Tourist’s guide to Heraklion Crete: Overview of Beaches and Attractions

Heraklion is the administrative center, capital and port of Crete in Greece. The facility covers an area of ​​more than 109 km², and its population is at least 170 thousand people. Located off the Mediterranean shores in the north-central part of Crete, Heraklion has long gained popularity among travelers as a resort. This is a city with rapidly developing infrastructure, ready to offer its guests numerous hotels, restaurants and modern shops.

Heraklion, Crete

Heraklion in Greece got its name in honor of the ancient Greek god Heracles: earlier it was called Heracles or Heraclion. There is a scientific opinion that Heraklion was built during the Minoan civilization near the city of Knossos and served as a port. But exact evidence for this theory has not yet been found. It is reliably known that in 824 the Arab conquerors conquered Crete and built a fortress on the site of modern Heraklion, surrounding it with thick walls. In the course of history, the city managed to change many names and visit several states: Byzantium, the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire. But at the beginning of the 20th century, he still returned to Greece.

Kules fortress in the port of Heraklion

Today, Heraklion attracts tourists not only with its beaches and warm weather, but also with historical monuments, in which the ghosts of past civilizations are reflected. Among the attractions of the capital are museums, churches, fortresses, fountains and much more. Read more about each object below.

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Attractions and entertainment

To make an educational tour and plunge into the history and culture of the capital of Crete is the goal of many travelers to Greece. The sights of Heraklion are very diverse and make it possible to trace the formation of the city as part of a particular state for centuries. Among the most interesting objects it is worth highlighting:

Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
Figurine of the goddess with snakes

In the capital of Crete is one of the largest museums in Greece, whose collections are dedicated to the art of Minoan civilization. Today, the gallery has 20 halls, each of which exhibits exhibits of a certain historical period. Among them, you can see pottery, weapons, miniature sculptures, jewelry, household items, etc. One of the main gems of the museum is considered to be a statuette of a goddess with snakes, dated 1600 BC. Of great interest here is the festal disk, which has become a unique monument of the Minoan script. The gallery is also famous for its fresco depicting ritual jumping over the bull. Many exhibits once belonged to the Knossos Palace, which is convenient to visit on the same day as the Archaeological Museum.

On the mural ritual jumping over the bull
  • Address: Xanthoudidou, Chatzidaki, Heraklion, Crete 712 02, Greece.
  • Opening hours: during the winter months Mon, Tue, Wed, Sun – from 08:00 to 15:30, Th. – from 10:00 to 17:00. In the summer, the attraction is open daily from 08:00 to 20:00, Sun. – from 08:00 to 15:00. Schedules are subject to change.
  • Entrance fee: 10 €.

Kules Fortress
Exposition of weapons in the Kules fortress

Another famous attraction in the city of Heraklion was the Kules fortress. This is a medieval maritime structure, the first mention of which dates back to the 14th century. The Venetians and later the Ottomans, who completed the upper level of the citadel, made a great contribution to the development of the fortress. Today, within the walls of the building, visitors can see a small exposition of equipment and weapons. In each room of the fortress information stands are installed. Climbing to the top platform, travelers contemplate breathtaking views of the sea, lighthouse and port. In general, this is an interesting place for leisurely walks, which is worth a visit while in Heraklion.

Kules Fortress
  • Address: Rocca a Mare, Heraklion 712 02, Greece.
  • Opening hours: daily from 08:00 to 20:00.
  • Entrance fee: 3 €.
Natural History Museum of Crete
Natural History Museum of Crete

This is a standard museum of local lore, which will be primarily interesting to children. Gallery expositions are located on 5 floors, each of which presents its subjects and interactive technologies. Particular attention of visitors is attracted to the lower tier, where you can test the earthquake simulator and design shallow tsunamis in the aquarium. A little higher is an interactive zone where children with parents participate in makeshift excavations. Many museum collections are dedicated to animals: everywhere you can see stuffed animals depicted in their natural habitat. The gallery also has moving figures of dinosaurs, and everyone who wants to learn more about these creatures can visit the museum cinema and watch a film dedicated to them.

Stuffed bird
  • Address: Leof. Sofokli Venizelou, Heraklion 712 02, Greece.
  • Visiting time: in the summer season, the attraction is open on weekdays from 09:00 to 18:00, on weekends – from 10:00 to 18:00. In the winter months, the object can be visited on weekdays from 09:00 to 15:00, on weekends – from 10:00 to 18:00.
  • Entrance fee: 7.5 €.
Historical Museum of Crete

If you do not know what to see in Heraklion on your own, we recommend that you look into the Historical Museum of Crete. This small but quite informative gallery is located on three floors with exhibition halls dedicated to different historical eras. Collections showcase items from the 3rd century through to the present. According to the expositions, one can trace how Crete developed culturally and spiritually under the influence of the ruling civilizations. Of particular interest are rooms with icons, national handicrafts and Greek wedding clothes of the 18-19th centuries. Halls with coins and ceramic objects should be appreciated here. The museum provides an audio guide in Russian.

Historical Museum of Crete
  • Address: House A. & M. Kalokerinos, Leof. Sofokli Venizelou 27, Heraklion 712 02, Greece.
  • Opening hours: Mon-Sat in winter – from 09:00 to 15:30. Sun – from 10:30 to 15:30. In summer Mon.-Sat. – from 09:00 to 17:00, Sun – day off.
  • Entrance fee: 5 €.

Labyrinth of the Minotaur

If you are interested in ancient Greek myths and are not indifferent to archaeological excavations, then you should pay a visit to the Labyrinth of the Minotaur, also known as Knossos Palace. Millennia ago, the castle consisted of many rooms, which were interconnected by complex transitions, so that the palace looked like a real maze. Today, only the ruins remained from the sights, which, after a partial restoration, began to attract crowds of foreign tourists. It is interesting to look at fragments of ancient buildings and appreciate the architectural ideas of Minoan architects. It is best to visit the attraction as part of an organized excursion with a professional guide, otherwise it risks seeming uninteresting.

Labyrinth of the Minotaur
  • Address: Knosos, Heraklion, Greece.
  • Opening hours: The attraction is open daily from 08:00 to 18:00.
  • The cost of visiting: a single ticket (labyrinth + archaeological museum) costs 16 €.
Mina Cathedral
Mina Cathedral

In the photo of Heraklion you can often see a light graceful temple with red domes. This is one of the main attractions of the capital – the largest cathedral in Crete. Its walls can accommodate up to 8,000 parishioners. Built at the end of the 19th century, the temple combines the features inherent in Byzantine and Greek architecture. The church is famous for the relics of St. Mina, for which Christian pilgrims come here from other countries. Inside the parishioners there is meticulous decoration, consisting of numerous painted columns and ceilings, frescoes and icons. Near the cathedral you will see an aerial bomb preserved from the Second World War: in 1941, a shell hit the temple, but never exploded. You can go to church at any time for free.

  • Address: Heraklion 712 01, Greece.
Venetian loggia

In Heraklion on Crete in Greece, there is another interesting attraction – the Venetian loggia. This is a beautiful old building, erected in the 17th century at the initiative of the Venetian Doge Francesco Morozini. In its architectural structure, the loggia is similar to the Italian Renaissance palace. Currently, the building is used as a city hall, and it is impossible to get inside. But tourists can walk along its courtyard and partially inspect the building from the inside. It is noteworthy that over the entire period of its existence, the loggia was destroyed three times to the ground, but the monument was always able to be restored. The attraction is located in the heart of Heraklion near the fountain with lions. You can view it for free at any time.

Venetian loggia
  • Address: August Str. 25, Heraklion 712 02, Greece.
Morozini Fountain

What else to see in Heraklion? After getting acquainted with the Venetian loggia, be sure to take a walk to the next architectural idea of ​​Doge Morozini – the famous fountain with lions that adorns the center of Venizelos Square. The construction consists of a bowl mounted on the heads of four marble lions, from the mouth of which water jets beat. The fountain is surrounded by numerous cafes, shops and restaurants. This is a popular part of Heraklion among tourists, so it is always crowded here.

Morozini Fountain
  • Address: Pl. El Venizelou, Heraklion 712 02, Greece.

Beaches

The beaches of Heraklion are primarily distinguished by clear sea waters, picturesque nature and well-established infrastructure. You should immediately make a reservation that in the city itself you will not find swimming areas. Most of the beaches are in the surrounding area, which can be reached in a few minutes. Among them, the most noteworthy are:

Ammoudara Beach

The beach is located 6 km west of Heraklion in a small fishing village and stretches over 5 km. The place is very popular with both tourists and locals, so in the high season a lot of people gather here. The coast is covered mainly by pebbles, although there are some sandy islands. It is quite convenient to swim with children here, as the entry into the sea is uniform.

Ammoudara Beach

Entrance to the beach itself is free, however, those who wish to use sun loungers will have to pay 4 €. Cafes and eateries lined up along the coastline on Ammudar where you can eat in between beach vacations. Walking to the western edge of the beach, you will see a windsurfing school where many travelers learn this extreme sport.

Paliokastro Beach

Paliokastro is another of Heraklion’s sought-after beaches in Crete, 16 km west of the city. This is a rather miniature piece of shore hidden among the rocks, on the top of one of which the ruins of a Venetian fortress have been preserved. The beach itself is half pebble, half stony. The bottom of the sea is dotted with algae and small fishes, sometimes stones are found.

Paliokastro Beach

The beach is conveniently equipped: for 5 €, tourists can rent sun loungers with umbrellas, and after a rest have a bite to eat at a local colorful cafe. Paliokastro is considered a great place for snorkeling.

Pantonassa Beach

The beach is located 15 km west of Heraklion and is a miniature patch of land surrounded by rocks and pines. The place is located next to the port of the same name, which divides the beach into two parts. The coast here is covered with small pebbles. On the beach you can rent the necessary equipment for an additional fee.

Pantonassa Beach

There are no restaurants on the shore, but there is an opportunity to have a meal in the nearby port taverns. Many tourists combine relaxing on the beach with a visit to the Pantonassa Monastery, which is located on top of a pine hill.

Karteros Beach

7 km east of the capital you can meet the picturesque Gulf of Karteros, in the center of which lies the beach of the same name. This coast is characterized by soft golden sand and warm clear waters. Although large waves are often observed on the beach, the place is in demand among tourists, so it is always crowded here.

Karteros Beach

Karteros is equipped with all necessary amenities – latrines, dressing rooms, showers. If you wish, you can rent sunbeds with umbrellas for 7 €. A chain of cafes and bars is lined along the coast, so everyone here will find an institution to their liking.

Florida beach

This is another picturesque beach located near the Gulf of Karteros. It is also covered with golden sand, but you will not find any infrastructure here. For the most part, Florida is a wild beach, so it is always calm on it. There is an equestrian club near the shore, so tourists have the opportunity to ride a horse right on the coast.

Florida beach

There are no establishments in Florida itself, but it is quite possible to have a bite to eat at a restaurant in the nearby airport. Relaxation on this beach is easy to combine with a visit to the church of St. John and St. Nikon, located just 180 meters from the coast.

Amnisos Beach

About a kilometer east of Karteros beach is a pretty cozy place called Amnisos. This is a well-kept sandy beach with clear sea water, equipped with everything necessary for a decent vacation. It also provides for the rental of sunbeds and umbrellas. Security on Amnissos is strictly monitored by the rescue service. There is a cafe right on the coast where you can enjoy drinks and snacks throughout the day. There is a separate playground on the beach where experienced teachers look after the children of vacationers for an additional fee.

Amnisos beaches

Holidays in Heraklion

If you were struck by the photo of Heraklion in Crete, and you intend to go to Greece in the near future, then it will be useful for you to find out about the prices for accommodation and food at the resort.

Accommodation

The tourist infrastructure in this part of the island is developing rapidly and is now ready to offer a lot of apartments and hotels of various categories. Here you will find both expensive five-star establishments and budget options without stars. In high season, staying in a double room in a 3 * hotel will cost an average of 50-60 € per day. Almost all hotels include free breakfast. Having examined the actual offers at the booking, we found 3 acceptable options for recreation:

Hotel room Kastro Hotel
Kastro hotel

Kastro Hotel *** – is located 500 m from the center of the capital, the hotel rooms are equipped with the necessary appliances and furniture. In May 2019, here you can rent a room for 63 € for two per day (breakfast included).

Sofia Hotel *** is an excellent budget establishment with a private pool, located a 5-minute drive from Heraklion. In high season, you can check in at the hotel for 48 € per night.

Marin Dream Hotel *** is a convenient hotel for sightseeing, located near the Kules Fortress. In May, renting a double room in it will cost 58 € per day (includes a complimentary breakfast).

Hotel Sofia Hotel
Sofia Hotel
Food
Dinner in Heraklion

Heraklion, being a popular resort in Greece, is literally dotted with cafes, bars, taverns and restaurants for every taste and pocket. Here you can find both budget and luxury establishments.

  • Lunch for two in an inexpensive restaurant will cost about 16 €.
  • In a mid-range establishment, for a three-course dinner, you will pay 60 €.
  • A check for a snack at a local fast food will come out about 10-12 €.

Here are the estimated prices for drinks in a cafe:

  • Local beer 0.5 – 3.25 €
  • Imported beer 0.33 – 3 €
  • Cappuccino – 2,40 €
  • Pepsi 0.33 – 1.50 €
  • Water 0.5 – 0.50 €

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Weather and climate

Heraklion Air Temperature

The tourist season in Heraklion starts in April and lasts until October. You can swim in the sea in the second half of May, when the water warms up to 20 ° C. The hottest months are July, August and September, when the thermometer is kept between 28-30 ° C. In the same period, you can catch the warmest sea. But it is worth considering that in July in Heraklion it is quite windy.

Sea temperature in Heraklion

With the onset of September, the velvet season begins at the resort, when the scorching rays of the sun turn into pleasant warm streams of ultraviolet radiation. Despite the occasional rains, you can swim here in October: after all, the temperature of the sea water is at around 23 ° C. In November, the swimming season in Heraklion comes to its logical conclusion, although many tourists continue to visit the city for sightseeing purposes.

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Interesting Facts

Bee - a symbol of the city of Heraklion
  1. One of the symbols of the city was the image of a bee: the figure of an insect is often used to decorate local jewelry. This symbol gained popularity after archaeological excavations in the territory of the Knossos Palace, where a unique product with a similar miniature bee was found.
  2. Heraklion has the two largest ports of Crete, which makes it the most important economic object of the island.
  3. Heraklion is famous for its wineries, so a visit to the city should not do without tasting local drinks. For example, tourists at Stironos winery have an excellent opportunity not only to taste different types of wines, but also to get acquainted with the technology of their production.
  4. Being the administrative center of Crete, Heraklion is the largest city. The second most important city was Chania.



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