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Beautiful Heraklion or ugly Heraklion?

Various descriptions of Heraklion

  • “Modern Heraklion preserves the tradition of one of the most attractive cities of the Mediterranean! It meets and satisfies every taste and demand of both the visitor and the permanent resident. It is no coincidence that for centuries Heraklion was the centre, the metropolis of Crete, and it continues to bear the palm with its many points of interest and happy lifestyle.”

  • “Heraklion, the largest city of Crete, with its great history and flourishing economy, is an ugly city. Both locals and visitors see its main features as anarchic urban sprawl dominated by concrete, lack of greenery, and every type of pollution. It was not always thus. It was chiefly during the postwar years that a combination of arbitrary actions and bad taste turned the “Great Castle” of the Arabs and Venetians into a megalopolis in which environmental degradation prevails, a seaside city turning its back on the sea. Like every Greek town, however, it offers traces of its history and unique character to anyone with the patience and willingness to look for them.”

  • “After the German bombing during the Second World War, Heraklion found the strength to rise again, to grow and develop into the commercial, tourist and industrial centre of Crete. Specialists say that Heraklion has the worst street layout, and they are not wrong. The suburbs developed anarchically, who knows why... Perhaps because the generations of local inhabitants, stuck between a rock and a hard place down the centuries, were determined to set up their homeland and their lives again as quickly as possible.”

  • “After its liberation from the Germans, Heraklion received a great wave of internal refugees who came to meet the needs of an ever-growing economy. This intense development, combined with a lack of strategic planning, resulted in the creation of a relatively anarchic city which, however, is flooded with the memories of the past together with a modern way of life, where a cosmopolitan air coexists with the hidden charms of traditional expressions of life.”

  • “Heraklion is a busy, bustling megalopolis of tavernas, discos, tourist shops, bookshops, department stores, paved pedestrian streets, tree-lined squares, thousands of illegal buildings and the incessant toing and froing of crowds of tourists arriving at the refurbished airport. A city which has developed at a frenetic pace with no planning, which has destroyed some of the monuments of the past, which has compressed its streets and squares, in which new illegal buildings form the new labyrinth.”

  • “Heraklion is our city. A city by the sea, with history and memories, a rich and lively city, but one which is becoming less human by the day. A city of many functions, with mixed land usage: habitation, trade, handicrafts, industry, shipping, entertainment. A city of problems, which remembers its neighbourhoods selectively and forgets how welcoming it needs to be for the people who live in it. A city which simply looks on as the laws of the market prevail. But it is also a city with reactions, which tries to keep its history alive, to defend its free spaces and greenery for its citizens.”

So what is Heraklion: a beautiful city, as the Municipality of Heraklion so optimistically calls it, or a “Quasimodo” town, as some pessimist has written on a wall?

Let’s be realists: Heraklion does not deserve the appellation of “beautiful city”. Heraklion is a city which is moving into the future hoping that its people will respect its history and cultural legacy, and stop ill-treating it in the name of development and political profit.

Heraklion has its charms and beautiful spots. These are not all around you, as in Chania; you must look for them or have them pointed out to you. That is what we will do in the following pages, the detailed guide to Heraklion.


  • Heraklion Today, today problems and the hope for a better Heraklion in the future
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