Within the Historic Center one will find the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which is the second greater Greek archaeological museum, after the one in Athens. Covering a time period from the Neolithic Era until the Roman Empire, it features important relics from the Minoan civilization, along with fascinating frescos from Knossos. Don’t miss Phaestos Disk, a circular disk with pictographic inscriptions that have not yet been decoded.
By the waterfront, sits the captivating Historical Museum of Crete. Founded by Andreas Kalokerinos, of the city’s most generous benefactors, it houses fascinating collections which deal with Crete’s more recent history and folk art. Two of El Greco’s original paintings are exhibited here. Other displays include artefacts and maps from Byzantine to Ottoman period. A photo-exhibition of the city’s suffering during The Battle of Crete is presented on the museum’s second floor, while the third floor hosts a collection of folklore art.
Not far away from the Historical Museum, you will find Koules Venetian Fortress. Built in the 16th century, it was primarily used to repel Turkish invaders, before it was turned into a prison for Cretan rebels. Nowadays the grounds of the Fortress are not normally open to the public; however, it is occasionally used for temporary exhibitions.
Loggia, which currently houses Heraklion’s city hall, is a fine example of Venetian architecture; built in the 17th century, its original purpose was to serve as an exclusive club for Venetian nobles. Right next to Loggia, stands the Church of Sent Titos. Initially built more than 1000 years ago, it had been destroyed and rebuilt twice, with the current structure dating back to 1856. During this time it served as a Catholic church and a mosque respectively, until 1925, when it was turned into an Orthodox church.
On the city’s main square, one will come across Morosini Fountain. Raised in early 17th century, it is also known as Lion Fountain, because of the four stone lions that decorate its upper part. Another lovely fountain stands at the end of 1866 Market Street; Babmo Fountain, or “Falte Jami” as locals call it, is adjoined to an old Turkish pump-house, which nowadays houses a traditional coffee house.
Outside of Heraklion
The Minoan Palace of Knossos is an absolute must-see for travelers in Heraklion. Considered to be Europe’s most ancient city, Knossos thrived during the Bronze Age; the palace has gone under extensive restoration and guided tours are available in the front gate. To get to the capital of the Minoan civilization, take city bus No. 2.
Marine-life enthusiasts are welcome to visit Cretaquarium. Located 15 kilometers east of the city of Heraklion, the aquarium mainly focuses on marine life of the Mediterranean Sea, boasting 2,500 marine creatures of 250 different species.