Strolling around Heraklion’s Venetian walls will reveal the city’s diverse heritage while combining panoramic views with a walking cultural tour. There are numerous possible routes to exploring the Venetian walls that envelope the old city of ‘Candia’, Chandax or Chandakas as it is known in Greek. Heraklion’s fortifications make it the largest city enclosed by fortified walls in the Mediterranean. Therefore, during your stay in Heraklion, you should not miss the opportunity to discover this riveting attraction. The walls can easily be reached from the Galaxy Hotel in Heraklion city, so after savouring the awarded Hellenic Breakfast at the Vetri Restaurant hall, you can begin your walking excursion, full of energy!
Some brief history
Being an important port city throughout history, Heraklion was a target for many conquests and sieges. The original wall fortifications were erected during the Byzantine Empire around 900 A.D, then were fortified by the Venetians in the 13th century who claimed the city of Candia (the Venetian name for Heraklion) as part of their Republic. The walls protected the city against the Ottoman Empire for 21 years but in 1669 the city surrendered under the condition that the people would be allowed to live peacefully. The Ottomans repaired the walls, so the fortifications of modern Heraklion are an amalgam of these three periods of history.
The Venetian Walls route || Top attractions
A recommended start for this walk is from Eleftherias Square where the “Gate of St. George” once existed, one of the three main entrance gates. Nowadays, there are only seasonal exhibitions for you to observe. From there you can go to “Vitouri Gate” which is somewhat hidden behind the narrow street across Eleftherias Square, under a modern pink building; you will see the signage as soon as you reach building. Take the steps downward, and cross the first arcade into the square and then continue to the second arcade that will lead you to the open square which and up to a trench, where a car parking lot is now located.
Continue your walk of the Venetian walls by going towards “Kainourgia Porta” (New Gate). You will see a narrow cement staircase right next to the right arch of this Gate, going down from the parking lot exit. You are now on the Venetian Walls and over “Kainourgia Porta”, which is not Venetian and was actually built at 1970’s, and this is why we call it the ‘New Gate’. From here you have a nice view of Evans street and all its urban activity. You may continue on the pebble path and soak in the view of the city and Psiloritis mountain on your left. Psiloritis mountain is usually covered in white from December till May, making it ever more enchanting. At the end of the pebble path you arrive at a verdant spot, and if you look down you will notice the open theatres of Nikos Kazantzakis first, and Manos Chatzidakis right after. During the summer months these open theatres have many of evening concerts and events taking place, so visiting during the summer, don’t miss the opportunity to experience them.
As soon as you arrive at Martinengo football ground, continue straight up and take the stairs that lead you to the Martinengo Bastion and the Kazantzakis tomb. Pause to enjoy the scenic view of Giouchtas mountain on the one hand and the city view on the other.
Going down to the bastion, continue your route to the left and take the stairs that lead to the main road and a small park. Turn right and a few steps away you will come across the recently renovated Makasi arcade. Continue walking towards the sea, either on the walls or down the main street. Passing by “Kommeno Mpenteni”, you will see another exit that leads you to the open cinema of the Gate of Bethlehem. During the summer, the Cinema Club of Heraklion organizes movie nights featuring international, classic films. A bit further down, you will arrive at the last stop of your route, the “Gate of Bethlehem”, which permanently hosts the exhibition of the famous Cretan painter El Greco with replicas of his work and costumes which were used in a recent film representing his work and his life.
This beautiful historical route of the Venetian Walls ends just about here. However, we would definitely recommend you to also spend some time at the Venetian Castle of Koules, which is located at the end of the pedestrian 25th of August street, right next to the harbor of Heraklion. Pause to admire the wonderful sea views and take in its magnificent aura. Finally, one last recommendation is to visit is the area of Agia Triada and the old districts of Lakkos. These are the narrow lanes across the “Gate of Bethlehem” and the open cinema.