A tour of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
You can’t fully understand Crete if you haven’t visited the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. It’s as simple as that. Housing antiquities covering 5,500 years of history, from Neolithic to Roman times, it most famously includes many of the treasured objects of Europe’s oldest civilisation: the bull-leaping, snake-holding, literacy-busting Minoans.
Recently renovated, it is one of the most important museums in Greece, with displays from archaeological sites from all over Crete – Phaistos, Malia and Zakros among them. And, of course, the best-known settlement of the Minoan civilisation, Knossos Palace, just 13km up the road. Set over two floors and 27 galleries, you’ll piece together a unique cultural heritage.
Read also: Exploring the Minoan palace of Knossos
From the ground-floor galleries highlighting the rise of the ruling classes and the consolidation of palatial power and hierarchy in Minoan times, you head up to the famous Knossos frescoes, as well as the rooms of the Historic Period – from 1000 BC, when the first Cretan city-states were created. The displays here include sculptures, coins and inscriptions from sanctuaries from Classical to Roman Crete (300 AD).
Returning to the ground floor, the display ends with two rooms dedicated to a collection of sculptures that are amongst the oldest in Greece, from the 7th century BC to the 3rd century AD. A series of portraits of Roman emperors indicate the island's importance during Roman times.