In the city of Heraklion, the archaeological museum is the keeper of Crete’s centuries-old legacy. One of the largest museums in Europe and of great significance in Greece, its collection is immense and includes objects of importance to the world’s culture.
Why it’s worth visiting
In the early 20th century, research on Crete began and the need for a place to store invaluable artifacts arose. This led to the construction of the initial exhibition hall in Heraklion. As the years passed, storage space became an issue as more discoveries were made.
This modern archaeological museum of Heraklion, constructed in the 1930s, arose upon the ruins of an old monastery of st. Francis. It’s an absolute must-see attraction, as its large display holds artifacts stretching across a span of 7,000 years. It is the world’s chief repository of minoan relics, with a total of 15,000 items, including those from the neolithic to the greco-roman era. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum holds occasional exhibitions, educational activities, and cultural events, so make sure to check the schedule before your visit!
In 2014 the archaeological museum of Heraklion launched after a huge reconstruction. It is now one of the most advanced and suitable museums in Greece.
The museum of Heraklion has 27 halls.
- Hall 1 houses artifacts dating back from 6000−2000 bc, with an emphasis on the statue of the fertility goddess and a collection of clay figurines.
- In hall 2 you can find items from 2000−1700 bc from Knossos and Malia, which includes Kamares-style ceramics and figures discovered in mountain sanctuaries.
- Hall 3 houses the Kamares ceramics collection and the well-renowned Phaistos disk — one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries on Crete.
- Hall 4 displays artifacts from the 1700−1450 bc timeline, such as a bull’s head shaped rhyton (Knossos), snake-bearing goddess figurines, bronze tools and weapons.
- Hall 5 displays items from the period between 1450−1400 bc, featuring inscriptions in linear A and B script, and goods from Egypt.
- Hall 6 contains artifacts from the burial customs of Archanes, Festus, and Knossos.
- Hall 7 houses relics from 1700−1300 bc at Agia Triad and Malia.
- Hall 8 displays discoveries from the Zakros palace, which includes a variety of ceramic pieces and an uncommon variety of rock crystal rhytons.
- Hall 9 showcases artifacts from 1700−1450 bc in eastern Crete with terracotta statuettes.
- Hall 10 features Mycenaean artifacts such as clay sculptures and figurines.
- Hall 11 is a space dedicated to Dorian weaponry and clay figurines.
- Hall 12 displays ancient artifacts from 650 g. b. c. Including clay depictions of griffins.
- Hall 13 is a gallery filled with minoan sarcophagi from Larnaca.
- Hall 14 is where you can find frescoes from Agia Triad and Knossos.
- Halls 15–17 feature various frescoes from all over the island, including the renowned «parisian» from Knossos palace.
- In halls 18–19, the funerary customs of bygone ages are explored.
- Hall 20 is devoted to sculptures from the classic and greco-roman eras.
- Hall 21 looks into the development of cretan coinage.
- Hall 22 features artefacts from the tombs of the hellenistic and cretan eras at Knossos and Hersonissos.
- Halls 23–25 present articles from private collections ranging from the minoan period through the present day.
- Halls 26–27 exhibit an array of sculptures.
The archaeological museum also features a remarkable selection of minoan jewelry, which is used as the foundation by greek artisans to craft their own interpretations. Of particular interest is the «Prince with lilies» fresco from Knossos and a pendant depicting golden bees from Malia.
The ruins of st. Francis monastery, which occupied this area for centuries, are maintained in the park of the museum. These remains are a symbol of the wealth of Heraklion during the venetian period, because in former times this monastery was thought to be the wealthiest and most significant catholic monastery on Crete.
How to navigate
All the artifacts of the of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum are displayed over two floors in chronological order and have audio-visual accompaniments. There are also indications to assist with navigation through the halls. If required, visitors can get a map at the entrance to the museum, which contains the location and details of the exhibits.
For families bringing children aged 5 and above, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum furnishes a special educational program. This program educates visitors about ancient greek gods and heroes, as well as the most renowned cretan myths, which are taught via the museum’s exhibits. Upon entry, visitors can take advantage of a complimentary brochure at the checkout.
The museum is strategically placed at the center of Heraklion, in close proximity to Freedom square, the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, and other bustling shopping streets. The Kules fortress also lies within 700 m of the Museum. For those travelling by car, there are car parks conveniently located near the Museum.
- Public festivals (e. g. Greece’s Independence day and Easter Sunday) could lead to the Museum being either closed or having a reduced working day.
- If someone is planning to visit both the Museum and Knossos palace, it’s best to purchase a combo ticket for 20 euros, valid for three days.
- On certain occasions, the Museum can be accessed for free, such as on March 6th (Melina Mercury memorial day), May 18th (International museum day) plus the first Sunday of each month from November to March. However, it’s likely to be busy on these days at the archaeological Museum.
- The museum has made sure to meet the needs of disabled visitors, providing special toilets and a lift.
- The cloakroom on the ground floor allows you to put away your belongings.
- Taking pictures in the halls is allowed, with the exception of items tagged with «no photographs». Flash and professional cameras must be used with explicit authorization.
- Cell phone utilization is banned inside the halls.
- The museum complex contains a cafe and a store that provides books, postcards, and replicas of the museum pieces.