46 things to do in Heraklion, Crete

46 things to do in Heraklion, Crete

Steeped in history and vibrant culture, Heraklion, Crete, Greece offers a captivating blend of ancient Minoan sites, charming Venetian architecture, and stunning beaches.

Table of Contents:

> 12 Historical and Archaeological Sites to visit in Heraklion

> 8 Cultural Experiences in Heraklion

> 9 Food and Drink experiences in Heraklion

> 7 Outdoor Activities to try near Heraklion

> 9 must day trips from Heraklion

> Rent a Car from Motor Plan and Explore Heraklion and nearby locations

> FAQ about the best Things to do in Heraklion

Stuck on where to start planning your Cretan adventure? Look no further than Heraklion! This captivating city offers a treasure trove of experiences, from immersing yourself in ancient Minoan history to indulging in delicious local cuisine.  Whether you're a history buff, a culture enthusiast, a foodie, or an outdoor adventurer, Heraklion and its surrounding area have something to ignite your spark.  This comprehensive guide unveils 46 incredible things to do in Heraklion, encompassing historical and archaeological sites, captivating cultural experiences, mouthwatering food and drink adventures, exciting outdoor activities, and unforgettable day trips from the city.  So, lace up your walking shoes, pack your appetite for exploration, and get ready to discover the magic of Heraklion!


12 Historical and Archaeological Sites to visit in Heraklion

things to do in heraklion crete

Source: ctdots.eu/

1# Walk in the Footsteps of Myth at Knossos Palace

Unearth the legend of the Minotaur and explore the sprawling palace complex, Knossos. Imagine grand halls bustling with life and frescoes whispering tales of a bygone era. Picture yourself navigating the labyrinthine corridors, perhaps even encountering the mythical beast itself!

2# Discover the Minoans: Exploring the Heraklion Archaeological Museum

One of the best things to do in Heraklion is to delve into the fascinating Minoan civilization at this world-renowned museum. Marvel at exquisite artifacts, from intricate jewelry to awe-inspiring frescoes, each remnant a window into a lost culture. Learn about their advanced engineering, artistic mastery, and the mysteries that still surround this captivating civilization.

3# Set Sail Through Time: A Walk Along the Venetian Harbour

Stroll along the picturesque Venetian Harbour, a captivating blend of history and charm. Imagine ships laden with treasures from faraway lands once docking here, their sails billowing in the Cretan breeze. Watch local fishermen casting their nets and colorful cafes spilling onto the cobbled streets, a vibrant scene steeped in history.

4# Guarding the City: A Walk Along the Venetian Walls

Fortifications steeped in history, the Venetian Walls offer stunning city views. Walk where sentries once guarded, their footsteps echoing through the centuries. Imagine the battles fought and the lives protected within these imposing walls, a testament to Heraklion's rich and resilient past.

5# Architectural Grandeur: Unveiling St. Mark's Basilica

Witness the architectural marvel of St. Mark's Basilica, a fusion of Venetian and Byzantine styles. Be captivated by its intricate details, from the soaring bell tower to the meticulously crafted mosaics. Immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere and rich history, a landmark that has stood as a beacon of faith for centuries.

6# A Deep Dive into Crete's History: The Historical Museum

Embark on a chronological journey through Crete's past at the Historical Museum. Explore artifacts from various eras, from the Minoan era to the Ottoman rule, gaining a deeper understanding of the island's evolution. Witness the changing political landscape and cultural influences that have shaped Crete into the vibrant destination it is today.

7# Step Back in Time and Find Peace

Discover the Venetian Loggia, a captivating example of Renaissance architecture is one more of the many things to do in Heraklion. Imagine social gatherings and official ceremonies taking place here centuries ago. Picture the nobility and dignitaries who once graced these halls, their laughter and conversations echoing through the elegant space.

8# A Spiritual Haven

Find solace and beauty at Agios Titos Cathedral, a magnificent landmark. Admire its religious art and architecture, a testament to Heraklion's spiritual heritage. Let the intricate frescoes and towering dome inspire a sense of peace and tranquility.

9# A Journey Through Time: Exploring the Gouves Archaeological Museum

Uncover Crete's ancient past at the Gouves Archaeological Museum. Explore artifacts unearthed from nearby Minoan and Roman settlements, piecing together the island's fascinating story. Imagine daily life in these bygone eras, from bustling marketplaces to elaborate religious ceremonies.

10# Honoring Crete's Literary Giant: A Visit to the Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis

Pay homage to Crete's beloved author, Nikos Kazantzakis, at his tomb. Immerse yourself in the serenity of the surrounding landscape, where inspiration bloomed for his literary masterpieces like Zorba the Greek. Reflect on his powerful words and the enduring legacy he has left on Cretan culture.

 11# Exploring Heraklion's City Walls

Travel back in time by exploring the mighty walls that once safeguarded Heraklion. Witness the architectural prowess displayed in their construction, each stone a testament to the city's resilience. Imagine the battles fought and the lives protected within these walls, a powerful symbol of Heraklion's enduring spirit.

12# A Touch of Venetian Grandeur: The Morosini Fountain

Admire the ornate Morosini Fountain, a symbol of Venetian rule in Heraklion. Its intricate details, featuring lions and mythological creatures, showcase the artistic mastery of the era. Take a refreshing break by the fountain's flowing water, a picturesque pause in your exploration of this historic city.


8 Cultural Experiences in Heraklion

old town of heraklion crete

Source: freepik.com/

1# Unveiling Local and Greek Art: A Visit to the Heraklion Municipal Art Gallery

Immerse yourself in the artistic soul of Crete at the Municipal Art Gallery. Explore a collection of local and Greek artworks, spanning various styles and periods. Discover the evolution of artistic expression in Crete, from the influence of Byzantine icons to contemporary masterpieces. Be surprised by hidden gems and gain a deeper appreciation for the creativity that thrives on this island.

2# Exploring the Life and Works of Nikos Kazantzakis

Delve deeper into the life and works of Crete's literary legend, Nikos Kazantzakis. One of the best things to do in Heraklion is to explore exhibits showcasing his manuscripts, influences, and the lasting impact of his masterpieces. Imagine the author's thought process as you pore over his handwritten drafts. Learn about the historical and philosophical influences that shaped his writing, and gain a new perspective on his timeless works.

3# A Glimpse into Cretan Traditions: The Lychnostatis Folk Museum

Step back in time and discover traditional Cretan life at the Lychnostatis Folk Museum. Explore exhibits showcasing clothing, tools, and handicrafts, gaining a deeper appreciation for the island's rich heritage. Imagine the daily lives of Cretans from a bygone era, the skills they possessed, and the stories these objects hold.

4# Experience the Heart of Crete: A Cretan Folklore Evening

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Crete with a Cretan folklore evening. Witness traditional dances in colorful costumes, accompanied by captivating music and storytelling. Feel the energy of the dancers as their intricate steps tell stories of love, war, and everyday life. Sway to the rhythm of the music and be captivated by the passionate storytelling, a true celebration of Cretan spirit.

5# Celebrate Cretan Heritage: Attending a Festival in Heraklion

Immerse yourself in the festive spirit of Crete by attending a local festival in Heraklion. Witness vibrant parades, traditional music, and delectable local cuisine, a true celebration of Cretan culture. Lose yourself in the joyous atmosphere, be dazzled by the colorful costumes and energetic dances, and savor the unique flavors of Crete.

6# A Journey Through Time: Wandering the Streets of the Old Town

Get lost in the charming labyrinthine alleys of the Old Town. Admire historical architecture, discover hidden gems, and soak up the timeless atmosphere of Heraklion's heart. Imagine the footsteps of past residents echoing through the narrow streets. Stumble upon quaint shops, charming cafes, and architectural wonders waiting to be unveiled around every corner.

7# The Sounds of Crete: Learning About Traditional Cretan Music

Embark on a journey through the captivating world of Cretan music. Learn about the unique instruments, such as the lyra and laouto, and their role in Cretan culture. Experience the powerful emotions evoked by these traditional melodies, from the heart-wrenching lamentations to the celebratory dance tunes. Perhaps even try your hand at playing a traditional instrument, feeling the rhythm of Crete come alive in your own hands.

8# Movies Under the Stars: Watching a Film at an Open-Air Cinema

Enjoy a magical experience under the Cretan night sky at an open-air cinema. Indulge in a movie screening, surrounded by a charming atmosphere and the twinkling stars above. Imagine the classic ambience of a bygone era, where films were watched under the open sky. Let the magic of cinema unfold beneath the vast canvas of the universe, creating a truly unforgettable experience.


9 Food and Drink experiences in Heraklion

traditional food to taste in heraklion crete

Source: travel.gr

1# Embark on a Culinary Adventure: A Cretan Taverna Feast

Savor the true essence of Crete with a delightful feast at a traditional taverna. Indulge in fresh, local ingredients prepared according to time-tested recipes, for a truly unforgettable dining experience. Imagine vibrant tavernas bustling with conversation and laughter. Savor dishes passed down through generations, each bite bursting with flavor and the heart of Cretan hospitality.

2# Learn to Cook Like a Local: Taking a Cretan Cooking Class

Unleash your inner chef and learn the secrets of Cretan cuisine with a cooking class. Master the art of preparing local dishes, using fresh ingredients and traditional techniques. Imagine yourself under the guidance of a Cretan chef, learning to prepare dishes like moussaka, dakos, and fresh fish. Feel the satisfaction of creating your own culinary masterpiece and take home the skills to recreate these delicious dishes long after your trip.

3# Unveiling Local Produce and Crafts: Exploring the Dedalou Street Market

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the Dedalou Street Market. Explore stalls overflowing with fresh, seasonal produce, handcrafted souvenirs, and local delicacies, a feast for the senses. Imagine the sights, sounds, and smells as you weave through the bustling marketplace. Engage with friendly vendors, discover unique treasures, and pick up fresh ingredients to prepare your own Cretan feast.

4# Discover the Wines of Crete: Embark on a Wine Tasting Tour

Embark on a journey through Crete's rich winemaking tradition with a wine tasting tour. One of the best things to do in Heraklion is to sample local varietals like Vidiano and Dafni, learn about production methods from vineyard to bottle, and discover the perfect pairing for your Cretan meals. Imagine yourself in a charming winery, surrounded by rolling vineyards. Swirl the wine in your glass, savor the unique flavors, and gain a newfound appreciation for Cretan wines.

5# Taste the traditional greek coffee

Awaken your senses with a cup of traditional Greek coffee, a strong and aromatic brew. Savor the rich flavor, prepared in a unique way with finely ground coffee boiled in a small pot called a briki. Observe the locals enjoying their coffee, a cherished ritual woven into the fabric of Greek daily life.

6# Beyond the Ouzo: Experiencing the Cretan Spirit, Raki

Venture beyond the well-known ouzo and discover Raki, the potent spirit of Crete. Learn about its production process, traditionally made from fermented grapes and distilled twice for a strong flavor. Savor its unique taste, neat or diluted with water, and experience a taste of Cretan tradition often enjoyed after a meal to aid digestion and foster social connection.

7# Panoramic Delights: Enjoying a Meal at a Rooftop Restaurant

Indulge in a culinary experience with breathtaking views. Enjoy a delicious meal at a rooftop restaurant, where stunning panoramas of Heraklion complement the delectable dishes. Imagine yourself perched atop a building, overlooking the city's rooftops and the sparkling Aegean Sea. Savor the panoramic vista as you indulge in a romantic evening or a memorable meal with friends.

8# A Taste of the Mediterranean: Enjoying Fresh Seafood in Heraklion

Embrace the bounty of the Mediterranean Sea with a meal of fresh seafood in Heraklion. Savor perfectly prepared fish caught just off the Cretan coast, succulent shellfish, and local specialties like octopus carpaccio or lobster spaghetti. Imagine the salty sea air whetting your appetite as you select the freshest catch of the day. Relish the taste of the Mediterranean in every mouthful.

9# Fresh from the Oven: A Bakery Hopping Adventure in Heraklion

Embark on a delightful adventure through Heraklion's bakeries. Sample freshly baked bread, pastries like baklava and spanakopita, and traditional treats like loukoumades (honey donuts). Experience the rich aroma and flavors of Cretan baking traditions, passed down through generations. Imagine the warm, inviting atmosphere of a local bakery, filled with the tempting scent of freshly baked goods. Indulge in a variety of sweet and savory treats, a perfect way to start your day or enjoy a sweet afternoon pick-me-up.


7 Outdoor Activities to try near Heraklion

outdoor activities near heraklion crete

Source: kimkim.com/

1# Boat Trip

Set sail on a captivating boat trip and explore the stunning coastline around Heraklion. Discover secluded coves, hidden away from the crowds, perfect for a refreshing dip in crystal-clear waters. Imagine yourself cruising along the coastline, admiring breathtaking views of dramatic cliffs and hidden bays. Encounter playful dolphins leaping alongside the boat or the majestic silhouette of a sea turtle gliding beneath the waves.

2# Hiking near Heraklion mountains

Lace up your boots and embark on a thrilling hike in the mountains near Heraklion. Conquer scenic trails, winding through fragrant pine forests and offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape. Immerse yourself in nature's beauty, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and listen to the symphony of birdsong. Be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views, a perfect spot to capture unforgettable memories and reconnect with nature.

3# Water Sports

Get your adrenaline pumping with a variety of water sports options available in Heraklion. From the exhilarating rush of windsurfing and kitesurfing to the peaceful exploration offered by kayaking and paddleboarding, there's an adventure waiting for every thrill-seeker. Imagine carving through the waves on a windsurf board, feeling the spray of the sea on your face, or gliding effortlessly across the crystal-clear water on a paddleboard, spotting colorful fish darting beneath the surface.

4# Horseback Riding

Experience the Cretan landscape from a unique vantage point with a horseback riding adventure. Traverse scenic trails, winding through olive groves and ancient villages, on a majestic steed. Connect with nature in a unique way, feel the power and grace of these noble animals, and create lasting memories on this unforgettable exploration.

5# Visit a Beach

Indulge in the quintessential Cretan experience by spending a relaxing day at the beach. Soak up the warm sun on sunbeds or under the shade of an umbrella, swim in crystal-clear waters perfect for cooling off, and bask in the beauty of the Mediterranean coastline. Imagine the gentle sound of waves lapping at the shore, the refreshing sea breeze, and the taste of a cold drink as you relax by the turquoise waters. Choose from lively beaches with beach bars and water sports or secluded coves offering tranquility and stunning natural beauty.

6# Scuba Diving or Snorkelling

Unveil the underwater wonders of Crete with a scuba diving or snorkelling excursion. Explore vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful fish, encounter a variety of marine life like playful octopus or graceful seahorses, and discover the hidden beauty beneath the waves. Imagine the feeling of weightlessness as you descend into the underwater world, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colors and fascinating creatures. For snorkelers, witness the vibrant marine life just below the surface, a perfect introduction to the underwater wonders of Crete.

7# Relax at the Municipal Garden of Heraklion

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and find solace in the tranquil oasis of the Municipal Garden of Heraklion. Stroll amidst lush greenery, featuring towering palm trees and fragrant flower beds. Admire the botanical wonders, from local Cretan plants to exotic species, and enjoy a moment of peace in the heart of Heraklion. Listen to the calming sound of water features, relax on a park bench with a good book, or simply soak up the serenity of this beautiful haven.


9 must day trips from Heraklion

beaches to visit near heraklion crete

Source: discovergreece.com/

1# Spinalonga Island

Explore the captivating island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony steeped in history. Wander its abandoned buildings, remnants of a bygone era, and learn about its fascinating past, a story of isolation and resilience. Imagine the lives of those who resided here, and the challenges they faced. Enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding turquoise waters, a stark contrast to the island's history.

2# Agios Nikolaos & Elounda

Discover the picturesque town of Agios Nikolaos, renowned for its beautiful lake, a dazzling centerpiece adorned with colorful cafes and boats bobbing gently on the water. Explore charming streets lined with shops and local tavernas, indulging in delicious local cuisine like fresh seafood and Cretan specialties. Embark on a scenic boat trip to the luxurious resort town of Elounda, known for its stunning scenery and upscale atmosphere.

3# Archanes & Knossos Palace

Journey through time by visiting the traditional village of Archanes, known for its well-preserved Minoan houses and rich history. Wander through narrow cobbled streets, admire the charming architecture, and gain a glimpse into Cretan village life. Combine this cultural immersion with a visit to the awe-inspiring Knossos Palace, a must-see for any history buff. Explore the sprawling palace complex, imagine the grandeur of the Minoan civilization, and unravel the mysteries of this archaeological marvel.

4# Matala & Phaestos Palace

Explore the bohemian vibes of Matala, a former hippie haven with unique cave dwellings carved into the cliffsides. Imagine the free-spirited atmosphere of the 1960s and 70s, when artists and travelers flocked to this unique location. Balance this experience with a visit to the impressive Phaestos Palace, an archaeological marvel shrouded in mystery. Explore the palace complex, decipher the enigmatic Phaestos Disc, and marvel at the architectural achievements of this Minoan civilization.

5# Samaria Gorge

One of the best things to do in Heraklion is to embark on an unforgettable adventure through Samaria Gorge, Europe's longest gorge. Hike through breathtaking landscapes, carved by millennia of water erosion. Encounter diverse flora and fauna, from towering cypress trees to soaring eagles, and be captivated by the raw beauty of nature. Challenge yourself with this rewarding hike, a true highlight for outdoor enthusiasts.

6# Rethymno & Chania

Explore the enchanting towns of Rethymno and Chania, captivating with their Venetian architecture and vibrant atmosphere. Wander charming alleys lined with shops, cafes, and historical landmarks. Discover hidden gems like picturesque harbors, imposing fortresses, and charming squares. Relax on pristine beaches in these coastal paradises, soaking up the sun and the laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle.

7# Wine Tasting Tour

Delve into the world of Cretan wines with a captivating wine tasting tour. Explore vineyards nestled amidst rolling hills and picturesque villages. Learn about traditional production methods passed down through generations, from grape cultivation to the art of fermentation. Savor the unique flavors of local grape varietals like Vidiano, known for its floral notes, and the robust red wine produced from the Kotsifali grape. Discover the perfect pairing for your Cretan meals and gain a newfound appreciation for Cretan wines.

8# Gramvousa Island & Balos Lagoon

Set sail on an unforgettable journey to Gramvousa Island and Balos Lagoon. Discover a captivating island fortress, a dramatic silhouette guarding the entrance to the lagoon. Hike to the Venetian fortress perched atop the island, enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding turquoise waters. Swim in the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the lagoon, a shallow paradise with soft pink sand and crystal-clear water. Witness breathtaking natural beauty and create lasting memories on this island adventure.

9# Festung Monastery

Embark on a scenic journey to the awe-inspiring Festung Monastery, perched dramatically atop a mountain overlooking the vast Cretan landscape. Admire the panoramic views encompassing rolling hills, olive groves, and the sparkling Aegean Sea in the distance. Explore the historic monastery complex, a place of spiritual significance for centuries. Experience the serenity of this haven, a place of peace and reflection.


Rent a Car from Motor Plan and Explore Heraklion and nearby locations

Unlock the true potential of your Cretan adventure with a rental car from Motor Plan. Imagine the freedom of setting your own pace, venturing off the beaten path, and discovering hidden gems at your own whim. No more rigid tour schedules or crowded buses – just pure exploration and the thrill of the open road.

Motor Plan offers a diverse fleet of reliable vehicles to suit your needs and budget. From compact cars for navigating city streets to spacious SUVs for exploring rugged terrain, we have the perfect car to fuel your Cretan odyssey.

Don't settle for a limited experience. Rent a car from Motor Plan and unlock the full potential of Heraklion and beyond. Book your car today and get ready to create unforgettable memories on the beautiful island of Crete!


FAQ over de beste activiteiten in Heraklion


1. Wat is de beste reistijd voor Heraklion?

De schouderseizoenen (april-mei en september-oktober) bieden aangenaam weer, waarbij de drukte van de zomermaanden wordt vermeden. Juli en augustus zijn de warmste maanden, ideaal voor strandliefhebbers, maar verwacht wel grotere drukte en hogere prijzen.

2. Is Heraklion een goede bestemming voor soloreizigers?

Absoluut! Heraklion biedt een gastvrije sfeer voor soloreizigers. Sluit je aan bij een groepswandeltocht om de stad te verkennen en andere reizigers te ontmoeten. Veel restaurants zijn geschikt voor alleenreizenden en er zijn tal van cafés en bars waar je kunt relaxen en de lokale sfeer kunt opsnuiven.

3. Wat zijn unieke dingen om te doen in Heraklion?

Heraklion biedt unieke ervaringen buiten de historische bezienswaardigheden. Vaar naar Spinalonga, een voormalige leprakolonie doordrenkt van geschiedenis. Ontdek het betoverende eiland Gramvousa en zwem in de paradijselijke lagune van Balos. Leer over de Kretenzische cultuur in het Lychnostatis Volksmuseum of bekijk traditionele dansen tijdens een Kretenzische folklore-avond. Ontdek meer unieke dingen om te doen in Heraklion en creëer onvergetelijke herinneringen.

4. Wat zijn leuke dingen om te doen in Heraklion met kinderen?

Heraklion biedt tal van leuke activiteiten om kinderen te vermaken. Gezinnen kunnen genieten van een bezoek aan het Cretaquarium, het grootste aquarium van Griekenland, waar het gevarieerde onderwaterleven van de Middellandse Zee wordt getoond. Maak een boottocht om verborgen baaien te ontdekken, perfect voor een verfrissende duik. Bezoek het Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre om verschillende fascinerende wezens te zien. Vind meer ideeën voor leuke dingen om te doen in Heraklion met kinderen en creëer herinneringen die een leven lang meegaan.

5. Wat zijn de beste dingen om te doen in het centrum van Heraklion?

Het hart van Heraklion bruist van activiteiten. Verken de charmante winkeltjes en cafés langs de Venetiaanse straatjes. Dompel jezelf onder in artistieke expressie in de Stadsgalerij. Duik in het leven en werk van de Kretenzische literaire legende Nikos Kazantzakis in een speciaal museum. Slenter door de labyrintische steegjes van de Oude Stad en geniet van de tijdloze sfeer. Zin in meer? Onze gids voor activiteiten in het centrum van Heraklion helpt je verder.

6. Wat zijn enkele must-sees in Heraklion?

Heraklion biedt een schat aan historische en culturele ervaringen. Ontdek het Minoïsche paleis van Knossos en ontrafel de mythen en mysteries van deze oude beschaving. Dompel jezelf onder in het Archeologisch Museum van Heraklion, waar prachtige artefacten het verleden tot leven brengen. Mis de Venetiaanse haven en muren niet, overblijfselen van een glorieus tijdperk. Bekijk voor een compleet beeld onze gids met de beste dingen om te doen in Heraklion!

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