Heraklion is the largest city of Crete with a population of about 200.000. Heraklion houses the public services and the major scientific centers of Crete, being the commercial center of the island with the main port and airport.
From a scenic city with unique traditional Venetian and Ottoman monuments in early 1900s, as one of the most historical cities in the Mediterranean, Heraklion unfortunately turned into an ugly cement city, losing almost all of its aristocratic splendor. This bad development was a result of the need for rapid expansion of the city for the settling the refugees after the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922), but also from the effort to "modernize" Heraklion by turning the beautiful old buildings into blocks of flats.
Even today the visitor can get a good taste of the glorious image of the past, while the locals can be surprised by the unknown corners of Heraklion and the story hidden behind them.
The history of Heraklion starts in Minoan era, as it was the port of the legendary palace of Knossos. However, the city in its present location (the old center) was built in 824 by the Arabs and later expanded and fortified by the Venetians and the Turks, who named it as the Large Castle of Candia. The current name Heraklion was given after the liberation of Crete from the Turks in 1898.
Heraklion International Airport, or Nikos Kazantzakis Airport is located about 5 kilometres (3 miles) east of the city. The airport is named after Heraklion native Nikos Kazantzakis, a writer and a philosopher. It is the second busiest airport of Greece after Athens International Airport.
European route E75 runs through the city and connects Heraklion with the three other major cities of Crete: Agios Nikolaos, Chania, and Rethymno.