ROL Cruise recommends...
Crete’s capital, Heraklion (sometimes referred to Iraklion), is a far cry from the antiquated village you might expect. Ancient legends and historic monuments are still present, though a cosmopolitan city has grown around them. Don’t be fooled into thinking Heraklion is merely a gateway to Knossos either – this busy city is worth the 15 minute walk from the port.
Following Minoan, Muslim and Byzantine occupation, the city was bought by the Venetians in the 13th century who built grand fortifications to guard it. Stroll past colourful fishing boats in the marina to spot the carved Lion of St Mark on Koules Venetian Fort, then enjoy panoramic views from atop the city walls. Over three miles long and with seven bastions, learn how they protected the city from sieges for 21 years during the Cretan War.
Take a break in a seafront taverna or wander along pedestrianised streets as they lead you to café-lined squares. Discover the Venetian Morosini Fountain of Lions Square, as well as commemorative statues of important locals, such as artist El Greco and author Nikos Kazantzakis. Admire the beautiful architecture of St. Titus Church and the Venetian Loggia before embracing the buzz of the open-air market stalls on 1866 street.
When you’re ready to discover the island’s impressive treasures, visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum or head to remarkable Knossos. Three miles from the main town, this centre of Minoan civilisation is considered to be one of the world’s greatest architectural sites. It is believed to have been the seat of King Minos and the location of the legendary labyrinth where Theseus fought the Minotaur before Daedalus and Icarus were imprisoned there.
Explore the ruins of this ancient settlement, thought to date back as far as 7000 BC. The once-magnificent palaces surround a large Central Court and show evidence of a complex social structure and advanced design features. Absorb the unique atmosphere as you discover the living quarters of the King and Queen, the Grand Staircase, an ominous sounding Hall of the Double Axes, and intricate frescoes.