The 48 Hour Heraklion Travel Guide
Welcome to the capital of Crete, the unique island in the Mediterranean Sea that is able to satisfy every single male traveler regardless of his desires.
In this 48 hour guide local of Crete and In-the-Know traveler Isidoros from gocrete.net will show you how. Enjoy the feeling of a modern, cosmopolite city full of contrasts, a great number of hospitable locals, rich history of no less than 4000 years and easy access from many airports Europe-wide.
Feel safe to travel to one of the most famous and also one of the larger islands of Greece. Explore the hidden beauties from the ancient myths to daytime activities like beachlife and get the special feeling that a nice surprise is waiting for you around every corner.
The 3 faces of Heraklion
Whatever you do you need to be aware of the 3 different ‘faces’ of the city that all depend on the time of your visit:
- Winter period (November to April)
- Low Summer period (May, June and September, October)
- High Summer period (July, August)
Since there are just few flights availabe in Winter period, and only through Athens airport, my advice is to give winter a a complete miss. Whether your are aiming for high or low summer season depends on how much you are bothered by crowded places (beaches, hotels, taverns, buses, etc.) and high temperatures (35C and beyond).
Let’s start our Heraklion Trael Guide by finding th best way to get to the island of Crete fast and cheap.
How To Get There
With hundred flights per week starting in mid-May and ending in late-September, getting to Heraklion is very easy from many central airports in Europe. Many companies fly there, making Heraklion airport the 2nd busiest airport in Greece only to rank behind the aiport of the capital, Athens. Most of these flights, however, are in connection with mind-numbing package vacations that bring hordes of lower middle-class people to big, all-inclusive hotels, most of them located 10-25 km out of the city.
For those who don’t live close to an airport with a direct connection to Heraklion there is always the chance
(just a bit more expensive) to fly to Athens airport and then take a domestic flight to Heraklion. Aegean or Ryanair will do the job in just 30min. Finally, be aware of the last minute offers that you can find with EasyJet as they have regular connection to Heraklion
Flying to Crete offers the chance to enjoy the unforgettable experience of seeing most of the Greek islands, as the airplane flights above them and the full-cloudy weather over the Aegean Archipelago is something as rare as the chance of a (lonely) female top model travelling alone in the seat next to you. That would be the only occasion in which you would care more for the view next to the window rather than the view out of it.
Since Crete is an island the only alternative to flying is taking a ferry. Every evening, usually at around 21:00, two big ferries depart from Piraeus, the port close to Athens and will arrive in Heraklion at an early 06:00 the next day. Book your ferry ride with Minoan.gr that have the most luxurious vessels ships or try Anek.gr at slightly cheaper prices.
The one drawback: tickets are expensive (starting from 45euros, one way, without cabin), especially in comparison to a short low-cost flight which could be had for the same price if you book early enough. There are a handful of ferries connecting Heraklion with a few Islands around but they are not a very reliable services in regard to departure-arriva
Tip: As the airport is just 3Km out of the city taking a taxi acts as a very good idea: taxis are a good chance to get to know a nice foreign lady (usually they travel in groups of two) since you can ask her to share a taxi with you. Even if she goes the opposite direction, you still have a good excuse to ask where she will be staying and propose to meet again the next day and explore the city together.
Once you are in Crete there are a). busses from the airport or b). busses a 5 minute walk out of the port that will take people to city center (Bus route 10) Click here for information on routes and times.
In case your hotel is located out of the city there is the Central bus station located 10 minutes from the port on foot. It is, however, a bit chaotic to find the right bus for you (don’t forget that Crete is a part of Greece!).
Renting a small car in Crete isn’t a bad idea at all since prices for rentals are good at about 30 Euros per day (in low season, that is, not so much in July and August). Exploring
the island by car is the best way to discover the greatest and well-hidden spots located 10-40 Km out of the city that feature the best in local cusine with drinks included in the price for your meal.
The City of Heraklion
An unimpressive start
The first impression you will get of Heraklion is rather unimposimg. Unlike Rethymo and Chania, the two other main towns of Crete, Heraklion is no genuine architectural character. While the history of the last 7 centuries is common (Venetians, Ottomans), there was not much respect shown to the majority of the old houses in Heraklion. Most of the old houses where replaced by new-built houses back in the 1960s and 1970s without a nice centrally organized plan so today you can see just a handful (but nicely renovated) impressive, aesthetic buildings. However, during your walk to the center the eye is captured by other impressive, aesthetic images. There are many beautiful women walking around or sitting in one of the many coffee shops in the small squares. It’s quite easy to make eye-contact since everybody is enjoying a coffee or cold refreshment outside of the shops, next to the streets.
It is not just the big number of beautiful local ladiesand the large amounts of female tourists visiting Crete – big enough considering that the total population of Heraklion is pnly 140.000 – but also the crystal sea, the hot sun and the romantic atmosphere of the Greek island that make Heraklion a great summer holiday destination for the single male traveler.
Where To Stay
Websites like Tripadvisor.com and booking.com are a good start to choose from a big variety of hotels and apartments in Heraklion. The prices vary and range from 20€/night up to 120€/night for the more luxury-oriented traveler. Just keep
in mind that most of the hotels/apartment
Finally if you visit Heraklion from November until April, focus on city center hotels. For the long summer season, check also the offers of the big touristic agencies (flight and hotel) as mentioned above. There are also a couple of youth hostels and a few cheap hotels in the city (check hostelbookers.co
Photo: Hotel Galaxy Heraklion
Heraklion Travel Guide Part 2: Best Daytime Activities (tons of pics)
What to do
Within a few hours walking in the center – as distances are short – the visitor can get a clear idea of the city’s showplaces (mainly from the Venetian times – 13th till 17th century) and feel the cosmopolitan atmosphere at the same time.
During the day
Here is a list with the more basic (read:touristy) sightseeing recommendations for the city of Heraklion:
The Renaissance gates with vaulted roofs
The impressive city walls
The Morosini fountain with the marble made lions
The city hall
The Kornaros square with the renovated Turkish pumphouse
The Venetian port with the fortress
The large shipyards with the barrel-vaulted roofs
The imposing churches (Agios Titos, Agia Ekaterini, Agios Minas)
and last but not least:
The recently renovated Archaeological museum with rich Minoan collections.
It really does not take long to walk around and visit all these spots. Doing so might even include meeting the one or other mythical person as you can see it in this surrealistic but aesthetic video based on the myth about Theseus and Minotaur.
When you visit these places keep in mind to watch out for any poster (also in English) informing about an interesting art happening or exhibition which might be organized there. If you are more nature than culture lover, the Natural History Museum is waiting next to the sea coast to impress you, expanding your knowledge about the special Cretan ecosystem inside the 4-floors modern building. The entrance fee of 9€ is hefty, but worth it.
Two Street Markets
In any case, no matter what type of daytime activity you are into, visiting the following locations is a must:
A visit to the 1866 street, an open street market, is a must as you will encounter many kiosks and small shops selling almost everything regarding to local food produce, i.e. fruits, herbs, cheese and fish as well as many nice handcrafted souvenirs – in case you were looking for a souvenir not made in China.
During the same walk you have the chance to discover the rhythm of the city and to refresh yourself in one of the many nice coffee-snack places, under the precious shade of umbrellas or (even better) big trees.
Try to get lost in the narrow streets departing from the big squares and taste delicious snacks like local pies and sandwiches.
Just avoid the all too touristic shops along the big main square Eleftherias (=Lib
Keep in mind that going beyond it Eleftherias you will reach the Garden of the city. It may be just a bit smaller that what you would expect, but it is still very nice. On 3 mornings per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) there is an interesting flea market where produce only made by ecological local producers is sold.
Where To Eat
For some nice snack spots but also for more serious food, check out the following venues:
Tyraki (=little cheese).
Try the best sandwich in Crete (and one of the best in Europe), choosing your ingredients from a big variety of local meat, cheese, vegetables and sauces. Open 24h, but gets buzzier after midnight when many young men and women wat in line for snack after and in between clubbing.
Probably the best choice if you want to combine excellent Cretan cuisine with an aesthetic, traditional and friendly environment. On top of that you get the chance to experience some authentic live music that has nothing to do with that played for the tourists. The only difficulty is to find the place, so click here for directons. Opens after 19:00, but you is best to be visited after 22:00.
One of the few places you can get fresh fish and also one of the few taverns open for lunch as most of the restaurants in the city open after 18:00 only. Locals have their lunch at home or in a tavern close to a beach so it makes little sense for taverns bring out the chairs and tables during lunch time.
Taking a table outside might not be so alluring due to the many cars passing by, but if you focus to the old port view and the nice plates you won’t be affected as much.
Another spot famous for fresh fish yet without the noise of the buzzy street (though it is located just 200m from Vrakas). Also features delicious local non-fish cuisine, an extra clean outside area and and very friendly staff. Very close to the small church of Agios Dimitrios.
Cooked with Love
If you are standing on the square of Agios Titos (Saint Titos) facing the entrance of the big church your will see owner Popi’s very nice and air conditioned place locate at the end of the small street on your. It is a small but cozy restaurant offering elicious dished that are all cooked with love. Open daily from midday until about midnight.
After Dawn: Nightlife
After a nice dinner it is time to experience Heraklion’s pulsating nightlife
There are basically 2 areas in Heraklion where all the action takes place from sunset till sun rise. First, there is the area around the very city center between the big Eleftherias square all the way through Milatou Street until the Lions’ fountain and the Saint Titos square.
#1 | A First Nightlife Hotspot: Downtown Heraklion
Come nighttime, this area of downtown Heraklion will look like this:
Walking around the city center of Heraklon at night will leave you overwhelmed with venues competing for your attention. From the large number of bars in this area we recommend:
Cuckoo Bar F24a F24b
One of the biggest (and most popular the last years) bars in town, a good choice to have your first drink of the night, sitting next to the buzzy Milatou street. Later on if you want to visit all the recommended places, it doesn’t take more than 10 min walking!
An old school Rock Bar, no more description needed. Except for that you have a good chance to have your coffee or drink served in a cup with the logo of your favorite heavy metal band on it.
Just a few meters down the narrow street you’ll find the oldest bar in town still serving 250ml beers for 4 Euros, long drinks for 6€ and cocktails for 7€. An old neoclassic 2 floor building that is similar to the bars in the anarchist neighborhood of Athens – Eksarhia. Comes with a small yard for those who don’t like the stuffed feeling inside the not-too-big bar.
Maybe the best after-bar on the whole Island. With a young crowd Ellinadiko’s local fame may appear a bit reduced, but not vanished due to the financial crises. The mixture of pop-techno-rock and – after 3am – Greek dance music, the cheerful atmosphere, the rain of paper napkins (as throwing flowers became very expensive) and women dancing on the bar counter will have you easily accept the average 8 Euro for a long drink.
Once your night is coming to an end and you are on your way back to the hotel, be prepared to meet many Greeks having something like an early breakfast before they go to sleep.
Take part in this pleasurable Greek nightlife routine and try some local food yourself: there is always the Tyraki (little cheese) option (see previous page) or you can try one of the many places selling famous Gyros (Greek Kebab) that are located next to the square with the lions’ fountain.
Tip: Veneto is a classy wine bar with a special atmosphere that is offering a romantic night view of Heraklion old port. If you met a nice lady and are looking to impress her then this is the place to enjoy a bottle of good wine.
Next chapter: Best Nightclubs (pics & videos)