Crete's lively capital Heraklion has so many cultural, historical and culinary delights. The exceptionally well-preserved fortress of Castello a Mare (Castle of the Sea), is a tangible reminder of the time in Crete's long history when the island was colonised by the Venetians. This is also evident in the intricate 17th-century "The Lions" fountain on Eleftheriou Venizelou Square and the Venetian Loggia, which today houses the Town Hall.

But there are older sites, including some from the Minoan age, the Byzantine era, and more. Along with the many beautiful historical buildings are some magnificent churches that offer intriguing snapshots of the island's religious history through the centuries: the imposing Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Agios Minas, the Byzantine Agios Titos and the Venetian Agia Aikaterini.

It's worth taking time out to visit some of the fascinating museums, foremost of which is the excellent Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which houses a trove of Minoan treasures, among them exhibits found at the legendary Minoan Palace of Knossos, just outside the city. In the nearby village of Myrtia is the Nikos Kazantzakis Museum that is dedicated to the life and work of the celebrated author of Zorba the Greek, the novel that inspired the multiple Oscar-winner movie, "Zorba the Greek" starring Anthony Quinn.

Herakleion is also a great place to shop, eat, and  experience contemporary Cretan culture.