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Heraklion (Greek Ηράκλειον, also transliterated as Heraklio, Iraklion or Irakleio) [11] is the major city and capital of the largest Greek island of Crete. Its Archaeological Museum holds the remains of the 3000-year old Minoan civilization, which grew around the nearby legendary palace of Knossos (of Minotaur fame), as well as Byzantine churches and a well-preserved Venetian wall and fortress from the 15th century.


Heraklion (or Herakleion, Iraklio, Irakleion) is the capital of Crete and an industrialised city of around 155,000 residents. The modern city is densely populated and traffic choked, at first overwhelming the visitor. However, in recent years, things have begun to change and efforts are being made to bring out the beauty of the city's rich cultural history. Strolling along the coastline, the city wall, or down a park can reveal various historical remains of potentially immense interest to the watchful eye. The knowledgeable visitor will be able to trace the past under the urban sprawl of the present. The core of the city is still enclosed and defined by the Venetian wall, which includes seven outjutting bastions. In the southernmost of these, the Martinengo Bastion, is the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis standing on a windswept hilltop with its moving inscription, "I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free."


Heraklion has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry with clear skies. Dry hot days are often relieved by a system of seasonal breezes. Winters are mild with relatively little rain and rare frosts.

Get in

Located in the middle of the island, all roads lead to Heraklion. Heraklion has a busy harbour and very busy airport and usually is the starting point of travels to Crete and nearby islands.

By plane

Heraklion airport website [12]. There are daily flights from Athens airport and other major Greek cities by Olympic Air [13] and Aegean Airlines [14]. The recently established Athens Airways [15] also connect Heraklion with Athens. During summer, Sky Express [16] flies to several Aegean islands.

From April till early November charter airlines fly directly to Heraklion from many European airports.

By bus

Heraklion is connected with the rest of Crete by regular bus lines operated by two KTEL companies [17], [18]. The coaches are modern, comfortable and air-conditioned. Fare is reasonable.

There are two bus stations in Heraklion:

  • Bus station A, (near the Heraklion port), +30-2810-245020. The main station used by lines to/from other prefectures (Chania, Rethymno, Lasithi) and lines to the eastern part of Heraklion prefecture. (35.341179,25.139326)
  • Bus station B, (at the Chania Gate (Chanioporta) at the west border of old city), +30-2810-255965. Used mainly by lines to/from the southern part of Heraklion prefecture. (35.336886,25.123394)

By boat

There are ferries from:

By car

The only solution is to arrive to one of the big ports of Crete (Heraklion, Chania, Sitia or Rethymnon). Then you have to hire a car, if you have not done it yet. Remember that you need a written authorization of the car rental company to travel with the car in a ferry.

Get around

By bus

You can use the public city bus network to get around Heraklion, but you have to figure out the line to your destination. Online schedules state the departure time from the start of the route, usually the airport or port, and differ for summer [27] and winter [28]. Almost all buses pass through the centre (except line 21 and the Knossos Express). Buses are numbered according to the destination, and so are different for outbound and return. There are usually no routes or schedules posted at the bus stops.

  • Line 1 goes to the airport.
  • Line 2 goes to Knossos.
  • Line 6 goes to Amoudara.
  • Line 20 goes to the port.

Tickets can be bought from kiosks and small shops, and from automated machines at select bus stops. They can sometimes be bought on the bus at a higher price. There are two zones: the inner zone A includes the centre, the port, and the airport; the outer zone B includes Knossos and Amoudara. Zone A tickets (orange) cost €1,20 (€2,00 on the bus) and zone B tickets (blue) cost €1,70 (€2,50 on the bus). The Knossos Express between Amoudara and Knossos costs €5,00. There is also a one-day ticket for €5,00. For transfers from one bus line to another, separate tickets are needed.

Buses do not stop at bus stops, unless you signal the driver by raising your arm. When you get on the bus, hold the bottom half of your ticket in your right hand. The bus driver will grab the top half (side with number value of ticket) and the two of you will rip it in half.

By taxi

Locations of taxi ranks include:

  • Liberty square
  • Dikeosinis (near Lions square)
  • Kornarou square
  • Misotaki (bottom of 25th August)
  • Chanioporta
  • Airport
  • Port
  • Hospitals
  • Giofyro
  • Amoudara (Agapi Beach/Marilena)

The local taxi company can be contacted by telephone (2810 210 102) or online [29].


Koules (Greek: Κούλες) the Venetian castle in the harbour of Heraklion, landmark of the city


  • The Minoan Palace of Knossos tel: +30 2810 231940, +30 2810 226470, +30 2810 226092, +30 2810 224630 fax: +30 2810 241515 [email protected]. Full ticket: €6, Reduced: €3; Special ticket package: Full: €10, Reduced: €5, valid for: Heraklion Archaeological Museum and Knossos Site, Open Winter: Daily 08.30-15.00 Summer: 08.00-19.30. [30]] Knossos (Greek Κνωσός, the accent is on the second syllable) is the site of the most important and best known Minoan palace complex in Crete. It is located some 5 km (3 mi) south of Heraklion. According to tradition, Knossos was the seat of the legendary Cretan king Minos. The Palace is also connected with further legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, as well as the story of Daidalos and Ikaros. Excavation has revealed that the site was continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period (7000-3000 B.C.) until Roman times.
  • Koules, the Venetian castle in the Harbour (Greek: Κούλες)
  • Venetian Walls (Greek: Τείχη)
  • Loggia (Greek: Λότζια)
  • Morosini Fountain (a.k.a. Lions Square) (Greek: Λιοντάρια)
  • St. Minas Cathedral (Greek: Άγιος Μηνάς)
  • St. Titus Church (Greek: Άγιος Τίτος)
  • St. Catherine of the Sinaites Church (Greek: Αγία Αικατερίνη Σιναϊτών)
  • St. Mark's Basilica (Greek: Βασιλική Αγίου Μάρκου)
  • Dominican Church of St. Peter (Greek: Άγιος Πέτρος Δομηνικανών)

Museums and Galleries

  • Historical Museum of Crete [31] Sofokli Venizelou 27, tel. +30 2810 288708, is a multi-faceted museum narrating seventeen centuries of history on the island, from Early Christian times to the modern era.
  • Heraklion Archaeological Museum [32] 2 Xanthoudidou Street, tel. +30-2810-224630, 280370, fax +30-2810-332610, houses the most important and representative finds from Minoan civilisation and excavations across the island of Crete. Highlights include statues of the Snake Goddess, the famous Bull-Leaping Fresco, the enigmatic and mysterious Phaistos Disk, and Minoan seals and jewelery. Also includes a number of finds from Classical Greek and Roman periods. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the world's great museums, embodying a whole splendid vanished culture. At least two hours should be allowed to see it, and it could easily take longer. For those seriously interested in that culture, it will be worth while to make two visits to the museum, one before, and one after, visiting Knossos and other Minoan sites: seeing the museum first will enhance your understanding of the sites, and after seeing the sites, you'll be better able to understand the artifacts in the museum when you return.
  • Museum of Cretan Ethnology, Voroi Pirgiotissis - Vori, Heraklion, This little museum, in Vori - a pretty, traditinal village near Gourtys & Faistos - really 'punches above its' weight'. it's full of traditional day-to-day objects such as baskets, farming implements, fabrics etc which depict everyday life in Crete over the last couple of hundred years. AND, unusually, it's very well displayed & perfectly titled, with clear descriptions in Greek & English. Absolutely charming.
  • Museum of the Battle for Crete and National Resistance Recounts the tale of Cretan and Allied resistance against Nazi invaders in World War II.
  • Natural History Museum of Crete, [33] University of Crete, S. Venizelou Ave., Tel: Reception-Bookings +30 2810 393630, Fax: +30 2810 393636,Email: [email protected] The Natural History Museum of Crete is housed in the renovated former premises of the Heraklion Public Power Corporation, on Dermatas’ Bay and it is the largest exhibition of its kind in the Mediterranean, showcasing the natural environment of Crete and the wider Mediterranean area. Visitors have the opportunity to explore Cretan ecosystems alongside their equivalents in mainland Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean via dioramas, i.e. full-scale models of natural landscapes. Other areas are dedicated to exhibits such as the Giant Deinotherium, the largest prehistoric animal ever to live on Crete, the Living Museum, a display of typical animals of Crete and the Mediterranean, the Enceladus, an earthquake simulator where one can experience several earthquakes known to have occurred in different areas in the past, as well as the Erevnotopos Discovery Centre, an area specially designed for younger visitors, where they can dig for fossils and explore Cretan nature hands-on. In 2016 it also holds three temporary exhibitions; "Dinosaurs extreme", with real-size reconstructions of dinosaurs with extreme characteristics (the largest, the smallest, the oldest, the fastest and of course the famous T-rex). The second exhibition, "Light Mysteries", is an exhibition which includes aspects of holography and optics, through experiments and illusions. There is also the display “Crete, a continent in an island“, featuring numerous exhibits and micro-dioramas on the biodiversity and geodiversity of Crete. Qualified personnel can inform you about the exhibits or you can aso have a guided tour.
  • Historical Museum of Crete, 27, Sofokli Venizelou Ave. /7, Lysimachou Kalokerinou St., Tel: (++30) 2810 283219, 288708, [34].
  • Lychnostatis open-air Cretan folklore museum, Tel: +3028970-23660, [35]. Su-F 9AM-2PM. €4,50.
  • CretAquarium Thalassocosmos open June -September 09:00-21:00 October-May 09:00-19:00 tel Reception: +30 2810-337788 Bookings: +30 2810-337888, fax: +30 2810-337882 [36], the biggest aquarium in the Eastern Mediterranean. Located about nine miles east of Heraklion on the National Road (signposted) or by Cretan Intercity Bus (tel +30 2810 246530); for more information call the Reception number, above.
  • Nikos Kazantzakis Museum [37]. Open daily from 9AM-7PM (Mar-Oct); 10AM-3PM (Nov-Feb), €3, tel +30 2810-741689, in the village of Myrtia (Varvari) 15 km. south of Heraklion, directions on the museum's web site [38] focuses on Crete's most prominent modern intellectual figure.


  • Heraklion Summer Arts Festival - from June to September
  • Amoudara the city's beach area; a three kilometer strip of sandy beach, lots of cafes, bars and hotels and the site of "Technopolis", a modern multiplex cinema and open-air theatre.
  • Horseback riding, experienced and amateur riders can ride at the beach of Karteros, or take riding lessons at Ippikos Omilos Hrakliou, located 6km east of Heraklion, in Karteros.
    Horseback riding at the sandy beach of Karteros -6km east of Heraklion
  • Rock climbing, localers and visitors can climb on a 50 foot rock at the suburb of Karteros, east of Heraklion. Safety equipment is provided, but one can use their own gear too.
  • Water fun, at the nearby Water City and Aqua Plus water parks.
  • Sailing (Heraklion Sailing Club ~ Ιστιοπλοϊκός Όμιλος Ηρακλείου Tel:2810242120 - email: [email protected]) - take sailing lessons, enjoy sailing trips, Charter a yacht and discover the Aegean islands. Located in the former premises of the port refrigeration plant, East of the Port Authorities.
  • Matala Beach Festival - Around June for 2013 is 21-24 june


  • The University of Crete [39] is the leading higher education institution on the island of Crete. The University was established in 1973 and operates under the supervision of the State. The seat of the University is in Rethymno, with Heraklion hosting the School of Sciences and Engineering and that of Health Sciences.



  • Visit the central open market in Meidani square and buy mountain herbs, spices and folk natural remedies.



Throughout most of the downtown, it is easy to find cheap tavernas (ταβερνα) offering full meals for under €20 for two people (eating alone in Crete would be a bizarre affair.) There are many tavernas on the Western end of the waterfront which offer a great view out over the water, and back towards the Venetian fort. "Thalassinos Kosmos" (Leoforos Sofokli Venizelou 11) is on the far western end: don't be suprised if you are greeted with a kiss, and brought a free dessert at the end of your meal. A strict budget can be met bu sticking to the supermarkets which provide the usual array of fruits, vegetables and cheese for modest prices (€5/day is quite feasible.) Definitely don't feel the need to avoid the downtown cafes, who will offer the local breakfast treat bougatsa, a local pastry with cottage cheese, served with honey, or cinnamon and sugar. Also available are the usual complement of pastry shops for standard meals such as spanakopita (spinach pie) and various cheap deserts.


  • Heraklion Sailing Club(Greek: Istioploikos or Ιστιοπλοϊκός) Heraklion Harbour Tel: +30 2810 22 8118. Classic seafood restaurant facing the Venetian Castle. Specialities include charcoal grilled fish, seafood salads, clams, and the award winning mussel risotto. Located in the former premises of the port refrigeration plant, east of the Port Authority. Sailing Club membership is not required for the restaurant.
  • Pagopieion (Ice-Factory) is a "quirky", very different restaurant and cafe/bar, at St Titus square, by the church. You can sit outside and enjoy the setting, or you might be tempted by the dramatic decor to sit inside. Either way, the food is excellent, the menu different and interesting - Mediterranean with a twist. Good fish too.
  • Herb's Garden (The Roof Garden of Lato Boutique Hotel) The name has been inspired from the traditional Cretan herbs. Stylish, yet intimate and casual. Offers a spectacular view to Heraklion’s Venetian fortress and Cretan Sea. Opens from early afternoon and serves fresh fish, seasonal salads and fine delicatessens accompanied by local aperitifs like ouzo and raki and a variety of fine wines. Later in the afternoon there is special coffee and tea arrangements, fresh fruit juices, great ice cream, summer cocktails and drinks.


  • Tsikoudia, also known as Raki, is the the trademark of Cretan day and night life, a strong clear drink similar to Grappa in Italy or Orujo in Spain. It is made out of the 'must' of grape skins and twigs after the local production of the white wine. It doesn't taste like aniseed, as opposed to the Turkish raki. Most raki is 80 proof, about the strength of most vodkas, but some are much stronger. It's often served in small glasses after dinner with a plate of fruit or other dessert.
  • Cretan Wine: Try the distinctive Cretan wine, produced in the island for at least 4000 years. Labels: Sitia, Peza Union. The Cretans themselves drink so called 'open' wine, straight out of the barrel, like fresh white wine, and the sometimes very old dark rusty red wine, a bit like port. Typical Cretan wine varieties are Marouvas and Kotsifali (both red wines).
  • Alimeli, Alikarnassos (near the main road ikarou), +30 2813 009281. From 7 in the morning to 12 in the night. Sweets, crepes, waffles, ice cream.



There are two hostels in Heraklion. Both are situated in the city centre, only a 10 minute drive from the airport and a 5 minute drive from the port. One can go there by taxi. The taxi fare from the airport to the hostels at the city centre should cost less than €10, and from the port less than €6.

  • Heraklion Youth Hostel, Vironos 5, 2810 286281. Seriously, read the online reviews before booking. Not for the faint hearted. Fairly disgusting hostel.
  • Prince of Lillies Hotel, Old National road, Karteros, +30 2810 381645 (, fax: +30 2810 381644), [1]. checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. An excellent family run hotel in Karteros, about 7km outside Heraklion. (On bus route with hourly buses.) A great base for exploring the island either as a stop over as it’s 10 minutes drive from the airport. It has its own pool and is located only 200m from a long sandy beach. Prices depending on season. Double 30-50€.

Mid range

  • Pela Mare Hotel (Hotel with Pool in Agia Pelagia), Agia Pelagia, 71500, +30 28108 11510 (, fax: +30 28181 00001), [2]. Pela Mare Hotel is located in Agia Pelagia situated on a spectacular location offering monumental sea views, 15km west of Heraklion, city center. Standard rates vary from EUR 30,00 up to EUR 120,00 per night. For special rates and discounts visit the hotel's official website.
  • Mirabello Hotel [40], 20, Theotokopoulou, Tel: +30 2810 285052, Fax: +30 2810 225852, Email: [email protected] Good value, friendly atmosphere, very helpful staff. Rooms from €30-55 with discounts during low-season. Very centrally situated in a quiet neighborhood of the city. Nice views from the balcony.
  • Life Hotel [41], 50, Ikarou Ave, tel:+30 2810 243090 or +30 2810 343088. This hotel is walking distance to port and very close to bus station to catch bus to Knossos Palace, as well as other cities in Crete. Double €70. A good option if staying near the port and walking distance to downtown.
  • Knossos Beach (Hotel in Kokkini Hani), Kokkini Hani, Kato Vathia, +30 2810 761000, +30 2810 761204 (, fax: +30 2810 761610), [3].
  • Best Western Your Memories Hotel, Kato Gouves Pediados, 70014 - Heraklion Crete, +30 28970 43300, [4]. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. The Best Western Your Memories Hotel is a three-star S property with the advantage of being regularly inspected to meet the standards of the international brand. It is located about 15 kilometers east of the major Heraklion airport, making it a good choice for first or last night without having to stay in the city. It is also centrally located on the island, so makes a good base for exploring on longer vacations. There is an indoor and outdoor restaurant that serves a breakfast buffet and an indoor/outdoor bar. The restaurant will serve lunches and dinners on request during the tourist season. There is a good-sized swimming pool with separated kiddie pool and playground, and the hotel is set in landscaped grounds in a quiet residential area a 10-minute walk from the busy beach with numerous shops, tavernas, bars and clubs. Rooms, studios, and apartments are well-appointed with mini-fridges, and most have small kitchenettes. There is free Wifi in rooms and around the grounds.


  • Atrion Hotel, 9 Crhonaki St, +30 2810 246000 (, fax: +30 2810 223292), [5]. Fully renovated, this modern, minimal-style hotel is right next to Heraklion's vibrant center, with its cafés, shopping center, tavernas and museums but also a short stride from the seashore. double 75-110€.
  • Lato Boutique Hotel, 15 Epimenidou St, +30 2810 228103 (, fax: +30 2810 240350), [6]. Accommodation within a modern, friendly and luxurious environment with panoramic views of the Venetian fortress. double 90-112€.
  • Aquila Atlantis Hotel, 2 Igias St, +30-2810.229103 (, fax: +30 2810 22 62 65), [7]. Luxury, comfort and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Centrally located in a quiet area. Double €179-380.
  • Astoria Capsis Hotel, 11 Eleftherias sq., +30 2810 343080-2 (, fax: +30 2810 229078), [8]. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. €73.5-250.
  • Villa Helidona private pool (Villa Helidona private pool - Crete), Episkopi village - Hersonissos - Heraklion, [9]. Just 20 minutes from Heraklion airport, tucked away on the hillsides of the northern coast of Crete, you will find your beautiful holiday home in Episkopi. Swim in your very own large private pool. Indulge into the privacy of the home and the pool area. Relax rest and heal during your stay at this truly peaceful holiday home. All the comfort you need you will find right here in this beautiful and spacious luxury villa in Crete.
  • Galaxy Hotel Iraklio, 75 Dimokratias Avenue, +302810238812, [10]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Newly renovated, award-winning 5-star, Heraklion’s premier hotel for business and leisure. Warm, professional service, modern elegance and superior amenities. 127 rooms and suites (pool or city views), free WiFi, free parking, large pool, 2 gourmet restaurants, complimentary gym (incl. hammam), state-of-the art conference and event facilities, complimentary business center. Double Eur 95-230. (35.330523,25.138348)


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Get out

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