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Take in a bit of history and enjoy the vibrant pace of Crete’s largest city- Iraklion- Heraklion. Historically, the city was also called Chandax and Candia. Iraklio boasts an exciting history that includes everything from the Minoans, the Arabs, pirates and the Venetians. To understand the sights in Heraklion a little history goes a long way or you will be wondering why there is a Venetian fountain in the middle of a Greek city.
A super quick history
The city started out as a port for the Minoans until it was destroyed by the aftereffects of Santorini’s volcanic explosion. Rebuilding was begun by the Romans, but it was the Arabs who built the fortress walls around the city. After a brutal siege, the Byzantines (Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople-current day Istanbul) took control of the city until the Venetians took power over Crete. The Venetians made many additions to the city such as the famous Lion fountain that brought fresh water to the city as well as the Koules Fortress. After one of the longest sieges in history (21 years) the city fell to the Ottomans and eventually in 1913 became part of Greece.
One of the best things that we loved about Heraklion was the walkability of the city. Everything was within a comfortable walking distance. It was also lively with locals. as Greeks love going out and there were great cafes and restaurants everywhere.
Cretan food is delicious. Some restaurants will even give a complimentary dessert, drink, or fruit after your meal. Our kids loved this extra special part of the meal. All the places we visited were friendly towards families. My favourite café-bakery here was To Paradosiako - it was so fresh and the ice coffee was fantastic. However, most cafes and restaurants served great food. So even if your accommodation has a kitchen, you are going to want to eat out at every opportunity. Our whole family loved the food an extra bit more in Crete.
Top Places to Visit in the city
Koules Venetian Fortress- This imposing fortress was built by the Venetians. The view from the rooftop is fantastic.
Morosini Lions Fountain- This Venetian fountain is in the center of the Herakion’s busy town square. Take a few photos with these famous lions and then relax at one of the many restaurants or ice cream shops here.
Venetian Loggia- Beautiful city hall that is still being used today. Enjoy a few photos on the outside.