A buzzing seaside city bridging the gap between yesterday and today, the capital of Crete has a plethora of holiday experiences to offer
What to do in Heraklion
Heraklion: a seaside city, full of life and history
The historic Candia, the city of Heraklion with its Venetian port is a modern capital with dozens of options in culture, accommodation, dining and entertainment. It is a city where you can enjoy the pleasures of today and the beauty of yesterday. Walk and savour the sights, like the impressive church of Agios Titos in the square, originally built by Byzantine emperor Nikephorus Phocas in 961.
Admire the Armeria (armory) next to St Titus, and The Loggia (City Hall) with its 82 metopes and beautiful arcades. Directly opposite you’ll find the lively Morosini (Leondaria) square with its lions’ head fountain. Moving on to Eleftherias Square, the striking feature here is an impressive building housing the Prefecture of Heraklion and the Law Courts.
The Venetians on the pier
At the entrance of Heraklion’s Venetian harbour, the Koules Fortress (also known as Castello Del Molo or Rocca al Mare) gazes proudly out to sea. It was built by the Venetians and took its final form between the years of 1523-1540. It has been repaired several times and during the Ottoman rule it served as a prison. Across the harbour the Venetian shipyards make for a romantic backdrop.
The walls of the old city: the threshold between past and present
Walking along the walls, you will see how beautiful this city looks from this vantage point. You’ll pause in small shady parks and admire the genius of the famous Venetian architect, Michele Sanmicheli, who designed the walls and bastions more than 400 years ago. The Venetian walls demarcating today’s old town were indeed an impressive feat of engineering for the time, making Heraklion the best-fortified city in the Mediterranean.
The master craftsman Daedalus built the labyrinth for the mythical King Minos in order to isolate the Minotaur, a creature that was half man, half bull. Theseus, the son of the King of Athens, slew him and found his way out of the labyrinth with the help of Minos’ daughter, Ariadne. The most important centre of the Minoan civilisation and one of the most popular archaeological sites in Greece, it is just 5km from Heraklion.
Cretaquarium: the wonders of the sea
Sharks, seahorses, jellyfish; you’ll be astonished by the variety of Mediterranean marine life on display. Cretaquarium, which includes 60 tanks with 1.7 million litres of seawater, is one of the largest aquariums in Europe. The aquarium is home to more than 4,000 creatures of all different colours, shapes and sizes. Crete knows how to surprise and amaze you!
A feast of flavours and pleasures
Enjoy dishes from the celebrated Cretan cuisine at one of the city’s many cafes, tavernas and restaurants, accompanied by traditional music, fine wines and tsikoudia (Crete’s famous firewater). Then move on to designer cafes, trendy bars, hip hangouts and pulsating dance clubs that stay open till dawn. The dining and entertainment options in Heraklion are infinite.
Where you’ll stay
Choose from the modern city hotels and boutique hotels among the centre’s historic buildings, surrounded by exceptional restaurants and bars with spectacular views to the Venetian port. Large, modern resorts may also be found at the city’s nearby beaches.
Beaches with character and charm
Take your pick: Ammoudara, a big beautiful beach just west of the city, completely organised with dozens of resorts. Tobruk, in the east, has lots of restaurants, hotels, and cafes. The Arena or Red Hani, a beach enjoyed by a young crowd, features hotels, shops, restaurants and beach bars playing music.