Built in the 13th century when Crete was under Venetian rule, Koules Fortress is known by many names. Sometimes called Rocca al Mare, or simply the Venetian Fortress, it was initially designed to protect Heraklion from invasion. Today it houses exhibits on the history of Heraklion. The Basics
Standing on the water’s edge for more than 700 years, Koules Fortress is one of Heraklion’s best-loved buildings. It has been rebuilt several times over the centuries, always with the same goal—to defend the city. In some places, the outside walls of the square-sided fortress are almost 30 feet (9 meters) thick. In its day, the fort housed a mill, bakery, prison, barracks for the guards, and more.
Visitors today walk through tunnels where cannons were once loaded and fired, explore storage rooms, and tour exhibitions that explain the history of the building and tell tales of nearby shipwrecks. Koules Fortress is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Heraklion and is a frequent stop on city tours, including the Heraklion hop-on hop-off bus. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Entry to the fort is via paid ticket.
- Free entry is available on certain days; check its website for details.
- Some areas of the fort have steep steps that are not suitable for people with limited mobility.
- Look for carved depictions of the winged lion of Venice on the outside walls.
- Stand on the ramparts for great views of the city and harbor.
Koules Fortress is located along the harbor wall in Heraklion. Hop-on hop-off buses stop outside. It’s also within easy walking distance of the city center. When to Get There
Shaded and cool, Koules Fortress provides a welcome respite from the heat in summer. It’s usually busiest in the early afternoon. The museum is closed on summer Mondays.Explore Lion Square
You’ll want to pass through Lion Square, central hub of downtown Heraklion, at least once on a visit to the city. Lined with restaurants and cafes, the square bustles with life as residents and visitors fill it from early morning to late at night. The square is a good option for a quick bite and a chance to rest your feet while sightseeing.