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Kreta - Iraklion - Alter Hafen2.jpg
The Venetian fortress of Koules/Castello a Mare (1523–1540) in the inner harbor of Heraklion.
Seal of Heraklion.svg
Greece location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within the region
2011 Dimos Irakliou.png
Coordinates: 35°20′25″N25°8′4″E / 35.34028°N 25.13444°E / 35.34028; 25.13444 Coordinates: 35°20′25″N25°8′4″E / 35.34028°N 25.13444°E / 35.34028; 25.13444
Administrative region Crete
Regional unit Heraklion
  MayorVasilis Lambrinos
  Municipality244.6 km2 (94.4 sq mi)
  Municipal unit109.0 km2 (42.1 sq mi)
Highest elevation
33 m (108 ft)
Lowest elevation
0 m (0 ft)
 (2011) [1]
211,370 [2]
  Municipality density710/km2 (1,800/sq mi)
  Municipal unit
  Municipal unit density1,400/km2 (3,600/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Heraklian, Heraclian
Time zone UTC+2 (EET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+3 (EEST)
Postal code
70x xx, 71x xx, 720 xx
Area code(s) 281
Vehicle registration HK, HP, HZ
Website www.heraklion-city.gr

Heraklion or Iraklion ( /hɪˈrækliən/ hih-RAK-lee-ən; Greek : Ηράκλειο, Irákleio, pronounced  [iˈraklio] ) [3] is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete and capital of Heraklion regional unit. It is the fourth largest city in Greece with a population of 211,370 (Urban Area) [4] according to the 2011 census. The population of the municipality was 173,993. [5]


The Bronze Age palace of Knossos, also known as the Palace of Minos, is located nearby.

Heraklion was Europe's fastest growing tourism destination for 2017, according to Euromonitor, with an 11.2% growth in international arrivals. [6] According to the ranking, Heraklion was ranked as the 20th most visited region in Europe, as the 66th area on the Planet and as the 2nd in Greece for the year 2017, with 3.2 million visitors [7] and the 19th in Europe for 2018, with 3.4 million visitors. [8]


The Arab traders from al-Andalus (Iberia) who founded the Emirate of Crete moved the island's capital from Gortyna to a new castle they called rabḍ al-ḫandaq (Arabic : ربض الخندق, "Castle of the Moat") in the 820s. [9] This was hellenized as Χάνδαξ (Chándax) or Χάνδακας (Chándakas) and Latinized as Candia, which was taken into other European languages: in Italian and Latin as Candia, in French as Candie, in English as Candy, all of which could refer to the island of Crete as a whole as well as to the city alone; the Ottoman name was Kandiye.

After the Byzantine reconquest of Crete, the city was locally known as Megalo Kastro (Μεγάλο Κάστρο,[ citation needed ] 'Big Castle' in Greek) and its inhabitants were called Kastrinoi (Καστρινοί, "castle-dwellers").

The ancient name Ηράκλειον was revived in the 19th century [10] and comes from the nearby Roman port of Heracleum ("Heracles's city"), whose exact location is unknown.


Knossos is located within the Municipality of Heraklion and has been called Europe's oldest city Knossos palace.jpg
Knossos is located within the Municipality of Heraklion and has been called Europe's oldest city

Minoan Era

Heraklion is close to the ruins of the palace of Knossos, which in Minoan times was the largest centre of population on Crete. Knossos had a port at the site of Heraklion (at Poros - Katsambas [12] neighborhood) from the beginning of Early Minoan period (3500 to 2100 BC). Between 1600 and 1525 [13] BC, the port was destroyed by a volcanic tsunami from nearby Santorini, leveling the region and covering it with ash.

The snake goddess (c.1600 BC) in Heraklion Archaeological Museum Thea ton Opheon 6393 (cropped).JPG
The snake goddess (c.1600 BC) in Heraklion Archaeological Museum


After the fall of the Minoans, Heraklion, as well as the rest of Crete in general, fared poorly, with very little development in the area. Only with the arrival of the Romans did some construction in the area begin, yet especially early into Byzantine times the area was abound with pirates and bandits. [14]

Emirate of Crete

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 I and had taken over the island from the Eastern Roman Empire. They built a moat around the city for protection, and named the city rabḍ al-ḫandaq (ربض الخندق, "Castle of the Moat", hellenized as Χάνδαξ, Chandax). 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.

Byzantine era

In 960, Byzantine forces under the command of Nikephoros Phokas, later to become Emperor, landed in Crete and attacked the city. After a prolonged siege, the city fell in March 961. The Saracen inhabitants were slaughtered, the city looted and burned to the ground.[ citation needed ] Soon rebuilt, the town remained under Byzantine control for the next 243 years.[ citation needed ]

Venetian era

The Venetian loggia (1626-28). Kreta - Iraklion - Venezianische Loggia.jpg
The Venetian loggia (1626–28).
The Basilica of St Titus, the Patron Saint of Crete during the medieval times. Iraklion Agios Titos R01.jpg
The Basilica of St Titus, the Patron Saint of Crete during the medieval times.

In 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, in places up to 40 m thick, 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 .

Ottoman era

During the Cretan War (1645–1669), the Ottomans besieged the city for 21 years, from 1648 to 1669, the longest siege in history up until that time. In its final phase, which lasted for 22 months, 70,000 Turks, 38,000 Cretans and slaves and 29,088 of the city's Christian defenders perished. [15] The Ottoman army under an Albanian grand vizier, Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed Pasha conquered the city in 1669.

Under the Ottomans, Kandiye (Ottoman Turkish قنديه) was the capital of Crete (Girit Eyâleti) until 1849, when Chania (Hanya) became the capital, and Kandiye became a sancak. [16] In Greek, it was commonly called Megalo Castro (Μεγάλο Κάστρο 'Big Castle').

During the Ottoman period, the harbour silted up, so most shipping shifted to Chania in the west of the island.

The Morosini fountain in Lions Square. 2016-07-25 Heraklion 063.jpg
The Morosini fountain in Lions Square.

Modern era

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 again capital of Crete in 1971, replacing Chania. [17]

Architecture, urban sculpture and fortifications

The Saint Mark's basilica in Lions Square Basilike tou Agiou Markou 9276.jpg
The Saint Mark's basilica in Lions Square

Venetian constructions such as the Koules Fortress (Castello a Mare), the ramparts and the arsenal dominate the port area.

Several sculptures, statues and busts commemorating significant events and figures of the city's and island's history, like El Greco, Vitsentzos Kornaros, Nikos Kazantzakis and Eleftherios Venizelos can be found around the city.

Many fountains of the Venetian era are preserved, such as the Bembo fountain, the Priuli fountain, Palmeti fountain, Sagredo fountain and Morosini fountain (in Lions Square).

After the St Titus Cathedral, the two largest medieval churches in the city were San Salvatore, belonging to the Augustinian Friars, and San Francesco, belonging to the Franciscans. San Salvatore stood in Kornaros Square and was demolished in 1970. [18]

Around the historic city center of Heraklion there are also a series of defensive walls, bastions and other fortifications which were built earlier in the Middle Ages, but were completely rebuilt by the Republic of Venice. The fortifications managed to withstand the longest siege in history for 21 years, before the city fell to the Ottomans in 1669.


The Saint Peter of Dominicans, one of the oldest monuments of architecture of the Cistercian monks in the 12th century. 20110927 St. Peter of Dominicans Heraklion Crete Greece Panorama.jpg
The Saint Peter of Dominicans, one of the oldest monuments of architecture of the Cistercian monks in the 12th century.

The municipality Heraklion was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 5 former municipalities, that became municipal units: [19]

The municipality has an area of 244.613 km2, the municipal unit 109.026 km2. [20]


Agios Minas Cathedral in honour of Saint Menas, patron saint of the city. Agios Minas Cathedral 01.jpg
Agios Minas Cathedral in honour of Saint Menas, patron saint of the city.
Historical Museum of Crete Historical Museum of Crete Front 2016.jpg
Historical Museum of Crete
• Agia Ekaterini• Dimokratias• Marathitis
• Agia Erini Chrisovalantou• Estavromenos• Mastabas
• Agia Marina• Filothei• Mesabelies
• Agia Triada• Fortetsa• Mpentevi
• Agios Dimitrios• Ilioupoli• Nea Alatsata
• Agios Ioannis Chostos• Kamaraki• Pananio
• Agios Minas• Kaminia• Papatitou Metochi
• Agios Titos• Katsampas• Pateles
• Akadimia• Kenouria Porta• Poros
• Ampelokipoi• Kipoupoli• Therissos
• Analipsi• Komeno Mpenteni• Tris Vagies
• Atsalenio• Korakovouni• Xiropotamos
• Chanioporta• Koroni Magara
• Chrisopigi• Knossos
• Dilina• Lido


A panoramic view of Amnissos Amnissos - panoramio (1).jpg
A panoramic view of Amnissos
• Agia Erini• Finikia• Ksirokabos
• Agia Marina• Gazi urban area• Malades
• Agioi Theodoroi• GiofyrakiaNea Alikarnassos urban area
• Agios Syllas• Gournes Temenous• Sillamos
• Ammoudara• Kallithea• Skafidaras
Amnisos • Karteros• Skalani
• Ano Kalesia• Kato Kalesia• Vasilies
• Athanati• Kavrochori• Voutes
Dafnes • Kollyvas



Heraklion is an important shipping port and ferry dock. Travellers can take ferries and boats from Heraklion to destinations including Santorini, Ios Island, Paros, Mykonos, and Rhodes. There are direct ferries to Naxos, Karpathos, Kasos, Sitia, Anafi, Chalki and Diafani. [21] There are also several daily ferries to Piraeus, the port of Athens in mainland Greece. The port of Heraklion was built by Sir Robert McAlpine and completed in 1928. [22]

Crete Iraklio1 tango7174.jpg
Panoramic view of the old harbour


Heraklion International Airport, or Nikos Kazantzakis Airport is located about 5 kilometres (3 miles) east of the city. The airport is named after Heraklion native Nikos Kazantzakis, a writer and a philosopher. It is the second busiest airport of Greece after Athens International Airport, first in charter flights and the 65th busiest in Europe, because of Crete being a major holiday destination with 7.974.887 travellers in 2018 (List of the busiest airports in Europe).

In April 2018, the inner space of the airport has been modernized and expanded by almost 3.000 s.m., with 11 new gates and new stores. The expansion was a donation by Hellenic Duty Free Shops.

The airfield is shared with the 126th Combat Group of the Hellenic Air Force. A project for the new airport of Heraklion in Kasteli area is starting at the end of 2017.[ citation needed ]

Highway network

European route E75 runs through the city and connects Heraklion with the three other major cities of Crete: Agios Nikolaos, Chania, and Rethymno.

Public transit

Urban bus in Heraklion Astiko leophoreio Erakleiou 9277.jpg
Urban bus in Heraklion

Urban buses serving the city, with 39 different routes. [23] Intercity buses connects Heraklion to many major destinations in Crete. [24]


From 1922 to 1937, a working industrial railway connected the Koules in Heraklion to Xiropotamos for the construction of the harbor. [25]

A study from the year 2000 investigated the feasibility of two tram lines in Heraklion. The first line would link the Stadium to the airport, and the second the center of Heraklion and Knossos. No approval has yet been given for this proposal.

In the summer of 2007, at the Congress of Cretan emigrants, held in Heraklion, two qualified engineers, George Nathenas (from Gonies, Malevizi Province) and Vassilis Economopoulos, recommended the development of a railway line in Crete, linking Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion, with a total journey time of 50 minutes (30 minutes between Heraklion and Rethymno, 20 minutes from Chania to Rethymno) and with provision for extensions to Kissamos, Kastelli Pediados (for the planned new airport), and Agios Nikolaos. No plans exist for implementing this idea.


Heraklion has a hot-summer-Mediterranean climate (Csa in the Köppen climate classification). Summers are warm to hot and dry with clear skies. Dry hot days are often relieved by seasonal breezes. Winters are very mild with moderate rain. Because Heraklion is further south than Athens, it has a warmer climate during winter but cooler during summer because of the Aegean sea. The maximum temperature during the summer period is usually not more than 28 - 30 °C (Athens normal maximum temperature is about 5 °C higher). The minimum temperature record is -0.8 °C
A new temperature record for February was set at 27.8 °C, reached on 15 February 2016. [26]

Climate data for Heraklion 1981-2010 (HNMS)
Record high °C (°F)29.9
Average high °C (°F)15.3
Daily mean °C (°F)12.1
Average low °C (°F)9.0
Record low °C (°F)0.0
Average rainfall mm (inches)90.1
Average rainy days16.013.612.
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 119.9132.3181.5234.8298.5356.2368.3343.5275.8206.9145.5115.42,778.6
Source 1: HNMS [27] [28]
Source 2: meteo-climat (extremes) [29]
Climate data for Heraklion
Average sea temperature °C (°F)17.1
Mean daily daylight hours10.
Average Ultraviolet index 3457910111085326.4
Source: Weather Atlas [30]

Colleges, universities, libraries, and research centers


Natural History Museum of Crete Musee histoire naturelle de Crete a Heraklion.JPG
Natural History Museum of Crete
Cultural and Conference Center Cultural and Conference Center of Crete (Heraklion).jpg
Cultural and Conference Center
Pankritio Stadium Pagkritio.jpg
Pankritio Stadium
Heraklion Indoor Sports Arena Heraklion Indoor Sports Arena interior.jpg
Heraklion Indoor Sports Arena



The Cultural and Conference Center of Heraklion is a centre for the performing arts.


The city is home to several sports clubs. Most notably, Heraklion hosts OFI and Ergotelis, two football clubs with earlier presence in the Greek Superleague, the top tier of the Greek football league system. Furthermore, the city is the headquarters of the Heraklion Football Clubs Association, which administers football in the entire region. Other notable sport clubs include Iraklio B.C. (basketball), Atsalenios (football) and Irodotos (football) in the suburbs of Atsalenio and Nea Alikarnassos respectively.

Notable Sport clubs based in Heraklion
ClubFoundedSportsCurrent Season
OFI 1925 Football, Basketball Superleague, Greek C Basket League
Ergotelis 1929 Football, Basketball Football League, Cretan Basket League
Iraklio 1928 Basketball Cretan Basket League
Irodotos 1932 Football, Basketball Football League, Cretan Basket League
Atsalenios 1951 Football Gamma Ethniki

Famous natives

Nicholas Kalliakis was a significant Renaissance humanist, scholar and philosopher from Heraklion. Nikolaos Kalliakis (1645 - 1707).jpg
Nicholas Kalliakis was a significant Renaissance humanist, scholar and philosopher from Heraklion.
El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopoulos) El Greco - Portrait of a Man - WGA10554.jpg
El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopoulos)
Cyril Lucaris Cyril-Lucaris.jpg
Cyril Lucaris
Epitaph on Nikos Kazantzakis' grave. I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I'm free. Kazantzakis Grab.jpg
Epitaph on Nikos Kazantzakis' grave. I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I'm free.

Heraklion has been the home town of some of Greece's most significant people, including the novelist Nikos Kazantzakis (best known for Zorba the Greek ), the poet and Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis and the world-famous painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco).


Scientists and scholars

Painting and sculpture

Film industry


Francesco Barozzi Francesco barozzi.jpg
Francesco Barozzi







Marcus Musurus Marcus Musurus 02.jpg
Marcus Musurus


Local TV stations

Local transport services

International relations

Prefecture of Crete Periphereia Kretes 8997.jpg
Prefecture of Crete


Twin towns and sister cities

Heraklion is twinned with:


  Chania Rethymno   Brosen windrose.svg   Agios Nikolaos     
  Tympaki Moires    Archanes     Ierapetra  

See also

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  31. Lathrop C. Harper (1886). Catalogue / Harper (Lathrop C.) inc., New York, Issue 232. Lathrop C. Harper, Inc. p. 36. OCLC   11558801. Calliachius (1645–1707) was born on Crete and went to Italy at an early age, where he soon became one of the outstanding teachers of Greek and Latin.
  32. Rose, Hugh James; Rose, Henry John; Wright, Thomas (1857). A new general biographical dictionary, Volume 5. T. Fellowes. p. 425. OCLC   309809847. CALLIACHI, (Nicholas,) a native of Candia, where he was born in 1645. He studied at Rome for ten years, at the end of which time he was made doctor of philosophy and theology. In 1666 he was invited to Venice, to take the chair of professor of the Greek and Latin languages, and of the Aristotelic philosophy; and in 1677 he was appointed professor of belles-lettres at Padua, where he died in 1707. His works on antiquities are valuable, and have been published by the marquis Poloni in the third volume of his Supplement to the Thesaurus Antiquitatum.
  33. Convegno internazionale nuove idee e nuova arte nell '700 italiano, Roma, 19–23 maggio 1975. Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. 1977. p. 429. OCLC   4666566. Nicolò Duodo riuniva alcuni pensatori ai quali Andrea Musalo, oriundo greco, professore di matematica e dilettante di architettura chiariva le nuove idée nella storia dell’arte.
  34. Carlo Capra; Franco Della Peruta; Fernando Mazzocca (2002). Napoleone e la repubblica italiana: 1802–1805. Skira. p. 200. ISBN   978-88-8491-415-6. Simone Stratico, nato a Zara nel 1733 da famiglia originaria di Creta (abbandonata a seguito della conquista turca del 1669)
  35. I︠A︡roslav Dmytrovych Isai︠e︡vych (2006). Voluntary brotherhood: confraternities of laymen in early modern Ukraine. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press. p. 47. ISBN   1-894865-03-0. …the Greek merchants Constantine Korniakt and Manolis Arphanes Marinetos are added. This second redaction appeared no earlier than 1589, as wealthy Greeks began to join the confraternity at a later date, once it had expanded its activities. Korniakt was actually the wealthiest man in Lviv: he traded in Eastern, Western, and local goods, collected customs duty on behalf of the king, and owned a number of villages.
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