Heraklion in Greece: sights, tasty food, shopping and fun

Heraklion in Greece: sights, tasty food, shopping and fun

Heraklion is one of the best known resorts in Greece. It is known for its rich history, historic buildings and places of interest.

According to legend, it was named after Herakles, who performed his feat on the island of Crete. During its history, the conquering nations repeatedly renamed it, giving it the following names:

  • Handak;
  • Megalo-Castro;
  • Candia;
  • Handakas;
  • Heraclea; and others.

It dates from about the 7th century and after the Arab conquest of Crete it was the fort of Handak and at the same time the capital of the island. The Byzantines, Crusaders, pirates, Venetians and Turks have all campaigned here over the years. These nations, their invasions and conquests contributed to the history, culture and construction of the city.

The resort town is famous for its developed infrastructure, entertainment, hotels and restaurants where tourists can spend their time with pleasure. Also you can enjoy the sea scenery, beautiful streets and beaches.

Heraklion City, Greece: sights, tasty cuisine, shopping and entertainment - Photo 2

Heraklion in Greece: sights, tasty food, shopping and fun

Location

Heraklion is a city of Greece, which is located on the island of Crete, being its capital as well as the administrative center. It is located on the northern coast of the island. It is washed by the Cretan Sea, which is part of the Aegean Sea.

Crete is situated in the eastern Mediterranean and in the south Aegean Sea.

Climate and weather

Cyprus has a Mediterranean climate, which explains the inconstant weather on the island. The position of the island contributes to the slight fluctuations in temperature throughout the year – summer is not as hot as in other cities with such a climate, and winter is not cold at all.

The warmest weather for the holiday season is from May to September. From November begins the rainy season, which lasts until March-April. The temperature on the island ranges from +9 ° C to +30 ° C throughout the year.

Summers are hot, dry, with almost no precipitation. The average air temperature ranges from +25 ° C to +28 ° C. In June, the temperature can reach +35 ° C. The humidity in the evening considerably increases.

Heraklion, Greece: sights, tasty cuisine, shopping and fun - Photo 3

Climate and weather

September has an average temperature of +26.5 ° C . This weather is still optimal for the holiday season. October air is no more than +18-20 ° C, and in the second part of the month it begins to rain. November begins the rainy season, the weather becomes unstable and the temperatures change drastically.

Winter is mild, with abundant precipitation. There is no severe cold and frosts, only in the mountainous parts of the island. The heaviest and longest showers are in January, and February is known for the wettest weather. The average winter temperature is +13°C.

Spring is short and cool, and the rainy season is coming to an end. In March it still rains, the thermometer does not exceed +16°C. With the onset of April, it starts to get much warmer, the vegetation is green and blooming. In the evenings the air is still cold. In May begins a full holiday period – the air is heated to +25 ° C and above, and in the evenings it’s +18 ° C.

It is very economical to go on vacation from November to March, but at the same time the swimming season is closed, and the instability of the weather creates its own difficulties.

So the best and most profitable option is to go to the resort in April, May or September. The advantage of this season is the warm, sunny weather, pleasant water temperature, the prices of accommodation and transport are lower and there are not many tourists.

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Heraklion, Greece: sights, delicious food, shopping and fun - Photo 4

Climate and weather

Attractions

Heraklion is rich in different historical and architectural monuments. Among them are religious buildings like St. Titus Cathedral and the Church of St. Catherine. Interesting to visit the following museums:

  • Archaeological Museum. Dedicated to the Minoan civilization, which existed on the island of Crete, as well as its art. The museum consists of 20 rooms, which contain exhibits from all over Crete from different historical periods. The main exhibits are the Phaistos disc and the goddess with the snakes.
  • Historical Museum of Crete. It is dedicated to the history of the island from the early Christian period to the present. There are some works of art, historical, ethnographic, archaeological exhibits and materials.
  • Natural History Museum of Crete. Here you can learn more about the local flora and fauna, see mega-dioramas with Cretan ecosystems, contemplate large aquariums with reptiles. There is also a special room where you can feel an earthquake produced by a simulator.
  • Nikos Kazantzakis Museum. The museum, made in honor of the Greek writer, introduces visitors to his work and houses exhibits as well as the thinker’s literary heritage.
  • Museum of Fine Arts. It presents exhibits of art from different eras and modern times, as well as paintings only by Greek artists.

Heraklion, Greece: sights, delicious food, shopping and fun - Photo 5

Attractions

No less interesting are the sights of architectural significance:

  • The Palace of Knossos. A monument of Cretan architecture that has been restored by scientists. It is the largest palace built by the Minoans and the administrative center of Knossos.
  • Venetian Loggia. It is located in the center of the city. At one time in history, the building served as a clubhouse for the nobility. Noble, famous personalities often appeared here to pass judgment on economics, politics, and often to rest. Today the Loggia houses the town hall.
  • Kules Fortress. It is almost the main symbol of Heraklion. Displays the medieval history of the city, associated with the rule of the Venetians.
  • Aquarium of Crete. Located in Gournes, which belongs to the peripheral unit of Heraklion. It is the largest marine aquarium in the whole country. Here inhabit almost all the creatures of the Mediterranean Sea, from fish and seahorses, to individual aquariums with jellyfish.
  • Separately, it is worth noting the Lions Square, located in the center of the city. Its main attraction is the Venetian fountain Morozini, which was built in the XVII century.

Heraklion, Greece: sights, delicious food, shopping and fun - Photo 6

Attractions

Sports and entertainment

Water sports are quite common on the island, which include:

  • windsurfing (the beach of Malia with its entertainment center is suitable for this);
  • Diving (the village of Agia Pelagia with its diving center);
  • Wakeboarding (you can take lessons at Amoudara beach);
  • Snorkeling (easy to do at Amoudara beach).

There is also a yacht club specializing in sailing. He offers everyone of all ages, gender and status to participate in the program, to learn how to sail, the art of navigation, the basics of first aid. After training, the participant receives a diploma. You can also take part in various water competitions, contests, tours, races.

Tourists are invited to visit the amusement park “Labyrinth”. , which resembles a labyrinth system. For its passage, visitors are given a prize. You can watch or take part in the following activities:

  • archery;
  • miniature golf;
  • horseback riding;
  • organic garden;
  • ATV race;
  • pottery.
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Heraklion, Greece: sights, delicious food, shopping and fun - Photo 7

Sports and entertainment

In this part of Crete there is a center for cycling enthusiasts called Minoan Athletic Camp Cycling Center. All year round adults and children can go horseback riding .

Together with children you can visit the famous Watercity Water Park, which has various facilities for children (pools, bungee cords, etc.). There are play centers specifically designed for children of different ages, where you can leave them under the supervision of teachers.

The brightest nightclubs where you can have fun are Swing Thing, Jailhouse, Magazi Club, FIX CAF and others.

Transport

The main transport of the city is the bus. There are 20 lines, which are divided into two zones: A zone – includes a trip around the city. Goes every five minutes.

B zone – the suburbs, the outskirts, as well as some nearby villages. They leave after ten minutes. Buses that go through the city are blue, green is characteristic of intercity transport.

Heraklion, Greece: sights, delicious food, shopping and fun - Photo 8

Transport

To get to where you want to go in Crete or another city in Crete, two bus stations for the “green” buses are built :

  • Bus station A (in the west of the city);
  • Bus station B (east).

Cabs are popular. You’ll have to pay extra if the call requires you to arrive at the right time or if your luggage exceeds 10 kg. In the city there are special international companies that deal with car rentals. To do it inexpensively in the high season, it is necessary to book in advance. This service requires:

  • passport;
  • a driver’s license of international type;
  • visa;
  • credit card;
  • Age of 21-23 years old (depends on the company);
  • at least one year of driving experience.

A worthy alternative to the big companies are small local ones that do not require a deposit, international license and allow driving with the age of majority.

Heraklion, Greece: sights, delicious food, shopping and fun - Photo 9

Transport

Cuisine

The cuisine of Crete is famous for its various dishes of fish, seafood and olive oil . The most common quality cheeses that are worth trying are:

  • brynza;
  • anfotiro;
  • kefarotiri.

Of the drinks, in this area, Greek vodka is famous, as well as mountain tea .

One of the main appetizers of the Greek table is taramosalat of fish roe, as well as an appetizer of tomatoes, olives, bryndza .

Cretan yogurt is popular, as well as ice cream made with goat milk.

Heraklion, Greece: sights, delicious food, shopping and fun - Photo 10

Cuisine

How to get there

There are two ways to get to the resort. The easiest way to get to the resort is by plane. A direct flight is possible only in summer. At other times, you must go through the airport in Athens. Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport is located near the city center.

The second way is by sea from Athens to the port of Heraklion. Ships depart daily from the port of Piraeus. They have seating, cabins with full comfort. You can buy tickets both in the port and on the company’s website.

Shopping Tours

The capital of Crete is the center for shopping as most of the stores and malls are located here. Lovers of great shopping should visit the following stores, centers and chains:

  • Talos Plasa Shopping Center. Here are concentrated jewelry, cosmetic stores, cafes, and restaurants.
  • Fokas department store. A number of brand name boutiques with branded clothing.
  • The chain stores Cemely, Sarigiannis, Diamond Furs, etc. Here you can buy high-quality Greek fur coats.
  • Buy quality cosmetics is best in pharmacies or specialty stores. Souvenirs, as well as food can be purchased at the central and mobile markets.
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Heraklion, Greece: sights, tasty cuisine, shopping and fun - Photo 11

Shopping Tours

Heraklion

View of the Venetian fortress of Koules. Heraklion municipality.)

Heraklion is the historic capital of Crete. The city is the commercial and tourist center of the island, with its own rich history and traditions. Heraklion was renamed by the Turks during their conquest into Chandakas, but in the 19th century it received back its legendary name, Heraklia. It is the largest city of Crete, occupying first place with more than 120 thousand inhabitants.

Climate

The city of Heraklion has a Mediterranean climate. During the summer season the weather is dry and hot, so from May to October you can enjoy luxury beaches and magnificent natural beauties of the city. The temperature during the summer season ranges from +23°C in May and October, to +38°C in July and August. Heraklion’s swimming season in the Aegean Sea already starts in mid May, when the water temperature reaches +20 ° C. The winter season is relatively warm, averaging temperatures of +16°C in January, the coldest winter month. This period is ideal for trips to the many attractions of this legendary city.

Best Hotels in Heraklion

Olive Green Hotel. Heraklion

Modern luxury and high technology, impeccable style and elegance, comfortable rooms, cafes and high-level service. Learn more

Up to 15% discount hotel, plus 5% extra discount

Lato Boutique Hotel. Heraklion

Modern city hotel. Selection of comfortable rooms, 3 restaurants, bar, conference services, a small spa center. Learn more

Up to 15% discount hotel, plus 5% extra discount

Legacy Gastro Suites, Heraklion

Thanks to its convenient location in the center of Heraklion, the Legacy Hotel is a starting point for locals as well as for gourmet tourists to Crete. Read more

Up to 5% hotel discount, plus 5% extra discount

Attractions

Heraklion is rich in its historical sites and structures:

The Palace of Knossos is five kilometers from Heraklion. Its complex architectural form, similar to a labyrinth, as well as its many colorful frescoes inexplicably attracts tourists. The structure delights visitors with its artistically designed architecture and creatively finished ceramics. In the area of Knossos Palace, a bee-shaped ornament was discovered and has become the mascot of Crete.

Knossos, Crete

Knossos, Crete

The fountain “Morozini” (modern name “Lions”), was opened in 1628 by Francesc Morozini. It is located in the center of Venizelu Square. Its shape is a large bowl with four lions that support it with their backs. The water in the fountain flows into eight additional bowls located on the ground. The exquisite form of the fountain intertwines the technical and creative achievements of the 17th century.

In 1983, Nikos Kazantzakis Museum was founded and is located 15 kilometers from Heraklion. The museum is dedicated to the author of the famous novel “The Last Temptation” and the translator of the world famous works such as Goethe’s Faust and Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”. The halls of the museum conceal mysteries of light and shadow, just as the writer’s creative life itself, with its secret diaries and personal mysteries, previously hidden from people. The museum features rare audio and video materials.

In Heraklion, there is an Archaeological Museum dedicated to the Minoan culture. It is considered one of the largest and best museums in Greece. The museum consists of two floors: the first floor has 13 rooms and the second floor presents the exhibits in chronological order and delivers new ones directly from the excavation sites. The main value of the museum is the Phaistos disk, the only example of writing of the Minoan civilization. It cannot be deciphered until other examples of this writing have been found.

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Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

The Cathedral of the Apostle Titus is one of the most important Orthodox churches in Greece. The cathedral gets its name from the patron saint of the island who preached Christianity in the first century. The relics of St. Apostle Titus are kept in the cathedral near the entrance. The cathedral was built on the orders of the future emperor Nicephorus Phocas. An interesting fact is the change of religion of this cathedral during the conquests by the Venetians and the Turks. It was converted throughout its existence into a Catholic cathedral and a mosque, but returned to its orthodox origins. The minaret was turned into a bell tower and the cathedral was consecrated an Orthodox church.

The most beautiful attraction of Heraklion is the fortress of Koules, preserved since the Venetian period. It was built to protect the coastal area from attacks by invaders. In 1523-1540 the fortress was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake, leaving only rubble of walls. After the construction it has remained in this form to this day. The area of its constructions is 3600 sq. m. The walls built in the rock give the fortress a majestic and reliable construction. Previously built mosque was reconstructed into a lighthouse, standing to this day.

St. Titus Cathedral The fortress of Cules in Venice

Shopping

When buying a tour there are several questions: what to see and where to buy interesting souvenirs and things. Heraklion is no exception. Its area is replete with numerous markets and souvenir outlets, the main ones being:

  • Laiki bazaar and souvenir shops;
  • central market;
  • Jewelry stores and many other outlets.

The Laiki Bazaar is reminiscent of any European “stock. It’s where all the things that weren’t purchased in the company stores after the sale days are flocked to. Its location constantly changes: today in one end of the city, tomorrow in another, but usually on Thursdays and Saturdays it is located in the center. The souvenir industry is also rich. Here you can buy name-brand products such as: cosmetics, Cretan cheese and honey in painted jugs, spices, and much more.

A very popular place for shopping is the central market, located at 1866. In the old days, this market was the only place for daily shopping and was famous among the local population. However, the emergence of small markets on the outskirts of the city slightly pushed back the flow of locals, but among tourists this market is still the “central haven”. Here you can buy anything you want, from groceries to inexpensive clothes. If you get tired of shopping, you can have a great rest in the little cafes and tavernas that are located within the market.

Heraklion, Crete

Heraklion, Crete

In Heraklion there is a huge variety of jewelry stores and it is worthwhile to elaborate on them. They feature jewelry in metals such as gold and silver, with diamonds and tempting shapes. When choosing a store, it is worth making sure it has been on the market for a long time and to clarify whether or not there is a handmade workshop. Most of the stores that have workshops have a higher status. You can trust to a greater extent the quality of products in such stores.

Beaches and Entertainment

Heraklion is rich with its emerald beaches resorts, with rocky landscapes and lush infrastructure. Consider a few of them.

  • The beach of Ammoudara is located about 4km north of the city of Crete. It is a sandy beach, equipped with umbrellas, showers, cabins and other amenities. Near the coastal area there are a large number of hotels, restaurants, where you can enjoy the excellent Cretan cuisine. There are lots of water attractions.
  • The beach of Karteros, 7km east of the city, consists of small coves. The beach is very well equipped and offers a wide range of water activities, bars and taverns.
  • Stalis is a sandy beach, 2km long and is located 32km east of the city. This beach is very well equipped with all kinds of facilities and even boasts a lifeguard tower. Here you can compete in beach volleyball.
  • The famous Malia beach with the azure sea is an ideal place for windsurfing. It is located 34 km from the town.
  • Agiofarago is a mixed beach in the south. Agiofarago is located 82 km from the capital of the island. To get there, you can take a small excursion along the gorge, either on foot or by boat from Matala and Kali Limenes. The beach is not equipped, but it is worth a visit to see the Greek church and to enjoy the refreshing drinking water from the spring. The beach is surrounded by rocks, and climbing one of them, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the bay.
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Beach recreation is definitely considered one of the most versatile in Greece. In Heraklion you can combine active water and beach activities with complete relaxation on comfortable beaches.

Best Hotels of Crete

Stella Island Luxury Resort & Spa

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10% discount on Early Bookings, plus an additional 5% discount from Grecomania

Nana Princess Hotel

The Nana Princess Resort offers superior 5-star service and a wealth of 102 impeccably designed suites and villas. Read more at

Up to 15% hotel discount, plus 5% additional discount from Grecomania

Cayo Exclusive Resort & Spa

Elounda’s most elegant design hotel set in magnificent grounds with unparalleled views. Read more

Up to 40% discount hotel, plus 5% extra discount from Grecomania.

What to Try

Heraklion, like other cities of Crete, is famous for its excellent dishes of freshly caught fish, Cretan cheese, olive oil, seafood, aromatic spices. It’s a must to top off all the dishes with a Cretan wine with a harmonious bouquet of grapes. The harmony of taste of the wine products comes from the favorable weather and climatic conditions of the city. It is worth recalling that in addition to the richness of taste, wine in small quantities has a positive effect on your well-being. Gives your body a pulse of vigor and energy.

Heraklion, Evening

Evening Heraklion

The easiest way to get to Heraklion

The easiest way to get to Heraklion is by plane – with Lufthansa regular flights (from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Perm, Samara, Rostov-on-Don) with a connection in Frankfurt. You can also take direct flights with Aegean Airlines from Moscow. For fans of package tours with charter flights are offered the following airlines Aegean Airlines, Ural Airlines, Aeroflot, Kuban Airlines, Orenburg Airlines, Transaero, and others. From Greece and other islands you can take a ferry to the port of Heraklion. From the port of Piraeus (near Athens) sails a large ship in which you can buy a ticket in advance at a low price and comfortably sail to the capital of Crete.

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