Top Tourist Attractions in Heraklion
1.The palace of Knossos
Knossos is the centre of Minoan civilisation and capital of Minoan Crete lay 5km south of Heraklion. The Minoan palace is the main site of interest at Knossos, an important city in antiquity, which was inhabited continuously from the Neolithic period until the 5th c. AD. According to tradition, it was the seat of the wise king Minos. The Palace of Knossos is connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth, with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Ikaros.
Although excavations show that there was a palace here as early as 2000 BC, what you see today dates mainly from 1450 BC, with some slightly over-imaginative reconstruction from the early 20th century, plus replicas of many of the frescoes (the originals are in Heraklion Archaeological Museum).
2.Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Magnificent 3,500-year-old frescoes from Knossos, including Prince of the Lilies and Bull-Leaping, are currently on display at this museum, as are the Snake Goddess, a glazed ceramic figurine of a lady holding two snakes, dated 1600 BC, and the Phaistos Disk, a clay disc bearing a curious spiral of symbols from around 100 BC. Although the museum’s main building has been closed for renovation since 2006, you can still see this excellent temporary exhibition of some 450 ancient finds from across the island, laid out in chronological order with explanatory texts in both Greek and English.
This world-class museum is Heraklion’s principal tourist attraction and lies in the eastern part of the old town.
3. Old town
Heraklion grew up around the sea, and still today, the old town focuses on the harbor, with its most notable monument being Koules, an imposing 16th-century fortress built by the Venetians – you can climb up onto the ramparts for splendid views. From here, you can see the arsenals, vast arches with vaulted spaces where the Venetians repaired their ships, and the busy coastal promenade, lined with seafood eateries.
The old town is protected by a circuit of massive defensive walls, which have been demolished in parts. Inside, its pedestrian-only streets are lined by aristocratic buildings, churches, and boutiques, and open onto a leafy square with fountains and busy cafés.