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Heraklion: the sights of the capital of Crete

Attractions in Heraklion: the history of different eras, cultures and religions

Crete is a picturesque Greek island full of myths and legends. And its capital is Heraklion — the historical center, whose attractions each year attract thousands of tourists. Its area is only 120 square meters. kilometers So, you can explore the town on your own and in just one day. But, so that you do not waste time in vain, we will tell you what to see in Heraklion in the first place.

Antiquity settled here

To understand where in Heraklion so many unusual sights, you need to remember its history. And she, by the way, is over four thousand years old! Long ago, this city was called the “gateway to Crete”, since an ancient port was built here, which still functions — of course, in a more modern form.

Who just did not manage this city! And the Greeks, led by the legendary king Minos, who, as you know, turned everything into gold with the touch of a hand. And the Arabs, and the Byzantines, and the Venetians, and the Turks … It is not surprising that Heraklion, however, like Crete and Greece in general, impresses with a variety of architectural forms.

But we will start with the most ancient artifacts that have survived to this day. All of them are collected in one single place, or rather, in the Archeological Museum. It is worth a visit to all the tourists who arrived in Crete at least for a day! Among the exhibits are amazing “representatives” of the Minoan culture:

  • royal board games made of precious materials: ivory, rock crystal, gold;
  • things found in necropolises: copper mirrors, golden caskets, necklaces with precious stones, rings with the image of mourners;
  • collection of jewelry;
  • clay sculptures of goddesses with raised hands;
  • extraordinary frescoes from the palaces of the local nobility.

But the stone sarcophagus, decorated with sacral drawings, became a real decoration of the museum. Characteristically, it has a rather small size. This is due to the fact that the inhabitants of the then island of Crete laid the dead in the fetal position, as if returning them to mother Earth.

Of course, this is not all that you can see in the Archaeological Museum. But as they say, it’s better to see once.

The story is fascinating

Arriving in Crete, do not forget to visit the Palace of Knossos. Imagine it was built back in 1900 BC, and initially united both the residence of the king and a place for prayers. The most interesting thing is that the palace is a rather complicated maze with hundreds of rooms, halls, as well as workshops, storerooms, a theater for 500 people and the place where the bullfight took place. Until now, the walls are preserved murals that depict dragons, griffins. By the way, Crete is the “birthplace” of the famous and awesome Minotaur!

In addition, visiting the Palace of Knossos, you can see:

  • the oldest in Europe «royal road»;
  • bath and toilet, which is more than three thousand years old;
  • the majestic throne of Knossos itself.

Another interesting object for walking is the medieval sea fortress Koules. Earthquakes often occur in Crete, and many centuries ago the walls of the citadel were destroyed as a result of a natural cataclysm. However, over time, the fortress was revived, and she flashed new colors. To this day there are embrasures, specially designated for guns places, a small mosque and a part of the minaret. If you are lucky, you can get to a concert or exhibition, which are regularly held within the walls of the citadel.

Buildings that you can watch endlessly

A separate story — temples and cathedrals located in the territory of Heraklion. These attractions will amaze every tourist, regardless of his religion.

One of the brightest representatives of Heraklion’s architecture is the Cathedral of St. Titus. It is located on a small square, surrounded by palm trees. In Crete, this temple occupies a special place as the center of historical Orthodoxy. The cathedral is named after the saint who preached Christianity in the first century AD. What did not exist in the history of the temple: he suffered several earthquakes, then became a mosque, then — the Catholic Cathedral. But historical justice nevertheless triumphed, and in 1923 the shrine was again returned to the Orthodox believers, of which the overwhelming majority are in Crete.

If you have only one day left and you are exploring the city on your own, do not forget to walk through the St. George’s Gate. For a long time they were in a destroyed state, but in the 21st century they became available again to the residents and guests of Heraklion. At one time, the Gate was the most important entry used by high-ranking officials.

Today, tourists can admire the original facade, a plaque and a relief medallion depicting St. George.

However, in Crete there are other attractions worthy of the attention of the guests of the island. Among them:

  • St. Mark’s Cathedral. His exquisite vaulted gallery immediately reminds of those times when Venetian nobility rules in Heraklion.
  • Dominican Church of St. Peter. It was recently renovated, today is open to all comers. By the way, archaeological excavations are still being conducted on the territory of the temple.
  • Cathedral of Saint Minas. Greece is rich in churches, but this one is the largest in the country. It accommodates 8 thousand people. It was built in honor of the patron saint of Heraklion.
  • Church of St. Catherine. It is a prime example of how to mix the “immiscible”. For example, Byzantine and Venetian architecture. By the way, it was in this temple that the great painter El Greco studied.

Francesco Morosini in response!

In addition, there are other places of interest in Crete. Many of them were built by order of the Venetian doge (in other words, the sovereign) Francesco Morosini. Among the most interesting is the fountain, named after this prominent figure. There are several reasons for its popularity.

The first is related to the fact that this construction formed the basis of the first water supply network in the city. The second is the decorative features of the fountain. It is a bowl, «sunk» in the eight-leaf, around which mythic lions perch perched. And the third fact: in spite of the venerable age, the fountain still affects the joy of the inhabitants and guests of the island of Crete.

In the era of the foreign «owners» of Heraklion, the Venetian Loggia was built. And again — on the orders of the lover of exquisite architecture Francesco Morosini! At one time, the city’s fathers gathered in its walls, solving important political and economic issues that concerned not only Heraklion, but the whole of Crete. This two-story building combines Doric and Ionic styles, it has been completely renovated, and today it houses the City Hall.

From dinosaurs to the monastery

However, in Crete, in particular, in Heraklion, there are not only ancient sights. Among the modern objects there is the Museum of Natural History, where you can get closer to dinosaur life, as well as Roman baths and thermal spas, where people come to relax after a long day.

A striking example of modern places of worship — the aquarium of the island of Crete, which is popularly called the «Sea World». This is a real find for excursions with children. It was opened in 2005, and now the exhibition consists of the following living exhibits: sharks, octopuses, jellyfish, clown fish, starfish. Do not list all, because in the «Sea World» presents more than 250 different types of animals. It is not surprising that the Heraklion aquarium is one of the best in Europe!

If you have visited all the attractions that are located in Heraklion, it is time to look at its surroundings. There, too, there are many places worthy of attention. Including, the monastery of Kerr Cardiotissa — in translation from the Greek language “The Virgin of the Heart”. This shrine is about a thousand years old, and it is located along the road to the Lassithi Plateau. Within its walls is a miraculous icon, to which many pilgrim tourists aspire to touch. The history of this place, kind and sincerely faithful servants, as well as a chic look that unfolds on the Lassithi Plateau — all worth it to linger in the ancient monastery.

… And one more piece of advice: walking on the streets and squares of Heraklion on your own, do not forget to photograph what you see as often as possible! After all, the city miraculously combines different epochs, cultures and religions. And it radically distinguishes it from other parts of Europe.

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