete

Crete ‘s history is complex but intriguing, with a succession of foreign occupiers. This museum documents 1,700 years of the island’s history, from early Christian to modern times. You will see the Byzantine, Venetian, and Turkish religious icons, stone carvings, ceramics, textiles, and folk costumes, as well as the dark space dedicated to the Cretan Resistance Movement and those who lost their lives during the Second World War. Also, particular highlights include two 16th-century paintings: Christ’s Baptism and the image of Mt. Sinai and St. Catharine’s Monastery. You can see all the paintings well-displayed and labelled.

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Agios Titos Church

Agios Titos Church
Image Credits: Google Images

Most likely you will come across this historic church as you walk the Heraklion pedestrian zone. To two huge palm trees in front, that is unmistakable. Late in the 10th century, the first church of Agios Titos was built here. Over the years the original buildings tumbled to ruins through a series of earthquakes and disasters. The solid-looking structure here today dates back to the mid-19th century, and was once a mosque. If it’s open, take a look inside the church, and see the chandeliers for sure. The square in front of the church is lush and leafy, with some small cafés with outdoor seating.

Morosini Fountain in Lion Square

You can visit the Morosini Fountain situated centrally in the Old Town of Heraklion, not far from the Loggia. It is an ideal place to orient yourself as you discover the warren of the nearby roads. The Morosini Fountain was instrumental in supplying drinking water for Heraklion ‘s residents. Initially linked to a 14-kilometre aqueduct, it carried water from the Mt. Juktas slopes into the city. Today the fountain, restored to its original state after years of neglect, consists of four lions with water pouring out their mouths into a pool below.

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Excited to pack your bags already? Reasons outnumbered for you to kick-start your bookings to this vibrant place. Finding this guide useful? Check some of the best Greece honeymoon packages with Pickyourtrail and book your dream tropical vacation now! Also, feel free to leave a Whatsapp inquiry for any queries.

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