...Heraklion Port
photo by Daniela

Heraklion (Greek Ηράκλειον, also transliterated as Heraklio, Iraklion or Irakleio) 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 aroud 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 has been disfigured by a lack of any comprehensive planning or any serious commitment to preservation, which has resulted in a traffic-choked urban horror overlaying historical remains of potentially immense interest, but the knowledgeable visitor will still be able to trace the past under the ugly urban sprawl of the present. However, in recent years, things have began to change and efforts are being made to bring out the beauty of the city's rich cultural history. 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. Current weather conditions can be found here: .

Getting there

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

There are daily flights from Athens airport and other major Greek cities by Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines . The recently established Athens Airways also connects Heraklion with Athens. During summer, Sky Express 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 , . The coaches are modern, comfortable and air-conditioned. Fare is reasonable.

There are two bus stations in Heraklion:

  • Bus station A, +30-2810-245020, near the Heraklion port, The main station used by lines to/from other prefectures (Chania, Rethymno, Lasithi) and lines to the eastern part of Heraklion prefecture.

  • Bus station B, +30-2810-255965, at the Chania Gate (Chanioporta) at the west border of old city, Used mainly by lines to/from the southern part of Heraklion prefecture.

By boat

There are ferries from Athens (Piraeus) to Heraklion, Minoan Lines , Anek Lines and Superfast Ferries - and also there are normal ferries from Thessaloniki and Dodecanese - G.A. Ferries , and Highspeed Catamarans and normal ferries from Cyclades to Heraklion. G.A. Ferries , Sea Jets , Santorini Maritime and Hellenic Seaways . The frequency is reduced in the winter.

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.

Traveling around

By ferry

There are Highspeed Catamaran and normal ferries from/to Heraklion, Athens (Piraeus) to Heraklion, Minoan Lines , Anek Lines and Superfast Ferries - and also from Thessaloniki, Cyclades and Dodecanese to Heraklion. G.A. Ferries , Sea Jets Santorini Maritime and Hellenic Seaways . The frequency is reduced in the winter. Also every summer there is One Day Cruise from Heraklion to Santorini by cruise boat or highspeed catamarans

By bus

You can use public city bus network to get around Heraklion but you have to figure out the line to your destination. There are usually no routes or schedules posted at the bus stops. Buses do not stop at bus stops, unless you signal the driver by raising your arm. Basic ticket costs 0,90 €.

  • Line 1 goes to/from the airport.

  • Line 2 takes you to/from Knossos.



  • The Minoan Palace of Knossos tel: +30 2810 231940, +30 2810 226470, +30 2810 226092, +30 2810 224630 fax: +30 2810 241515 protocol@kgepka.culture.gr. 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. 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

  • Heraklion Archaeological Museum 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. Note: The Heraklion Archeological Museum closed in November 2006 for renovations. The museum's current status and date of full reopening are uncertain.A temporary, partial exhibit has been opened which is placed at the southern part of the old museum at I. Hatzidaki street, where someone can see the most important exhibits of the museum, among which are the Snake Godess and the Phaistos Disc

  • Museum of the Battle for Crete and National Resistance Recounts the tale of Cretan and Allied resistance against Nazi invaders in World War II.

  • Museum of Natural History, University of Crete, S. Venizelou Ave., Tel./Fax: +30 2810 324366,.

  • Historical Museum of Crete, 27, Sofokli Venizelou Ave. /7, Lysimachou Kalokerinou St., Tel: (++30) 2810 283219, 288708, .

  • Lychnostatis open-air Cretan folklore museum, Tel: +3028970-23660, . 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 , 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 . 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 focuses on Crete's most prominent modern intellectual figure.

Things to do

  • 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.

  • 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 his own gear too.

  • Water fun, at the nearby Water City and Aqua Plus water parks.



  • Heraklion Sailing Club(Greek: Istioploikos or Ιστιοπλοϊκός) Heraklion Harbour, GR-71262 Heraklion. Tel: 0030 2810 22 8118 Classic seafood restaurant facing the Venetian Castle, beloved by Heraklion's locals. Specialities include charcoal grilled fish, seafood salads, clams, and the award winning mussel risotto. Located in the harbour and opposite the Venezian castle (Koules)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.


  • Raki, also known as Tsikoudia, 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.

  • alimeli, 2813009281, from 7 in the morning to 12 in the night, alikarnassos, near the main road ikarou, sweets,crepes,waffles,ice cremes


  • Ambelos Apartments , Agia Pelagia, Ambelos Apartments and Studios in Heraklion Crete belong to the 4-star **** category of Agia Pelagia Crete Hotels and operate from April 15 to October 31.


There are not many hostels available in Heraklion, but if one searches hard he can find a couple of them. Both are situated in the city centre, only a 10' drive from the airport and a 5' drive from the port. One can go there by taxi. Most taxi drivers know where these hostels are. Actually, I can't think of a better way to find them. The taxi fare from the airport to the hostels at the city centre should cost less than 10 euros, and from the port less than 6 euros.

Life Hotel

  • walking distance to port; very close to bus station to catch bus to Knossos Palace, as well as other cities in Crete.

  • Not really a hostel, but a good budget option if staying near the port and walking distance to downtown

  • Address: 50, Ikarou Ave., Heraklion, Crete, Greece Telephone: +30-2810-243090 or +30-2810-343088

  • email: hotelife@hotelife.gr

  • website: www.hotelife.gr or www.irakliohotel.gr

  • Quads for 105 Euros, light breakfast is included

  • Walk down Ethn. Antistaseos Ave from the Port, when you see McDonald's, make a left. Hotel will be on your right.

Mid range

  • Mirabello Hotel . Very centrally situated in a quiet corner of the city.

  • LATO Boutique Hotel .

  • Heraklion Hotels


  • Aquila Atlantis Hotel , +30-2810.229103, +30-2810.229103, 2 Igias St, Luxury, comfort and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Centrally located in a quiet area.


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


  • The University of Crete 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.

Get out

  • Faistos

  • Matala

  • Agios Nikolaos

  • Rethymno

  • Anogia

  • Chania

  • Samaria Gorge

  • Spinalonga

Contact & location

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The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

Daniela, bazylek100, We Love Crete, phileole, bongo vongo

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This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Claus Hansen, Dimitris Valakos, Peter Fitzgerald, Jani Patokallio, David, Katia Lyon, Lefteris Mpastakis, Olwyn Rutter, Ricardo, Ravikiran Rao and Daniel Cowan, Whatsinaname, Tatatabot, Tatata, Weaver, Sailsetter, Stevepeterson, WindHorse and Pjamescowie

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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