City trip to Heraklion Crete

City trip to Heraklion Crete: A city trip in Europe has become very popular in recent years. One thinks of the most popular cities like Barcelona, Rome and Paris. But we can really recommend a city trip to Heraklion on Crete. Heraklion is the capital of Crete, the southernmost island of Greece. It is a lively city that has retained its ancient character well within the city walls. Thanks to the mild climate, it is wonderful to walk through the city in the winter in Heraklion. In the warm summer months, the temperature in the city rises, but then you can visit for example a museum during the hottest time of the day.

The history of Heraklion in short: In Minoan times there was a small port of Knossos, which today is the city of Heraklion. The area had the name Heraclea. In the 9th century, the Arabs built a fortress surrounded by a wide and deep channel that is still visible in several places. In 961 Byzantium conquered the city. Under the rule of Venice (1204-1669) the city was called Candia. Venice decorated the city with churches and other beautiful buildings. Part of it is still admirable; the old inner harbour and the fortress, the loggia, more churches, the fountain at Lions Square and the city wall. 

In 1669 the city fell into the hands of the Turks who gave the city the name Megalo Kastro (big fortress). Thus began a time of economic and cultural decay, a time of oppression and resistance. In 1832 the city got the name Heraklion. Revival began after 1913, when Crete became part of Greece. Unfortunately, the city has suffered a lot during World War II. 

What there is to do in Heraklion: There is a lot to do in Heraklion, from a visit to archaeological sites or museums to shopping in the centre of town and sitting on a terrace in the sun. Crete is seen as the birthplace of European civilization and there are still many antiquities. Just outside the town is the archaeological site of Knossos and in the centre, is the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. In the old inner harbour with fishing boats you can feel lost in the time the Venetians ruled in Crete. Here is the impressive Venetian fortress of Heraklion, Koules and you can see also a part of the ancient city wall. The Natural History Museum is very interesting to learn more about the flora and fauna of Crete or maybe you are more interested in the Historical Museum of Heraklion. 

Heraklion city centre: From the inner harbour, the 25th of August Street leads you to the centre of town. This road is no longer accessible for cars and you will find many nice shops here. It is a series of beautiful buildings, such as the Minoan Lines building, the loggia and the Basilica of Agios Markos. On this road there is also the imposing Agios Titos church, which is always open for a visit. This church was converted into a mosque by the Turks, and its remains are still visible. The road ends right in the centre at the Venizelos Square, better known as Lions Square. This because there is the Morosini fountain, where water runs down from the mouths of lions. Around the fountain are nice terraces. From this square you can go in various directions for shopping in Heraklion. 

When you continue walking 50 meters up the road from Lions Square, you reach the Agora from Heraklion, the little market street. In this street, the shops have their goods out for sale on large tables. It is a cosy little market where everything is for sale, from food to souvenirs. The Agora is daily open, except Sundays. If you prefer to visit a larger market, you can go to the gypsy market on Saturday. This one is just outside Heraklion city centre. 

Squares in Heraklion: It does not matter which day you come to Heraklion city centre or at what time, there is always a pleasant crowd. Many streets end up at a square and there is always a nice terrace to find something to eat or drink. The most famous squares of Heraklion are the aforementioned Lions Square and the Liberty Square – Platia Eleftherias. On this square is the statue of the Unknown Soldier and on a pillar the bust of the famous writer Nikos Kazantzakis. 

At the edge of the square is the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, the most important Greek statesman of the early 20th century. During his political career he succeeded in 1913 to unite Crete with the rest of Greece. From here you have a beautiful view to the port of Heraklion. When in Heraklion, it is useful to recognize these two squares. They are a short walk from each other and are convenient as landmarks. 

Accessibility of the city of Heraklion: Just outside the city is the international airport Nikos Kazantzakis. From the airport it is only a 5 kilometres drive by bus or taxi to the centre of town. If you travel in the period from April till the end of October to Crete, there are daily direct flights. In winter there are also daily flights, but always via Athens or Thessaloniki. Next to the city centre is the main port of Heraklion. All year round there are daily ferries between Heraklion and the mainland of Greece. A hop on hop off bus departs from the port; a nice way to drive past some places of interest in Heraklion and get a first impression of what to do.

Accommodation near Heraklion: You can also take a daytrip to Heraklion during your holiday on Crete. Of course, you cannot see everything in a day, but then there remains something to be desired. A city trip to Heraklion you can well combine with relaxing a few days on the beach. Our accommodation is located on a sandy beach in Kokkini Hani and by bus you are in only 20 minutes in Heraklion.

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