The legendary Venetian Fortress of Heraklion, which is also called Koules (meaning ‘fortress’ in Turkish) or Castello a Mare (meaning ‘castle on the sea’ in Italian), is an impressive fortress that surrounds the city’s harbor. The massive fortress was built by the Venetians in the early 13th century, when they conquered the town. Today, the fortress occasionally hosts art exhibitions, plays or concerts. You can visit it every day except for Monday, from 8:30 am to 3 pm in the winter and 7 pm in the summer.
Opening hours:Tue-Sun 8.30am-7pm (summer); Tue-Sun 8.30am-3pm (winter)
Saint Minas Cathedral
Saint Minas is the patron saint of Heraklion, and his feast-day (11th of November) is a public holiday in the city. The imposing Saint Minas Cathedral was planned by the architect Thomas Mousis, and was established on the 25th March 1862 as an expression of the residents’ gratitude for the protection offered by the saint to the city. Next to the cathedral, which is one of the largest in Greece, is located the church of Saint Catherine, as well as the Saint Catherine Square.
Saint Titos church
The Church of Saint Titos is located on 25th Avgoustou Street and is one of the most important monuments in the city of Heraklion. The history of the church goes back to 961, when Nikiforos Fokas drove the Arabs out of Crete and brought the island once again under the influence of the dominant Byzantine Empire. The church of Agios Titos was built at that time in order to reawaken Orthodox influence and tradition on the island. During the following centuries the building remained a symbol of Heraklion, always under the city’s dominant influences (for example, during the Turkish occupation of Greece, and Crete, it became a mosque). Nowadays, near the church you will find the wonderful Agios Titos Square, with nice cafeterias and bars.
Natural History Museum of Crete
The Natural History Museum of Crete was established in 1981 and is located on Sofokli Venizelou Avenue in Heraklion, in an industrial building that once used to house an electricity power plant. The awarded museums is focused on the study, protection and promotion of the Eastern Mediterranean region’s flora and fauna. If you are a friend of nature and you are interested in getting familiarized with the natural treasures of the wider area, you should make a visit.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9am-8pm; Sat-Sun 10am-8pm
Historical Museum of Crete
The Historical Museum of Crete is also located in Heraklion and was established in 1953. Its aim is to preserve and promote the Cretan cultural heritage, which dates back to the Byzantine period and reaches modern times. This goal is achieved through the rich collection of ceramics, sculptures, coins and paintings, as well as the thematic exhibitions (for example, you shouldn’t miss the very interesting exhibition dedicated to the famous Cretan painter El Greco).
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm
Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
Τhe Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is one of the largest museums in Greece and one of the most important museums in the whole of Europe. Its exhibits are authentic reflections of Cretan prehistory and history (about 7000 years), from the Neolithic Age until the Roman Empire. The artifacts belonging to the Minoan civilization are going to amaze you with their historic but also aesthetic value.
Crete is not all about history and museums; it’s also about enjoying chill moments by the beach. The vast majority of the island’s best beaches are located far away from the center of Heraklion, but a good – and not faraway option – is Karteros. It’s a vast sandy beach, about 8 kilometers east of the city of Heraklion, equipped with sun beds and beach bars that mainly attracts young visitors.
By Evangelos Tsirmpas