Heraklion or Iraklion (// hih-RAK-lee-ən; Greek: Ηράκλειο, Irákleio, pronounced [iˈraklio]) 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 municipal population of 177,064 and 211,370 in its wider metropolitan area. according to the 2011 census.
|• Mayor||Vasilis Lambrinos|
|• Municipality||244.6 km2 (94.4 sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||109.0 km2 (42.1 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||33 m (108 ft)|
|Lowest elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|• Municipality density||710/km2 (1,800/sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||151,324|
|• Municipal unit density||1,400/km2 (3,600/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (EET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (EEST)|
70x xx, 71x xx, 720 xx
|Vehicle registration||HK, HP, HZ|
Heraklion was Europe's fastest growing tourism destination for 2017, according to Euromonitor, with an 11.2% growth in international arrivals. 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 and the 19th in Europe for 2018, with 3.4 million visitors.
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. 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, 'Big Castle' in Greek) and its inhabitants were called Kastrinoi (Καστρινοί, "castle-dwellers").
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 (in the Poros-Katsambas neighborhood) from the beginning of the Early Minoan period (3500 to 2100 BC). Between 1600 and 1525 BC, the port was destroyed by a volcanic tsunami from nearby Santorini, leveling the region and covering it with ash.
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 abounded with pirates and bandits.
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 (c. 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.
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. Soon rebuilt, the town remained under Byzantine control for the next 243 years.
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, the Venetians began in 1212 to settle families from Venice on Crete. The coexistence of two different cultures and the stimulus of the 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.
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. 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. In Greek, it was commonly called Megalo Castro (Μεγάλο Κάστρο 'Big Castle').
An earthquake located off the northern coast of Crete on October 12, 1856, destroyed most of the over 3,600 homes in the city. Only 18 homes were left intact. The disaster claimed 538 victims in Heraklion.
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.
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.
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 municipality Heraklion was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 5 former municipalities, that became municipal units:
The municipality has an area of 244.613 km2, the municipal unit 109.026 km2.
|• 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|
|• Agia Erini||• Finikia||• Ksirokabos|
|• Agia Marina||• Gazi urban area||• Malades|
|• Agioi Theodoroi||• Giofyrakia||• Nea 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. 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.
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 59th busiest in Europe, because of Crete being a major holiday destination with 8,066,000 passengers in 2022 (List of the busiest airports in Europe).
The airfield is shared with the 126th Combat Group of the Hellenic Air Force.
From 1922 to 1937, a working industrial railway connected the Koules in Heraklion to Xiropotamos for the construction of the harbor.
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 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. Snowfalls are rare with the last significant snowfalls with a measurable amount on the ground occurring in February 2004 and January 2017.
|Climate data for Heraklion 1955-2010 (HNMS)|
|Record high °C (°F)||29.9
|Average high °C (°F)||15.3
|Daily mean °C (°F)||12.1
|Average low °C (°F)||9.1
|Record low °C (°F)||0.0
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||91.0
|Average rainy days||16.0||13.6||11.4||7.6||4.6||1.3||0.3||0.5||2.8||7.5||10.6||15.2||91.4|
|Average relative humidity (%)||68.4||66.4||65.9||62.3||61.2||57.0||57.1||59.1||61.9||65.7||67.9||68.3||63.4|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||119.9||132.3||181.5||234.8||298.5||356.2||368.3||343.5||275.8||206.9||145.5||115.4||2,778.6|
|Source 1: HNMS|
|Source 2: meteo-climat (extremes)|
|Climate data for Heraklion|
|Average sea temperature °C (°F)||17.1
|Mean daily daylight hours||10.0||11.0||12.0||13.0||14.0||15.0||14.0||13.0||12.0||11.0||10.0||10.0||12.1|
|Average Ultraviolet index||3||4||5||7||9||10||11||10||8||5||3||2||6.4|
|Source: Weather Atlas |
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|
|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|
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).
Heraklion is twinned with:
|Chania – Rethymno||Agios Nikolaos|
|Tympaki – Moires||Archanes||Ierapetra|
View of the port from the fortress
View of the port
Α part of the Venetian harbour (used as shipyards)
Depiction of Candia, 1487
Jesus Gate, part of the Fortifications of Heraklion
Chanioporta and Pantokratoras Gate
Saint Catherine Church
Depiction of the Siege of Candia
St. Matthew of the Sinaites Byzantine church
Interior of the Fortress
A monk shows the Saracens where to build Chandax
Map of Heraklion and its fortifications in 1651
Minoan fresco depicting a bull leaping scene, found in Knossos, 1600-1400 BC, Heraklion Archaeological Museum
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.
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.
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.
Simone Stratico, nato a Zara nel 1733 da famiglia originaria di Creta (abbandonata a seguito della conquista turca del 1669)
…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.