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Crete is an island steeped in history having been the centre of Europe's first advanced civilisation. 

While the promise of sun and sand attracts thousands of visitors each year, the opportunity to visit ancient sites appeals to just as many.

Holidaymakers can find out more about just about every period in Cretan history by visiting its many museums. It’s never been so easy to learn about Roman rule, the Ottoman province, the Byzantine Empire and everything in between.

Below is a selection of museums that provide a fascinating insight into a rich and colourful past.

Archaeological Museum Chania


Housed in the former Venetian Monastery of Saint Francis, this small museum has been attracting crowds since 1963. 

It houses objects from the Minoan and Neolithic periods to late Roman times, all found in the prefecture of Chania. It's without doubt the best place to see pre-historic discoveries from caves and tombs. These collections include sculptures, inscriptions, coins and jewellery.

A updated collection focused on Konstantinos, Marika and Kyriakos Mitsotakis was donated to the museum in the year 2000, adding a new dimension to an already beloved site. Temporary exhibitions and educational programmes are also laid on throughout the year.

Opening Times

Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday - Friday: 8.00 - 19.00
Saturday - Sunday: 8.30 - 15.00

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Nautical Museum Chania

The nautical museum in Chania is packed full of artefacts that pay homage to Crete's rich naval history. Visitors can marvel at war relics and models of ancient ships that first set sail during the Bronze Age.

One section of this two storied museum is dedicated to the German invasion of Crete while there is a permanent exhibition to ancient and traditional shipbuilding.

Located at the north end of the Venetian harbour, it's a must visit.

Opening Times

Monday - Saturday: 10.00 - 16.00
Sunday - CLOSED

Historical Museum and Archive Chania

The historical archive in Chania is one of the smaller museums on the island and delves into Cretan civilisation, as well as its modern history.

It boasts a section dedicated to the heroics of Elefitherios Venizelos who was at the forefront of the national movement and served as Prime Minister on two separate occasions between the years of 1910 and 1933. Very much an outing for adults as opposed to children, it provides a nice snapshot of 18th century Greece and beyond.

Opening Times

Monday - Saturday: 10.00 - 16.00
Sunday - CLOSED

Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection Chania

The Byzantine collection is another that can be found in Chania, this time in a deconstructed church. It's made up mainly of religious artefacts from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods of Crete history.

Visitors can marvel at the likes of mosaics, wall-paintings, icons, architectural sculptures, ceramics, coins and Minoan art. Having garnered a 4/5 rating on Trip Adviser it's rightly viewed as one of the most popular attractions in the region.

Opening Times

Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday - Sunday: 8.30 - 15.00

Archaeological Museum Heraklion


While this attraction is one not based in West Crete, it's without doubt a wasted opportunity not to venture to Heraklion and saviour its splendour. 

The city's archaeological museum is a true masterpiece and houses the most important remnants of Minoan civilisation and frescoes anywhere in the world. It's packed full of archaeological finds spanning 5,500 years of Crete history and was renovated as recently as 2013. Widely seen as one of the most beautiful exhibitions in Europe, it's a must see visiting the island.

Opening Times

Monday: 12.30 - 18.00
Tuesday - Sunday: 8.00 - 18.00

Archaeological Museum Rethymnon

Located in a pentagonal building opposite Fortezza’s main entrance, this wonderful archaeological museum contains objects from the Neolithic and Roman periods, all found in the prefecture of Rethymnon.

Many of the artefacts featured here were discovered on hilltops, upon sacred sites, in caves and within necropolis.

A popular tourist attraction since 1991 the site was in fact used as a prison up until the 1960s. Now thousands flock here every year to savour its many exhibits, including small snake goddess figurines and clay models of shrines from 1800 BC.

Opening Times

Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday - Sunday: 8.30 - 15.00

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