Every part of the capital of Crete, Heraclion, shows a different culture, every culture that flourished in there during the centuries. Every area travels you to another era, from the Byzantium to the Venetian Occupation and from the Ottoman Occupation to the modern years.

The Heraclion city is the largest in Crete and the commercial and scientific center of the island. According to the 2011 census, 173.993 people live in Heraclion after its union with the municipalities of Nea Alikarnassos, Gorgolaini, Temenos and Paliani.

Heraclion has been called an Athens’s miniature, i.e. a concrete city with traffic problems and, generally, many other negative issues. That view is partially true but there are also many beautiful parts and areas in Heraclion.

Starting from the port, you can admire the Mediaeval Koules fortress, the trademark of Heraclion. Koules has been protecting the city for centuries. Nowadays the fortress has been used occasionally for artistic purposes but, in the last years, is closed for restoration.

Parts of the Venetian dockyards are preserved in the old Venetian port, opposite to Koules fotress. The dockyards were areas where the Venetian ships were built, fixed or kept. In the beginning they were open from the side of the sea and their length was 50 meters, their width 9 meters and their height 10 meters. They were connected by arched openings and closed by doors made by beams.

Walking through the “25 Avgoustou” street (i.e. the 25th of August), the street (opposite of Koules) that connects the coastal road with the city centre, you can see the one of the most important and beautiful monuments of the city, Lotzia. The building of Lotzia was the Club of the Duce and the officials of Crete. Today it is the mayor’s house. The building was built in the 14th century and its final form was taken in the 17th century. The EUROPA NOSTRA award was given to the building as the most renovated and maintained European monument in 1987.

Vasiliki of Agios Markos (i.e. basilica of the Saint Marcus) is in the south of Lotzia. The building was built in 1239 and was the Cathedral of Crete. The municipal art gallery of Heraclion is hosted there today.

Krini of Morosini (i.e. the Morosini fountain) or Liontaria (i.e. the Lions) are opposite Vasiliki of Agios Markos. The fountain with the 4 lions, from the mouths of which the water flows, was made by Francesco Morosini in the first decades of the 17th century.

The Metropolitan of Agios Minas is a few meters in the south-west, on the Agios Minas Street. Agios Minas is the patron saint of Heraclion and, during the Turkish Occupation, he saved the Christians from massacre. The temple was being built for 30 years and was consecrated in 1896. The small church of Agios Minas with impressive frescos and icons by famous painters is next to it.

The Mediaeval Agia Aikaterini monastery is at the square of the Agios Minas church. The monastery was the Cretan University in the Mediaeval Years and many famous European artists, philosophers, priests, poets and writers graduated from it.

The old city of Heraclion is surrounded by the Venetian walls that have been protecting it from the enemies. Heraclion was a very well fortified city of the Mediterranean Sea. Turks were trying to invade Heraclion for 25 years. The invasion was made after the betrayal of a Venetian man that showed the Turks a secret entrance.

Part of the walls is Xanioporta (i.e. door of the Xania city). The Martinego is in the south-east of Xanioporta where the Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis is buried. It is worth walking on or next to the walls of Heraclion.


During the Minoan Era, Heraclion was the port of Knosos. In his texts, Stravon stated Heraclion as the port of Knosos, in the 1st century A.C. .

The city was built in the 9th century A.C., when the Arabs conquered Crete and founded the new city that was called “Kastro of Chandax” on the place where Heraclion is today. After that, the Byzantines controlled the island from the 10th century till the beginning of the 13th century.

Venetians bought Chandax in the 14th century. The Venetian Occupation lasted about four and a half centuries. During that period Heraclion flourished commercially, architecturally and artistically.

Venetians gave the city to Turks in 1669 after a long siege. Cretans rebelled against the Ottomans and were liberated in 1898.

Crete united with Greece in 1912.


The city was called “Heraclion” in the honor of Hercules. According to his seventh labor, Hercules imprisoned the wild Taurus that was destroying Crete.