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The new capital of Crete since 1971

Heraklion is the capital of Crete since 1971, when it replaced Chania. The town is quite a buzy town as it is the third largest urban area in Greece and the fourth biggest city of Greece, with a city population of about 140.000 persons and urban population of 225.000 inhabitants.

The town planning of Heraklion confuses a little. In the center of the city mix Byzantine churches, Venetian palaces, Turkish fountains, neo-classic buildings and concrete buildings built in the 1950s. Destroyed repeatedly, in particular in August, 1898 and during the Second World War, Heraklion had the worst difficulties managing its development. During the military junta, Venetian buildings nevertheless in a perfect state were levelled.

The preparation of the Summer Olympics of 2004 enormously developed the urban landscape of Heraklion. A part of the city center , like Morossini square and 25th of August street, is pedestrian from now on, the electric and phone cables are systematically buried. A considerable effort was supplied to improve the city living environment.

Theses facts make Heraklion a complexe town to visit, where best and worst mix together. For instance, new improvements alongside bring back to live the sea coastal abandoned buildings and factories  and transformed this area in a trendy place for evening coffee, as well as a busy shopping mall. The best time to enjoy Heraklion is at dusk, when businessmen give way to evening onlookers, people who go out for party, coffee. That’s where the heart of the city is beating, in small bars, tavernas, even local music bars.


Lodging in Chania, our ``crush`` selection

Lato Boutique Hotel

Situated opposite the old city harbour, Lato Boutique Hotel features a rooftop restaurant-bar overlooking Heraklion's Venetian Fortress. It offers free Wi-Fi and trendy rooms...

GDM Megaron Hotel

Housed in a listed 1920’s building overlooking the Old Harbour of Heraklion, the prestigious 5-star hotel GDM Megaron offers fine dining, a health club...

Galaxy Iraklio Hotel

In Heraklion's elegant district, this 5-star hotel has 2 gourmet restaurants, a free spa center and a large freshwater pool. The luxurious rooms feature...

Atrion Hotel

Just a short walk from Heraklion centre, Atrion offers elegant accommodation with free Internet access. It has a restaurant, while it is a few...


Within 100 m from the city centre, Kastro Hotel is well-situated for exploring the ancient sites of Heraklion. It offers spacious, air-conditioned rooms with...

Aquila Atlantis Hotel

Within 200 m from the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, the 5-star Aquila Atlantis Hotel features an outdoor pool with unobstructed views over the harbour,...


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Heraklion history

Emirate of Crete

 A monk shows the Arabs where to build Heraklion

The present city of Heraklion was founded in 824 by the Arabs under Abu Hafs Umar who had been expelled from Al-Andalus by Emir Al-Hakam. Abu Hafs and his 10.000 men move to Egypt. Their will is to settle on the island of Crete, wich is described as the island where honey and milk flow in streams.  When byzantine empire is weakened by riots in its eastern border, Abu Hafs Umar take over the island from the Eastern Roman Empire. They built a moat around the city for protection, and named the city ربض الخندق, rabḍ al-ḫandaq (“Castle of the Moat”). It became the capital of the Emirate of Crete (ca. 827–961). The Saracens allowed the port to be used as a safe haven for pirates who operated against Imperial Byzantine shipping and raided Imperial territory around the Aegean. History says that the place where the Saracens decided to build the moat was shown by a monk, where used to be old Heracleum town.

In 960, Byzantine forces under the command of Nikephoros Phokas, later to become Emperor, landed in Crete and attacked the city. After four unsuccessfull assaults in one century, Byzantine empire decide to take back the island.  Nikephoros Phokas land in Crete with 2000 dromon war ships, a huge army corp reinforced by elite varangian guards.  After a prolonged siege, the city fell in March 961. The Saracen inhabitants were slaughtered, the city looted and burned to the ground. Soon rebuilt, the town was renamed Χάνδαξ, Chandax, and remained under Greek control for the next 243 years.

Venetian fortress harbor of HeraklionIn 1204, the city was bought by the Republic of Venice as part of a complicated political deal which involved, among other things, the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade restoring the deposed Eastern Roman Emperor Isaac II Angelus to his throne. The Venetians improved on the ditch of the city by building enormous fortifications, most of which are still in place, including a giant wall,  with 7 bastions, and a fortress in the harbour. Chandax was renamed Candia and became the seat of the Duke of Candia, and the Venetian administrative district of Crete became known as “Regno di Candia” (Kingdom of Candia). The city retained the name of Candia for centuries and the same name was often used to refer to the whole island of Crete as well. To secure their rule, Venetians began in 1212 to settle families from Venice on Crete. The coexistence of two different cultures and the stimulus of Italian Renaissance led to a flourishing of letters and the arts in Candia and Crete in general, that is today known as the Cretan Renaissance.

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In 1898, the autonomous Cretan State was created, under Ottoman suzerainty, with Prince George of Greece as its High Commissioner and under international supervision. During the period of direct occupation of the island by the Great Powers (1898–1908), Candia was part of the British zone. At this time, the city was renamed “Heraklion”, after the Roman port of Heracleum (“Heracles’ city”), whose exact location is unknown. In 1913, with the rest of Crete, Heraklion was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece. Heraklion became capital of Crete in 1971, replacing Chania.