11 things to do in Heraklion, Greece

Sun, sea, antiquity: a holiday in Heraklion

Heraklion can be rightly considered the heart of Crete and one of the best vacation destinations in the world. The combination of the sun and the mild Mediterranean climate with the unique landscape and the historical sites, dating back thousands of years, as well as the bustling and active nightlife, makes you choose the place for your holidays in favor of this city. Sun, sea, antiquity: a holiday in Heraklion in 2022 can give you all that and much more.

General information about Heraklion

A brief historical background

Heraklion is the administrative center and capital of Crete, named after Hercules, who performed one of his feats here. Its Greek name is Heraklion. The city was also known as Handak, Candia, Herakleia, Handakas. The city originally arose as a harbor. Then, in 824, the Arabs who conquered Crete built the fortified fort of Handak. Later the city was rebuilt, captured and devastated by the various peoples – the Byzantines, the Venetians and the Turks. Only in 1913 the city joined Greece and in 1971 it became the capital of Crete.

Not surprisingly, this rich history has left its mark on the city and its architectural landscape. Today Heraklion is a modern city in Greece that keeps the memory of its history and offers all travelers a lot of entertainment and leisure. Do not ignore this city of Crete when planning your holidays in 2022.

A brief geographical background and climate

The city is located on the island of Crete on the Aegean Sea, 334 kilometers from Athens. The city of Heraklion has an area of 120 square kilometers and is home to 175 thousand locals. Administratively the city is divided into five districts.

The climate is, like the rest of the Mediterranean, temperate, mild and dry. The hottest months are July and August. The air gets warm to an average of 28 degrees. The water temperature rarely drops below 16 degrees, even in winter. The best time to relax is June-September. The spring is good for hiking, but not for swimming – the sea is not yet warm enough at this time of year.

Heraklion on a map

Safety in Heraklion

Crete is considered a good destination even for less protected categories of tourists: children, elderly people and young girls. However, in such a large city sometimes thefts do occur. Therefore, you should not leave your valuables on the car seats, as well as carry all available cash. Of course, do not forget about protection from the sun, and also – bathe only in suitable weather.

Planning your trip to Heraklion: your transportation and accommodation

How to get there?

You can get to Heraklion by plane, because the airport is located a few kilometers from the city center. Direct flights from Moscow operate only in summer. At other times, you can fly, for example, through Athens. Ticket to Heraklion in the summer of 2022 will cost about 8 thousand rubles.

Also, if you also travel through the main part of Greece, there is a sea transport to the city from Athens. Nine-story liners depart daily from the port of Piraeus. The cost of a comfortable cabin will be about 120 euros.

Public transport in the city is represented mainly by buses. In addition, they also go around the neighborhood, so with how to get around will not be a problem. You can go to other resorts, the ticket will cost a maximum of 15 euros. Well, if you like high comfort – you can always order a cab, the cost will depend on the distance.

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Where to stay?

The capital of Crete offers a lot of comfortable hotels (mostly 3-5 stars) with European service, as well as apartments and hostels. Here are a few examples of accommodation:

  1. Nice apartments in the city center with modern furniture, or two-star simple hotel will cost two tourists about 3 thousand rubles per night.
  2. Medium-class establishment with a swimming pool can cost two travelers about 5-6 thousand rubles for a day of stay.
  3. One of the luxury hotels – Galaxy Iraklio 5 * – offers rooms of different classes of comfort from standard to business rooms. The hotel has a SPA, a restaurant and wireless internet. The hotel is a 15 minute walk from the city center. The price for a day for two guests is in the region of 9 thousand rubles.

Travelling to Heraklion: where to go, what to see, what to do?

Even the most sophisticated tourist will find something to do in Heraklion and will not be bored. Sunbathing and swimming, exploring the ancient beauty, having fun in a modern way – it’s all possible on vacation in this city.

Beach and Water Sports in Heraklion

For lovers of passive recreation there are wonderful picturesque beaches with clear water. Heraklion and its surroundings are full of sand and pebble areas, where all tourists will find a comfortable place to sunbathe and swim.

There are equipped, as well as neighborhood and wild beaches hidden in the bays. In general, they all have a good entrance to the sea, which is convenient for families with children, and many are also marked with the prestigious Blue Flag. Here are some of the beaches of the resort area:

  1. Amudara. Amoudara is located 4 kilometers from Heraklion. The beach has an excellent infrastructure, as well as a large number of taverns, cafes and restaurants. It is covered with dark sand.
  2. Vateianos Kambos. It is quite popular with the locals, so if you want to see the lively and outgoing Cypriots and have a rest in a cheerful atmosphere you come here.
  3. Linoperomata. Do you like active rest? Head to this beach. The weather here is often windy and you can enjoy windsurfing.

By the way, from water activities in Heraklion and its surroundings you can dive (there is a big center in the village of Agia Pelagia), water ski, snorkeling, canoeing.

All the best beaches are 4-15 kilometers from the city, this is their peculiarity. Despite the fact that Heraklion itself lies on the coast, you will have to take a cab or public transport to all beaches.

You shouldn’t forget that besides the sea and the beaches, there are also vineyards and olive orchards, cliffs, big waves and breathtaking scenic views, which are also worth seeing.

Attractions of Heraklion

Inquisitive tourists will find stories about the history of Greece and the island of Crete. Fans of sightseeing walks in Heraklion certainly won’t get bored. A walk around the city (you should pay attention to Augustus Street – “Illusion Street”) can be an impressive excursion. In addition, it is definitely worth visiting the main local attractions.

The palace of Knossos was built more than 2 thousand years ago and is associated with the myth of Minotaur and brave Theseus. The most visited of the palaces of Crete. It is more interesting to visit it with a tour, but if you do not want to invest financially, you can easily find the palace – the road is accompanied by signs. Many details of the ancient architecture: columns, galleries, frescoes, stairs can be seen in the territory of Knossos Palace.

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It is worth to visit the Archaeological Museum, where you can find artifacts from different epochs from the Neolithic to the Roman Empire. It is the most extensive museum dedicated to the Minoan era. Ceramics, jewelry, cult objects, and everyday objects – you can devote at least half a day to the museum exhibits.

The Historical Museum of Crete covers the period from the Byzantine era to the Second World War. You can learn all about the life, customs and culture of the locals on a visit to this place. In addition, there are also masterpieces of Cretan artists and even a couple of paintings by El Greco.

Also in Heraklion you can visit the Museum of Natural History, which focuses on the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean, and the Museum of Fine Arts, which focuses on modern art by local artists.

You can even enjoy the spirit of history just by going to the borders of the city. It is surrounded by 16th century Venetian walls with several elaborate gates. In the center of Heraklion there is a Venetian fountain.

You can also visit a couple of local temple buildings. The Cathedral of St. Titus – the cathedral of the city, which houses the relics of the Apostle, who is the patron saint of Heraklion. The Cathedral of St. Mina – an imposing, monumental building, miraculously escaped the bombing during the Second World War. And the small church of St. Catherine of Sinai now houses a collection of church art.

From Heraklion you can go on excursions to other stunning places. So, there is an opportunity to go to the island of Santorini, visit the picturesque bay of Balos, enjoy the famous Athens and much more. The abundance of offers of guides in Crete will allow everyone to choose an excursion to their liking. You can also explore the surrounding areas of Heraklion. For example, 70 kilometers from the city are the ruins of the ancient settlement of Phaestos, founded by Minos.

Entertainment in Heraklion

Heraklion is not the only tourist attraction that the city is rich in. Those who vacation with their family may need to entertain their child in a simple and uncomplicated way.

Travelers with children can go to the entertainment water park WaterCity, which has both children’s areas and attractions for brave teenagers. This institution is located in a mountainous area, so at the same time enjoy the views. You can also go to another water park – AquaPlus, the largest on the island. During the summer in Heraklion is often Katerina Luna Park, most of its attractions are designed for children.

It is definitely worth a trip to Kato Gouves village, where there is a sea aquarium Cretaquarium Thalassocosmos. Sharks, jellyfish and many other animals are waiting for all visitors, by the way, there are audio guides in Russian, so that even the kids will understand everything you need. In addition, it is worth mentioning that some hotels in Heraklion provide services of nannies, animators, they have children’s clubs, so just choose carefully the place where you will live – so you will make the rest comfortable for the whole family.

The city and shopping lovers will be delighted by the large number of boutiques, cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Among the latter, tourists especially note the Paradise Club, which organizes stormy beach parties and invites famous and experienced DJs.

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Cretan cuisine is a real treat for the body. Fish and seafood, salads, dressed with olive oil, an abundance of homemade cheeses will please all travelers. Be sure to try the local snack of tomatoes, as well as goat milk ice cream and other dairy products. The approximate price for local fast food is about 4 euros, lunch in an average tavern will cost around 20 euros, dinner will cost around 25 euros.

Be sure to visit the local stores and shops, buy souvenirs and gifts. What to take as a memento of a trip to Heraklion? It can be Cretan goods such as:

  • pottery with Greek ornaments;
  • Cognac methaksa;
  • Textiles made from natural fabrics;
  • citrus honey;
  • olive oil.

Do you want to enjoy the local color to the fullest? Come to Heraklion during the Summer Art Festival. From July to September, there are performances, dances and concerts. You can admire both modern art and shows with a national twist.

Numerous agencies offer and other entertainment for guests of Heraklion. Jeep safari, yacht fishing, a trip on a stylized pirate ship – there is something for every traveler.

Heraklion is the true vacation center of Crete. If you come on a trip to the city, you’ll get to know the local colors, enjoy a variety of dishes, take excursions to mysterious places of Crete. You can competently combine relaxation on the well-appointed and clean beaches and discover the mysteries of the island. Young and old – everyone will appreciate this safe, interesting, comfortable vacation in 2022.

14 sights of Heraklion worth seeing

dostoprimechatelnosti-irakliona

Heraklion is one of the largest cities in Greece. Numerous monuments of ancient architecture, interesting museums, amazing beauty of the surrounding nature, rich nightlife of the city – and this is not a complete list of attractions of Heraklion, the capital of Crete.

No wonder that the city attracts so many tourists – both locals and foreigners – at any time of the year. What is worth seeing in Heraklion for tourists coming to Crete?

Koules Fortress

Koules Fortress

Koules Fortress | Photo: wikimedia.

In August 2016, after six years of restoration, the fortress called Rocca al Mare, built by the Venetians in the 16th century and a symbol of the city, reopened. In the exhibition halls a completely new exposition was presented, which tells not only about the history of the fortress, but also about significant milestones in the history of the city.

Among the exhibits are ancient amphorae, Venetian cannons, as well as finds from the shipwrecks around the island of Dia – they were discovered by Jacques Cousteau during an expedition in 1976. A special atmosphere creates a subdued light, passing through the muzzles of antique cannons.

Address: Koules Fortress, Heraklion 712 02, Greece.

Castle walls of the city.

The fortress walls of the city

Castle walls of the city. | Photo: wikimedia.

Modern Heraklion has long grown out of the ancient city walls built by the Venetians between 1462 and 1562. However, this massive defensive structure with seven bastions and four gates still grabs the eye, overshadowing the surrounding concrete structures of the 20th century.

Address: Venetian City Wall, Λεωφ. Πλαστήρα 25, Ηράκλειο 712 01.

Knossos Palace

The Palace of Knossos

The palace of Knossos.| Photo: Neil Howard / Flickr.

The palace of Knossos, which has been perfectly preserved, is the most famous monument of the Minoan civilization and one of the main attractions of Heraklion. It is located five kilometers southeast of the city. The layout of the monumental palace is extremely confusing and resembles a labyrinth – a complex of buildings arranged around a spacious central courtyard.

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That is why the Knossos Palace is often associated with the legendary Minotaur’s Labyrinth. The palace included ceremonial rooms, living areas, storage rooms, a complex drainage system and was also characterized by intricate decoration.

Excavations have proved that the site was a palace as early as the 2nd millennium BC, but the structure as we see today dates mainly from 1450 BC. Many of the frescoes of the palace are copies – the originals are in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

Address: The Palace of Knossos, Φειδίου 8, Iraklio 714 09, Greece.

Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

Museum of Archeology of Crete

Museum of Archaeology of Crete.| Photo: Carole Raddato / Flickr.

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is considered one of the largest and most important museums in all of Greece. The two-story reconstructed building in the Bauhaus style, a modernist architectural trend of the 1930s, is an excellent venue for displaying artifacts.

The museum’s exhibition spans a vast historical period of 5,500 years, from the Neolithic to Roman times. Of particular interest is the rich collection of monuments of the Minoan civilization. The exhibition halls differ in color, and the collections are presented both chronologically and thematically.

Address: Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Heraklion, Greece.

Aquarium of Crete

Aquarium of Crete

Aquarium of Crete.

This huge aquarium occupies the grounds of a former U.S. military base. It is home to about 2,000 species of marine life of the Mediterranean. The indoor marine park, equipped with the latest technology, is a great place to stay, especially with children.

You will have the opportunity to watch the dance of jellyfish, the lightning-fast movement of sharks, stingrays soaring in the water, swinging corals and glowing clownfish. Interactive multimedia allows you to learn more about the life of the mysterious and diverse underwater world.

Address: Cret Aquarium, Heraklion 710 03, Greece

Historical Museum of Crete

Museum of History of Crete

History Museum of Crete | Photo: wikimedia

This small Greek island has a complicated but surprisingly interesting history. The museum exhibition covers a period of 1700 years, from the time of early Christianity to the modern era. You can see religious artifacts, stone carvings, ceramics, textiles and folk costumes from the Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish periods.

A special hall is dedicated to the Resistance movement of Crete and to the heroes who died during the Second World War.

Address: Historical Museum of Crete, House A. & M. Kalokerinos, Leof. Sofokli Venizelou 27, Iraklio 712 02, Greece.

Fountain of Morozini

Morozini Fountain

Morozini Fountain | Photo: wikimedia.

It is one of the most favorite places of the citizens, reminiscent of the distant Venetian period of the island’s history.

Built in 1628 in honor of Francesco Mosorini, Governor of Crete, this fountain was once the source of fresh water in Heraklion. Nowadays, the fountain is surrounded by numerous cafes and fast food establishments, where you can eat and relax while watching the noisy crowd of passers-by.

Address: Morosini Fountain, Pl. El. Venizelou, Iraklio 712 02, Greece.

St. Titus Cathedral

Saint Titus Cathedral

St. Titus Cathedral | Photo: wikimedia

This majestic cathedral is located on the square of the same name, decorated with tall, sprawling palm trees. It was built in 961 during the Byzantine Empire. During the Venetians there was a Catholic cathedral, and during the Ottoman rule the building was converted into a mosque, where the bell tower was used as a minaret.

Since 1925, the structure is a consecrated Orthodox church. The most revered relic of the cathedral are the relics of St. Titus returned here in 1966 from Venice, where they had been secretly taken for safekeeping during the Turkish occupation.

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Address: Church of Agios Titos, Pl. Agiou Titou, Iraklio 712 02, Greece.

Lasting Tours:

Saint Minas Cathedral

Saint Minas Cathedral

Saint Minas Cathedral | Photo: wikimedia.

One of the largest temples in Greece, seating up to 8,000 people. The construction of the cathedral lasted at intervals for 33 years – from 1862 to 1895. The temple was built in honor of the patron saint of Heraklion – St. Mina. The interior design of the cathedral is particularly impressive: the wall frescoes; the composition of the three huge chandeliers hanging above the central aisle and the white marble iconostasis (the partition separating the altar from the main aisle).

Address: Agios Minas Cathedral, Heraklion 712 01, Greece.

Bembo Fountain

Bembo Fountain

Bembo Fountain. | Photo: wikimedia.

The oldest surviving fountain of Heraklion was created in 1550. Made from pieces of ancient marble, the Bembo Fountain is decorated with Venetian coats of arms and a headless statue of a Roman official found near the city of Ierapetra.

The fountain was once a source of fresh drinking water, which flowed through an aqueduct laid 13 km south of Mt. Juhtas.

An adjacent hexagonal structure was originally built by the Turks and served as a water pumping station. There is now a traditional Greek coffee house (kafeneio).

Address: Bembo Fountain, Pl. Kornarou 2, Iraklio 712 01, Greece.

The Venetian Loggia

Venetian Loggia

Venetian Loggia | Photo: Tony Fernandez / Flickr.

The attractive, elegant structure, restored in the 17th century at the initiative of Francesco Morosini, was something of a noble club. The important people of the city used to like to meet here not only for the solution of state issues, but also as a place for relaxation and entertainment.

Address: Venetian Loggia, August Str. 25, Iraklio 712 02, Greece.

Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts.

Heraklion Museum of Fine Arts is housed in the triple-nave basilica of St. Mark, built by the Venetians in the 13th century. The building has been reconstructed many times and during the Turkish domination it was used as a mosque.

In the exhibition hall of the museum there is a collection of Byzantine wall paintings of XIII-XIV centuries. In addition, the museum provides space for all kinds of seasonal exhibitions.

Address: Municipal Art Gallery, Pl. Kallergon 100, Iraklio 712 02, Greece.

Church Art Museum

Museum of Ecclesiastical Art

Museum of Ecclesiastical Art.

This small but fascinating museum is housed in an ancient 13th-century monastery. The museum collection includes works of religious art collected from various monasteries all over Crete – icons, paintings, manuscripts, woodwork and stone carvings.

The pride of the museum collection is the work of the famous 15th century iconographer Angelos Akotantos and six icons of Michael Damascene, a renowned representative of the Cretan iconographic school of the post-Byzantine period.

Address: Christian Art Museum, Karterou, Iraklio 712 01, Greece.

Natural History Museum of Crete

Natural History Museum of Crete

Natural History Museum of Crete.

The museum is a 10-minute walk west of August 25th Street. Huge dioramas and a large area of aquariums and terrariums acquaint visitors with the rich flora and fauna not only of Crete but of the whole Mediterranean.

Some of the most interesting exhibits are: the life-size giant Deuterotherium (7 meters long and 5 meters high) – an elephant-like representative of an extinct genus of ancient mammals; and a 3-D earthquake simulator.

Address: Natural History Museum, Leof. Sofokli Venizelou, Iraklio 712 02, Greece.

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