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Revisit the Past on Your Tour of Heraklion, Crete

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Venetian Walls, Crete

Venetian Walls in Heraklion

The island of Crete is well known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. However if you are not a beach buff (or have had enough sand and sun during your stay), there is plenty more to see and do on the island. In addition to the historic Minoan ruins on Crete, those looking for a view of the past can visit The Heraklion Archeological Museum, Historical Museum of Crete, or head to the edges of the city to view the old Venetian Walls.

For the size of the island (just over 3,000 square miles), Crete is home to an enormous amount of historical and cultural artifacts.

Here are just a few of the places to see in Heraklion to revisit the past.

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the leading museums in the world for Minoan art. Built in Heraklion (the previous home of the Minoan Civilization), the Museum houses one of the largest collection of Minoan art and artifacts. The majority of pieces in the Museum are from the Palace of Knossos, but the collection also includes items from other Minoan sites all around Crete. On the second floor of the Museum, visitors can view the original frescoes from Knossos.

Tourist Note: Most of the displays have English-language labels. Just in case, you may want to purchase a guide book in the lobby.

The Venetian Walls
In the 13th century when the Byzantine Empire began to be partitioned, Crete was acquired by Venice and was ruled by the Venetians for over four centuries in which they referred to the island as the Kingdom of Candia. In the 15th century, the Venetians built walls around their city of Candia. The walls extend about 4.5 kilometers in length and form a triangle around what is referred to as “Old Heraklion.” There are seven heart-shaped forts and four city gates.

Not all parts of the wall are still standing, but the gates and forts have maintained well over the years. Of the gates, two are incredibly popular among tourists: the Panigra Gate also called the Chania Gate (built around 1570) on the western edge of Heraklion and the Gate of Gesu or Kainouryia Gate (built around 1587(on the southern edge of the city. Depending on what part of the walls you are visiting, some of the gates and fortresses allow access on top providing unparalleled views of both the city of Heraklion and the Sea of Crete.

Historical Museum of Crete
While the Heraklion Archaeological Museum features works from the Minoan era, the Historical Museum of Crete displays art and artifacts from the early Christian time up through the present. As the island passed hands many time over the years, the Historical Museum offers a range of pieces from different periods of Heraklion’s and Crete’s pasts. A major point of interest of this museum is two paintings of Doménikos Theotokópoulos who is formally known as El Greco. El Greco was born on Crete and these two paintings are the only pieces of his work on the entire island.

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