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Best things to do in Heraklion

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Greece  /  Crete  /  Heraklion Prefecture  /  Heraklion

Top 15 things to do in Heraklion

1. Heraklion Archaeological Museum

A vanished culture comes alive at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which holds the remains of the 3,000-year-old Minoan civilization. The museum's famous collection of artifacts spans more than five millennia, from the Neolithic period to Roman times. The museum's twenty rooms display the most important and representative finds uncovered at several different excavation sites on Crete, including an enigmatic clay disc from the second millennium BCE. Its meaning and purpose have been disputed since its discovery in 1908; the disc remains one of archaeology's most famous unresolved mysteries. For a better understanding of the lost culture represented here, opt for a guided tour of the collection plus a visit to the archaeological sites near the city.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Historical Museum of Crete

Gain an understanding of Cretan history through exhibits spanning from the Byzantine era to World War II at Historical Museum of Crete. Founded in 1953 in a neoclassical building formerly known as the House of Kalokerinos, the museum showcases the Nikos Kazantzakis collection, featuring the study and library from the author's home in Antibes, France, manuscripts of his works, and first editions of his books in various languages. Two of the finest exhibits are the only paintings by El Greco in Crete: The Baptism of Christ (1567) and View of Mt. Sinai and the monastery of St. Catherine 1570). Ceramics, sculptures, coins, jewelry, and a wide range of heirlooms highlight the everyday life on Crete during various historical periods. Rent an audio guide for more information about each exhibit and take a break with a sea view at the cafe deck.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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3. The Natural History Museum of Crete

The Natural History Museum of Crete remains dedicated to the plant and animal life of the Eastern Mediterranean region, with an emphasis on Greece and Crete. View fascinating exhibits like the representations of ecosystems; an elephant-like, nearly complete skeleton of one of the largest species that ever lived on earth; an earthquake simulator; and interactive discovery displays for children. Do not miss the living-animal exhibit with small aquariums housing native creatures.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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4. The Palace of Knossos, Knosos

Built over a Neolithic town, The Palace of Knossos represented the ceremonial and political center of Minoan civilization on Crete. English archaeologist Arthur Evans made his name by working on the excavation and partial restoration of this ancient palace for over three decades, beginning in 1900. The palace complex contains a maze of living spaces, workshops, banquet halls, shrines, and storerooms, built around a central square sometime between 2000 and 1350 BCE. To gain a glimpse into the wealth and sophistication of the Minoan culture, hop on a bus in nearby Heraklion and join a guided tour of the palace's labyrinthine corridors, so vast they gave rise to the popular legend of King Minos and the Minotaur.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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5. CRETAquarium, Gournes

Get close to hundreds of species of Mediterranean sea life at CRETAquarium. Relevant for both kids and adults, the aquarium houses sharks, turtles, eels, jellyfish, and more. The aquarium opened in 2005 and is operated by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. Pick up an audio guide to learn about the animals in each tank and their natural habitats.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. Morosini Fountain (Lion's Fountain)

Relax by Morosini Fountain (Lion's Fountain), the ornate Venetian fountain that serves as the picturesque meeting point of the city. Featuring four lions with water gushing from their mouths, the fountain was constructed to supply Heraklion with unlimited drinking water. The basin stands on a circular base that is composed of eight lobes, making it easy for multiple people to fill their water jars simultaneously. The lobes feature relief scenes from Greek mythology, primarily Tritons, dolphins, nymphs, and mythical water beings.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Castello del Molo (Koules)

The mighty Venetian fortress of Castello del Molo (Koules) towers over Heraklion Harbor. Today one of the island's popular sightseeing spots, the two-story castle was originally built in the early 13th century to store foodstuffs and military supplies. Much of the building's current form was established during its 1523-1540 restoration. Although current reconstruction has closed the site indefinitely, you can still admire the formidable architecture from outside, soak up the rich historical atmosphere, and enjoy the scenic seaside setting. Make sure to visit the eastern wall to view the lion crest of Venice, still clearly visible.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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8. Church of Saint Titus

Overlooking the eponymous square, Church of Saint Titus is dedicated to the island's first bishop, whose skull was once kept in the temple. Originally built as an Orthodox church by a 10th-century Byzantine emperor who liberated the island from the Arabs, the church was turned first into a Catholic temple by the Venetians and then into a mosque by the Ottomans. The present building owes its eclectic appearance to the Ottoman architect Athanasios Mousis, who rebuilt it after the earthquake of 1856.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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9. Room Escape Games

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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10. Kotsanas Museum

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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11. Venetian Walls and Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis

Tour a 16th-century defensive structure and pay your respects to a world-renowned writer at Venetian Walls and Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis. The walls once protected Candia and boast two well-preserved gates, Chania and Kainouryia, where you can walk outside and around the perimeter. Nikos Kazantzakis, who penned the literary works "Zorba the Greek" and "The Last Temptation of Christ," was excommunicated by the church for his writings and thus denied burial in a cemetery. According to Kazantzakis' will, he was instead interred outside the walls of his hometown in 1947. Take time to walk around the walls, sit in peace, and admire views of surrounding mountains.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Snail Farm and Fun, Tylissos

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Domaine Paterianakis

Experience over 4,000 years of winemaking tradition and latest techniques at Domaine Paterianakis. Perched on a hillside overlooking endless rows of vines, this family-run winery offers a selection of high-quality organic wines produced from the indigenous and rare grape varieties. Sample several types of red and white over a plate of cold cuts and cheese, while your gracious hosts explain everything you need to know about their product.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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15. Kazantzakis Museum, Myrtia

Learn more about a popular Greek author and philosopher at Kazantzakis Museum. The audio guide takes you throughout the permanent exhibit of letters, manuscripts, and personal belongings, all of which are charmingly presented. Children can find entertainment in the kids' section. Entrance prices vary depending on the size and age of your party.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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