Holidays in Heraklion
Heraklion is the capital and the largest city of Crete. The Byzantine era and the Venetian and Ottoman occupancies have left their indelible marks on this historic town. Today, Heraklion has all those characteristics of a big city. However, if you have a stroll in the city, you will discover many beautiful 'corners', bearing the glamor of past times!
Trademark of Heraklion is the Venetian fortress Koules, which dominates the harbor entrance, reminding a very sad moment in the history of Crete, as it is the place where Cretan rebels were tortured. Today, the fortress functions as a venue for cultural events in an attempt to disconnect it from the memories of the martyred past.
An important attraction of the city is the Venetian Walls with four gates and seven ramparts, which enclose the Old Town; Chandakas. This is the largest fortification in the whole Mediterranean! Gates, arcades, bastions and powder kegs compose a scene that seems to have sprung from the past! In the southern section of the walls, Martinengo bastion, there is the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis; a famous Greek writer. Today, several gates and galleries are used as exhibition halls or event spaces, while during summer months, the Bethlehem Gate turns into an open air cinema premise.
Reference point and meeting place for both locals and visitors is the Lions (Eleftherios Venizelos) square, where one of the most beautiful Venetian monuments dominates. This is the Morosini Fountain; the famous fountain with the four lions which were symbols of the Venetians’ power. Pay attention to the magnificent reliefs adorning the reservoir of the fountain.
During your stay in Heraklion walk down the pedestrian “August 25” street. Along the route, you will see magnificent neoclassical buildings, gift shops as well as stylishly cafés. Your eyes will be captivated by the impressive church of Agios Titos. An important landmark in the “August 25” street is the church of Agios Markos, which today houses the Municipal Art Gallery. There, exhibitions and concerts are hosted, while in the courtyard you may find the Municipal Band, playing covers of modern pieces! At this street, you will come across Loggia; the former Venetian noblemen club, where the Town Hall is housed today. If you are lucky, you might find one of the bazaars organized for charitable or other purposes with handmade and used items.
Of great interest is the Aquarium Cretaquarium- Thalassokosmos where fish, corals, tiny seahorses, jellyfish and sharks will take you into the magical underwater world!
Heraklion is home to several notable museums which include the Archaeological Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Historical Museum of Crete, the Museum of the Battle of Crete and National Resistance and the Museum Agia Catherine of Sinai.
During your stay in Heraklion, do not forget to visit Knossos, which will introduce you to the secrets of the Minoan civilization on a magical journey through history and time! There, you will see, among others, the famous Palace with the Royal Apartments, the Vaults and the Throne room, the Little Palace, the Royal Villa, the House of Frescoes and the Royal Tomb. The trip to the Minoan civilization continues with a visit to Phaistos and the Minoan town of Archanes. In the archaeological site Fourni, northwest of Archanes, there lies the largest prehistoric cemetery in the Aegean. At the Piso Livadia area, there is Vathipetro Minoan Palace. In one of its wings, a wine press was spotted, whilst in the courtyard, a mill installation was discovered.
It is also worth visiting the cosmopolitan Malia; a small town with two “faces”. The old Malia with its narrow streets, the houses with the bougainvilleas and the taverns with live music, is suitable for those seeking tranquility and relaxation. To the contrary, the coastal Malia, with its bars and nightlife clubs, is an ideal choice for those who love vivid nightlife.
In Heraklion, the present harmoniously coexists with the past, in a city full of life, which yet maintains with respect its great historical heritage. Whether you seek relaxation or prefer more intense rhythms, Heraklion promises to seduce you with its many "faces"!
In the Prefecture of Heraklion there are numerous beaches for all tastes!
In Hersonissos, in the northern coast of the county, you will find crowded, organized beaches with water sports and games facilities. Quieter are the sandy beaches in Limanakia. The extensive sandy beach of Malia is well organized as well as one of the most popular beaches on the island. Quite busy is the beach of Agia Pelagia, which is sheltered from the wind. Nearby, there is Psaromoura beach; ideal for families. Quietest are Mononaftis, Palaiokastro and Lygaria beaches. The vast Ammoudara beach has organized parts. Youth favorites are Kartero and Arena beaches.
In the southern part of Heraklion Prefecture, there is the wonderful Agiofarago Gorge ending up in a magnificent pebble beach. Equally beautiful is the unorganized Vathi beach, which lies in a very secluded bay. On the southern coast, there is the famous beach of Matala, which has combined its name with the hippies. The golden sand, the clear, blue waters and the small caves which are carved into the rocks compose a dreamlike scene! Nearby, there is the quieter Kokkini Ammos beach. Kokkinos Pyrgos beach is another organized beach. If you love isolation, you can choose Trafoulas or Psili Ammos beach with sand and pebbles.
- Minoan Palace of Knossos
- The Heraklion Archaeological Museum
- The Venetian fortress Koules
- The Venetian dockyards
- The Aquarium Cretaquarium - Thalassokosmos
- Agios Petros and Pavlos (St. Paul and Peter) Temple
- Rouvas Forest
- Fodele Village
- Agia Pelagia Village
- Zaros Lake
- Gouverniotissa Monastery
- Odigitria Monastery
- Koudouma Monastery
- Olive Oil
- Local Wine
- Pies with Fennel or Cheese
- At Matala beach
- At Malia beach
- At Agia Pelagia beach
- At Psaromoura beach
- Mononaftis beach
How to get there
The fastest way to get to Heraklion of Crete is to fly there. Heraklion International Airport receives daily flights from Athens, Thessaloniki, as well as from many European cities such as Marseille, Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Glasgow, London, Rome, Milan, Paphos, Oslo, Eidhoven and Stockholm.
For more information click here.
To Heraklion you can also travel by boat from the port of Piraeus, on the ships of Minoan Lines and Blue Star Ferries.
For more information on the routes check the web sites of the companies:
Transfer within Heraklion
To travel from the prefecture of Heraklion to Lasithi, Rethymno and Chania, you can use the KTEL Bus of Heraklion (Intercity Bus).
For more information on the bus routes from Heraklion to Lassithi click here.
During your stay in Heraklion, you can be served for health issues:
General Hospital of Heraklion “Venizeleio” which is located at Knossos Avenue in Heraklion, Tel: (+30) 2813 408000
University Hospital which is located in the area of Voutes in Heraklion, Tel: (+30) 2813 402111
Useful phone numbers
Heraklion Port Authority: (+30) 2810 24492, 24108
Heraklion Airport: (+30) 2810 228402
Police Station of Heraklion Α’: (+30) 2810 274010
Police Station of Heraklion Β’: (+30) 2810 274190
Police Station of Agios Myronas: (+30) 2810 722232
Airport Police Station: (+30) 2810 246720
Fire Department of Heraklion: 199
National Centre for Emergency Assistance (ΕΚΑΒ): 166, 2810 222222
General Hospital of Heraklion “Venizeleio”: (+30) 2813 408000
University Hospital: (+30) 2813 402111
Intercity Bus of Heraklion - Lasithi: (+30) 2810 245019
RadioTaxi (Heraklion): (+30) 2810 210102