Things to do in Heraklion – Crete

Greece is a world-famous travel destination, that is host to millions of tourists every year. One of the country’s most visited destinations is the island of Crete.

The main things to do in Heraklion include:

  • visit the past at the Heraklion Archeological Museum.
  • for history buffs check out Castello del Molo.
  • go church hopping visit Cathedral of St Minas and Agios Titos Church.
  • spend a few hours walking around the Old Venetian Harbour.

Crete is the largest island in Greece, and it is known for the great bravery its inhabitants have shown, during critical times of history, thus the name “Levedogenna” which, roughly, translates as “the place where the brave born”.

Related Article : Things to do in Rhodes

Heraklion, is one of the four main cities of the island, and is a place with a long and captivating story to “tell”. Over the “march of time” the city has been controlled by the Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans before joining Greece in the early 20th century. Besides history, the city unravels so many beauties that leave its visitors astounded.

Must Do

Visit the ancient city of Knossos.

The ancient city of Knossos is a mixture of myth and reality. It was built about 9000 years ago by the Minoan civilization, which is considered the first advanced civilaziation in Europe. The city reached its zenith about 2000 BC, which is the time its main palace was built.

Knossos is fairly due to the many Greek mythological figures relative to the city, such as the Minotaur, King Minoas, Daedalus and Icarus, as well as the location of the Labyrinth.

While exploring the ruins of Knossos, you’ll learn about the city’s history and the famous myths surrounding it.You’ll, also have the chance to appreciate its unique and sophisticated architecture. The city used an impressive water system, that has never seen before in cities of the same age.

In its west “wing”, one can see the Throne Room, the Sacred Altars and the city’s Crypts, while in the east are the residents’ apartments and reception halls.

Going south, you get to see the magnificent wall-painting of “Prince of Lilies” at the Corridor of Procession, while if you head north you’ll find the iconic ,”Bull Hunt” wall- painting

What do you like best about your city?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind, is its people and how they think about life. Cretans are fairly known in Greece for their hospitality. They believe that the visitor honours them with his presence, so they treat him kindly and with respect. Moreover, their perception on life’s most harsh events is extraordinary, as they deal with their sorrows by singing and dancing. These are things that are “printed” in their lifestyle, and even a simple encounter with them, is enough to show you their kindness.

Best Walk in Heraklion

Venetian Harbour

Starting from the city’s modern harbour, head straight as you’re going towards the city’s center. The first thing that you’ll come across are the Venetian Walls. These walls are of unique architecture and were once part of the city’s fortification wall. They are now in great condition, and as you walk through them, you’ll ,surely, find the Renaissance inspired gateways magnificent. During your walk you’ll learn about the famous painter “El Greco” (or by his real name Dominikos Theotokopoulos), who was born and raised in Heraklion. Note that the entrance is free.

Continue going straight, and as you’re now exiting the walls, you’ll meet the Venetian Harbour on your right. This is where the city’s maritime activity happened in Venetian times. The port is now used by small fishing boats, which combined with the surrounding landscape, create a very picturesque sight.

At the harbour’s entrance you’ll notice the Koules Fortress, a square shaped building made to guard the harbour during the city’s occupation by the Venetians. The fortress was built to endure violent attacks, something that made it very well preserved, withstanding the “test of time”.

You can access the inside of the fortress with a fee (low price). The upper level of the fortress, offers a clear view of the Venetian harbour, while in it’s arched pathways below, are canonballs and old cannons. You’ll also find a lot of information panels, as well as a short film about the history of Koules Fortress.

If you continue walking straight past the frortress, you’ll meet a mole that is about 1,5km (1mi) long. If you decide to walk it through the end, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the modern and the Venetian Harbour. A small tip- try this walk in the late afternoon to catch the sunset!

Best Hotels in Heraklion

I have added a few of the best hotels to stay at in Heraklion. There are link that will take you to TripAdvisor for more information and customer reviews.

  1. Olive Green Hotel stands out with a distinct character. The name consists of two nodal words for the interpretation of its philosophy and personality that lies beyond. The Olive stands as a symbol of power, eternity, tranquility and prosperity. 
  2. GDM Megaron Historical Monument Hotel was built in 1925 and classified as a historical building the GDM Megaron luxury hotel is located in the heart of Heraklion overlooking the harbor within walking distance of all the major sights of the city. The great architectural design and interior decoration together with the warm – welcoming atmosphere and the high standard of services.
  3. Aquila Atlantis Hotel is situated close to the archaeological museum and commanding a spectacular view of the harbour. The hotel also has a variety of facilities and services that are sure to meet the needs of both business and leisure travellers. 
  4. Hotel Irini provides an ideal mix of value, comfort and convenience, it offers a family-friendly setting with an array of amenities designed for travelers like you.

Best Restaurants in Heraklion

Heraklion is one of the best places to have a real, greek culinary experience! If you want sea-food try “Ligo Krasi, Ligo Thalassa” (normal prices and big portions). If you’re more of a meat eater and you like wine, try “Peskesi” (a bit pricey, but worth it) or if you want something more casual, try “Peri Orexeos”. For those who are vegan, “To Rovithi” is a very good choice that combines good food, and a pleseant atmosphere. Avoid the sea-food restaurants across the harbor, as they are expensive, and of medium quality.

Best Music/Festival

Heraklion holds a lot of music festivals, especially during the summer months. However, it is one festival that stands out, and it is the Matala Beach Festival. The festival takes place on Matala, a beach near Heraklion which is full of caves. It is one of the most “must have” experiences if you find yourself on the island, during the days it’s happening. Live music sets of all genres,graffiti events, food,drinks-literally everything that you want from a party! You can even set a tent to camp there too, by giving a small admission.

Best Nightlife

The city offers numerous choices for every taste. If you want mainstream,club music, head to the coastal boulevard where you’ll have many choices. Or you might want something closer to a bar, try “Rolling Stone”, or “Jailhouse”. If you prefer wine and chill music, “Think Tank” is a very good choice.

Best Day Trip Out Of Heraklion

Heraklion is surrounded by places of exceptional beauty. Head to Agia Pelagia village, and visit it’s beach. Crystal-clear, turqoise waters and golden sand is what awaits you there. In the case that driving is not an option, the beach is accessible via public transport.

If you’re visiting Heraklion during winter, visit the village of Anogeia. Good food and snowy mountains, accompanied by the Cretans’ hospitallity, will certainly leave you with no regrets. Anogeia is also accessible by coach (low price).

Something that not Many Travellers Would Know About Heraklion

Like every place, the city of Heraklion, has its little secrets. One of it is the tomb of “Nikos Kazantzakis”, a world-known greek writer.

Head out to the coastal boulevard and walk until you meet castle wall ruins. Follow the ruins through the “heart” of the city. It’ll be quite a long way, so make sure you’re confortable walking. At the end of the walls, you’ll see some stairs that climb up the walls. You can take the stairs as you’re taking the road of return and have a look at the city from a different perspective.

While you’re at the stairs, there’ll be a sign that leads you to the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis. On his tombstone it’s written, “Den elpizo tipota, den fovame tipota, eimai lefteros!”, which translates to “I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free!”.

David Cronk - Editor

David Cronk is the editor of online travel magazine Travelodium Travel Magazine. David has travelled to over 30 countries of the world and his writing has been published by enRoute magazine - Air Canada's inflight magazine and by Hotel & Accommodation Management Magazine. David has worked as a Sales Executive for Sheraton and Hilton Hotels and for Hotelbookers in London. He has worked also as a Hotel Night Manager and in bars throughout Europe. David eventually settled into a position working as a croupier for several years before changing careers to become a Data, Sales and Statistical Analyst.

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