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Things to do in Heraklion

Things to do in  Heraklion

Welcome to Heraklion

Crete’s capital of Heraklion is bustling and energetic, where the hubbub of contemporary life bumps up against thousands of years of history. To learn about its storied past, venture to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum (home to ancient Minoan treasures) and the ruins of the Palace of Knossos (associated with the Minotaur legend), before wandering in the Old Town and discovering the recently restored Koules Fortress on its harbor. The city isn’t just about sightseeing, though, and other top things to do in Heraklion include exploring the buzzing cafés, busy nightlife, and varied shopping.

Top 11 attractions in Heraklion

Palace of Knossos

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Once the glorious capital of Minoan Crete and one of the most powerful cities in the eastern Mediterranean, ancient Knossos is a place steeped in legend. Today, it’s Crete’s largest and most important archaeological site, crowned by the hilltop Palace of Knossos—built around 2,000 BC—which reveals a fascinating history that stretches all the way back to the earliest European civilizations.More

Samaria Gorge

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Samaria Gorge, in southwestern Crete, is one of Europe’s longest canyons. A popular hiking destination, its rugged river valley trail runs 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Xyloskalo in the White Mountains to he coastal village of Agia Roumeli. The gorge is part of Samaria Gorge National Park, which enjoys a seat along the Libyan Sea coast.More

Spinalonga

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The now-uninhabited island of Spinalonga (Kalydon) sits in the Elounda Gulf along Crete’s northeastern shore. During the 16th-century Venetian occupation, the invaders built a defensive fortress here protecting Mirabello Bay. Today visitors can tour the massive structure and the abandoned buildings that sit along its turreted walls.More

Rethymno (Rethimno)

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The third-largest settlement on the Greek island of Crete, the port town of Rethymno (Rethimno) has been occupied since the Late Minoan period. Its Venetian- and Ottoman-era old town—a knot of narrow, flower-bedecked lanes overlooked by a fortified Venetian castle—oozes history and character. A series of sandy beaches stretch out along the coastline to the east.More

Cretaquarium (Thalassokosmos)

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Cretaquarium (Thalassokosmos, or “sea world” in Greek, Crete's gleaming white sea aquarium, is the largest in Greece. Showcasing the fascinating fish and marine ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea, the aquarium is home to roughly 2,500 fish from more than 250 indigenous species, ranging from sand tiger sharks to microscopic sea horses.More

Archanes

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Discover one of Crete’s most important archaeological sites during a visit to the ruins of Archanes. See ancient musical instruments, pottery shards, and cooking pots at this archaeological site and museum. Learn about the site’s history and see evidence of aqueducts, a reservoir, and a theater.More

Venetian Walls

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Go for a stroll along the 16th-century walls in Heraklion, the capital city of Crete, to get a sense of the island’s Venetian history. The walls were constructed by Crete’s former Venetian rulers and they withstood a 21-year siege of the city by the Ottomans. Seven bastions and four gates make up the massive fortifications.More

Malia

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Expand your knowledge about local history in Crete during a visit to Malia, once a thriving Minoan city with an impressive palace complex. The small site is home to excavations that reveal fascinating details such as a luxurious bath, but Malia today is perhaps best known for the resorts and Ibiza-style nightlife of neighboring Malia town.More

Watercity Water Park

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A compact water park with a varied range of slides, Watercity Water Park is located midway between Heraklion and Hersonissos. Slides include a long, slow “Crazy River” raft ride, a boomerang ride, a vortex-style slide, a Tarzan swing, and more. You can also enjoy a wave pool, a lazy river, two children’s pools, and a selection of children’s slides.More

Star Beach Water Park

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Part of the Star Beach resort complex, this 4-acre (1.5-hectare water park sits directly on the waterfront and offers up family-friendly fun in a festive environment on the island of Crete. With adventurous water slides, a relaxing lazy river, and plenty of activities for tots, the Star Beach Water Park offers an ideal beach break.More
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Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre

Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre

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The Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre showcases Crete’s indigenous marine and amphibious life in 15 vast tanks, as well as reptiles from all over the world housed in terrariums and pools. Get up close and handle snakes, tortoises, and lizards, join in feeding sessions, snap a selfie, and learn about wildlife conservation.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days in Heraklion

How to Spend 3 Days in Heraklion

Top activities in Heraklion

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All about Heraklion

When to visit

Heraklion is a very popular summertime destination, thanks to its almost unbroken sunshine as well as its highs around 86°F (30°C). You can expect to encounter lots of fellow travelers in its Old Town and at major attractions, including the ruins of the Palace of Knossos. If you’re more sensitive to temperatures and crowds, spring and autumn provide a calmer and more temperate experience.

Getting around

Heraklion International Airport serves Crete’s capital, and it’s one of the busiest airports in Greece. Bus services and taxis link the airport with the city, and Heraklion itself is also served by numerous bus routes. Inter-city buses also connect the capital with other destinations like Chania. Taxis and car rentals offer the greatest flexibility, while guided tours make it easy to explore the region’s top attractions.

Traveler tips

If you’re looking to complement your trips to Heraklion’s ancient ruins with time spent on the beach, Matala is among the most celebrated stretches of sand on the island. It is, however, located roughly an hour-long drive from Heraklion, on the island’s south coast. For closer stretches of shoreline, look to Ammoudara Beach and Chelidoni Beach (also known as Palaiokastro Beach), both of which are just a short trip outside of the city.

Heraklion information

Number of Attractions

11

Number of Tours

282

Number of Reviews

2,656

Currency

USD
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