Heraklion

Must-Visit Attractions in Heraklion

17 Jun 2021

Aside from the beautiful beaches and warm weather, one of the main reasons to visit Crete is to see the remains of the Minoan civilization. The Palace of Knossos is a world-famous site attracting millions of people every year. The Koules Fortress is another must-see attraction in Heraklion. A walk around the Old Town will bring you closer to the spirit of Crete. While you're there, make sure to take a photo on Lion Square and check the Old Market for gifts and souvenirs.

The Palace of Knossos

Top Attractions on Crete, Greece - Palace of Knossos © Timofeev Vladimir, Shutterstock
The Palace of Knossos is one of Crete's most impressive attractions © Timofeev Vladimir / Shutterstock

Arguably this is the site Crete is most famous for. The remains of the ancient palace of Knossos are situated just a few miles south of Heraklion, and you can reach it using the city bus. The monumental complex dates back to the second millennium BC – some of the buildings still stand and you can some of the beautiful frescoes (most of the originals are stored at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum anyway). Be prepared to wait at the entrance - Knossos is a must-see for the tourists. Sometimes it might take up to one hour before it’s your turn to get in. Be patient, the place worth the wait.

Koules Fortress

Top Attractions on Crete, Greece - Koules Fortress © Jebulon, CC
Find remnants of Crete's Venetian past at the Koules Fortress © Jebulon / Creative Commons
Crete was under Venetian rule for about four and a half centuries before it fell under the Ottoman Empire in the 1660s. Koules Fortress (Castello a Mare in Italian) was probably one of the primary representations of that period when Heraklion was a part of the maritime empire of Venice. Built in the early 16th century when the town was still called Candia, the fort still looks a lot like the way it was five hundred years ago. The best part is you don’t have to leave Heraklion to visit it - Koules Fortress is located near the city centre right next to the port. The fort is open to visitors every day except Monday.

Heraklion Old Town

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Top Attractions on Crete, Greece - Old Town Streets © Vladimir1984, Shutterstock
Soak up the sights and sounds on the old town streets of Crete © Vladimir1984 / Shutterstock
​​​​​​​You don`t have to leave the city to see the dazzling views and get in touch with the scent of old times. The Old Town is located next to the modern centre of Heraklion so that the traveller can witness the past and the present of the largest city in Crete in a matter of several. The narrow, steep streets of the Old Town will bring you back in the centuries of Venetian and Ottoman rule. From above the traveller can find the perfect spot for an Instagram image - take a selfie with the sea, the port, and the Koules fortress behind your back.

Lion Square

Top Attractions on Crete, Greece - Heraklion Old Town © Heracles Kritikos, Shutterstock
Lion Square in the heart of Heraklion's Old Town at night © Heracles Kritikos / Shutterstock
Set right at the Heraklion, the Lion Square (or Liondaria) is one of the most beautiful structures within the city. Called also Morosini Fountain after the Italian governor - the last Venetian ruler before Ottoman Turks took the city in 1669. A lot of cafes, fast-food stores, and restaurants are located around the are of Lion Square. The fountain is a favourite spot for appointments for the local people. The renewed famous Handakos Street is linked to the Liondaria.

The Old Market

Top Attractions on Crete, Greece - Heraklion Old Town Market © Isidoros Andronos, Shutterstock
Heraklion's Old Market is the most atmospheric place to shop on the island © Isidoros Andronos / Shutterstock
​​​​​​​The Old Market street is another place worth the walk-around. Located near a shopping boulevard, it brings a distinct contrast to the modern shiny trade zones - a favourite area for the local people, Herakliotes. Getting to know the Agora is not the only benefit - you can find fresh food, especially vegetables and fruits from a rural garden; you can taste and buy the local brandy as well. The Old Market is the zone to eat Cretan food and feel the spirit of the city. Nearby a traveller will find another beautiful place - Bembo Fountain, set on Plateia Kornarou.

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