Historical Museum of Crete

Top choice in Iraklio

If you’re wondering what Crete’s been up to for the past, say, 1700 years, a spin around this engagingly curated museum is in order. Exhibits hopscotch from the Byzantine to the Venetian and Turkish periods, culminating with WWII. Quality English labelling, interactive stations throughout and audio guides (€3) in five languages greatly enhance the experience.

The Venetian era receives special emphasis and there's even a huge model of the city c 1650 prior to the Turkish occupation. Start in the introductory room, which charts the major phases of history through maps, books, artefacts and images. First-floor highlights include the only two El Greco paintings in Crete (1569's The Baptism of Christ and 1570's View of Mt Sinai and the Monastery of St Catherine), 13th- and 14th-century frescoes, exquisite Venetian gold jewellery, and embroidered vestments. A historical exhibition charts Crete’s road to independence from the Turks in the early 20th century. The most interesting rooms on the 2nd floor are the recreated study of Cretan-born author Nikos Kazantzakis and those dramatically detailing aspects of the WWII Battle of Crete in 1941, including the Cretan resistance and the role of the Allied Secret Service. The top floor features an outstanding folklore collection.