9 reasons to visit Heraklion, Crete

With a population of 173,450 people, Heraklion is not only the largest city on the island of Crete, but also the fourth largest city in Greece after Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras. The city is located in the central parts of the northern coast of Crete and is a centuries-old historical center.

Ancient architecture in Heraklion

Ancient architecture in Heraklion by deepstereo

Heraklion is an ancient city

In fact, Heraklion itself, as we can see it today, was founded in 824. However, it is assumed that the ancient city of Knossos, which is located not far from here, had its own port in the area of Heraklion approximately 4,000 years ago.

Heraklion is a great place to walk around

Nowadays, the old town of Heraklion is surrounded by a massive stone citadel. Within its walls you can find a number of old buildings (some of them real historical monuments under the open sky), centuries old churches and narrow winding streets.

Although there is no green parks, trees and flowers, the streets of Heraklion are actually very nice place to walk.

You will find numerous small cafes and craft shops to buy lovely souvenirs. The most pleasant time to walk around is in the evening.

Koules Fortress, Heraklion

Koules Fortress, Heraklion by Robert Linsdell

Heraklion doesn’t sleep in winter

Unlike many other cities in Greece, especially on the Greek Islands, Heraklion is a quite busy place during the winter season.

The reason is that the city is one of the largest in Greece, and it has a lively port as well as one of the most important airports in the country.

Heraklion has the perfect weather

Heraklion is well known for its lovely subtropical climate. Winters are short and mild, sometimes rainy.

They last from December till March. The first people appear on the beach in April even if the water is still cold. Summers are very long and the months of July and August are very hot and heavy.

Sunny day in Heraklion

Sunny day in Heraklion by Francesco Sgroi

The average daytime temperature in the height of summer is over 29°C, reaching 40°C during the periods of heat waves, which come from the Sahara desert.

The summer season lasts until the late October, sometimes even until the late November.

People say Heraklion is perfect because summers are great for the beach and winters are perfect to stay long hours outside enjoying the mild temperatures.

Heraklion beach

Heraklion beach by Robert Young

Heraklion has beautiful beaches nearby

The coast of Heraklion is dominated by the large port, so close the old town there are no beaches.

However, in the vicinity of the city of Heraklion, especially to the west, you will find beautiful beige sand beaches and wonderful places to walk along the coast enjoying the dark blue colour of the Mediterranean.

Beautiful rural areas outside the city

Leaving the city of Heraklion, you get into another world – quiet, clean, smelling of summer and heat. The romantic feeling is hard to describe in words.

Everywhere you see olive and citrus trees and the feeling is like in a dream. In most of the year the grass is yellow because of the dry and hot weather and only in winter everything is green and covered with spring flowers.

Rural area near Heraklion

Rural area near Heraklion by Roger Davies

It is easy to get there

Heraklion is an easy-to-reach destination. During the summer season the flights between Crete and various destination through Europe are quite common.

In winter, however, the schedule is quite different. Anyway, you can still reach the island with ease, including by ferry from Athens.

Heraklion has numerous sights to visit

Most of the interesting and worth visiting places in Heraklion and its surroundings are churches, chapels and monasteries, but there are also some exceptions.

One of the biggest attractions is the massive and deserving respect fortress Castello del Molo. The stone building is located on the port and is one of the most photographed and visited places in the city.

Heraklion tower

Heraklion tower by János Korom Dr.

Do not miss to visit and make some occasional picture of the Venetian Lodge (this is a real Venetian treasure in the heart of the Greek city).

According to most local residents, the pride of Heraklion is the cathedral “St. Mina”, which is nice from the outside but just amazing from inside. Be sure to visit also the Orthodox Church of Agios Titos, which has a typical Byzantine appearance.

Outside the city be sure to visit the Orthodox monastery of St. George, which is located amidst beautiful countryside, as well as the jewel of all the archaeological sites in Greece – the ruins of Knossos.

Delicious food

As you probably have heard, the island of Crete is one of the places in the world with the most delicious fruits, vegetables, cheese, olives and wines. The island is one of the culinary hubs in the world so if you decide to visit the city of Heraklion don’t miss to enjoy its great culinary wealth.