Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Location: Town
Don't miss: Museums guide (free admission dates and other useful info)

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is one of the most remarkable museums in Greece, and figures among the most significant museums in Europe. Its exhibits include representative samples of all historic and prehistoric periods of Crete, covering a timespan of 5,500 years, from the Neolithic till the Roman times.

Above all, the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion hosts the masterpieces of the Minoan civilization as it exhibits findings from Knossos, Phaistos, Zakros, Malia and other important Minoan centers on the island of Crete. Thus, it is rightly considered the par excellence museum of Minoan culture.

Among the most notable exhibits are the famous faience Snake Goddesses, the stone bull’s-head rhyton, the Prince of the Lillies and the Bull-Leaping frescoes from Knossos, the stunning gold Bee Pendant, the Agia Triada Sarcophagus, polychrome vases from Kamares, and the enigmatic Phaistos Disc. Other memorable exhibits comprise mosaics from the Cretan necropolises and a collection of Linear B tablets.

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Top Tours and activities

  • Hop on Hop off Bus Sightseeing Tour

    Category: Hop On Hop Off

    Discover the history and architecture of Heraklion and admire the views from the top of a double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus with a ticket valid for 48 hours.

    2 days Map
    from € 15.00
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  • Best Seller

    Heraklion Archaeological Museum and Knossos Ticket with Audio

    Category: City, Walking

    Skip the ticket lines and enter the Palace of Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum with a combo e-ticket. Explore the sites at your own pace with self-guided audio tours.

    4 hours Map
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  • Best Seller

    Knossos Palace Skip the Line Entry with Guided Walking Tour

    Category: City, Walking

    Skip the ticket line and immerse yourself into the majestic Palace of Knossos with a detailed guided walking tour which takes you 3500 years back in Greek history. Use the same ticket to enter the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion later.

    1.5 hours Map
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More about the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

The first archaeological collection was created by the doctor and antiquarian Joseph Hatzidakis in 1883 when Crete was still under Ottoman occupation. It was initially housed in two rooms in the courtyard of the cathedral of Heraklion Town, the church of Agios Minas. When Crete became autonomous, this collection was ceded to the newly founded Cretan State. As it was continuously enriched through donations and findings from excavations around Crete, the need for its relocation emerged.

The first room of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion was constructed between 1904 and 1907 over the ruins of the Venetian Monastery of Saint Francis, which had been totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1856. The monastery’s ruins can still be seen in the museum’s garden. A second room was later added and, finally, in 1937, the present building was constructed based on the designs of the architect Patroklos Karantinos.

It was highly innovative for its era and included natural lighting, additional rooms for new findings, and a library, while it also permitted architectural additions. It is a nice example of modernist architecture that stands out for its colors and construction materials, which recall Minoan frescoes.

The exhibition

The permanent exhibition of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion consists of findings from the Neolithic period (7000 BC) to the Roman times, including pottery pieces, items of everyday life, jewelry, marble statues, stone statuettes, seals and other items excavated in palaces, cemeteries and public buildings. Following the museum’s renovation in 2014, it now takes up 27 rooms, and it is displayed according to modern museological practices. It is organized in chronological and thematic units, accompanied by audiovisual material and explanatory texts.

The exhibition starts on the ground floor with the Minoan Collection, boasting exhibits from the very first urban-palatial civilization on European soil. It highlights the formation of the first communities, the emergence of the ruling classes, the consolidation of palatial power, as well as the Minoan scripts that formed the basis of administration. It also focuses on the maritime supremacy of the Minoans, which is associated with the myths regarding the semidivine King Minos and the labyrinthine palace of Knossos. Moreover, visitors can find out about religious rituals, sports, public events, aspects of private life and burial customs.

Then, the exhibition continues on the first floor with the Minoan Frescoes and the Historic Period, with particular emphasis on the establishment of the Cretan cities and on worship in organized sanctuaries. The tour ends back on the ground floor with the Sculpture Collection, which constitutes a kind of glyptotheque. Housing masterpieces crafted between the 7th century BC and the 3rd century AD, the museum reflects the pioneering role Crete played in the creation of Greek monumental sculpture. Two private collections are presented in a separate section on the first floor, and so is a section exploring the impact of Minoan Crete from antiquity to the present day.



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