Heraklion, Greece cruises
Located on the north coast along the Sea of Crete, Heraklion is famed for its rich tradition and historical significance that has armed the city with great charm for generations. A place where the old is cherished and the new is welcomed, Heraklion is a Greek city like no other.
With an exciting mix of traditional and modern appeal, there is much to discover in Heraklion - the centre of culture and Crete’s capital and largest city.
Heraklion port guide
Much of Heraklion is defined by the Venetian period when Crete was ruled by The Republic of Venice, and the distinct harbour is no exception. The Venetians built the port during the 14th century and the unique architectural style of the port, juxtaposed against many modern developments, reflects and preserves the city’s notable history.
Adding to the city’s historical charm, the old lighthouse, built during the 16th century, welcomes every guest at the entrance of the port.
For over 500 years, Heraklion Port has served the city and transformed itself into one of Crete’s most popular tourist attractions. Recognised for its lively atmosphere, sunset views, and cultural significance, your holiday to Heraklion begins the moment your feet plant on Greek turf.
Here is our guide on everything you need to know about exploring the bustling port city of Heraklion.
Top landmarks and sights in Heraklion
Venetian Walls of Heraklion
The Venetian Walls of Heraklion stretch for more than 4.5 kilometres in length around the city and were erected as a major defence strategy by the Republic of Venice. You can follow the Venetian Walls from the western end of the city and travel between each of the original seven ‘bastions’ or individual forts. The ancient walls are a prominent reminder of the city and the memories of its past.
Not far out of the city, visit Knossos Palace, one of the largest Bronze Age archaeological sites in Crete and well known for its connection to ancient Greece and Greek mythology. Journey back to the Minoan Period, the golden age of Crete and the time that Knossos Palace was built by admiring the impressive art and architecture that can still be seen today.
Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is one of the oldest and greatest museums in Greece showcasing the great history of the island of Crete with displays and artefacts dating to the Minoan civilization.
Built in 1826, the Morosini Fountain is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful monuments in Heraklion. Originally installed to provide fresh drinking water, today the fountain is a notable sight to see. The fountain is decorated with four lions a traditional symbol of Venetian power and can be in the heart of Heraklion’s old town.
Rocca a Mare Fortress
Rocca a Mare Fortress surrounds the harbour of Heraklion and was built in the 16th century to guard entry into the port. Also known as The Fortress of Koules, this medieval castle is well-preserved and can still be explored today. Additionally, the generous clifftop location allows for unspoilt views over the harbours.
Things to do in Heraklion
Discovering Heraklion's Old Town
The Old Town is located next door to the modern centre of Heraklion which allows you to witness both past and present side by side. The narrow streets, steep steps beautiful architecture and old churches will take you back to the time when the Venetians ruled and along some of the most impressive walks throughout the city.
Exploring the beaches of Heraklion
Along the northern and southern shores, you will discover a number of beaches ideal for exploring and relaxing. The beachfront is lined with modern hotels, traditional taverns, water sports facilities, and tourist attractions. Ammoudra Beach is just five kilometres from the city centre of Heraklion and is a popular choice for locals and visitors alike.
Hiking the White Mountains
Lefka Ora, better known as the White Mountains, is a mountain range in Western Crete, just a car journey away from Heraklion. The snow-capped mountains are made from limestone and include over 30 summits. Walking the White Mountains allows you to experience a varied landscape and some of the best views over Greece.
Eating and drinking in Heraklion
Great places to eat and drink can be found peppered across Heraklion, both in popular tourist destinations and secluded villages. Tavernas, cafés, bakeries, and restaurants provide a true taste of Cretan cuisine.
Famous Cretan dishes that can be found in the city of Heraklion include Souvaliki, tender meat marinated in red wine sauce before being grilled on skewers, and Moussaka, thinly sliced potato, aubergine, and lamb topped in a bechamel sauce. If you are craving a traditional taste of Crete, these are classic choices.
Heraklion is also known for its street food and for its modern take on the traditional gyros dish. Tradition is alive, but dishes continue to evolve with the introduction of new flavours and Western influence. To truly eat like a Greek, be sure to try their local delicacies.
Raki is a popular and, of course, traditional, alcoholic drink commonly served in Heraklion. Typically served after a meal, Raki is made from the skins and twigs of grapes that are not used in the wine-making process. Its intense flavour makes this beverage unique to Heraklion and makes for a great souvenir for those back home.
Getting around, Heraklion transport
Walking and public transport are considered the best ways to see the city during your stay. Buses, taxis, and trains run regularly throughout the year and transfer thousands of visitors each year.
Public transport runs to all notable landmarks and places of interest for guest convenience. You can find taxis scattered around Heraklion at designated taxi stands.
From the port, it is a short walk to the Old Town. In the Old Town, streets are narrow and steep, so walking is advised.
Heraklion port facilities
The port facilities at Heraklion include a tourist information centre, ATM, free Wi-Fi, and a taxi rank.
Heraklion quick tips
The Euro is the local currency in Heraklion, Crete. Cash is the preferred method of payment and for this reason, it is advised and recommended that you carry cash with you during your visit. There is an ATM at the port for cash withdrawals should you need it.
Although tipping is not a strong Greek tradition among the locals, it has become expected that tourists leave a small tip when travelling through the country. It is common to leave a cash tip for your host between 10 and 15 per cent of the total bill.
Heraklion has a hot summer Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters.
On average, temperatures reach highs of 29 °C during the summer in Heraklion while the winter months reach lows of 9 °C.
Summer is a popular time to visit Heraklion for ample sunshine and heat. This time of year is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing in the sea. During Autumn and Spring, the cooler temperatures are ideal for exploring the city and the history that calls it home.