Things to do in Heraklion: the ultimate Heraklion travel guide for authentic & peaceful holidays
Discover all there is to know about Heraklion, the capital city of Crete, for unique and dynamic holidays full of emotional experiences. Find out the best things to do in Heraklion for entertaining travels with your children or an immersive getaway with your significant other. Whether you’re seeking riveting cultural outings, indulging in authentic meals, or having laid-back beach holidays, you’re bound to find a little something for everyone in Heraklion. Read the comprehensive Heraklion travel guide to learn all the things you need to know to have marvelous and unforgettable holidays in the capital city on Greece’s largest island.
“Urban holidays in Crete next to the sea”
Be well-equipped for travels to Heraklion by learning some valuable things about the city before you start your Grecian getaway. Gain insightful information about interesting aspects of the area so you have the complete picture of things to do in Heraklion day and night. By having a deeper understanding of what makes Heraklion so unique, you are bound to feel eager to begin your Cretan holidays as soon as possible.
#1. Explore diverse typography of urban & natural wonders
The makeup of Heraklion is a true combination of interesting urban landscapes and rural beauty. Encompassing a bustling metropolis vibe, the natural seaside charms bring a breath of fresh air to the area. Whether you consider yourself a city person or prefer the peacefulness of nature, there are things to do in Heraklion to satisfy both sides of the coin!
Feel energized in a vibrant city
First and foremost, Heraklion is a lively city and home to over 175,000 people. Bustling with bars, restaurants, museums, and reliable public transportation, it embodies the energetic vibes of any great modern city. The city centre is a great place to visit for a day of exploring cultural landmarks followed by a bevy of local tavernas to choose from when you’re ready for a breather. If your holidays in Crete require vigour and vitality, Heraklion is perfect for you.
Chill out in Heraklion’s beautiful nearby nature
One of Heraklion’s most charming attributes is the nearby seascape mere minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Surrounded by the crystalline and bright blue Aegean waters, every seaside escape is like a relaxed vacation in and of itself. And with the peaks of Mount Psiloritis and Mount Diktys looming in the background, feel cocooned by a combination of cool mountains, lush palm trees, and sandy shorelines of the countless nearby beaches for a sense of total relaxation in the beautiful nature.
#2. Try a variety of local & eclectic food
The Cretan diet is a slight spin-off from the traditional Greek diet, but the emphasis of dishes bursting with vegetables, legumes, plenty of fish, and of course olive oil remains the cornerstone of every meal. As a one-time major trade route between the Middle East, Africa, and the rest of Europe, culinary influences from across the globe can be found in the fantastic local dishes.
Be adventurous with unusual & distinct delicacies
If you wish to expand your horizons while on your holidays in Crete, then there is no better way to have an immersive experience than eating traditional dishes unique to the area. Chances are, even if you’ve tried Cretan food back in your home country, there are some regional foods that are not on the menu at your local restaurant. Delicately prepared and steeped in long-standing tradition, give it a go with some of the more unusual and favourite local dishes, including:
1. Chochlioi boubouristi (fried snails)
2. Lamb with stamnagathi (wild chicory)
3. Askordoulakous (wild onion bulbs)
Indulge in the all-time classic recipes
For those who prefer to stick with dishes that are a bit more familiar, there are plenty of culinary delights available that are equal parts healthy, hearty, and delicious. Local ingredients are the star of the all-time classics, which usually have an ingredient list of only a few to honor the superb freshness and incredible flavors of popular dishes. Go on a culinary journey of epic proportions with the time-honoured favourite dishes, including:
1. Ntakos (rusk bread, tomatoes, myzíthra cheese, olive oil)
2. Sfakianes pites (flatbread pies with myzithra cheese & honey)
3. Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves with rice and fresh herbs)
#3. Explore the energetic squares
Heraklion’s city centre embodies plenty of heart and soul, and there is no better place to witness the infectious energy than at the local squares. Day or night, head to one of the many squares to see the many walks of life that pass through, check out street performers, or grab a local coffee at one of the several traditional cafes where life seems to slow down a bit!
Feel the pulse of the city in Lions' Square
Head to Lions Square to get a taste of what life is truly like in Heraklion in a place that never stops buzzing. Full of families playing, couples on romantic dates, and old men sitting at cafes alike, you see it all in Heraklion’s most famous square. Its landmark piece is the Fontana Morosini, an ornate Venetian fountain and monument that the once-powerful Republic of Venice bestowed upon the city. Surrounded by bars, cafes, and restaurants, it’s a great place to go to any time of the day to be in the heart of the action.
Be entertained for hours in Eleftherias' Square
Eleftherias Square, which translates to “freedom square,” has been restructured and renovated many times over the years to keep in line with the changing of times while still honouring its historical past. Today, it is a gathering place for locals of all ages who wish to visit nearby eateries that surround the area. It is also where the Archaeological Museum is located, so suggest doing an outing there before grabbing a local lunch at one of the many tavernas that line the streets.
#4. Enjoy the city’s exciting nightlife
Heraklion is well-known for being a vivacious city, which is partly due to its amazing nightlife. Once the sun goes down, visitors and locals come together to dance, sing, and rejoice in a culture that celebrates life every day. Whether you crave an all-night outing or something a bit more relaxed in the evenings, there’s no shortage of things to do in Heraklion at night.
Dance the night away at the many bars & clubs
Heraklion as a city is abound with bars and clubs ranging from new wave discos, to traditional folk music bars, to sophisticated wine bars. Sip creative cocktails in chic spaces along the harbour, or cheers with raki in more laid-back joints. If you feel like dancing during your Cretan holidays, don’t miss out on the various clubs, many of which are congregated in the city centre and stay open until the very early hours of the morning.
Insider tip: Head to the bustling street Sofokli Venizelou to find some of the most lively bars and clubs!
Find traditional entertainment at a taverna
Believe it or not, a lot of late-night fun and entertainment in Heraklion happens at local tavernas! Dinners in Heraklion begin as late as 10 pm and are a festive affair whereby friends and family gather in large groups, share dishes “family style,” and order plenty of rounds of drinks. Opt for the homemade house wine served in a traditional carafe, or if you’re feeling brave, sip on raki, the very strong Cretan liquor. Be ready at a moment’s notice for a local to whip out their bouzouki, a small Greek guitar, as the restaurant breaks out into traditional song and dance!
#5. Explore the past with things to do in Heraklion for history buffs
A Heraklion travel guide simply would not be complete without emphasizing the enormous historical significance of the surrounding area. Remarkable monuments from millennia ago offer a glimpse into what once was on the island, while extraordinary museums keep the spirit of the past alive. There are few better places to visit than Heraklion for unique historical finds.
Unearth an amazing history at the Palace of Knossos
Prepare to feel wowed at the Palace of Knossos, one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites. Located just 20 minutes from the Heraklion city centre, Knossos personifies the greatness of a civilisation that ruled thousands of years ago. During your time at Knossos, note the fantastic reimagined murals, imposing columns, and overall grandeur. Listen to myths of the Minotaur and King Minos while imagining the outstanding way of life from a bygone era. For a truly in-depth experience, schedule for an expert guide to walk you through the maze of the palace while giving you a detailed account of the powerful Minoans.
Insider Tip: Be sure to visit Knossos early in the day to beat the heat and the crowds!
Admire spectacular finds at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum
To gain even greater insight into the Palace of Knossos, a visit to the Archaeological Museum should be on any Heraklion travel guide. The museum displays a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the Minoans with an abundance of gold jewelry and gems. It also houses finds from other eras like the Greco-Roman period and the Classical era. Today, it is regarded as one of Europe’s most important museums and is a must for history lovers of all ages.
#6. Kick back with things to do in Heraklion for a relaxing visit
If images of total relaxation and ease come to mind when you think of time spent in Crete, you’re in for a satisfying treat. Even though Heraklion does have city vibes, it also encompasses a laid-back cool that has become synonymous with the Greek islands. Savour lovely seaside images and delectable foods and prepare to feel completely pacified while in Heraklion.
Take in the sights during a stroll at the charming Venetian harbour
The Venetian harbour is where old meets new; ancient fortresses tower over modern boats for a unique combination of rustic meets sleek. Walk along the seafront as the cool breeze from the water offers a lovely reprieve from the intense heat. Snap pictures during the 2 km leisurely stroll, including the landmark Fortress of Koules, or traditional fishing boats that are colored bright blues, reds, and yellows. A walk at the harbour is one of the best ways to experience the authenticity of Heraklion.
Taste unbeatable freshness during a meal next to the sea
Is there anything more relaxing than a delicious seaside meal? In general, Crete has been known in the past more for its meat than its seafood, however, the many tavernas along the harbour offer excellent cuisine of both land and sea. Indulge in octopus and fresh fish, or opt for grilled souvlaki and slow-cooked stews with pork or goat. Live like a Greek and savour your food slowly while sipping on wine or raki, and enjoy as the sun dives into the Aegean’s horizon in dramatic fashion in the evening.
#7. Enjoy the seascape with things to do in Heraklion for beach lovers
Beach bums, rejoice! Surrounded by crystal clear waters and countless nearby sandy beaches, Heraklion is a haven for anyone seeking sea and sun during their holidays in Crete with countless beaches a stone’s throw away from the city centre and your hotel Hersonissos Crete. Engage in active watersports or kick back on a sun lounger and enjoy the rejuvenating sea waters.
Feel energized with watersports at Hersonissos Beach
Discover a wide variety of watersports at the gorgeous golden coastline of Hersonissos Beach. From your hotel Hersonissos Crete, step on out to take advantage of the ambient sea waters that are ideal for relaxing standup paddle boarding, high-powered jet skiing, or kayaking with small children. If you’re eager to see what’s beneath the surface, hop on the chance to sign up for scuba diving, available for novices and experienced divers alike.
Relax in comfort & luxury at Amoudara Beach
Kick back and enjoy the soft white sand and azure waters of Amoudara Beach, a mere 5 km west of Heraklion. Granted the coveted Blue Flag award to signify its cleanliness and pristine beauty, Amoudara is organized with sun loungers, large umbrellas, and plenty of nearby beach bars and tavernas. An excellent beach to visit for families with small children or as a romantic escape from the crowds with your partner, Amoudara should be on any Heraklion travel guide for those wishing for an amazing daybreak by the sea.
#8. Find a variety of fun things to do in Heraklion with children
Heraklion is one of the most family-friendly places to visit in Greece, thanks in part to a fantastic mix of laid-back fun and highly engaging activities to ensure that little ones never get bored. If you’re looking for something to do other than lounging around at the beach, you’re in luck because Heraklion happens to have amazing educational and interactive museums, activities, and excursions to keep your kids entertained and asking for more.
Engage in fun activities at the Natural History Museum of Crete
Do a deep dive into some of the earth’s most fascinating natural wonders at the Natural History Museum. Let your children explore replicas of dinosaurs, terrariums, and aquariums in the “Living Museum” exhibition, and play on an interactive earthquake simulator. Under the guidance of professionals who make learning fun, a visit to the Natural History Museum is one of the things to do in Heraklion that your children talk about for years to come.
Discover a diverse aquatic life at the CRETAquarium
Children of all ages are delighted by the CRETAquarium, a beautiful and vast aquarium that is one of the crown jewels of Heraklion’s educational centres. Let kids run free and get up close and personal with turtles, colourful fish, and even sand sharks! The professional staff organises various activities and interactive exhibitions for children, especially on holidays and various world days honouring the environment. Celebrate Heraklion’s surrounding seascape and learn about the area’s diverse aquatic world in a space the whole family can enjoy.
Discover all the astounding things to do in Heraklion with the help of your Creta Maris Beach Resort in Hersonissos Crete
At Creta Maris Beach Resort, we know how many amazing things there are to do in Heraklion, and we’re proud to be located in such close proximity to the excitement of the capital city. Let us help you find and plan authentic things to do in Heraklion for unforgettable holidays. Have some extra days to spare and plan to expand your Cretan travels beyond Heraklion? Read our Crete 7 days Itinerary: Premier travel guide for what to do in Crete in 7 days for the ultimate couple’s getaway or 10 days Crete Itinerary: The supreme schedule for fantastic family holidays in Crete to gain even more inspired ideas of things to do on the beautiful island of Crete!