Heraklion in Crete
Heraklion, or Iraklion, is with its 140,000 inhabitants the largest city in Crete, and the fourth largest city in Greece after Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras. You will love Heraklion if you like big Greek noisy cities, if not, you will long to leave the city as soon as you can. Few tourists stay long, the majority only stay for one night or two.
The nice market street in Heraklion.
TRAVEL TO HERAKLION
Most visitors travel independently to Heraklion. The range of package tours is poor if you compare with the regional units of Chania and Rethymno. But there are some package-tour resorts in the regional unit of Heraklion, for example Analipsi, Anissaras, Fodele and Hersonissos. If you travel here independently, it is easiest to buy a flight-only seat on a charter flight.
The airport is located about five kilometres east of the city of Heraklion. To get from the airport to the centre, you can go by airport bus or by taxi. If you do not find any flight-only seat to Heraklion, you can fly to Chania and travel on by bus or rental car.
The Koules fortress and the marina of Heraklion.
Another option is to go by air to Athens and fly on by domestic flight or go by ferry to Heraklion. Other, but not as good, options are to take the plane to Santorini, Rhodes or Karpathos and continue by ferry to Crete.
Heraklion is a rather ugly city, there are even those who think it is the ugliest city in Greece. I don't know if I can agree with that. Of course I have not seen all the cities in Greece, but still.
I think that Heraklion is quite charming, it might be owning to the fact that I like unruly Greek cities. The fact that many consider the city to be ugly is not the city's fault, but a war's fault. Heraklion was bombed during the Second World War and many of the city's Venetian and Turkish buildings were destroyed. Only a few of the old buildings remain. Unfortunately.
The Venetian Loggia in Heraklion.
Most things in Heraklion revolve around the harbour, the seafront and the neighbourhood around the car free street 25th Avgoustou, which originates at the Venetian port and the Koules fortress that dominates the port entrance. Today the fortress - from the 16th century - holds art exhibitions and concerts. It is open every day except Mondays between 08:30 and 19:00.
The pedestrianized street is lined with beautiful neoclassical buildings that house, among other things, banks, travel agencies and tourist shops. Here - and along the many side streets - there are plenty of restaurants, tavernas, bars and cafes. The most interesting sights along the street are the church of Agios Titos, the Venetian Loggia and the beautiful square Plateia Eleftheriou Venizelou.
Lion Square in Heraklion.
The square is commonly known as the Lion Square after the great lion fountain in the middle of the square. The pedestrianized street ends just after the fountain. A little further on - after the crossing - the street 1866 has its beginning and here you will find Heraklion's market with many fish, meat and vegetable stalls. The street ends at a cosy outdoor cafe where there is a beautiful fountain called Bembo.
The main reason why Heraklion (despite the city's reputation for being so ugly) is visited by a large number of tourists each year is the Minoan culture. The Minoans inhabited Crete during the Bronze Age and created a high standing civilization. When other peoples lived in huts, the Minoans built sewage systems, paved roads and built palaces, including the palaces of Knossos, Phaestos and Malia. The name Minoans comes from Minos, which according to Greek mythology was the king of Crete during ancient times.
Knossos is located five kilometres south of Heraklion.
The Minoan culture collapsed around 1400 BC, one still do not know why it disappeared. There are many theories. One theory claims that it was due to a huge volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini. There is a lot one do not know about the Minoans, for example, one still do not know what language they spoke.
The main reason why people travel to Heraklion is to visit the Archaeological Museum and the Minoan Palace of Knossos, 5 kilometres south of Heraklion.
One of many nice tavernas in Heraklion.
ACCOMMODATION IN HERAKLION
There are plenty of good accommodation options in Heraklion. We've stayed here twice, and we had a very good accommodation once, and a not as good once.
Here are suggestions for good hotels in Heraklion.
Agios Titos is one of the most interesting sights in Heraklion.