Heraklion is the capital of the island of Crete and the 4th largest city in Greece. It is a multifaceted seaside city with a very long history and many world-renowned attractions worth visiting.
Heraklion is a vibrant place that combines the pleasures of today and the beauty of yesterday in a unique manner. The city is filled with open spaces and pedestrian streets. All you need to do is walk around and discover the beauties it has to offer.
Plateia Eleftherias, or Freedom Square: This is actually where Capsis Astoria is located. The spacious central square of the city offers plenty of “breathing space” and is a fine place to rest and grasp the city’s vibes. On one side of the square you will come across the entrance to St. George’s Gate, which served as a passage between the city and its port during the Venetian era. The gate leads to a dome-roofed chamber, which is still accessible.
25th of August Street: One of the city’s main pedestrian streets, which extends from the old harbor with its Venetian fortress to Lions square. Walking down the street you will come across many beautiful Venetian buildings, such as the “Loggia” and St. Mark’s Basilica, which now serves as the Municipal Art Gallery. And of course you with reach the impressive Cathedral of Saint Titus. The easiest way to reach it from the Capsis Astoria is via Daedalou street.
Daedalus street: The pedestrian Daedalus shopping street (right next to the Capsis Astoria), full of little shops and designer stores, connects two of the city’s main squares, Eleftherias and Lions square, with its famous fountain. From the lion fountain, you enter the wide pedestrian Handakos Street, where you will come across more shops and cafes.
Lions square: At the end of Daedalus street visitors will reach the famous Morosini fountain, an important historical landmark of the city and the main hub around which the city revolves today. The fountain consists of eight cisterns and is decorated with stone relief, depicting figures of Greek mythology. The main basin is supported by four sitting lions balancing a circular bowl on their heads. This is why the area was named “Lions Square” or “Liontaria” in Greek. Around the fountain there are various shops and traditional coffee shops (kafeneia). Don’t omit to taste the famous creamy pie “bougatsa” or visit one of the many “souvlaki” places around.
The city’s walls: The old town of Heraklion was surrounded by medieval walls and was considered one of the best-fortified cities in the Mediterranean. Nowadays visitors can walk along the top of these walls and enjoy beautiful views of the city. On the highest point of the Venetian fortification at the Martinego cavalier stands the grave of the renowned Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis.
Kornarou square: Named after Vitsenzos Kornaros, composer of the epic poem “Erotokritos”, which is extremely popular in Crete. On the north side of the Kornarou square visitors will come across the Venetian Bembo Fountain, with its beautiful decorations and the Turkish sebil (charity fountain).
The old Market: The traditional market of the city with lots of little shops selling traditional Cretan delicacies, such as cheese, honey, herbs and raki. Also a good place to buy souvenirs, fish and fresh meat. The market has a long history and remains to this day a popular place for the locals. There are traditional cafes and tavernas alongside the market as well as in its shaded sideways exits.
The pier: At the entrance of the old Venetian harbor the Koules Fortress (also known as Rocca al Mare) gazes proudly out to the Cretan sea. It was built by the Venetians in the first half of the 16th century and served as a prison during the Ottoman rule. Starting from the fortress, which is definitely worth visiting, take a stroll along the pier and enjoy the Cretan sea breeze.
Park of Georgiadis: On the upper side of Eleftherias square. A nice place to take a walk and rest under the shade of the trees.