Located in the heart of Crete, Heraklion is a cosmopolitan city with a rich history and a dynamic culture. A vibrant mix of modern and timeless, Heraklion reflects the past with its Venetian harbor and city walls.
Visiting the famous Palace of Knossos is one of the top things to do in Heraklion. The Minoan Palace is one of Europe’s best-preserved ancient archaeological sites.
1. The Old Town
Heraklion is the largest city in Crete, and a major tourist destination, with a range of things to see and do. The city’s historic Old Town is a great place to discover its past while soaking up the atmosphere and smell of old times.
A stroll along the waterfront takes you to some of Heraklion’s best seafood restaurants, an ancient fortress, museums, and amazing views. Take your time to explore, and don’t forget to stop off for a refreshing drink or ice-cream in one of the local bars!
Heraklion’s Old Town is surrounded by massive Venetian walls that tower over the surrounding area. These walls date from the Middle Ages and have been improved and enlarged over the centuries.
2. Ammoudara Beach
Ammoudara Beach is located in the north part of Crete and it’s the longest sandy beach in the region. It stretches from the centre of Heraklion to the mouth of river Almyros.
Its long length and the absence of crowds attracts a lot of tourists. It also offers plenty of facilities and activities, which make it an ideal choice for families with children and people who want to have a relaxing holiday.
It’s located near the capital city of Heraklion and it’s quite easy to reach. You can take bus number 6 from Heraklion’s center. It costs 2EUR and you’ll get there in a little less than half an hour.
Knossos is the site of Crete’s largest archaeological discovery and one of Greece’s most fascinating tourist attractions. Located just a short drive away from Heraklion, it is an unforgettable place of legends and history.
In the period between 1500 and 450 BC, Knossos became the center of Minoan civilization. Its most famous buildings were erected during this time, and it was known as the capital of the Minoan Kingdom.
During this period, Knossos was a very active city – it produced seal stone carvings, pottery (especially Kamares Ware), gold jewelry and likely also traded with Egypt. It had a complex administration that was documented by clay tablets written in a script called Linear A.
4. The Cretaquarium
As one of Europe’s largest aquariums, the Cretaquarium is a must-visit attraction. Located in a former American military base, the aquarium is a fascinating day out for kids and adults alike.
With 32 vast glass tanks, the aquarium displays the richness of Mediterranean sea life in a way that enthralls both children and adults. Spectacular sharks, jellyfish, and other creatures are showcased in turquoise sea water against a backdrop of rock formations and other Cretan marine landscapes.
The Cretaquarium is part of the Thalassocosmos building that is home to the Hellenic Center of Marine Research – the largest marine science center in the Mediterranean. Its 61 aquariums range in size from 125 to 900,000 liters and feature one hundred observation points to admire about 2,500 marine organisms, mostly Mediterranean ones.
5. Restaurants & Bars
Heraklion is home to a wide variety of restaurants and bars that cater for everyone. There are cozy cafes where you can have a cup of Greek coffee, as well as trendy clubs and bars that offer amazing drinks and a great nightlife.
Heraklion boasts a vibrant and active nightlife with live DJs, huge dance floors, and all-night-long parties. There are bars lining the alleys of the old town and lovely squares, as well as modern bars at Korai and Milatou Streets that attract young people.
There are many tavernas that serve traditional Cretan food, including fish and seafood with traditional recipes. There are also restaurants that offer traditional Greek dishes, and those that have more of a grill and Mediterranean feel.