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heraklionHeraklion is the largest city of Crete and one of Greece’s major urban centers. Its development begun in the wake of the 9th century AD (in antiquity, Knossos was the island’s most important centre, followed by Gortyn). In later times, Heraklion came under Arabic, Venetian and Ottoman rule; its conquerors initially gave it the name Khandaq or Handak which was corrupted to Candia. During the 2004 Olympic Games, the city of Heraklion provided one of the venues for the football tournament.

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 (15th century). From the seven bastions, only the Martinengo bastion survives to this day; there visitors will find the tomb of the renowned writer N. Kazantzakis, overlooking the city. From the four gates to the city, only Chanioporta (1570) with the characteristic winged Lion of Saint Marc and the New Gate (1587) at the southern side survive today. In the old (Venetian) port, next to the modern facilities, one can see the vaulted tarsanades where ships used to be built, while the western side is dominated by the Koule fortress (16th century).

In the heart of the city there are many monuments dating to the Middle Ages, a period in which Heraklion witnessed great prosperity. From the port, ascending 25 Avgoustou (August) street, one reaches a square where the church of Agios Titos is found (built in 1872 at the site where a Byzantine church once stood), while next to it lies the Venetian Loggia (16th century), a magnificent, ornate arcaded Venetian building decorated with blazons, trophies, etc., which served as a meeting place for the Duke and other noblemen during the Venetian period.