During the approximately 3,000 years of its existence, Heraklion has had a turbulent history while its name most likely comes from Idaean Hercules, the legendary founder of the Olympic Games. Heraklion is the largest urban centre in Crete and the financial centre of the island. The city also is the commercial and scientific centre of the island. It is found in a strategic geopolitical location in the south-eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea, connecting three continents and various different civilizations.


Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The new Heraklion Archaeological Museum, in the city centre, is considered to be one of the most important museums in Europe and the most important for its exhibits worldwide. It presents the most ancient civilization in Europe, the Minoan civilization, while exhibits from all over Crete are gathered in the museum, covering the history of the island for over 5,500 years. Artefacts found in Minoan palaces, houses, tombs and caves are displayed in the museum’s exhibition rooms.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum of Crete operates within the framework of the University of Crete. Its exhibition areas display the particularities of the
environment of Crete and the Mediterranean.

Museum of Saint Catherine of Sinai

The preserved Katholikon of the monastery and the chapel of Agioi Deka today exhibit representative works of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine art. Among them are icons attributed to the painter Angelos, one of the most famous artists of the 15th century, or to his peers, as well as all six icons by Michael Damaskenos which are considered among the most important works of the Cretan School of the 16th century. The 13th Ephorate of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Antiquities has included in the Collection of Saint Catherine, detached wall paintings from the church of Michael Archangelos in Preveliana, Monofatsio, others from the church of the Virgin Mary in Patsos, Amari, and from other monuments on the island.

Historical Museum

The Historical Museum of Crete presents a comprehensive view of Cretan history from early Christian times to the present day. The original goal was to collect and preserve valuable archaeological, ethnographic and historical material deriving from the medieval and modern periods in Cretan history.

Loggia (Heraklion Town Hall)

The Loggia is an elegant building, one of the finest monuments of the Venetian architecture in Crete, which was constructed between 1626 and 1628 by Francesco Morosini and constituted the centre of the city’s administrative and social life, where nobles, rulers and feudal lords met to decide upon matters relating to the economic and commercial life of the land. At the same time it operated as a meeting and recreation area.


The Venetian fortress dominates the entrance to the Venetian harbour of Heraklion. The Venetians called it the “Sea Fortress” (Castello a Mare or Rocca a Mare), but today it is known by its Turkish name, Koules, derived from Su Kulesi. It is one of the most familiar and beloved monuments of the city and symbol of Heraklion.
Today the fortress gazes proudly into the Sea of Crete, reminding us of the glory of the Venetian Chandax, while it is haunted by legends according to which Cretan rebels were dreadfully tortured in its damp and dark interior.

Lions Fountain

The Lions in Heraklion is the square with the Fontana Morosini, the ornate Venetian fountain with four lions with water gushing out of their mouths. Fontana Morosini is located in the centre of Heraklion but for the city’s inhabitants this name is unknown and they usually refer to it as the “Lions’ Square” or “the Lions” for short. The fountain with the lions is one of the most important monuments bequeathed to Heraklion by the Venetians. When constructed, it offered a solution to the water supply problem of the city, and it reportedly supplied the citizens with 1,000 barrels of water daily.

Basilica of Saint Mark

The Basilica of Saint Mark is one of the most important Venetian buildings-monuments in Heraklion. Today it houses the city’s Municipal Art Gallery. The Venetians, wishing to consolidate their dominance over their new colony (Heraklion) and to express their gratitude and love for their mother country, built a church in the city’s centre dedicated to Saint Mark, patron saint of Venice. The Basilica managed to survive various earthquakes which afflicted Heraklion over the centuries with only minor repairs. During the Turkish rule it was converted into a mosque, the Defterdar Mosque, named after Defterdar Ahmet Pasha, the head of the financial department. The Ottomans demolished the bell-tower of the basilica and raised a minaret in its place, which in its turn was taken down by the residents of Heraklion after the liberation of the island in their attempt to erase the unpleasant reminders and symbols of the Turkish occupation.

Church of St Peter and St Paul

The Church of St Peter and St Paul was constructed during the early years of the Venetian rule as the Katholikon of the Dominican Order monastery (Domenicani Predicatori). It is one of the oldest monuments of the Cistercian Monks of the 12th century architecture, so much in Europe as well as in Greece. The building suffered extended destruction from earthquakes starting from the 14th until the 18th century. The daring architecture of the monument with the large dimensions as to its length (54 m.), its width (15 m.) and the height (12 m.) of the central nave, in combination with the lack of any buttresses along the north and south wall, seem to have contributed to its partial collapse during various earthquakes.
Throughout the Venetian rule, the church was used as a burial site for Candia’s important political and spiritual leaders. With the advent of the Ottoman rule, Saint Peter was immediately converted into a Muslim mosque dedicated to the memory of Sultan Ibrahim and a minaret was added to the exterior southwest corner. The church was restored recently.

Saint Titus

The church of Saint Titus in Heraklion is one of the most important monuments in the city’s centre. In 961 Nicephorus Phocas drove the Arabs away from Crete and the first Orthodox Church of St. Titus was constructed in order to rekindle Christian faith and tradition in Crete. The skull of Saint Titus was transferred to the new church where it is found to this date.
During the period of the Turkish rule, the church of Saint Titus was ceded to Vizier Fazil Ahmed Koprulu, who converted it into a mosque, known as the Vezir Mosque. The great earthquake in 1856 completely destroyed the church and it was rebuilt in its present form as an Ottoman mosque by architect Athanasios Moussis, who also designed the orthodox church of Saint Minas and the barracks in Eleftherias Square. The minaret of Saint Titus was demolished in the 1920s, when the last Muslims left Heraklion during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Today the church celebrates in accordance with the orthodox faith and is dedicated to St Titus the Apostle, following reconstruction works carried out by the Church of Crete in 1925.

Saint Minas

The foundations of the imposing church of Saint Minas, one of the largest churches in Greece, were laid in 1862 as a token of gratitude of the citizens of Heraklion for the protection offered by the Saint to the city. The building site is said to have been indicated by a monk to whom Saint Minas had appeared in a vision. The church’s architect was the Epirote Athanasios Moussis, who had also undertaken Saint Titus and the barracks in Eleftherias Square, the building housing today the Prefecture of Heraklion and the Courts of Law. Saint Minas is the patron saint of Heraklion and is celebrated on November 11th, a public holiday for Heraklion.



The Knossos Palace is the monumental symbol of the Minoan civilization and the most visited area of Knossos, the most important city of antiquity, with a continuous existence from the Neolithic age to the 5th century AD. Built on the hill of Kefala, with an easy access to the sea as well as to inland Crete, it was once the seat of King Minos. The exciting myths of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur and of Daedalus with Icarus are linked with the Palace of Knossos.


Phaistos, or more correctly, the Minoan Palace of Phaistos in Mesara plain, is the second, after Knossos, most important archaeological site. The palace was that of a flourishing city, Phaistos, which arose in the fertile Mesara plain during prehistoric times (6,000 BC- 1st century AD), as confirmed by archaeological finds.
According to mythology, the dynasty of Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus and brother of Minos, reigned in Phaistos. The sovereignty of Phaistos was extended between the capes of Lithino and Mellissa while it had two powerful harbours, Matala and Kommos. It was a very rich and powerful city with its own currency.


Gortyna is also mentioned by Homer. It was most prosperous after the Roman conquest when it became the capital of the Roman province of Crete and later of the Cyrenaica (of northern Africa). During the Roman rule, Gortyna was the largest and most important city of Crete, with vast expanse and prosperity, as evidenced by the important ruins of the luxury and majestic buildings found there. During the Byzantine period it was still the capital of Crete until 828 AD, when the Arab Saracens conquered and destroyed it.

Museum of Cretan Ethnology

The Museum is located in the Municipality of Tympaki (Vorroi Village) and its purpose is to promote the traditional Cretan society. 3,000 important historical exhibits from all over Crete are displayed, which are unique since they are hand-made objects, not produced any more. The   thematic areas of the museum involve: Nutrition, Architecture, Weaving, Clothing, Arts – Commerce, Transports, Customs and Traditions, Social Organization, Anthropology, Religion, Fine Arts, Music, Property and War.

Nikos Kazantzakis Museum

The Nikos Kazantzakis Museum pays tribute to the important intellectual, author, thinker, philosopher, politician and traveller, Nikos Kazantzakis. The Museum is located in the central square of the historic village of Varvari, today known as Myrtia.
The Museum houses manuscripts and notes by the author, samples of his correspondence with major thinkers, politicians and authors of his time; earlier editions of his works in Greek and other languages, rare photographic material, souvenirs from his travels, personal items, models, costumes and material from theatrical productions of his works, both in Greece and abroad, portraits and sculptures of himself and dozens of foreign-language editions of his works.

“Thalassocosmos” Aquarium

The “THALASSOCOSMOS” complex is a unique research, education, culture and entertainment park, aiming to promote and diffuse knowledge for the marine environment, revealing its uniqueness, organisms, ecosystems and the beautiful world of the Mediterranean Sea. It includes 32 tanks and fifty observation points, allowing the visitor to see the life and habits of the sea creatures, while special cameras bring out the “hidden” areas of the tanks.



It is apparently the oldest Monastery in Crete, as evidenced by its name. The oldest information mentioning the Monastery dates back to 669, which leads us to the conclusion that the monastery must have been built during the early byzantine period. It was ravaged many times. In 1821, the Turks slaughtered the nuns, the church was set on fire and the holy vessels as well as other church items were plundered. The three-aisled church is now dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Pantaleon and the three Holy Hierarchs. It is located in the village of Venerato and is a nunnery.


It is located at the foot of mount Psiloritis near the village of Kato Asites and celebrates on St. George and St. Nicholas day. It is a male monastery. The naturally fortified location of the Monastery facilitated the rebellious assemblies and uprising, thus it had the same fate as other monasteries marked by disaster, slaughter and pillage. The Venetian marble lion dating back to 1617 implies that the Monastery was constructed during the last years of the Venetian rule.

Saint Pantaleon

It is a male monastery, located near Fodele village. It was constructed during the last years of the Venetian rule and is dedicated to St. Pantaleon and St. Anthony. The participation of the Monastery in the liberation fights which led to its depopulation, destruction and the plunder of all its valuable items is well known. The Monastery was used as a makeshift hospital during the revolution of 1821. The legendary figure of the monastery was its brave Abbot, Neofitos Pediotis. It houses exceptional art icons.


It is a nunnery. Today’s Monastery is believed to have been given its name from the old Monastery of Saint Savvas. It is located near and above the village of Rogdia. It was founded during the last years of the Venetian rule. The known scholar and great teacher Maximos Margounios was once its Abbot. The monks who participated in the defence of the besieged Chandax were slaughtered or taken prisoners in Constantinople. The fighters from Kokkinidis family are buried in the monastery.

Saint Irene

Above the town of Krousonas lies the Nunnery of Saint Irene, included in the category of the old monasteries, since it is mentioned in a document dating back to 1671. It celebrates on Saint Irene’s day and on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the bloody conflict in Kroussonas gorge, where 400 Turks were killed, their rage was unleashed on the monastery and its monks whom they captured and slaughtered. The monastery was then depopulated but its bell has been ringing continuously again since 1944.


The male monastery of Epanosifis located in the centre of the Heraklion Prefecture, near Metaxohori is one of the most important and wealthier monasteries in Crete. It is estimated to have been founded around 1600. One of the two aisles of the Monastery is dedicated to Saint George and the other to the Transfiguration of the Savour. Numerous holy artefacts of the monastery were sold with the intervention of commissioner Tombazis in order to buy weapons and to strengthen the mission of the revolution. The Monastery houses to this today valuable artefacts and divine worship items.


The male Monastery dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located a few meters from the coastline bordering the Libyan Sea. The Monastery of Koudoumas exists since the early years of the Venetian rule (14th century) however it is not known whether it was built on the same site. In 1872, brothers Parthenios and Eumenios renovated or reconstructed the church. It is located above Sternes village.


The male Monastery of Apezanes is located on a plateau of the Asterousia Mountains. According to the most common belief, the Monastery was founded in 1458. Papadopoulos’ brothers from Chandax are mentioned to be the owners or renovators of the Monastery. Even though a document for the protection of the Monastery from the Turks is said to have been issued, this was violated and the monastery was surrendered to fire in 1827 along with various church artefacts. The revolution of 1866-69 completed the previous destruction. The church celebrates on Saint Anthony’s day.


The male Monastery named after one of its founders is located at the southern foot of Mount Psiloritis, near Zaros. Its foundation dates back to the 2nd Byzantine period. The two-aisled church is dedicated to Saint Anthony and Apostle Thomas. The monastery housed a school of painting and religious painting. The monastery also accommodated scholars and notable bibliographers and book copiers. The Katholikon of Varsamonero Monastery, an important spiritual and art centre from the 15th until the 17th century, with widespread fame and broad acceptance is located only a short distance away.

Katholikon of Varsamonero Monastery

The church was the katholikon of a now dissolved monastery. It is one of the most important monuments of Crete, not only because of its idiomorphic architecture and its beautiful carved door case, but mainly because of the magnificent wall decoration. It comprises of two parallel aisles; the north one is dedicated to Virgin Hodegetria and the south one to Saint John the Baptist, one transverse aisle is dedicated to Saint Fanourios and it also incorporates one ante-chapel to the west. The aisles were built in different periods. The oldest is the north one, since the Monastery in ancient documents was reported as Chiesa della Madonna di Varsamonero (church of the Virgin Mary of Varsamonero). The addition of the south aisle with the creation of arcs in the 1400s brought about changes in the decoration of the north aisle, with the addition of wall paintings in 1407. The decoration of the south aisle was done during the period starting from 1407 until 1428. The transverse aisle was erected in 1423 and painted in 1431 by the Cretan Painter, Konstantinos Eirikos.


The fortress-like monastery of Odigitria is located near the village of Siva. The monastery exists since the 14th century as evidenced by the church’s wall paintings. It acquired its present-day form in 1568, as recorded in the curved stone inscription found on the main entrance of the church. The monastery is connected with a part of our history during the Turkish rule since it was a centre of the rebels. The destructive action of one of the Monastery’s monks, Ioannis Markakis or Xopateras, against the Turks is well known.


Kaliviani is located on the main road to the western part of Mesara Plain near Phaistos. It is the monastery with the broader orientation, since apart from its religious duties it has embraced matters related to the social life and its improvement. It is speculated that the first church which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as is today, was constructed during the 2nd Byzantine period. The three-aisled church found today was built in 1911.
Finally there are other monasteries and retreats such as Aghia Moni of Viannos, Saint Anthony of Arvi, Spiliotissa etc.


Crete is a magnificent and self-sufficient land and, thanks to its astonishing natural environment and the traditional Cretan hospitality, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece. We should never forget, however, the rich history of Crete, the island’s wonderful beaches and its more than 100 ancient cities.


Chania is the second largest city on the island of Crete and it is the capital of the Chania Prefecture. Once, it was an important Minoan city, associated with
ancient Cydonia since it is historically established to have been built on the ruins of Cydonia. It is a coastal city with two facets; one is the modern city with wide roads, beautiful buildings and squares and the other is the old city with its narrow streets, the remains of the Venetian rule and its picturesque harbour. The old city around the picturesque harbour is a monument with Venetian, Turkish and neo-classical buildings. It includes the Quarters of Top Hana (or Topanas), the Jewish Quarter, the Sintrivani, Splanzia or Plazza and Kasteli, that almost constitute a combination of narrow streets, two- or three-storey houses with wooden balconies, doors and windows.


Rethymno is the capital of the Prefecture of Rethymno. The city is attractive, with a significant historical background, natural beauty and lasting traditions. The old city still preserves its aristocratic appearance with stone buildings with arched doors dating back to the 16th century, narrow alleys, the remnants of the Byzantine and Greco-Roman periods.
A large part of the city leads to the Fortezza fort and the Old Venetian harbour. Porta Guora is in Martyrs Square and it is the only preserved part of the Venetian Walls. The most important   attractions of the Old City are the Church of San Francesco with its impressively decorated entrance, the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, the Neratze Mosque which today houses the Conservatory and the Turkish Bath.


Agios Nikolaos is located in the largest natural bay of Crete, Mirabello Bay, thus named because of the beautiful view (mira bella) enjoyed when one looks from the city towards the sea. The history of Agios Nikolaos is characterized by its harbour since that area was chosen for the construction of a very important harbour for Eastern Crete. During the Venetian Rule, the harbour of Agios Nikolaos could accept 25 galleys, quite a large number for that period, and satisfied the needs of Eastern Crete. Agios Nikolaos is a picturesque city, adorned by the unique Lake Voulismeni, connected to the sea via a canal. According to Greek mythology, the goddesses Artemis and Athena bathed in this lake. Ancient people believed that the lake had no bottom, while according to another folk tradition the lake is connected underground with Santorini. Views of the city of Agios Nikolaos constantly alternate from tiled houses to old neighborhoods, beautiful churches as well as luxury restaurants, taverns and shops that pass before the visitor’s eyes as he/she walks in the city. The picturesque harbour with the moored boats and the two little islands at its entrance attract one’s attention as they reveal the city’s lighthouse and the church of All Saints. It boasts two museums, the Archaeological and the Folklore museum.


Sitia is a city preserving traditional elements, built around Sitia bay and at a distance of 70 km approximately from Agios Nikolaos. The city’s history is old
since in the Minoan period it was the location of the city of Iteia, a harbour of ancient Praesos and home of philosopher Myson, one of the seven wise men of antiquity. It was the seat of the Diocese in the Byzantine period. Later on, the Venetians built the Kazarma Fortress to the east of the city, which was destroyed by earthquake as well as from pirate raids. Sitia is the hometown of Vincenzo Cornaro, the poet of “Erotokritos”. Modern Sitia is a very vibrant city incorporating everything from an airport to cafeterias, restaurants, bars and beautiful beaches.

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