The capital of the Greek island of Crete is home to numerous cultural attractions and historical sites that tell interesting stories. Not only the economical heart of Crete, Heraklion is home to glorious beaches, fascinating archaeological sites and breathtaking gorges. Heraklion’s architecture depicts two different eras of the city – Venetian and Turkish occupation – with centuries-old stone structures set in a vibrant cultural ambience.
History: founded in 824 AD, Heraklion was often used as a safe haven for marauding pirates who lay in wait to attack Byzantine ships that dared to travel through the waters. The city was under Venetian rule for more than 400 years and many of the buildings that line the old streets reflect this period known as the Cretan Renaissance. Heraklion has been part of Greece since 1913, along with the rest of the island.
Sightseeing: taking in the ancient architectural sights is a must-do while visiting Heraklion and there are many fascinating buildings to admire. The Venetian fortress known as Kales Castle along with Kazarma are both interesting examples of Venetian structures. Matala Beach is a magnet for beach lovers and provides guests with quaint bamboo umbrellas as well as good swimming opportunities and smooth sand.
Shopping: Ocean Village is located in the heart of the city and is the best place for shopping, with a range of designer gear to cheap jewellery. Cretan honey is a local delicacy and visitors can enjoy sampling a variety of flavours, with walnuts, thyme and almonds often incorporated into the syrupy favourite. Many market stalls and shops are found on Agora, a pedestrianised road, while Andrea and Marias Kalokerinou is another street filled with shops selling anything from fresh fruit to tailored suits.
Eating and drinking: food is a major part of the local social scene and the large choice of restaurants reflects this. Dine on fine Greek and continental dishes while enjoying views out to sea and fresh sea breezes at reasonable prices. There are also some swanky upmarket choices for those with cash to splash. At night, live bands and local DJs perform, providing entertainment until the early hours.
Where to stay: there are numerous accommodation options including private villas and hotels in Heraklion. Some offer extremely stylish lodgings with mid-range to high-end prices and great service to match. There are country inns that provide guests with swimming pools, spas and restaurants just outside of the city but at the heart of the action are hotels with unbeatable locations only yards from museums, taxis and top dining.
Getting there: only five kilometres from Heraklion lies Heraklion International Airport. The busy air hub is the primary gateway into Crete and welcomes regular flights from Athens, London and Paris. From mainland Greece, visitors can also use the port in Heraklion, which received services from Rhodes, Ios, Mykonos, Paros and Santorini. European Route E75 allows visitors coming from other areas on the island easy access via hire car, taxi or bus.Author's Google+ Page