The history of Iraklion, the capital of Crete, stretches back over 5000 years to the time of the Minoans – Europe's first civilisation – and is a port city of remarkably well preserved fortifications, a fine, animated street market and atmospheric old alleys and museums.
Also known as Heraklion, the city’s most sought-after highlight is the Minoan Palace of Knossos, an archaeological site that has amazing frescoes and baths to discover.[ReadMoreMob] Guarding the city’s Venetian port is the 16th century Koules fortress, and the vast Heraklion Archaeological Museum exhibits classic Hellenic and Roman sculptures, frescoes, jewellery, wall-paintings, pottery and Minoan art.
Iraklion's notoriously congested streets have been dramatically improved in recent years with investment in infrastructure, which has included the redevelopment of the beautiful waterfront district. The city’s stunning architecture gives way to high-end stores of Daedalou Street, and many fine restaurants. Away from the city’s bright lights, there are plenty of outstanding ancient sights to uncover including the Martinengo Bastion and the Chanioporta Gate.
The ancient history of Heraklion is strongly associated with the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Ancient historians such as Strabo refer to Heraklion as the port of Knossos, the centre of Minoan civilisation. This prolific society left many impressive artefacts, including the remnants of the Palace of Knossos.
Located on the slopes of Mount Ida, the Cave of Zeus has a single entrance and features stalagmites and stalactites. Mythology tells us that Zeus was born and raised in this cave
by the Goddess Rhea, to hide him from his father, who had eaten all of his previous children. Excavations from this site are currently on display at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
The Battle of Crete/WW2
The 1941 Battle of Crete is considered one of the most important battles of the Second World War, when the battle ended with the evacuation of the bulk of the Allied force and informed airborne assault strategies on both sides. The Museum of the Battle of Crete and National Resistance was opened in 1994.
According to mythology, Zeus was hidden by his mother in a cave on Crete from his father, the titan Chronos, whose demise at the hands of his son became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Matala Beach, where Zeus is said to have brought the princess Europa, and Yuchtas also have links with Zeus.