Iraklion (Heraclio) is a proper working city where tourism is important but Greek life and business is the main order of the day. Fashion wear, technology shops and private and public offices can all be found in Heraklion, in addition to a good selection of chic bars and tempting restaurants. Wonderful markets!
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one the great museums of Greece and the best in the world regarding the Minoan art as it contains the most notable and complete collection of artifacts of the Minoan civilization of Crete. The museum began in 1883 as a simple collection of antiquities. A dedicated building was constructed from 1904 to 1912 at the instigation of two Cretan archaeologists, Iosif Hatzidakis and Stefanos Xanthoudidis. From 1937, work began on the present earthquake-proof building, designed by the renowned Greek architect Patroklos Karantinos. The museum was damaged during World War II, but the collection survived intact and was again accessible to the public from 1952. A new wing was added in 1964.
Besides the Minoan collection, other periods of Cretan history are covered, from the Neolithic to the Greco-Roman period. The Archaeological Museum at Heraklion is dedicated to Minoan art and artefacts, with a smaller section for post-Minoan art and artefacts. (The Museum is currently being renovated but a temporary exhibition is open in the main building.)
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The Archaeological museum is currently closed for refurbishment but there is a temporary exhibition just around the corner (Admission €4 ) with about 400 exhibits in it including all the main ones that were found in the Ancient Minoan and Roman sites on Crete.
You are allowed to take photos but they are very strict on the no flash rule.
The Venetians began construction of the city walls in 1462 and they took more than a century to complete. The walls are about 4km in length and of a triangular shape with seven bastions.
The walls proved their worth when the city was besieged for 21 years, one of the longest sieges in history. The final surrender came in 1669 but only after over 100,000 Turks and 30,000 Venetians had been killed.
it is hard to get the imense scale of these walls into scale by just a photograph, they are massive and very impressive. the videos show them much better.
View from the City Walls
View from the City Walls 2
The Jesus Gate
The monastery and Church of Saint Peter (Ayios Petros) in Iraklion was built by Dominican Monks in the early 13th century, it was converted into the mosque of Sultan Ibrahim under the Turks. It contains the only remaining 15th Century frescoes in Heraklion but it is currently closed for restoration and what looks to me more like rebuilding.
The history museum takes up were the Archaeology museum ended.
Starting from The early Christian era with much emphasis on the Venetian occupation and the Cretan war (1645-1669) which is illustrated by plans, maps and a highly detailed model of Candia (Heraklion as it was then named). There are rooms with pottery and other ceramics dating back 15 centuries and also the Altar and other finds from Gortys.
The struggle for Greek independence is illustrated by portraits, flags and weapons of revolutionaries. There is a reconstruction of the studies of Crete’s famous writer Nikos Kazantzákis (as well as extracts from his Diary and letters) and Emmanuel Tsouderós who was Greek prime minister at the time of the battle of Crete.
There is a large display about the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation during the war and also a memorial to Cretan people that were shot by the Germans during the war and buried in mass graves.
Finishing off the exhibition is a large collection of Folk art and handicrafts including a mock up of an old Cretan house.
This museum is well worth a visit
After visiting Agia Minas and Agia Ekaterinas we turned left along Ag Mina St heading for the Archaeological museum.
It was very very hot and we came across the small Vitsentzou Kornarou square with a graffiti adorned fountain. My son stuck his head in it without caring what may be in the water as long as it was cool he was not bothered.
After getting to the end of 25th August St we turned right and walked down Leof kalorkerinou then turned left up a small side St to Agia Ekaterinis Square.
We walked across the square and down the side of Agia Ekaterini which the guide book says is now a Theological Museum but was closed; we entered the much more impressive and very much larger Agios Minas Cathedral. Beautifully decorated, and with many fine Byzantine Icons.
Video of the Interior of Agia Minas
At the top of 25th August St is El Velizelou Square (Lion Square) and the Morozini Fountain. It was built in 1628 by Francesco Morozini who was the Venetian Governor of the Island. A 16km long aqueduct was built to channel the water to it from Mt Giouchtas. It has 8 circular basins decorated with reliefs of Cherubs, Mermaids, Dolphins, nymphs and mythical creatures. Above the Lions (which are from the 14th c and were incorporated into the fountain when it was constructed) would have been a statue of Neptune.
The fountain works but is very rarely in operation and when we went it was being restored and so had a green net around it. Sort of spoiled the pictures but at least there are not loads of people sat around or on it.
There are some very nice looking cafe's here some of which specialize in Bhougatsa which is a flaky pastry filled with cheese or cream and then drizzled with honey trying them is certainly a must when you visit. (see my restaurant tips.)
When we visited Iraklion again later in our holiday the nets had been removed from around the fountain.
Theotokopoulou (El Greco) square and Gardens (Iraklion) Near the top of 25th August St (Opposite the Loggia) is El Greco square and gardens where some nice looking cafe's spill out into the pedestrian area.
It is a very cosmapolitan area with many cafe's situated around the square making it a great place to sit and chat.
Just off 25th August St is the church of Agios Titos, a beautiful building, being Byzantine in origin it was rebuilt in the 16th century by the Venetians.
The building was taken over by the Turks who converted it into a mosque and rebuilt it after the 1855 earthquake. It was then renovated and re-consecrated by the Greek Orthodox Church in 1925.
Fronted by a spacious square to the right side are some lovely gardens and the church bells which are situated outside the church like a garden ornament.
This Impressive fortress was built in the early 1500s and guarded the old port; it is unique for the impressive mass of its stone fortifications, its immensely thick walls and the views from its turret and roof.
The restored interior looks just like a castle should.
On the exterior are two carved relief’s of the Lion of St Mark which the Turks surprisingly left intact.
It was €2 to get in and it is open from 0800 to 1930 1st July to 31 October and 0900 to 1500 other times of the year (although I have heard they sometimes they open late and close early)
Walking from the bus station to the port you will see some huge vaulted buildings from the 16th c
These are the Venetian Arsenals were ships of the Venetian Navel Fleet were once built, repaired and fitted for battle.
The sea is now slightly further away and a road has been built between them and the harbour. If you go to the History Museum there is an excellent model of how Heraklion used to look and you will see the port with the arsenals on that.
Just "Zorba the Greek," and "The Last Temptation of Christ" would be enough to make the Cretan author Kazantzakis (1883-1957) both well known and controversial. But he has written other books that deserve more attention. He narrowly missed winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956 ( it is said by some that the Church just may have had something to do with that.) There are 2 rooms dedicated to him at the History Museum on Crete and a Museum dedicated to him not far from Iraklion.
His grave is on the Martinengo Bastion of the City Walls in Iraklion.
Walking along the harbour front you will notice an old steam train and an old boat on the side of the road leading up to the Port Authority building. The building houses the port police, Coast Guard and of course the Port Authority. It is a good place to take pictures or the harbour and the Venation fortress, There is also a very good and reasonably priced bar restaurant.
The old Venation Loggia is now the city hall of Iraklion and you are allowed to go in and have a quick look around. It is a most impressive building.