A Tour of the City of Heraklion, Crete

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Heraklion or Iraklion is the capital of Crete and a most fascinating and vibrant city with plenty of places to discover. It is the birthplace of El Greco and Nikos Kazantzakis and can at first seem a nightmare, particularly if you arrive expecting to see a picturesque little island town.

  • Self-Guided
  • 1-4 Hours
  • History & Culture
  • Town Walking Tours
  • Art


A Tour of the City of Heraklion during a sunny Spring day!

The capital of Crete is a lively university town with outstanding historical landmarks and an engaging and energetic atmosphere.

Heraklion today is living between the fast moving currents of regeneration and a deep desire to maintain links with a past. Both these strands define its character. In the last hundred years alone, we have seen huge changes, which can be quite easily followed, in buildings and streets that reflect the changing fortunes of Crete. The ‘old town'' areas of the city, established from mediaeval times, now offer visitors some fantastic walks in the heart of the city.

It’s a gateway, a capital and Crete’s university town, with all the advantages and a few of the drawbacks of a city proper. It’s vibrant, outgoing, accessible and culturally rich; it’s also not a classical beauty. Nonetheless, Heraklion (aka Irakleio) has built up a good reputation over the past decade and, as of last year, it was Europe’s fastest-growing tourism destination.

If you begin a walk around Heraklion, starting at the fishing harbour close to the Rocca al Mare, but is now known by its Turkish name, Koules. It has a mixed history; for centuries it was used as protection against invaders, as were the great city walls and ditches. These are among the longest city walls in Europe.

With its huge dark hallways and cells, the fortress was also a prison to many Cretan rebels and those who broke the rules imposed by successive occupiers of Crete. Koules is built on two tiers and offers a commanding view of Heraklion from the battlements. Nowadays, the harbour itself is home to brightly coloured fishing boats and busy tavernas selling fresh fish.

Looking back towards the city you will see the strong arches which housed boats under repair and were used as an arsenal for storing guns and gunpowder. The greatest threat to the Venetian stronghold of Heraklion, or Candia, as it was named, was thought to come from the seaward side of the city, and indeed, many naval skirmishes were fought off this coast. The view northward takes in the uninhabited island of Dia, where evidence of ancient Minoan settlement (approx 2700-1450 BC) was found by the diver, Jacques Cousteau. Boat trips can be booked from travel shops throughout central Heraklion, as can excursions to various places of interest.

In case that your would like to stay in Heraklion, have a look here and maybe for more activities.

Source : Municipality of Heraklion

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