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Lychnostatis Open Air Museum: One of the best museums in Crete

Are you thinking of visiting the Lychnostatis Open Air Museum in Crete? Lychnostatis is a wonderful museum immersing you in life in the Crete countryside in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In this guide I give you an overview of the museum, tell you everything to see inside, and include must know tips for visiting.

Crete is best known for its ancient sites such as Knossos and nearby Malia Minoan Palace. But this much more recent history is more easily brought to life, especially when rooms or even houses can be rebuilt and fully furnished.

This Museum is quite different to the other attractions of Hersonissos, and worth a trip from Heraklion, Rethymno, Agios Nikolaos, even Chania.

This beautiful homespun collection keeps a whole way of life alive, an essential stop if Crete gets under your skin as it has with us.

Our Lychnostatis Museum guide gives you detailed overview of what to see, where to see and how to get there. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Why Visit Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

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The main building at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum
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The weaving exhibit at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

Lychnostatis is one of the best Crete museums, a unique record of 19th and 20th century life on the island.

It’s a beautifully designed and curated Museum, with a range of stunning interior displays and re-created rooms and buildings.

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The farmhouse fireplace at Lychnostatis

It’s mainly a snapshot of rural life on Crete over the period, but also gives you a great introduction to the plants and flowers you see across Crete.

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The gorgeous chapel at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

Lychnostatis Open Air Museum is one of the best museums of its kind that we’ve visited in Europe. It’s smaller than many, but is packed with an incredible amount of detail.

I rate it alongside the likes of St Fagans National Museum of History in my native Cardiff, Wales, and the superb Roscheider Hof Museum near Trier, Germany.

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It’s also one of the best day trips from Heraklion, and a great companion to the likes of the History Museum of Crete and Natural History Museum of Crete.

What To See At Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

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Tree bark samples in the Garden

The Lychnostatis Open Air Museum is located on a very small site – certainly compared with the other open air museums I’ve mentioned above.

There is one main building – visible from the main road – and several small outbuildings and gardens.

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A list of Cretan grape varieties

Once you’ve bought your ticket, you follow a set route around the Museum, beginning in the Garden.  There are several informative displays, including illustrations of grapes grown in Crete, different types of tree bark and leaves you find on common trees and plants.

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A collection of leaf samples from around Crete at the Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

TIP: The audio guide costs €2 on top of the entrance ticket. It’s a worthwhile investment – you get far more information from this than you do from the information boards at each exhibit.

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The interior of the farmhouse at Lychnostatis
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The middle class bedroom in Lychnostatis

The main building is divided into recreations of two houses. The ground floor is a recreation of a well-kept farmhouse, including a kitchen and fireplace which would help keep the family warm droning the cold Cretan winter.  

The first floor – a bedroom – is set out similarly to how a professional family from Heraklion or the other cities in Crete would have lived.

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The ceramic display at Lychnostatis

In the cellar of the main house, don’t miss the weaving and ceramic displays. These are two of the best in the Museum – though overall they are outstanding throughout.

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The shepherd’s hut

There are several smaller buildings around the Garden.  These include a very basic circular stone shepherd’s hut, with just enough room to lie down. You occasionally still see these huts, or remnants of them, if you’re hiking in some of the higher pasture areas.

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The tiny schoolroom at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

There are several interactive exhibits to make things more interesting for kids, and they may well be fascinated by the tiny classroom. Around twenty desks are crammed into this very small space, which is lit by a very small window. 

The classroom had a few items from the 1950s, and it’s hard to imagine having to learn in such cramped – not to mention sweltering – conditions.

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The beautiful chapel at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum
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A closer view of the seaside chapel

I also loved the gorgeous whitewashed seaside chapel, which was in situ before the Museum was built.    It’s very similar to some of the churches in Santorini. You see many chapels and churches as you travel around Crete, but few are as exquisite as this. Every kid there made sure they rang the bell several times, a wonderful soundtrack to our visit.

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The fishing boat at Lychnostatis

There is also a small fisherman’s hut close to the chapel and seashore, along with a small fishing boat. The hut is one of several shady spots around the grounds where you can get some relief from the hot Cretan sun.

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Clothes washing Cretan old style: olive oil, potash, indigo and other delights
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Everything you needed to wash your clothes: give us detergent any day

One of my favourite parts of the Museum is the clothes washing exhibit. My grandparents, born around the 20th century, were familiar with parts of it, a very long, laborious and elaborate process.

The Cretan version involved frying olive oil in a cauldron, making a caustic potash solution, and adding indigo. My heart goes out to every poor soul who had to do this, especially in the scorching heat.

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The Herbarium at Lychnostatis

There is also a small souvenir shop and great café just before you leave the museum. If you’re walking back to Hersonissos or Stalis, enjoy some cooling drinks before you head on your way.

Where Is Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

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The sign outside the Museum at Lychnostatis

Lychnostatis Museum is at the eastern end of the seaside resort of Hersonissos, on the northern coast of Crete.

It is also 30 km (19 miles) east of Heraklion, the capital of Crete, by road.

How To Get To Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

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The windmill on the main building at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

Lychnostatis Open Air Museum is easy to reach by car, and straightforward to reach by bus.

If you’re driving, it’s just off the old main coast road between Malia and Hersonissos. The two resorts practically merge into each other, and Lychnostatis Open Air Museum is very close to the village of Stalis, also known as Stalida.

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Part of the exhibit on the Cretan Revolt

You can leave the main E75 / E90 road which crosses northern Crete at either the Malia or Hersonissos junction, and follow the old road from there.

Alternatively, the bus passes close to the Museum. If travelling from the Malia direction, ask the conductor to let you off at the ‘Mediterraneo’ stop. I was advised that, if travelling in this direction, the stop doesn’t have a number, unlike all others on the route.

If travelling from Heraklion or Hersonissos towards Malia then ask to get off at stop 25. From there, cross the main road, then take the path and steps down from it, and turn right. From there it’s a 150-metre walk to the Museum.  

For up-to-date bus times, check the KTEL bus website.

Places To Visit Near Lychnostatis Open Air Museum

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Iliostasi Beach

Lychnostatis is in the middle of one of the biggest concentrations of beaches in Crete. So stopping by at one of these may well be in your plans.

You can reach one of the Hersonissos beaches by walking out of the back gate of the Museum.  Iliostasi Beach is one of the quieter beaches around the town, mainly because of its distance from it.  

There are two small coves – one rocky, one a mixture of sand and pebbles. You can hire sunbeds and umbrellas there, and they also sell Cretan craft beer there.

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Sarantari Beach

The other beaches in Hersonissos vary greatly. Most of them are small and crowded, particularly in July and August. The likes of Star Beach Resort have enough activities and facilities to keep you around the resort for your whole holiday. 

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Some of the best Hersonissos beaches are just to the north of the town

We tended to gravitate more towards the beaches on the northern side of Hersonissos, especially Sarantari Beach and Gefyri Beach. These beaches are still ‘organised’, with umbrellas, beds and bars. We preferred them because of the wilder scenery, more space and shelter from the prevailing winds.

I also recommend a few hours visiting the three hillside villages above Hersonissos. Old Hersonissos, Piskopiano and Koutouloufari are much quieter than the resort down the hill, and each has a good selection of tavernas serving high quality Cretan food.

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Potamos Beach
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Sunset on Malia Beach

Most of the Malia beaches are similarly busy, attracting a mixture of the young party crowd and families. The best of these are Stalis Beach (Stalida), just down the hill from Lychnostatis Open Air Museum, and Potamos Beach, at the far end of Malia.  

I also recommend spending a couple of hours exploring Malia Old Town and eating at one of its excellent tavernas. Malia Minoan Palace is also worth an hour’s visit – it’s one of the best ancient sites in Crete to visit.

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Sissi Crete Harbour

Beyond Malia, Sissi Crete is a gorgeous fishing village with stunning mountain views and wonderful sunsets down the coast.    From there, the mountain road threads through the narrow Selinari gorge and on to Agios Nikolaos, the largest city in eastern Crete.

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Beach umbrellas at Voulisma

It’s a great base for exploring Mirabello Bay, especially tropical Voulisma Beach and the breathtaking scenery around Elounda. Boat trips also run from there and Plaka to Spinalonga, a fortified island used as a leper colony until 1957.

West of Hersonissos, there plenty of family attractions along the road to Heraklion. My son and I enjoyed Dinosauria Park in Gournes, and the nearby CretAquarium, which gives thorough coverage of marine life around the largest island in Greece.

And beyond these, there are many things to do in Heraklion, the capital of Crete, including several museums. Don’t miss my guide to visiting Heraklion Archaeological Museum, my recommendation for the best museum in Crete. They are great places to visit if you want to discover more about the earlier history of Crete.

Lychnostatis Open Air Museum – Final Words

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A cart with traditional amphorae at Lychnostatis Open Air Museum
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The stunning whitewashed chapel at Lychnostatisel

Lychnostatis Open Air Museum is fantastic. It’s such a labour of love, beautifully assembled and put together.  For me, it does the job perfectly. Just as much as the beaches and scenery, this made me want to go out and ravenously discover more and more of Crete.

I’ll even go so far as to say it’s one of the best places to visit in Crete. It’s well worth travelling across the island to see it. Don’t miss it.

Explore more of Crete:

  • Things To Do In Chania – discover the most beautiful city in Crete, indeed, perhaps, Greece
  • Balos Beach Crete – breathtaking lagoon beach in the north-west corner of Crete
  • Falassarna Beach – wild series of stunning beaches backed by mountains on the west coast of Crete
  • Elafonissi Beach – one of the spectacular pink beaches in Crete
  • Kedrodasos Beach – glorious pristine beach and coves in a grove of rare juniper trees
  • Things To Do In Rethymno – discovering Crete’s enchanting third city
  • Rethymno Beaches – 20 of the best beaches in Rethymno province in central and western Crete
  • Panormos Crete – complete guide to this charming fishing village on Crete’s north coast
  • Arkadi Monastery Crete – fascinating monastery and church, site of infamous massacre during the Cretan Revolt
  • Kalypso Beach Crete – a fjord, of all things, in Crete – and one of the best places to swim and snorkel in Greece


Image of David Angel found of Delve into Europe Travel Blog / Website

David Angel is a British photographer, writer and historian. He is a European travel expert with over 30 years’ experience exploring Europe. He has a degree in History from Manchester University, and his work is regularly featured in global media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Times.  David is fluent in French and Welsh, and can also converse in Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Polish.