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Where mythology meets reality and traditional blends with modern, there is Heraklion! The Cretan capital may not be as radiant as other cities of Crete on first sight; it is though a genuinely cosmopolitan hub and a favourite travel destination for Greeks and foreigners alike, who search for cheap air tickets to Heraklion all-year-round. Just a day or two is all you need to appreciate the beauty, charm and value of Heraklion; impressive scenery, a warm and pleasant climate and countless magical beaches, accompanied by an insurmountable historical and cultural heritage – who doesn’t know about the Minoan civilisation! The capital of a sacred island, with a proud, lively and legendarily friendly population, Heraklion is more than ready to welcome you and offer you a holiday to remember! Book your flights and accommodation in Heraklion now!
Heraklion is the capital of Crete and the fifth largest city of Greece. A modern metropolis with a population of 180,000, Heraklion is the island’s administrative centre, but it’s also much more than that; Heraklion is beautiful, and not in a conventional way!
In Heraklion, you can walk by the old port, cross Venetian walls and fortresses and, the next moment there you are, enjoying a cup of coffee in a stylish café, surrounded by the large crowds of the city. A unique blend of the old and the new, Heraklion takes pride in its fabulous contrasts and attracts thousands of visitors every season of the year.
Your journey in Heraklion begins at the Minoan era and Europe’s first developed civilisation, continues from the early Byzantine, Arab and late Byzantine years, to the Venetian and Ottoman times, until it reaches the final annexation of Crete to Greece.
The historic charm of Heraklion and the Minoan Palace of Knossos represent only about half of your experience in the Cretan capital. The rest of it lies in the exotic beaches that line the coast of the prefecture!
Experience the majesty of Crete and the Cretan population, beginning from Heraklion!
The airport of Heraklion (Κρατικός Αερολιμένας Ηρακλείου "Νίκος Καζαντζάκης") is located 4 kilometres outside the city centre and can be reached by bus.
You can get around Heraklio town and further region using the city’s extensive bus network. Fares start from 1.10€ and minimum taxi fare costs 3.50€.
Your day in Heraklion begins at the Venizelou Square, where Crete’s Venetian governor Francesco Morosini established the so-called Lion’s Fountain, in 1628. The purpose of the construction of the fountain was rather functional than aesthetic; transferring drinking water from the sources of Mount Youchtas, 15 kilometres from the city, the fountain was crucial to the sustenance of the local people.
The ornate fountain was completed within 14 months of construction works and was known as the Lion’s fountain, featuring four lions with water flowing out of their mouths and decorated with statues of Poseidon – unfortunately the central statue was destroyed during the Ottoman rule - and other mythological creatures.
- Opposite the fountain, you can see the Basilica of Saint Mark. Dating back to the 14th century, the church was fully renovated and now houses the Municipal Gallery of Heraklion. On your right, you have the Loggia, an elegant Venetian building that served as the administrative centre of 14th-century Heraklion. The building is listed as a European Monument, awarded with the Europa Nostra prize and today houses the meetings of the Municipal Council.
- Follow the Vikela street and you will come across the monumental Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Minas, built in the 19th century and dedicated to the patron saint of Heraklion, Saint Minas. Nearby the cathedral, the medieval Church of Saint Minas, commonly referred to as “the little Minas”, boasts a collection of splendid frescoes and pieces of religious art.
Next to the churches of Saint Minas, the Church of Saint Catherine dominates the Saint Catherine Square. The church was built during the 15th century and housed at first the University of Crete, introducing some of the world’s greatest figures of arts and culture, such as Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco). Today, the Church of Saint Catherine serves as an art gallery, housing an excellent exhibition of Byzantine icons, artefacts and memorabilia that reflect the long Orthodox history of Heraklion.
- Continue to the Liberty Square and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, a must-see if you’re interested in comprehending and appreciating the Minoans, Europe’s first developed civilisation. Second in importance only to the Archaeological Museum of Athens, the museum of Heraklion boasts extensive collections of archaeological items spanning a period of time from the Neolithic to the Roman era. Collections include ceramics, jewellery, statues and original frescoes, most of which were recovered from the Minoan Palace of Knossos and Crete’s other Minoan archaeological sites.
Highlights of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion include the Minoan Bees and jewellery of Malia, the Phaistos Disc, the legendary figurine of the Snake Goddess, the Minoan bull head and the ivory bull leaper.
- Follow the 25th August Street and make a stop at the beautiful Venetian St. Titus Church. Initially a Byzantine church, it was later converted into a Catholic Cathedral and a mosque, before regaining the statues of an orthodox church.
- West of the port, the History Museum of Heraklion will present you further historical collections related to the Christian, Byzantine, Medieval and more recent past of the city and the entire island. Don’t miss the museum’s exceptional art collection, with some of the most famous works by El Greco.
Just a few kilometres from Heraklion, the Minoan Palace of Knossos awaits you, one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world. English archaeologist Arthur Evans began his excavation projects in 1900, bringing to the surface his findings that would later turn out to be two royal palaces of the Minoan civilisation, accompanied by temples and various administrative structures.
Evans had to rebuild some parts of the palace, a decision that faced controversial responses, however, the result is sublime; a visit to the Minoan Palace of Knossos will instantly transfer you back to 1,250 BC!
The original frescoes, statues and other items retrieved from the excavation site are kept and exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
For a different type of museum, head to the CretAquarium Thalassokosmos, one of the most prominent aquariums in the Mediterranean region, with over 2,500 Mediterranean and tropical species of sea life, housed in fully organised and well-maintained premises.
To discover the legendary nightlife of the Heraklion region, the ideal places for you are Hersonissos, Malia and Amoudara.
Within the Heraklion prefecture, there are numerous beaches to suit every taste and preference. Have a swim at Matala, Amoudara, Hersonisson and Malia if you enjoy the crowds, Agia Pelagia for a calmer ambience, or head to the secluded, pristine beaches of Agiofaraggo, Tsoutsouros and Keratokambos, to get away from it all!
There is no better way to complete your experience in Heraklion, than with a.. splash! The Water City park is Crete’s largest water park, full of fun activities for every age and level of difficulty. Experience the adrenaline, games and never-ending fun or enjoy your drink, chilling by the pool and relax!
The official language of Heraklion is Greek; English, French and German are also widely spoken by the locals.