1. The El Greco Museum

Discover El Greco’s humble beginnings at his museum in Fodele, his place of birth

“The place where I was born is surrounded by orange trees, springs of drinking water and a Byzantine church,” Domenikos Theotokopoulos wrote in a note in 1606.

This is where the El Greco Museum is housed today, in the tiny village of Fodele, about half an hour’ s ride westwards from Heraclio. El Greco was born in the late 15th century as Domenikos Theotokopoulos.

You can still see the tiny church where he must have gone as a child, before growing up and moving to Italy and Spain where he painted his masterpieces. Some reproductions of these masterpieces are on display at the El Greco Museum at the far end of Fodele.

The humble farmhouse that serves as the museum lies amidst the quiet woods and grazing sheep, enhancing the magic of the place. Next to the museum there is a rest area and a cafeteria nesting under the shadow of centuries-old trees, while a bit further there is a stone-built water well, part of the post-Byzantine farm.

2. The Museum of Nicos Kazantzakis

The Nikos Kazantzakis Museum is a tribute to the great author’s life and work

During your stay in Crete don’t miss to visit one of the few literature museums in Greece, exclusively dedicated to the life and work of the great Cretan writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis.

The Museum is made up of a cluster of buildings in the central square of the historical village of Varvari, now known as Myrtia. The Museum Exhibition is housed on a site formerly occupied by the home of the Anemoyiannis family, which was related to Nikos Kazantzakis’ father, Kapetan Michalis.

The Museum holds manuscripts and notes by the author, samples of his correspondence with major thinkers, politicians and authors of his time, first editions of his works in Greek and other languages, rare photographic material, souvenirs from his travels, etc.

The Nikos Kazantzakis Museum has quite literally become a site of worldwide intellectual pilgrimage. Every day, visitors arrive from all four corners of the earth, bearing witness to the lasting relevancy of the great Cretan author and thinker’s work.

3. The unique Aquarium of Heraklion

In CretAquarium you can ‘dive’ in the rich ecosystem of the Mediterranean

CretΑquarium, just a few minutes walk from the Heraclion port area, is an expert in presenting species and ecosystems of the Mediterranean, a sea of unique biodiversity that gave birth to ancient civilizations and welcomes millions of visitors every year from all over the world.

From large predator sharks to microscopic sea horses and spectacular jellyfish, the diversity of marine life is showcased against a backdrop of Cretan underwater seascapes, such as the rocks at Matala (South Crete) and the seabed at Vai (Southeast Crete).

Additionally CretAquarium designs and implements educational programmes and other innovative services, treats injured animals and is constantly enriched with new marine species.

Leaving the Aquarium of Heraklion one has a fresh awareness of the importance of biodiversity, especially in the Mediterranean area. Cretaquarium offers individual and group audioguide systems in 9 nine languages.

Small hand-held devices that operate as simply as a mobile phone add to and enrich your visit with explanations, comments and popularized information you can listen to at your own place and as you prefer, simply by dialling the tank number.

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4. The Heraklion Historical Museum

The Historical Museum of Crete presents a comprehensive view of Cretan history

The Cretan Historical Museum at Heraclion was founded and is run by the Society of Cretan Historical Studies, with the aim of preserving and showcasing the cultural heritage of Crete from early Byzantine times to the modern era.

The HMC now offers a composite view of Cretan history and art from the early Christian centuries to the 20th century.

Temporary exhibitions cover a wide span, ranging from Byzantine to modern art, showcasing key literary figures in Greece (Elytis, Kazantzakis), and presenting major historical events from the late 19th century to the Second World War.

At the same time, its educational programmes are constantly being enriched. Offered free of charge, they are a creative source of knowledge relating to the Museum’s permanent collections and temporary exhibitions.

Lectures, symposia, film shows and book presentations held in the amphitheatre add to activities at the Historical Museum of Crete, rendering it an outgoing, multi-faceted cultural organization.

5. The Natural History Museum

Explore the Cretan ecosystem in the Natural History Museum of Crete

The Natural History Museum of Crete (NHMC) at Heraclion demonstrates in an impressive manner the natural environment of the eastern Mediterranean with special emphasis on Greece and Crete. It is housed in the renovated former premises of the Heraklion Public Power Corporation on Dermatas’ Bay.

With an area of 3,500 m2, it is the largest exhibition of its kind in the Mediterranean, showcasing the natural environment of Crete and the wider Mediterranean area in an innovative, original way.

Visitors have the opportunity to explore Cretan ecosystems alongside their equivalents in mainland Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean via dioramas, i.e. full-scale models of natural landscapes.

Other areas are dedicated to exhibits such as the Giant Deinotherium, the largest prehistoric animal ever to live on Crete, the Living Museum, a display of typical animals of Crete and the Mediterranean, the Enceladus, an earthquake simulator where one can experience several earthquakes known to have occurred in different areas in the past, as well as the Erevnotopos Discovery Centre, an area specially designed for younger visitors, where they can dig for fossils and explore Cretan nature hands-on.

6. Lychnostatis Museum

At the Lychnostatis Museum you are transported in the life of pre-modern Crete

There are several places in Crete where you can get a glimpse of what the island was like in pre-modern, pre-globalized days, and the Lychnostatis Museum is one of them.

It includes a slice-of-life panoramas of olive oil presses, vanished small industries and domestic scenes. The museum is well sign-posted, and when you get there you’ll find yourself in a tranquil time capsule.

The Lychnostatis Museum is not bad for a rest stop and a reminder that Crete isn’t only Knossos. It’s about a lot of ancient and modern and a whole lot in between, all part of an open-air exhibit that offers a real taste of the vanished Cretan life.

Relics from Crete’s culture, economy, ethnology and nature are all there, such as rebuilt traditional farmers’ and merchants’ homes, wine and olive oil presses, examples of home-made textiles and ceramics and real fruit orchards.

There’s also a herbarium, an exhibition of rocks and minerals, an auditorium for lectures and a 250-seat theatre that comes to life in a series of dance and other events every September.

There is also a shop to buy things that you won’t find elsewhere, and even a cafe.