Archaeological Sites and Museums in Crete

Archaeological Sites in Crete

Chania Archaeological Sites

  • Aptera: One of the most important cities of ancient (7th c. B.C.) western Crete. Aptera was built on a site 15 km. from Chania, south of Souda bay, near the village of Megala Horafia, which had a view of the whole plain of Chania. The city walls still standing today are reminiscent of the Cyclopean walls of Tiryns and Mycenae. One can also see the remains of a small 1st c. B.C. temple of Demeter, a Roman theatre and the enormous vaulted cisterns of the Roman period – according to one source they were used for grain storage – preserved in excellent condition. Entrance: Free
  • Falassarna: This town, the port of Polyrrhenia, lay to the west of it, in the base of the extreme northwest peninsula of the district of Chania. The ruins-remains of Cyclopean walls, tombs, house foundations, sculptures carved out of the rocks, most notably a throne – are found near the village of Koutri. Entrance: Free
  • Firkas Fortress: Fort Firkas is by the Venetian port of Chania. Firkas (military unit) was built in 1629 and is considered a significant historic monument for Crete. In February 16th 1897, the flag of the Great Powers was raised here, pronouncing Crete’s autonomy. At the same place, 16 years later, on December 1st 1913, Eleftherios Venizelos witnessed the island’s union with the rest of Greece. Today, the fort houses the city’s Naval Museum and a small, summer theatre. Entrance: Free
  • Frangocastello Fortress: In order to protect the small bay nearby, from the pirates, it was decided, in 1371, to construct this fortress. It was barely used during the Venetian occupation, and on the eve of the Turkish attack, it was actually abandoned. In 1828 the Cretan rebels occupied the fortress and during the siege that followed, its towers were destroyed. Entrance: Free
  • Kissamos Archaeological Museum: After 25 years, Kissamos in western Crete has finally found a place to house its archaeological treasures. The exhibits provide a view of local history through the ages, from prehistoric times to late antiquity and the Early Christian period. Entrance: Ticket
  • Lissos: The site was the religious centre of the cities in south-west Crete. It flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The most important monuments of the site are the Temple of Asklepios, dated to the Hellenistic and Roman periods; part of a Roman theatre; rock-cut and built chamber tombs. Entrance: Free
  • Polirinnia: The ruined walls and acropolis of Polyrinnia or Polyrrhenia lie 49 km west of Chania, near Selti or Paleokastro. At Kria Vrissi, near Kissamos (Kastelli), are the remains of a Roman aqueduct. Polyrinnia, an important ancient western Cretan city, was founded with the help of the Achaeans, who succeeded the Minoans as overlords of the island. Entrance: Free

Rethymnon Archaeological Sites

  • Apodoulou: Three building complexes of the Old Palace period (1950-1700 B.C.), while tholos tombs of the Postpalatial period (1380-1200 B.C.) have also been located in the adjacent area. Entrance: Free
  • Armeni: A Minoan cemetery with tombs carved out of rocks has been unearthed. Entrance: Free
  • Eleftherna: Recent excavations held at the area brought to light important monuments from a Greek-Roman city. Entrance: Free
  • The Fortezza fortress of Rethymnon: This fortress was built from 1573 till 1580 by the Venetians, for the protection of the inhabitants by the Turkish threat. It is star-shaped with three gates and six bastions. Entrance: Free

Heraklion Archaeological Sites

  • Aghia Trias: 2.5-3 km west of Phaistos, were found the ruins of a royal villa, which most probably was the summer palace of the Phaistos rulers. Certain of the more important pieces on exhibit in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum – the larnax, the Harvester Vase, and the impeccably painted frescoes – come from the site. Entrance: Ticket
  • Fourni at Arhanes: Excavations at Fourni have brought to light 26 buildings, most of which had funerary use. The cemetery was used from 2400 B.C. until 1200 B.C. and each complex had more than one architectural phase. Entrance: Free
  • Gortys (Gortyn): 46 km south of Heraklion. A city that flourished particularly during the Roman era, Gortys was the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica. It had its origins in the Minoan era, as testified by the ruins of a 16th c. B.C. farmhouse, which has been excavated. The most distinctive monuments are the Praetorium (2nd c. AD.), residence of the Roman governor of the province, and the Nymphaion (2nd c. AD.), where the Nymphs were worshipped; the temple of Pythian Apollo the sanctuary of the Egyptian divinities; and the Odeon, where the famous inscription with the laws of Gortys was found. Plato spoke of these laws, which were written in a Doric dialect and date from the 6th century B.C., with admiration. Entrance: Ticket
  • Knossos: 5 km east of Heraklion. Inhabited since the Neolithic era. The first palace of Knossos was built around 1900 B.C. Two hundred years later it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt, becoming grander and more luxurious. The final catastrophe occurred about 1500-1400 B.C., according to one theory, with the eruption of the volcano in Santorini. Despite this blow, people continued to live there for another fifty years, until a fire swept through the city circa 1400 B.C. The Minoan palaces were not only the residence of the ruling house, they were also administrative and religious centers for the whole region. The ruins of the capital of the Minoan Kingdom include the palace of Minos, the homes of the officials and priests who surrounded him (Little Palace, Caravanserai, House of the Frescoes, etc.), the homes of ordinary people, and the cemetery. The palace was a labyrinthine complex built around a central court. This multistoried construction covered an area of 22.000 sq.m. and, in addition to the royal quarters, also contained places of worship, treasuries, workshops, and storerooms. Entrance: Ticket (6 €)
  • Komos: The Minoan port of Phaistos. Closed to the public
  • Koules Venetian Fortress: Open: 08:30-15:00, closed on Mondays. The symbol of Heraklion. The original name of the fortress was «Roca al mare»; it was built by the Venetians, before the construction of the new walls. It was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1303 and took its final shape between 1523 and 1540. Entrance: Ticket
  • Levina (Lentas): Excavations brought to light a sanctuary of Asclepios and Minoan vaulted tombs. Entrance: Ticket
  • Malia: Located 34 km east of Heraklion and 3 km beyond the summer resort of the same name. Excavations revealed a palace akin to those at Knossos and Phaistos, built around 1900 B.C. and abandoned circa 1450 B.C. At Hrissolakos (Pit of Gold), the districts surrounding the Minoan palace and cemetery were also unearthed. The palace spanned an area of approximately 9,000 sq.m. Many artifacts now displayed in Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum were discovered at Malia. Entrance: Ticket
  • Phaistos (Festos): Situated 63 km southwest of Heraklion and about 78 km southeast of Rethimno, it was the second most significant palace-city of Minoan Crete. Renowned as the residence of the mythical Radamanthes, Phaistos was a settlement from the Neolithic age. Its architectural design mirrors that of Knossos, with rooms arranged around a central court. Unlike Knossos, its frescoes were less abundant, with unpainted floors and walls covered in pure white gypsum. The palace covered an area of 9,000 sq.m. Entrance: Ticket
  • Tilissos: Located 14 km southwest of Heraklion, this site features the ruins of one of the oldest Minoan cities in central Crete. It includes three large buildings, believed to be the residences of local nobility. Entrance: Ticket
  • Vathipetro: Found 19 km south of Heraklion, this site is the location of a significant Minoan mansion, likely a country estate of a local noble. The ruins encompass a winepress, olive press, weaving rooms, and a potential potter’s kiln. Entrance: Free

Lassithi Archaeological Sites

  • Dreros (Driros): Located 16 km northwest of Aghios Nikolaos. The archaeological site includes two acropolises with an Archaic agora between them. Significant features are the temple from the Geometric period, the Delphinion, dedicated to Apollo, and a large cistern from between the late 3rd and early 2nd century B.C. Entrance: Free
  • Gournia: Situated 19 km southeast of Aghios Nikolaos and 15 km north of Ierapetra, Gournia is the best preserved of the Minoan settlements in Crete, dating from 1550-1450 B.C. The site includes small houses and a palace on a hill, with surviving narrow streets and stairways. Entrance: Ticket
  • Kato Zakros: Located 117 km southeast of Aghios Nikolaos. This site features a luxurious Minoan palace, the fourth in significance on the island, which produced numerous important finds now in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The palace, covering 7,000 to 8,000 sq.m., included royal apartments, storerooms, and workshops. The nearby city and the palace were destroyed around 1450 B.C., likely due to a major earthquake. Zakros was a significant Minoan naval base with trading connections to Egypt and Anatolia. Entrance: Ticket
  • Lato: Located 15 km west of Aghios Nikolaos, Lato is an ancient Greek city spread across two acropolises. Founded in the 7th century B.C., it was one of Crete’s most powerful cities. The site includes city walls, houses, and shops built on terraces. Entrance: Free
  • Palaikastro: This site is located 90 km east of Aghios Nikolaos and 20 km from Sitia, at Roussolakos. The archaeological site of Palaikastro was one of the most important trading centres of the Minoan culture in eastern Crete. The site flourished during the Late Minoan period (1550-1220 BC), but also has remains from the Early and Middle Minoan periods (3000-1550 BC). Excavations have revealed a central road, an elaborate drainage system and several sectors with houses. The site also contains the remains of a harbour settlement. The Palaikastro Kouros, an ivory statue made of hippopotamus ivory, was also found at the site. Entrance: Ticket
  • Petras: The site features the ruins of a Minoan city.
  • Spinalonga Isle: An islet at the entrance of the Elounta bay. It has a fortress originally built by the Olounites. The Venetians constructed a significant fortress here in 1579, which remained under their control even after the Ottoman occupation of Crete in 1669. In the final years of the Ottoman era, it served as a refuge for Ottoman families. In 1903, it was designated as a place for the lepers of Crete by the Cretan government. Entrance: Ticket

Museums in Crete

Museums in Chania

  • Chania Archaeological Museum
    Tel.: (28210) 90.334
    Housed in the Venetian church of San Francesco. Its exhibits from western Crete and other areas date from the Neolithic to the Roman era, and include idols, statues, inscriptions, weapons, pottery, seal stones, coins, jewellery, etc.
  • Historical Archives of Crete
    Tel.: (28210) 52.606
    Open daily 8-13.00 except Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. A rich collection of folklore and material related to the history of the island. The archives are among the largest in the country, second only to General Archives of the Greek State.
  • Naval Museum of Crete
    Tel.: (28210) 91.875
    On the mole of the Venetian harbor. Exhibits linked with the island’s history.

Museums in Rethymnon

  • Archaeological Museum
    Tel.: (28310) 54.668
    The Venetian loggia is a museum containing interesting archaeological finds from the region as well as a fine coin collection.
  • Historical and Folk Art Museum
    Tel: (28310) 23.398
    The Museum’s collections include over 5,000 items that come from donations, purchases and loans. They are displayed in units; Folk Art collections include weaving, basket weaving, embroidery-laces, costumes, ceramics, metal work, traditional cultivations, traditional occupations, while the historical ones include documents, photographs, maps, weapons, banners and coins.

Museums in Heraklion

  • Heraklion Archaeological Museum
    Tel.: (2810) 22.60.92, (2810) 22.64.70.
    One of the most important museums in Greece. Here are assembled almost all the finds from the Minoan era. Pottery, stone carvings, seal stones, statuettes, gold, metalwork, the marvelous frescoes from the Royal and Little Palaces and villas of the wealthy, and finally, the unique painted limestone sarcophagus from Aghia Trias.
  • Heraklion Historical Museum
    Tel.: (2810) 28.32.19
    Exhibits from the Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish periods and historical documents of more recent Cretan history. Also a rich collection of folk art consisting of local costumes, textiles, woodcarvings and embroidery as well as a representation of a typical Cretan house.
  • St Catherine of Sinai
    Monday – Friday: 10.00-13.00
    The preserved katholikon of the Monastery and the chapel of Agioi Deka today house a collection of representative works of the Cretan Byzantine and post-Byzantine art.
  • Archanes
    Archaeological Collection. Contains finds from the Malia palace, the Fourni cemetery, and the sanctuary at Anemospilia dating from the Minoan era.
  • Lychnostatis Museum in Hersonissos
    From 1 April until 31 October, daily: 09:00-14:00, Saturday: closed.
    The museum has its origins in a private collection formed over a period of thirty years by Giorgos Markakis, professor of ophthalmology, lecturer and writer. The buildings themselves are some of the main exhibits. Built thoroughly with the prevalent raw materials (stone-wood-clay), under the creative architectural improvising of the founder, they possess an aesthetic quality unique in the area. The collections are broad in scope, from agricultural implements to embroideries and from herbs to rhymes.

Museums in Lassithi

  • Aghios Nikolaos Archaeological Museum
    (28410) 22.462
    Archaeological Museum. It contains finds from excavations in eastern Crete.
  • Ierapetra
    Archaeological Collection. Contains marble statues and inscriptions from the Greek-Roman era.
  • Sitia
    Archaeological Museum. Contains finds from Sitia, Zakros, Petra, and Palekastro from the Minoan era.

Opening Hours for Museums and Archaeological Sites in Crete

Summer Period: April 1 – October 31

During the summer period Knossos, Phaistos, Spinalonga and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion stay open from 08:00 – 20:00 every day.

All other sites and museums are open daily from 08:00 – 15:00, except Monday (closed).

All archaeological sites and museums are closed on Easter Sunday and May 1.

Winter Period: November 1 – March 31

All archaeological sites and museums are open from 08:00 – 15:00 every day except Monday (closed). Knossos, Phaistos and Gortys are open on Monday as well.

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is open 08:00 – 15:00, except Monday (11:00 – 17:00).

All archaeological sites and museums are closed on December 25, 26, January 1, March 25

ΝΟΤΕ: Some archaeological sites and museums might have different opening hours.

Free of Charge Entrance:

During the following days, the entrance to all archaeological sites, museums, archaeological collections and monuments is free:

  • The first Sunday of each month from November 1 -March 31
  • October 28
  • March 6, in commemoration of Melina Merkouri
  • April 18, International Monuments Day
  • May 18, International Museums Day
  • June 5, International Day of environment
  • Last Weekend of September, celebration of European Cultural Heritage.

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