Best things to do during a visit to Heraklion
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Heraklion is the largest city and the administrative capital of Crete. The influence of the civilisations that passed from the island is obvious, especially the influence of the Venetians. Walking around the city you will see the remnants of the Venetian rule. Koules Fortress, the rampants and the arsenal that dominate the port area. You will also find a lot of fountains with the most famous being the Morosini fountain located in the Lion Square.
The historic centre of Heraklion is surrounded by defensive walls, bastions and other fortifications that were built in the Middle Ages but the Republic of Venice completely rebuilt them. The fortifications managed to withstand the 21 years siege (the longest siege in history) before the city fell to the Ottomans in 1669.
It is believed by many that Heraklion is a confusing city as the modern characteristics mix up with the historic buildings but in a way, they blend quite nicely. Once you get to walk around you will see its beauty and understand its uniqueness. Strolling in the city you will discover sculptures, statues and busts commemorating significant events and figures of Cretan history, like El Greco, Vitsentzos Kornaros, Nikos Kazantzakis and Eleftherios Venizelos.
There are many different activities for you in Heraklion city. Like all the cities, Heraklion has a main shopping street called Daedalou. There you will find many shops ideal for shopping therapy. You can find local products in small shops off the main streets. Plus, every Thursday and Saturday you can find a big flea market just a little further from the city centre.
If you are a history fan there are plenty of museums in the city centre. Starting with the archaeological museum on one corner of Eleftherias Square. The museum displays find from Knossos, Phaistos, Archanes, Zakros, Zeus caves and many more. In order to avoid rush hour, start early in the morning or late in the day. The famous Knossos Palace is around 20 - 25 minutes from the city centre and it is best to visit it very early in the morning as it is an open area and during the summer months it is very hot.
Other museums are the Battle of Crete Museum, the History Museum on the seafront and the Natural History Museum - 10 minutes walk along the seafront. If you have children, the Natural museum has a children’s area with caves and all sorts of play/learning materials. It has wonderful displays and good descriptive details about Crete’s wildlife and an incredible feature called the “experience an earthquake” platform. Also, it has an exhibit with the dinosaurs that walked on Crete many years ago.
The Venetian Loggia in the Lion Square is another site you can visit. It is a two-story mansion completed in 1628 and used to be a meeting place for the nobles of Crete, now it hosts the city hall. If you like galleries, the Municipal Gallery and Basilica of St. Mark has an ever-changing variety of exhibitions from early photographs of Crete to specific works of art.
How to get to Heraklion
You can travel to Heraklion by aeroplane or by boat. If you choose the aeroplane, the “Nikos Kazantzakis” airport is located 5 km east of the city. The port is in the centre of the city, just 500 meters east of the Koules Fortress.
If you are in another city of Crete and you want to visit Heraklion there are intercity buses connecting it with major destinations like Chania, Rethymno etc.
Where to park in Heraklion city
Typically, the heaviest traffic will be in the city. If you want to avoid the traffic, you should be careful around early morning and early evening. You can pretty much avoid city traffic by taking the highway, which goes around the town and has been divided to allow the traffic to flow better.
For your convenience, there are a lot of parking areas near the port of Heraklion. You can park your car there and walk about 15 minutes to reach the centre of the city.
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