The ancient city of Heraklion in Crete

Heraklion at sunset

Heraklion at sunset ©bongo vongo/Flick

The capital of Crete and the fifth largest city in Greece has many things to offer. As in Athens, you will need time to get acquainted with it. The name of the city comes from the old Roman port, Heracleum, which is nearby and whose exact location is unknown.

The city of Heraklion in Crete suffered a great damage from bombing during the Second World War and now has a lot of unattractive buildings constructed of concrete, and completely chaotic streets. But it has a great character and a treasure museum of archeology that has some of the most famous antiquities in the world.

The past of the city of Heraklion

People have lived in the Cretan city of Heraklion since the Neolithic period and the city flourished as a port of the Knossos Minoan center. The Venetians conquered it in the 13th century, made it their capital across the whole Aegean and they built here a fort to protect the harbor.

Heraklion at sunset

Heraklion at sunset ©bongo vongo/Flick

The artifacts of the past times

Heraklion is a city full of history and is divided into the old town and new town. The most important archaeological site on the Island of Crete is the Palace of Knossos, at 5 km to the southeast of Heraklion. Most of the original pieces found here are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which is located in the city center and is the most famous museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in Europe, covering a period of 5500 years.

The Venetian Fort of Heraklion

The Fort of the city of Heraklion which stands here today was built in the 16th century, after the first was destroyed by an earthquake, and played an important role in the history of the city.

It was the main focus point during the Turkish siege between 1648-1669, when the Venetians passed the island in the hands of the Turks. Thirty thousand inhabitants of the city, Cretans and Venetians, lost their life at that time, as well as 118,000 Turks, which gives us an idea of ​​the defending of the city.

The Venetian Fortress in Heraklion

The Venetian Fortress in Heraklion ©gromgull/Flick

Other historical attractions in Heraklion

On the south side of the harbor is another Venetian building, the Arsenal, which was built in the 16th century to build and repair ships for the merchant fleet of the Aegean.
The magnificent city walls of Heraklion are dating from the same period. They have a length of 3 km surrounding the old part of the town and have some impressive gates, such as the Porta Kornarou, where the walls are 18 m high and 40 m thick. Near the Martinengo Bastion, located in the southernmost corner of the walls, is the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, who asked to be buried here.

The arsenal in Heraklion

The arsenal in Heraklion ©phileole/Flick

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