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A city in which legend and history co-exist

A busy harbour city where the lines between myth and history are blurred, Heraklion – also known as Iraklio – is one of Greece’s largest cities and the capital of Crete (the largest and most populous of the Greek islands). The city and its environs make for a wonderful base for a Crete villa holiday.

Heraklion is noted for its proximity to the famed Palace of Knossos, the island’s most important archaeological site. Once the seat of power for the Minoan thalassocracy (naval power), the extensive ruins were discovered by British archaeologist Arthur Evans in the early 1900s and he coined the term ‘Minoan’ after legendary King Minos (son of Zeus, and stepfather of the Minotaur).

Fast forward centuries and back in the bustling metropolis, villa holidaymakers will enjoy exploring the Archaeological Museum and museums of religious art and natural history, as well as the massive Venetian fortress, which sits at the entrance to the old port. While strolling around the Old Town, demarked by Venetian Walls, don’t miss out on seeing the 10th-century Agios Titos church and the Morosini Fountain.

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About Heraklion

Crete’s seaside capital, Heraklion, despite its history, was mostly built up after World War II and it had a real-life, real-city appeal with markets, a café culture based on traditional kafeneions (coffeehouses), labyrinthine streets, public squares centred around Turkish and Venetian fountains.

The island’s cultural roots lie at the 4,000-year-old ruins at Knossos and having explored the site, history lovers should head to Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum, which houses an impressively large collection of Minoan artefacts, including examples of ‘Linear A’, the Minoan written language.

The city also offers a multitude of other attractions too that blend the old and new including numerous museums and galleries, the Venetian fortress that guards the harbour, fountains and churches. When all the sightseeing is done, an array of charming eateries serve up regional delicacies that incorporate local cheese and honey, washed down with the island’s anise-flavoured aperitif, tsikoudia (also known as raki).

Don’t miss out on the shopping opportunities while in Heraklion. There are plenty of ceramics, souvenirs, art, and local food products to be purchased in artisanal boutiques and the fun markets.

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