Like its impressive fortress, Heraklion’s 16th-century walls are amongst the most obvious relics of Crete’s former Venetian rulers.
The fort and walls were constructed by the Venetians to protect their valuable island possession, and withstood the Ottomans’ 21-year siege of the city. The Venetians ruled Crete from 1204 to 1669, when the Ottomans took over.
Crete thrived under the Venetians, and the island was a refuge for Byzantine scholars and intellectuals retreating from Constantinople after the great city fell to the Turks in 1453. Dramatic painter El Greco was born in Crete, though it was in Spain that he found fame.
To retrace the footsteps of these and other eminent Cretans, take a walk along the city walls and into the past. Seven bastions and four gates make up the massive fortifications, dwarfing everything around them, including much more modern structures. The bastions are like mini forts, triangular in shape, while the sea forms the structure’s base.
The walls were built over the century between 1462 and 1562, and they take you right through the heart of the old city. The fortress, known as the Rocca al Mare, is away from the walls on the tip of harbor promontory, with the Venetian arsenal opposite the fort on the harborfront.
The Venetian Walls stretch for more than 4.5km (2.5 miles), encompassing the old city. You can catch the best views of the city and walls from the Martinego bastion.