A microcosm of the island, thriving capital Iraklio, or Heraklion, offers enticing glimpses into Cretan history at every corner.

Crete's lively capital Iraklio holds a world of cultural, historical and culinary surprises.

Start from the city's most photographed Venetian harbour and the fortress of Castello a Mare, or Koules, which offers outstanding views of the city. You'll find many nods to Heraklion's fabled Venetian past all around the capital. Spend the afternoon sipping an icy frappé coffee by "The Lions", the intricate 17th-century fountain on Eleftheriou Venizelou Square. And keep an eye out for the Venetian Loggia, which today houses the Town Hall, as you amble around town.

First and foremost among the city's fascinating museums, the excellent Heraklion Archaeological Museum houses a trove of Minoan treasures, among them, exhibits found at the legendary Minoan Palace of Knossos, just outside the city. Lovers of literature and cinema can delve deeper into the life of Nikos Kazantzakis, the celebrated Greek author of the novel that inspired multiple Oscar winner movie, "Zorba the Greek" was based on. The "Nikos Kazantzakis" museum can be found in the nearby village of Myrtia.

The city is also dotted with a number of beautiful 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