Once the Port of Knossos, the city of Heraklion on the island of Crete has a deep connection to the sea and was once a major European centre of trade. Life revolves around the harbour and its bustling coastal promenade, now lined with seafood eateries in the shadow of Koules, a 16th-century Venetian fort with spectacular views of the coastline and neighbouring islands.
Things to do in Heraklion
The Old Town section of Heraklion clings to the past, tucked inside defensive walls with pedestrian-only avenues leading to Lions Square and its ornate Venetian Morosini Fountain. Fashion-forward shoppers can head to Daedalou Street, while those seeking local treasures can duck into side alleys and lanes off 1866 Street.
Eating out is a major pastime in the Greek islands, and Heraklion is no exception. To sample authentic Greek cuisine, make your way along the cafe sections of Korai and Milatou streets, home to cosy taverns and live music in the evenings. Handakos Street leads all the way down to the sea, lined with dozens of small eateries and shops.
History buffs come to visit the Minoan palace of Knossos, a Bronze-age structure built around 1900 BC. Elaborate 3,500-year-old frescoes from Knossos now hang in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, along with the ceramic “Snake Goddess” figurine dating from 1600 BC.
Resorts and hotels string along the northern coastline of Heraklion, where deep-sea diving attracts visitors to ancient wrecks. Windsurfers splash the horizon with colourful sails, while hiking trails cross gorges and remote beaches.
Getting around Heraklion
Visitors can arrive by air into Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport or on ferry boats from Santorini, Athens and other major Greek ports. Taxi stands dot the main tourist sections of town and public buses traverse city streets.