For 37 days the “Christmas Castle” will be bringing joy and colour to all
Each year, on December 1st, Heraklion puts on its Christmas finery and gets ready to celebrate Christmas and the New Year! Radiant and dreamlike, full of colours, scents and music, the city of Heraklion is one of the most interesting places to visit during the Christmas holidays. A city at the “heart” of Crete, with a long history and an impressive enceinte, located by the Aegean Sea’s big blue, with many museums and unique monuments, picturesque alleyways, squares, hospitable people and exquisite tastes is ready to put on its “Christmas costume” to welcome all those who wish to have a taste of its scents!
Christmas in Heraklion smells like cinnamon, clove and orange, just like Christmas pastries and Cretan houses do. The whole city is filled with those scents. Locals and visitors are captivated by the scents coming out of the city’s traditional bakeries! No one is able to resist a freshly-made xerotigano (quick-fried thin dough) dipped in honey, kourambiedes (traditional Christmas desserts made with almonds and fresh butter), melomakarona (egg-shaped Christmas desserts made mainly from flour, olive oil and honey) with grated walnuts or a fragrant Christopsomo (Christ’s bread). The city centre is full of sweet and savoury temptations. Follow your nose to the traditional fast food shops serving the renowned gyros or to the superb bakeries with their freshly baked pastries or to shops serving bougatsa ready to offer you unique tastes.
But even if you manage to resist such temptations, it is certain that you’ll sit at one of the traditional taverns and restaurants of the Central Market and enjoy good raki, vinegar-scented sausage, apaki (smoked ham), tsiladia (pork jelly)… You may purchase fresh stamnagkathi (wild greens eaten raw or cooked) or the exquisite askolimbrous (wild greens eaten cooked with vinegar). You may also enjoy exquisite dishes and listen to music at the taverns and restaurants located on the pedestrian roads next to Saint Minas Cathedral. Cretan tastes and good local wine at affordable prices for locals and visitors. A meeting point for all… and everything turns into a colourful party!
In this city, there is always a new taste waiting for you… a small culinary journey and moments of delight… This is where in the afternoon of Christmas and New Year’s Eve the locals meet in numerous groups of friends and celebrate in their own unique way.
The set is unique within the city. Traditional Christmas carols are played on loudspeakers; the Heraklion Philharmonic Orchestra (https://www.heraklion.gr) performs live in the city streets and the image of the traffic controller in the old-fashioned traditional “booth” steals the show.
The Heraklion Municipal Authorities host theatre plays, concerts, musical events, exhibitions, events for children at the Vikelaia Municipal Library (http://www.vikelaia.gr/)… The Heraklion Philharmonic Orchestra sets the tone within the city centre and in the suburbs. A visit outside the Heraklion enceinte will lead you to villages of the Municipality where life is more relaxed… You will have the chance to discover Cretan flora and fauna, visit the Holy Monasteries of Paliani and Gorgolaini for the Christmas Mass, the Saint Vasilios (Saint Basil) Holy Liturgy and the Theophany (Epiphany).
The decorated shop windows at Kalokairinou avenue, Dikaiosinis avenue and the main city centre pedestrian streets (25th August, Katehaki, Handakos, Kantanoleon and Korai) are glowing and the shops are full of people doing their Christmas shopping or strolling around and having coffee. There are still many groups of tourists that meet in front of the Morosini Fountain (Lions) to admire the Venetian monuments of Megalo Kastro (the old name of Heraklion) while many people visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The “Christmas Castle – A journey to the Land of the Elves” is nearby. This is the name given to the small Christmas village, with its colourful well-lit alleys, located on the city’s main square, Eleftherias Square. Small shops with ornaments, local artisans selling handmade gifts, a stage with popular singers, dance and theatre acts, magicians and stilt walkers, jugglers and storytellers, games and movie projections, live radio shows, workshops… It is all available to everybody and entrance is free!
On New Year’s Eve, the set gets even more radiant! Fireworks display and music, people, treats and wishes to celebrate New Year! Leaving Eleftherias Square all visitors can taste traditional bougatsa since on New Year’s Eve all shops serving bougatsa stay open all night long. There are even pushcart vendors selling this exquisite oriental delicacy… Everyone gets back home with a piece of bougatsa. The locals want the New Year to have the sweet taste of their favourite pastry.