Heraklion is the largest urban cener in Crete, the capital of the region and the economic center of the island. The town enjoys a dynamic and imaginative combination of natural beauty climate, strategic position, cultural heritage and scientific background, which has created an appropriate environment to support a particular mechanism with added value to the broader entrepreneurial activity in the region and has stimulated the local economy.
Today Heraklion is the top choice for tourist destinations in the Mediterranean thanks to its strategic geopolitical position, connecting three continents and many different cultures; furthermore the city is also the commercial and scientific center of the island.
Located between the prefectures of Rethymno and Lassithi, Heraklion is the most popular region of the island. The area is home to many busy places with active nightlife, including Malia, Hersonissos, Ammoudara and Agia Pelagia, but also has many peaceful family-friendly places, particularly on the southern part of the island, on the Libyan Sea.
As Heraklion was the main field where the Minoan civilization flourished, a visit to the Minoan Palaces of Knossos and Phaestos cannot be missed. A drive around Heraklion will also bring you to traditional villages, medieval castles, Byzantine monasteries and nice beaches to relax. This region combines busy resorts and secluded coves.
As well as relaxing in the amazing beach resorts, it is worth visiting the various villages where many festivals (panigiria) are organized during the summer and attending such a festival gives a nice taste of local tradition.
Among the most outstanding sights of Heraklion are the fortification walls that delimit the old city. The first fortifications were built by the Arabs and were later reinforced by the Venetians in the 15th century.
Many monuments in the heart of the city date back to the Middle Ages, a period in which Heraklion witnessed great prosperity. A typical feature of Heraklion is its Venetian and Turkish fountains, scattered all around the city.
One should not miss out on a visit to the Archaeological Museum, one of the most important museums in Greece; it contains almost all the unique treasures of the Minoan civilization unearthed at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and other sites.
In the market of Heraklion, one of the richest in the Mediterranean, visitors can find all sorts of modern products, as well as traditional Cretan products such as the famous Cretan olive oil, raki, local wine, honey, herbs, etc.
On the outskirts of Heraklion, you can visit Knossos, the legendary center of the Minoan civilization from 1900 to 1400 BC, Phaistos Palace, second in importance in Minoan Crete, inhabited since the Neolithic times, and of course long sandy beaches.
Population: 173.993 residents (2011 census).
Area: 245.1 km².
Climate: Soft Mediterranean.
Geography: Capital of Crete, in the center of the northern coast of the island.
History: Birthplace of the first European civilization; the Minoan period beginning around 3000 BC, with its capital at Knossos.
Economy: Key sectors are Tourism, Agriculture and Trade.