A few words about the city
Heraklion, with more than 140.000 inhabitants, is the biggest city of Crete. It is situated at the northern coast of the island, at the site where the ancient port of Knossos, the center of minoan civilisation, was situated, since 3000 BC.
In contemporary times, Heraklion has become the most important port of Crete, aided by the international airport ‘Nikos Kazantzakis’ with millions of tourists embarking each year, an important University, the Institute of Technology and Research (ITE), which is well known internationally for its high level of research. One can also visit the Archeological Museum with its magnificent collection of ancient Minoan artifacts, The Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Nikos Kazantzakis.
Situated at the center of the island of Crete, at the heart of the Mediterranean, Heraklion was always an important commercial center, a land that always attracted travellers and conquerors. Walking the city, one can find the traces of all these people that had conquered the city throughout its long history: Dorians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Genovese, Venitien and Turks. Heraklion of today is a greek city with a strong cretan character, but also an open and cosmopolitan city, as it has always been.
During historical times the city has changed many names accordingly to its occupants. The most known are: Heraklia, Kastro (Romans, Byzantines), Rabd al Handak (Arabs), Handaks (Byzantines during Arab period), Candia (Venetians), Megalo Kastro (Greeks and Cretans), Kadiyé (Ottoman Turks).
Venetians that had occupied Heraklion for more than four centuries (1204 – 1669) had constructed majestic public buildings and have enforced the city with strong walls that reached the entrance of the port, to defend it against attacks of the Ottoman army from the sea. The Ottoman army had insisted to besiege the port for nearly 23 years (1647 – 1669) the longest known siege in universal history. Cretans and Venetians battled side by side against the Ottomans. At the same time many Christian states of the era sent help at the besieged.
Heraklion (‘The Big Castle’ as it is was called) and Crete stayed under Ottoman occupation from 1669 until 1896, but cretan people never accepted this rule and had revolted several times before reclaiming their liberty & independence. Finally Crete became an independent state from 1896 until 1913 before becoming attached to the Greek State in 1913, an act that reflected the cretan people’s desire.