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Heraklion Town Sightseeing

As it happens with Chania and Rethymnon, Heraklion too has a lot of  things worth seeing. Here too, one finds this peculiar and very interesting mixture of cultures: Byzantine remains stand side by side with Venetian constructions and Ottoman buildings. The old city survives, although partly, many buildings have been restored to cover modern needs and host actual activities. Heraklion  is a totally modern city; however, the visitor feels the history of some 6000 years of civilization.

The Byzantine period Heraklion does not survive much; several monuments have been destroyed in various occasions, or they have been transformed. The church of Aghios Titos (St. Titus), in its actual form, is the result of extended interventions to the original Byzantine church. Only a few ruined parts of the Byzantine walls of Chandax (961-1024 A.D.) are preserved in Daidalos street.

Several monuments of the city are owed to the Venetian domination, as the harbor and the dockyards and the fortress of Kastro or Koules (meaning "castle" in greek and turkish respectively), which protected the harbor. The impressive building of the 16th century, built upon an older one destroyed by the earthquake of 1303 is also Venetian. The lions of St. Marc, anchors, and canons have been encorporated in the walls. Actually, the building has been transformed, in order to house various cultural activities.    

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The Venetian walls still surround a part of Heraklion; it is an impressive huge construction of the 15th century, with several later interventions and expansions.
Two out of the four gates of the wall do survive today: the "Chanioporta" (meaning "the gate of Chania") and the "Kainourgia Porta" (meaning "the new gate"), or "porta tou Eissou" ("gate of Jesus"). The walls had 7 bastions, all preserved today. At the Martinengo bastion there is the tomb of the famous Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), where it is written: "I hope nothing, I fear nothing; I am free".

Another important Venetian building is the church of Aghios Titos (St. Titus). Built upon the earlier Byzantine church, the Cathedral of the city, was converted to a mosque during the Ottoman domination, and in 1926, after been repaired it beamed an Orthodox church again. Today, it houses St. Titus' head, which has been returned from Venice in 1966.

The Church of St. Marc, the protector of Venice, at Venizelou square, is a three-aisled basilica with wooden roof, built in 1239 A.D.; this too was converted to a mosque during the Ottoman domination; in 1956 it was given its original form and ever since it is used as an exhibition hall.

A series of fountains of the Venetian period are also worth seeing: the famous Morosini's fountain, dated to 1628 A.D., at Venizelou square, the Bebo fountain (1588), at Kornarou square, with a Roman torso embodied in the construction and the Priouli fountain (1666) at Delimarkou street.

Finally, it is worth visiting the restored Loggia, constructed in the 16th century, which houses the  Municipal Hall.

From the Ottoman period of the city it is worth visiting some constructions as the base of the minarett at the church of Aghia Aikaterini and the buildings of the Ottoman military quarters (1883), established in the area of the former Venetian quarters. Today, these buildings house various administration services of the  prefecture.

Some greek monuments of the Venetian and Ottoman domination is also worth seeing. One of them is the church of Aghios Minas, built from 1862 until 1895, impressive for its size, which stands near the homonymous older church of the 18th century; another important church is the church of Aghia Aikaterini of  Sinah  dating back to the 15th century, where it is housed the Museum of Religious Art.

The Vikelaia Library, built in 1910, the church of Aghios Matthaios of Sinah, the church of Panaghia ton Stavroforon ("Virgin Mary of the Crusaders"), the church  of Aghios Petros (St. Peter), the large Platia Eleftherias ("Freedom Square"), the Market and many neoclassic buildings discarded in the city, are some more worth seeing places, within a city with really a lot of things to see.

Heraklion has a lot of Museums; undoubtedly, the most important of them is the Archaeological Museum, the second in popularity museum in Greece, which houses many of the Minoan finds of all the archaeological sites in the prefecture's territory. Apart from the Archaeological Museum, it is worth visiting the Museum of Religious Art, the Historic Museum of Crete, the Museum of the Battle of Crete and the National Resistance and the Museum of Natural History. The city is the seat of many Faculties of the University of Crete and of the Heraklion Technological Educational Foundations (TEI), as well as of the Foundation of Research and Technology (FORTH) and of the Technological Park.

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A series of cultural activities are organized in Heraklion all year round; several of them have a long history of successful organization. Most of them take place at the Fort of Koules, at the garden theatre "Kazantzakis and at the Pananion Hospital.

If you are in Heraklion by the end of May (20th to 23rd )you may attend the cultural activities in the memory of the "Battle of Crete" (May 1941); various artistic, historic and religious events take place during the celebration.

Two local feast ("panighyri") and several religious events take place on the 25th of August, in honor of the name day of Aghios Titos (St. Titus), one of the two protector saints of the city and on the 11th of November in honor of Aghios Minas, the second protector saint of Heraklion.

Access to the city Heraklion, and the prefecture, is possible Access to the city (and all the prefecture) is possible by ferryboat from Piraeus; there are two ships from Piraeus to Heraklion, all year round. In summer and during the official holidays there are some more, according to the needs. The ships usually sail in the afternoon or in the evening and, depending on their speed, they arrive at Heraklion after 6 to 10 hours.
Access by ship is also possible from Thessalonici, by bus to Piraeus and then by ferryboat.

The port of Heraklion is an important passengers' and commercial post, as well as a destination for cruises. Although big enough, it does not cover the needs and it is planned to be expanded.

Yatches are welcome in the port of Heraklion and full facilities for them are available.

From the International airport of Athens, Eleftherios Venizelos, there are usually two flights daily to Heraklion; one early in the morning and the other in the afternoon or evening. In summer there may be more. The airport of Heraklion is close to the city, some 5 kilometers far from ir; from the airport you will arrive to the city center by the Olympic Airways buses, by public bus or taxi.
Access by plane is also possible from Thessaloniki.

Heraklion is connected with the capital cities of the other prefectures via the New National road.
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