Heraklion might not be most visitors’ first choice when visiting glorious Crete. It’s a large and busy modern town, but it’s a great place to experience the ‘real’ Greece that exists beyond the postcards and abominable souvenir garbage. Here, you’ll discover a patchwork culture of Byzantium, Venice, Turkey and Greece all in one vibrant city.
The pedestrianized historic center is where you’re likely to spend most time strolling. Daedalou Street offers designer labels, but 1866 Street and the surrounding harbor area offer many more interesting and varied shopping opportunities. In Eleftheria Square, you can watch the world go by and drop into the archeological museum to enjoy finds from Crete’s Minoan civilization (and much more).
Heraklion is also a great base from which to visit the primary Minoan site of Knossos. It was here, allegedly, that the Minotaur lurked in a labyrinth and Icarus discovered that wax and sun don’t mix. The throne of King Minos is still vacant after 4000 years or so, waiting for a new ruler to take over. Any volunteers?